Watering – Foliage

HOW OFTEN DO THEY NEED WATER?

This depends on variety and growth rate, as well as temperature, light, and humidity. But you can tell when your plant needs water by the feel or look of its soil: the weight of the pot is another indicating factor.

When the soil surface is dark and damp to the touch, the whole root-ball is probably moist as it should be if you’ve just watered it. While the soil dries out its color gets lighter, though it continues to feel moist for some time.

Groups of plants in planters, terrariums or dish gardens will grow together for the longest time if they all have about the same watering needs.  Foliage plants are usually grouped into 3 general classes for water requirements:

1 = There are some plants that should not be allowed to dry out: they can be watered again when the soil starts to dry.

2 = Most foliage plants need to be kept uniformly moist but not wet: the soil may be allowed to dry more than in the first group, and you won’t do any harm if the plants sometimes dry out entirely for brief periods.

3 = Other plants, like cacti and succulents are best when they dry out completely between waterings.

HOW MUCH WATER SHOULD I GIVE MY PLANTS?

No matter how often or rarely you water them, be sure each time that the whole root ball(all the soil) is thoroughly moistened: and that excess water can drain out of the container if possible.

A thorough watering followed by a period of time to allow the soil at least to start drying, permits air to be drawn in to the soil. Plant roots need oxygen for life and growth, and if they are constantly saturated by water ” little and often” they will soon die.

IS TAP WATER OK?

I prefer rainwater but generally yes, though water from the cold tap may be too cold for the plants. It is best to use it at room temperature: that is, above 60 degrees. Either add a little warm water or leave to stand overnight so that it warms to room temperature.

Fluorides can be harmful to some foliage plants, such as the Dracaena, Cordyline and Chlorophytum. Over a period of time, added fluorides, may cause brown spots and or leaf tip burn. To overcome or avoid fluoride damage:

1 = In your potting mix, avoid the use of superphosphate as this contains a high level of fluoride.

2 = Raise the PH acidity of the potting soil to 6.0-6.5: within this range the fluorides become relatively unavailable to plants. Repot in soil that contain dolomitic limestone, replacing as much soil as possible in the root ball.

3 = Avoid the use of florinated water if possible.

Chlorine in tap water does not usually harm indoor plants. Leaving the water to stand in an open, wide container for 12 to 24 hours will allow most of the gas to escape.

WHAT”S THE BEST METHOD OF WATERING?

Whatever is mos convenient for you and also keeps your plants healthy.

1= Watering form the top

This is the quickest way to water indoor plants: the space between the soil surface and the rim of the pot acts as a catchment space for water. Fill up the post as many times as it takes for water to drain out at the bottom fo the pot. If the plant is in a watertight container, tilt the pot to allow the excess to drain out: or use a dipstick inserted right to the bottom of the container, to tell you when you’ve added enough.

The excess water is best discarded every time you water, but this is not always practical. Pebbles in the saucer will support the pot above that excess water, so roots do not stand saturated. Plan to leach the plants thoroughly every couple of months, particularly before adding fertilizer.

For soil that has become completely dry and shrunken, immerse the whole pot in a cowl of water for 30 minutes or until bubbles stop rising from the soil: then drain and discard the excess.

2 = Watering from the bottom:

Immerse the pot in water to its rim for 15-20 minutes: drain or Add water to the saucer: repeat as it is absorbed until the soil surface at the top of the pot feels moist. Leach regularly to prevent build-up of fertilizer and toxic salts. A wick, extending through the drainage hole, can be added when the plant is potted: this speeds water uptake.

3 = Watering plants in double pots or deep planters:

With the plants in clay(porous) pots, moss or peatmoss can be used to full the spaces around individual plants in larger,non-porous pots or deep planters. Add water to this fuller, and it is absorbed through the porous clay inner pot. Again, leach the plants regularly to prevent the build-up of salts in the soil.

TO LEACH: immerse pot in a bowl of water to saturate the soil: after 30 minutes or when bubbles stop rising, remove and allow to drain. Repeat this procedure one or more time with clean water, until the eater draining out of the soil and pot looks clear.

SHOULD I WATER LESS OFTEN IN WINTER THAT IN SUMMER?

This depends on your location, which plants you have and also on your indoor environment. In most areas, the winters are noticeably darker and have shorter days that the summers: winters are also cooler and often the air becomes markedly dryer. Plants themselves differ in their growth rates: some grow throughout the year and you can see new leaves and shoots all the time: others have a resting period in winter, brought on by the shortening darker days of fall. Although these plants may use less water for growth while they are resting the dryer winter atmosphere may actually increase water losses from their leaves and so increase their demand for it.

Extremely dry air, combined with living room temperatures can harm your indoor plants by encouraging water loss more rapidly than the roots can take it up: young leaves and new shoots wilt or dry out. To avoid this, group your plants together so they can create their own microclimate with a higher relative humidity that the rest of the room. Such an arrangement can be useful where artificial lighting is employed during winter to maintain active growth. A plastic canopy above the plants ( not touching) will also help keep up the RH: so to will an open pan of water close by: or water covering the gravel in plant trays. With a humidifier the air in your home or in one room can be maintained at 35-45% Rh throughout winter: this level is fine for most foliage plants. Let the plants themselves be your guide to watering, at all times of the year.

CONTAINERS AND DRAINAGE

Plant containers are as varied as the plants they hold: clay ceramic, glass concrete, plastic, or wood pots for single specimens or for whole groups of plants together. The container markedly affects thow often your plant will need water for example, the water loss through the sides of a porous clay pot is about three times that from a plastic pot. When you have two specimens of the same variety of plant side by side with one in plastic and the other in clay you quickly see the difference.

A container with drainage holes in its base makes watering easy because you can see when all the soil has been moistened. The excess drains out, so there is no danger of water logging which will soon kill the plant’s roots. With some experience, though watering plants in watertight containers can be just as successful and can result in plants which are every bit as healthy as those in pots with drainage holes.

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