The Ultimate Guide to Watering (Part 2): Avoiding the cardinal sins of over- and under-watering

The Ultimate Guide to Watering (Part 2): Avoiding the cardinal sins of over- and under-watering

In part 1 we outlined the signs that your plant is under- or over-watered. However, it is best to not let your plants get to these stages of over- or under-watering where the signs are visible. Just think: would you wait until you are dying of thirst just to drink some water? It’s probably best not to do so…


REALITY CHECK: Remember that this is a shame-free zone, and it happens sometimes that a plant will be over-watered or under-watered multiple times in their life. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You are still an awesome plant parent just by trying your best to keep your plants alive!


OK now back to the blog. Below I have outlined some steps to take, as well as tips to determine when you should water your plants:


  1. Research 

You’re browsing on (shameless plug) and you come across this stunning plant that you just HAVE to get your hands on! Quick, add to cart, “Oh hey! They even have Apple pay!” and just like that you have bought a new addition to your plant family.


This may come as a shock to hear this from someone who also sells plants, but I strongly advise you to do some research before jumping the gun and getting a plant. For many reasons; watering being one of them. If you are someone who travels a lot, ensure that you get plants that can last at least 2 weeks without a watering. Or if you know that you tend to be heavy-handed with the watering frequency,  get a plant that loves consistently moist soil.


Plants have different watering needs: Some plants like to dry out completely before being watered, like many succulents; other plants like the first couple inches of soil to be dry before being watered again, like many Pothos; and other plants like Calathea like to be kept consistently moist (notice I did not say soggy or soaked!).


You will notice that each plant on our website has specific water requirements based on our extensive research and our experience with the plant. Use these as a quick guide when making your decision on whether you should buy the plant.


  1. Water your plants during the day

I read this somewhere years ago, and I have stuck to this tradition for the most part. Watering plants during the day, when there is daylight to help the leaves dry out can prevent your plant from staying wet or soggy for too long. However, there are times when your plant really looks parched, and an evening watering is necessary. In that case,  I tend to give just enough water to allow the plant to last overnight, and then the next morning, I would give the rest of the water needed.



  1. Use a moisture meter


When I first started out, getting a moisture meter really helped take the guesswork out of whether the soil was wet or dry. You stick the probe into the soil, wait a few seconds, and then see what it says. Depending on the type of plant you have (hence my number one tip of research), you will know whether your plant likes to dry out or be kept consistently moist. Based on that knowledge and what the moisture meter indicates, you can figure out whether your plant needs any water.

 Moisture meter is at 1 before watering Pearls and Jade pothos


Moisture meter is at 4  after watering Pearls and Jade pothos


  1. Use your fingers


Call it laziness or call it mastery. I’ll stick to mastery. However, I no longer use my moisture meter. I check the soil moisture by sticking my finger in the soil, about 2 inches down. I admit, this way is not as accurate as using a moisture meter, but it works for me. Feeling the soil can allow you to figure out whether the soil is soaking wet, damp or dry. If once you remove your finger from the soil, the soil clings to your finger, this means that the soil is still damp. Soil that is dry does not stick to your finger easily. And of course, soaking wet soil you will be able to feel the water as soon as you stick your finger in the soil.

finger in dry soil

Finger in dry soil


finger in wet soil  Finger in damp/wet soil after watering


  1. Use your eyes


When you regularly monitor your plants, you will see changes to the plant, which you can use to determine the plant’s needs. Use your eyes, as well as my list of signs for over- and under-watering in Part 1 of this blog. You can also see what soaking wet soil, damp soil and dry soil look like. It may not be as clear in the images below as it will be in person, but in the first image, you may be able to see that the soil is not clumped together, indicating that the soil is on the drier side. In the second picture, you see that the soil is darker, and is clumped, which are signs of a recently-watered soil. 

   Before watering - soil is not clumped


 After watering - clumping of soil due to water


A quick note on watering schedules: As humans, we like incorporating routines and schedules into our lives as they can help keep our lives on track. I understand the appeal that a watering schedule may have:


“I will water all plants beginning with the letter M on Mondays, and all plants beginning with the letter T on Tuesdays and Thursdays”


The example above is bit of a stretch (I hope!), but a watering schedule may not be the best for your plants for the same reason: You are not exactly making a decision based on your plant’s needs, rather based on an arbitrary frequency. Now, a schedule may work for the most part if you live in an area with consistent lighting and temperatures. And they may work with easier care plants that do not mind a bit of extra water, or do not mind skipping a watering or 2. However, as mentioned in my previous blog on “Winterizing your plants”, the time of year can affect the rate at which your plant takes up water. Give that blog a quick read.


Instead of a watering schedule i.e. a schedule to determine the frequency you water your plants, I recommend a schedule to check whether your plants need water. For example, on Mondays, check all plants in the living room. Any living room plants that do not need water on that day, check them again on Thursdays, when checking the bedroom plants.


I personally give my plants a quick assessment more or less daily (e.g look at the soil, check the leaves, give some succulent leaves a quick squeeze and stick my finger in a few pots) but I understand that can be overwhelming for some of us. Therefore, a schedule to check your plants works as well!



We’re almost to the end! Stay tuned for part 3 (last part) of the guide, which will discuss different ways that you can water your plant, as well as what to do once you suspect your plant has been over- or under-watered.


Check out part 1 of this guide here

Check out part 3 of this guide here

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