Over watering a plant is quite common as watering tends to be done on a routine schedule instead of when the plant requires it. It is important to first determine the watering requirements of your plant. Then, check the soil condition before watering as different species of plants have different water requirements. Some plants require moderately moist soil, other plants need the soil to dry out between watering, while still others thrive on very moist soil.
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Evaluating Soil Moisture
One of the biggest culprits of container grown plants is over watering. Understanding a plant's need for oxygen (which is delivered through its root system) and how over watering effects this requirement might help you to be more attentive to the moisture content of the soil. Oxygen is found in tiny air pockets that are within the surrounding soil of the roots. The root hairs of the plant absorb and deliver this oxygen to the plant. When the soil is water-logged, this supply of oxygen is not available. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the soil in the container by one of the following methods:
- Pick the container up and feel its weight before and after watering (if it is a small plant).
- Poke your finger an inch or so into the soil to feel the moisture content.
- Use a moisture meter - these are sold at your local nursery and it will measure the soil moisture and it is most helpful with large plants.
Signs of Overwatering
There are several signs of over watering. Although some plants thrive in wet conditions like the cypress or umbrella plants others will die in wet conditions. Following are signs that over watering has taken place: fungi or mold on the surface of the soil; the plant loses both young and old leaves simultaneously; the roots become mushy, brown, and perhaps have an odor to them, otherwise known as root rot; the saucer contains water; the flowers of the plant will become moldy; brown soft patches appear on the leaves and the leaves fail to grow.
When Plants Need Watering
Most people tend to water plants as part of a set routine. However, plants should not be watered routinely, but rather only when they need water. Following are some guidelines to help you determine just when to water your plants:
- If your plant has new growth or flower buds
- If the leaves on your plant are thin and on the delicate side (the tips may tend to brown out)
- If they are placed in direct sunlight
- If your plant has large leaves (large leaves may transpire heavily)
- If the pot is extremely small
- If the air is dry from winter heating or a dry climate
- If it is planted in a clay pot
When Plants Need Less Water
There are of course certain plants that require very little watering such as succulents and cactus. Too much watering of these species of plants will cause them to die. There are other scenarios in which plants require less watering as follows: after flowering or bearing fruit; the temperature of the room in which it is placed is cool; the soil that the plant is growing in retains water; or if the container that the plant is in is plastic, metal, or glazed ceramic.
Different Water Requirements
Water requirements can be divided into three distinct plant watering categories. Some plants require that the soil dry out between watering, other plants need the soil to always be moderately moist (this is the category for most plants), and then there are some species that need the soil to be extremely moist at all times.