Bringing the outdoors in

Houseplants have seen a popularity boom over the last several years, and sales have continued to climb since the start of the pandemic. Indoor plants are said to have a calming effect, improving mental health and productivity. They also help to clean the air and are an aesthetically pleasing addition to any design. But buying houseplants is one thing; keeping them alive is another.

Because houseplants are grown exclusively indoors, they are 100 percent dependent on their owners for survival. And that survival usually pivots around one very important thing—water! Houseplants in Louisville are especially lucky because they get to drink some of the best tap water in the nation. They are some of our biggest, albeit quietest, Louisville pure tap® fans!

And while our plants may not be able to say it themselves, there are plenty of ways to tell when they need a drink. Louisville Water has put together a few tips from local nurseries and plant specialists to help keep your thumbs green and your indoor plants happy and hydrated all year long.

When should I water my plants?

  • Watering does not have to be complicated and/or follow a set schedule. Observe your plants, and only water when needed. It helps to put houseplants in areas you frequent, so they don’t get forgotten.
  • Check the soil– if it’s dry through the first inch, it’s likely time to water. Aim to keep soil damp, but not soggy.
  • Opinions differ on what time of day is best for watering. Ultimately, whenever you remember and have time is the best time! If you are watering in the evenings, just avoid getting leaves wet, as this can cause rot.

How much should I water?  

  • The type of plant—plants with thicker leaves, like succulents, are naturally adapted to go longer without water, while plants with thinner leaves will need more frequent watering. (Be sure to check the tag when you bring your plant home!)
  • The time of year—plants undergo less photosynthesis during the winter months due to decreased daylight hours and may therefore require less water.
  • The environment—the temperature in your home, light intensity, and humidity can all play a factor. Plants in a shady corner may need less frequent watering than those in a sunny window or near a vent.
  • The size and material of the pot—pots made of porous materials will typically need more frequent watering. Larger pots, by nature, will hold more water than smaller pots. Topping the soil with mulch can also help prevent surface drying.
  • All around, it is better to thoroughly water plants in one sitting than to water a little bit here and there.

How do I know if I’m watering too much?

  • The signs of overwatering can look a lot like underwatering- wilting, browning around the edges, and losing leaves. If you notice these symptoms and the soil is still damp and/or showing signs of mold, overwatering is likely at fault.
  • Make sure pots have adequate drainage holes. Empty any extra water from the drip tray after watering, as this can cause root rot.

General watering tips

  • If water stands at the top of the pot without seeping in, poke a few holes in the soil with a fork or dowel to break it up and improve drainage.
  • When plants get very dry, the soil will sometimes pull away from the sides of the pot and attempts to water will run straight through instead of absorbing into the soil.  If this happens, try immersion watering by filling a bucket or sink with water and submerging the pot until bubbles no longer appear. Then allow to drain fully.