6 Steps to Stop Overwatering Your Houseplant & Help It Thrive Instead

by | Jun 5, 2019 | Uncategorized

Table of Contents

Step #1 Put your plant on or in front of a windowsill

A plant can only use the water you provide if it is receiving enough light.

The plant uses light as the fuel to power photosynthesis where it transforms water and carbon dioxide into glucose.  Glucose is what provides the plant energy to thrive and grow.

If the plant isn’t receiving enough light, it won’t have the energy needed to complete this process so the water will sit in the potting mix unused.

Our plants’ roots need air just like we do, so sitting in wet soil for too long suffocates and weakens the roots, inviting bacterial and fungal diseases to begin damaging and devouring the roots.

Step #2 Choose a pot with good drainage

Plants in pots without drainage holes are much more likely to be overwatered because there is nowhere for excess water to go.

Instead, keep your plant in the plastic pot you purchased it in or choose a pot that has at least one good-sized drainage hole with an unattached saucer so you can dump any excess water.

If you decide to use the plastic nursery pot, you can choose any decorative pot you like to slip the nursery pot into.  Then you can remove the plant in its nursery pot when it’s time to water and slip it back into its decorative pot after it drains.

Step #3 If repotting a plant, use a pot that is only an inch or two larger than the current one

A well-rooted plant only wants a little more room to grow.  Too much room provides a bunch of areas where water sits that the plant isn’t big enough to use.

In nature, plants rarely have a large section of the soil to themselves.  Instead, they are growing in and amongst each other, competing for space. 

This is why many plants do well in snug-fitting pots where the roots fill the pot or have just a little bit of room for growth.

Step #4 Use a well-draining potting mix

When you purchase a plant from the store it is often potted in dense soil that is one even color.

This soil retains a lot of moisture because the plants are grown in a greenhouse where they receive a lot of light and heat, which leads to drying out super quickly.  A dense mixture helps to ensure the plants do not dry too quickly.

Our homes provide a very different environment from the greenhouse.  Plants are now receiving much less light and heat, so retaining extra moisture no longer makes sense.

To adjust the plant’s potting mix for our home conditions, either use a high-quality houseplant soil mix OR create your own by starting with 50% houseplant potting mix and adding 50% perlite.

Perlite is puffed volcanic stone and is super lightweight, providing lots of aeration to the soil.

I like to use Espoma Organics products because they are organic and of high quality.

Here’s an Amazon affiliate link to Espoma Indoor Potting Mix, if interested:

Espoma Indoor Potting Mix, 8 Quarts, on Amazon

Below are photos to show the difference between a potting mix directly from a greenhouse on the left and the potting mix I created for my plants on the right.  All of the chunky additions provide extra aeration and drainage.

My mix is a combo of potting mix, perlite, orchid bark, pumice, and horticultural charcoal.

Your potting mix doesn’t need to look like mine to have success.  I’m just showing you an example of what I use successfully in my home versus what greenhouse’s use successfully.

Step #5 Water your plant only when it needs water

While watering on a schedule is convenient for us, it is not always the best for our plants. 

Each plant uses water at different periods of time depending on how much light they receive, how water-retentive their potting mix is, and how well-established their root system is.

So how do you know when to water your plant? Here are 4 ways to know its ready for water:

  1. Note how heavy the pot is when freshly watered and wait until the pot is light again.
  2. Insert your finger into the potting mix about 2 inches and feel whether it is moist.
  3. Pinch some potting mix between your fingers and see if it sticks together.  If it sticks, it is still moist.  If it falls apart, it is dry.
  4. Use a moisture meter to measure the moisture and only water when at a 2 or 3.

I highly recommend moisture meters.  They are the #1 reason I stopped overwatering plants.

Here is an Amazon affiliate link to the meter that I use:

Moisture Meter for Plant Care on Amazon

Step #6 Water your plant thoroughly

When your plant is ready to be watered, take the plant to the sink and add water until it runs out of the drainage holes.

Why do you need to water thoroughly?

Watering thoroughly ensures the entire root system gets the water it needs. 

If you only water a little on the surface, the roots will stay around the surface and as the plant grows taller and heavier, the root system won’t be deep enough to support the weight of the plant and it will fall over.

If you water only on one side or part of the pot, the root system will develop only on the side that is getting watered and can also cause stability issues as the plant grows larger.

Bonus Step: Enjoy your plant!

That’s it! Now you can sit back and enjoy your plant without having to worry about overwatering.

Did you find this guide helpful?  Do you have more questions or comments?

Send me your thoughts in an email to colleen AT anaturalcuriosity DOT org


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