Here’s Why A Lot of Houseplant Watering Advice is Really Bad.

The truth is that a lot of houseplant watering advice isn’t good.

In today’s post, we will discuss:

  • Why a lot of watering advice is bad
  • What you can do to have greater success with watering your houseplants
  • And how to decide whether advice you are receiving or seeking out is actually helpful.

Table of Contents

A lot of houseplant watering advice is oversimplified because people want someone to tell them what to do and when to do it.

An example of what I mean by oversimplified care is: “Water your plant once a week.”

It’s an easy answer that tells someone exactly what to do, but the sad news is that it is often wrong (even if it works for the person who wrote it).

I do understand why this advice exists. I remember wanting someone to just tell me what to do too because I was tired of losing plants despite my best efforts.

Why is this bad advice?

There are a lot of factors that affect how often a plant needs to be watered and all of them will change how many days you can go between waterings. What are some of these factors?

  • How much light a plant receives
  • How well-draining the potting mix is
  • How large the root ball is in relation to the pot size
  • How healthy the roots are
  • How much humidity is in the room
  • How hot the room is where the plant lives
  • Whether the plant is dormant
  • What material the pot is made out of
  • How succulent/fleshy/water-retentive a plant is

I’m not saying that a beginner should understand exactly why all of these factors exist yet.

What I am saying, though, is that giving a person the advice that they can reliably water a plant every 7 days neglects the reality of how all of these factors change how frequently the plant gets thirsty.

So, some people might luck out and water their plant once a week with success. Others will end up with an underwatered or overwatered plant and a bad experience with indoor gardening.

Other houseplant advice may state that it is impossible to give advice because every home and plant is different.

This message often sounds a little like this, “I can’t give you advice on how to care for this plant because every environment/home is different and every plant is different, which means every plant’s needs are different.”

Have you ever seen or received this kind of advice? I have and it’s very frustrating as someone who is trying to learn.

It feels like the person is trying to keep a secret so no one else can keep their plants alive and happy.

But the reality is that there is some truth to this advice: every plant and home is different and that will change how often a plant needs water.

However, that doesn’t make it impossible to provide people with guidance.

So what should that guidance look and sound like? That’s what we will discuss next.

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Houseplant watering advice is most helpful when focused on two aspects:
#1 What to look for when trying to decide if a plant is thirsty and
#2 How to develop a foundational understanding of why a plant’s thirst is affected by so many factors

So, what should you look for when trying to decide if a plant is thirsty?

I wrote a post dedicated to answering this question in the most simplistic way for people trying to learn when to water their houseplants. Check out that guide here:

Houseplants & Water 101: A Guide to Understanding Watering for New Plant Parents

How can you develop an understanding of the factors that affect how often a plant wants to be watered?

Check out next week’s post which will focus on the foundational information a plant person should know to develop a deeper understanding of their plant’s watering needs.

That post will be on my home page and linked here when available: For People Who Want to Have a Deeper Understanding of Houseplant Watering

The truth is that houseplant watering gets infinitely easier when you understand why houseplant lovers give the advice they do.

I would describe it as the difference between memorizing what to do versus knowing what to do because you understand why you are doing it.

For example, a student could memorize that 2 + 2 equals 4 and they will always get the right answer. BUT, if they understand WHY 2 + 2 equals 4, they will not only know the right answer but also understand how to get the right answer when the numbers change.

Happy Growing!

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