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