Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

The Golden Rule of Watering

283.KSo many gardeners complain they have a hard time correctly watering their houseplants. Yet it is so easy! Just remember the Golden Rule: water deeply enough to moisten the entire root ball, then allow the soil to dry before watering again.

The Golden Rule works on 99% of indoor plants because it automatically takes into account the needs of each one. What novice gardeners don’t always understand is that the soil of each plant dries at a different speed. Thus, the potting mix of a florist’s hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) may be bone dry in just 3 or 4 days, while an African violet may take 7-8 days and a cactus, 2, 3 or even 5 weeks. And the technique even takes into account the plant’s growth cycle: the same plant may need watering after 8 days in summer when it is growing rapidly, but only every 90 days during its winter dormancy. The Golden Rule again? Couldn’t be simpler: wait until the soil is dry to the touch, then water thoroughly.

By “dry to the touch”, I mean that you have to literally stick your finger into the mix, ideally to the second digit. If you don’t like getting your finger dirty, you can learn to weigh the pot: when soil is almost dry, it weighs much less than when it is moist. Some people are whizzes a pot-weighing! You can even go by eye: dry soil is lighter in color than moist soil. A warning though: judging watering needs from the color of the soil is most effective in the case of small plants because their root ball is smaller and dries out fairly equally. The soil in a large pot can be dry on the surface and still very wet deeper down. That’s why, for larger plants, checking with a finger or weighing the plant is more effective.

Note that you can’t water plants on a schedule. The “I water only once a week” gardeners will lose most of their plants over time. If you check your plants every 3 to 4 days and always apply the Golden Rule, watering only those that are dry and watering thoroughly when you do, you’ll find yourself with the greenest thumb in town!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

7 comments on “Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

  1. Pingback: Time to Wake Up Tender Bulbs and Dormant Plants – Laidback Gardener

  2. Pingback: The Plant that Outlived the Dinosaurs – Laidback Gardener

  3. Pingback: One Living Christmas Tree That Really Thrives Indoors – Laidback Gardener

  4. Pingback: Time to Wake Up Dormant Plants | Laidback Gardener

  5. Pingback: Houseplant Fertilizer: Not So Essential | Laidback Gardener

  6. Pingback: When Water Droplets Form on Leaves | Laidback Gardener

  7. Pingback: How to Prevent Brown Leaf Tips | Laidback Gardener

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: