A question I often wonder about when watering outdoor pots in the dead heat of summer. Should I just make sure the soil in the bed/pot is watered sufficiently, or is it necessary/advisable to also water the leaves and stem? My naivete makes me think that hitting the above ground plant will keep the plant cooler and reflects more of what happens when it rains, but I may be wrong.

  • "wax eagle" answer is a good one. If you are talking about outside plants, watering the leaves (upper parts) in the heat of summer is a total waste of water (IMHO). The plant will get nearly zero benefit from that water, as it will be evaporated by the heat before the plant can do anything with it...
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 18:12

5 Answers 5


This depends.

If your humidity level inside is too low (often a problem is you run the Heat or AC) then plants do benefit from a misting of water around the plant to try to raise the humidity in that area of the room.

However, mostly you just want to water the soil beneath the plant rather than the whole thing. This is because water sitting on leaves of plants, or excess humidity around them (especially things like tomatoes) can actually lead to disease. It also provides little actual benefit to the plant.

Most places outdoor plants will have plenty of moisture in the air to be just fine. However, if you are in a desert or other very dry climate you may have to mist around your plant so that the humidity around the plant stays at the proper levels.

  • A important point to add, is that air humidity is different to the humidity on the leaves. Even to plants which need high humidity, if you water all over the leaves, that is just not the way to make things work. Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 14:53
  • @gunbuster - very true. If the plant wants humidity then a misting the air around it is much better. I should clarify.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 14:55

Although some doubt was cast on it in an earlier question, there is the concept of "scorching". If this occurs (and isn't a myth) then the water droplets on the leaves act as small lenses refracting solar heat and scorching plants. Some plants are effectively immune, but if this does occur, other plants and growing buds might be particularly sensitive.

Another point against foliage watering on outdoor plants, is that the water on the leaves will evaporate more quickly than if it falls on the ground (this is where @wax eagle's humidity comes from). It is therefore wasted. At times of drought you want to get all the water where it needs to be to minimize water usage (and your water bill!).


I agree with the advice already given as regards outdoor plants. However, as pointed out by wax eagle, apart from cacti and succulents, most indoor plants, dislike the dry air produced by central heating in winter (unless you have a humidifier, of course, or they live in the bathroom or the kitchen) and they will suffer - many may not survive - unless you give them the humidity they need. You can create a moist microclimate around them by:

  • misting the whole plant by spraying it with tepid water - but not in bright sunlight, for the reason given by winwaed, or

  • placing the pot or, better still, a group of pots, on a layer of pebbles at the bottom of a shallow tray, into which you have poured a little water, just enough to almost cover the pebbles but not to enter the bottom of the pot, or

  • double-potting - putting one pot inside a larger pot or container, and filling the gap between them with moss which will need to be kept continually damp.

If the leaf tips of your indoor plants turn brown and shrivel, or the leaves wilt, although the plants are being watered sufficiently, this is usually a sign that the plants need more humidity in the air.

  • is double potting similar to the effect you get with self watering containers?
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 12:33
  • @wax eagle Good point. I haven't used self-watering containers myself, but if they all work on the same principle (see hubpages.com/hub/what-are-selfwatering-containers), and the compost is not constantly moist, they aren't likely to produce a humid microclimate. Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 13:18

As mentioned in other answers already, watering the foliage is mostly a waste of water due to evaporation.

One exception is if you are "fertigating" (fertilizing + irrigating) aka "foliar feeding". This is where you spray a dilute fertilizer mixture on the leaves so that the plant takes up nutrients from the leaves instead of through the soil. But this isn't really watering as much as feeding -- the plant isn't getting all that much water as compared to nutrients.


Most research seems to conclude that watering the leaves themselves has little benefit and can in some instance cause some risk.

Applying specific types of "feed" to the leaves seems to be noted as a separate process and has been shown to be beneficial especially amongst fruiting plants.

One query I have had in regards to the idea however was brought about by watching my garden's reaction to summer rain.

I have wondered if the first small shower on the leaves somehow triggers more effective feeding from the root system as the rain continues to come down.

  • Summer rain is warm, and plant roots like warm water, probably without chlorine as well. And there's a lot of water falling. So, you get more water to the roots with a heavy rain fall then through a watering can, and the effect is seen the following day. You also wash off the dust etc so everything looks greener. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 22:17

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