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I've been attempting to have house plants for the last year or two, and have difficulty with getting watering right.

Particularly, I've found that I consistently end up with my plants getting too dry. i.e. My herbs are visibly wilting (and recover v. quickly we watered), and the soil is dry enough that it has pulled away from the side of the pot, and/or pooring water onto the soil leads to it visibly not being absorbed, but just running off large portions of the soil.

Given that this happens a lot, I then find it hard to re-hydrate the soil.

As a result, for the last 3-4 months I've been trying a diferent approach of "poor 'some' water in every now and then.

...

I water each of my plants ~ every 7-10 days. In general, by that time the soil is entirely dry to the touch at the surface, and the herbs may have just started to wilt if it's been relativley hot.

I water the plant by taking it to a sink and completely drenching it: Running water gently into the pot for a minute or two, letting it sit in the sink to drain out for 5 minutes, then repeating a couple of times (so that the water is really permeating fully through out the soil, since I observe that dry soil is relatively hydrophobic). Then I sit it in its saucer by the sink for half an hour or so, emptying the saucer every 5-10 minutes, until there's absolutely no water leaving the pot. Then I put it back by the window.

It seems to be working pretty well so far, the various plants that I've been treating like this have been growing very happily on my North-West facing windowsill.


Question:

Is this watering pattern OK? What issues might it have, and what problems might those issues cause? Are there better ways to handle watering plants given that I'm moderately forgetful and thus will definitely allow the plants to dry out at some point.

  • when you say 'herbs' do you mean herbs for cooking with, like parsley or thyme and so on, or just houseplants in general? If they are actually herbs, did you buy them in the supermarket and are they still in the original pots? – Bamboo Apr 13 '17 at 23:03
  • I'm doing this for all the plants on the window sill ... 1 chilli plant grown from seed, 2 pelargoniums, 1 basil from shop still in original pot, 1 mint from shop repotted. – Brondahl Apr 13 '17 at 23:38
  • Self watering pots can be a simple solution for this. – takintoolong Apr 14 '17 at 16:12
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What you're doing with your watering is keeping your plants alive, but it's not optimum treatment for plants you either want to fruit or flower, like the pelargoniums and the chili plant. Long term effects from waiting until a plant is wilting to water thoroughly on a regular basis mean less likelihood of fruiting, and certainly, once any little peppers form, they'll drop off if you don't keep them watered sufficiently well.

You should be checking the plants every 5-7 days as a minimum - feel the surface, pick the pot up, if the surface is dry and the pot feels light, water thoroughly and allow excess to drain away freely, and don't let them stand in water in any outer tray or pot. You should not be leaving it so long that the potting medium has shrunk from the sides of the pot, so water before that happens by feeling the soil and checking the weight of the pot. If the plants get sunlight where they are, as the season wears on and the sun gets hotter, you may need to water more often.

As far as the supermarket basil is concerned, the potting medium they use in those herbs is very, very free draining, and anything still in the original pot and potting medium will likely dry out quite quickly, so will certainly need checking every five days. Pelargoniums are quite drought resistant, but for good flowering, regular and sufficient water is important.

  • Cool, so, if I increase the frequency is the structure otherwise OK? I guess I mean "Is it a problem to very heavily water the plants, assuming I always allow the pot to fully drain immediately after" Presumably If I were doing that EVERY day, that would be a problem? but as long as I don't go TOO far that way, then I'm all good? – Brondahl Apr 13 '17 at 23:52
  • You can water heavily but its pointless to do it more often than necesssary - what's important is to allow the plant to drain down freely before replacing it in any outer pot or tray. But eventually, you'll learn how much to give each one without having to do the emergency resuscitation drowning... – Bamboo Apr 14 '17 at 0:14

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