What's so important about getting the right h2o for your plants? Keep reading to find out + tips on how to water your plants properly.
How Watering Works
Water is vital part of plant life. Apart from light, water might be the most important thing part of a plant's overall health and well-being. A certain plants water needs depend on the plant's natural habitat. For example, tropical plants have very different water needs than succulents and cacti.
Plants take water from the ground with their roots and send it up to the stem, leaves and trunk through what's known as the xylem, which are essentially hollow tubes of cellulose. Think of it like a system of straws sucking water up to the above ground plant parts.
As a general rule with plants, water tends to go where they is no water. Thus, once the water has passed from the roots to the stem to the leaves, it leaves the plant through small holes in the plant wall called stomata via a process called transpiration. A by-product of the transpiration process is oxygen, which we humans need in the atmosphere. Win-win, amiright? Once might even call this a symbiotic relationship. #relationshipgoals
Those are the basics of how watering your plants works. There is a lot more to it, but it gets all kinds of science-y real fast, so we'll stop the nerd train here and dive (pun intended) into how watering works for different types of plants.
Watering Tropical Plants
Watering tropical plants can be tricky, as many plant parents, both seasoned and beginner, tend to overwater. We often think "oh! it's tropical and that must mean a lot of water." That's not wrong, it's just that most of the water in a tropical environment is actually in the air rather than the soil, hence the high humidity.
You really only need to water your tropicals once a week, if the soil is dry to the touch. These guys prefer to moist, but never soaking wet, soggy or muddy. Most tropicals will even tell you when the want a drink by wilting or letting their leaves droop.
You can supplement your tropical plants' water needs by creating a humid environment for them. This can be done using a humidifier or making a humidity tray. Providing a more humid environment is a great way to avoid overwatering.
Watering Succulents and Cacti
Remember when we mentioned the general rule with water and plants is that water goes where there is no water? Yeah, so with succulents and cacti, that would actually be the soil they grow in. Think about it: These plants come from arid regions where the soil is dry and dusty. Whenever it does rain, plants must seize the opportunity to get a drink while they can, before the dry soil and atmosphere snatch it away.
This is why succulents and cacti have relatively shorter root systems than other plant families, so they can get to the water right as it hits the ground. It's also why they are adorably fat and juicy looking - because they store their water in their trunks and leaves to avoid losing it to the soil and atmosphere. Some succulents, like cacti, even have sharp spines to protect their fleshy parts of other environmental factors, like animals, from taking their precious water resources.
Overwatering is a thing for succulents and cacti as houseplants. It goes against what we think a plant would want, but they actually want their soil to be consistently dry. They can only pull so much water up into their stems and leaves and if the soil is too saturated with moisture, the plant will rot and/or drown.
That said, our general rule of thumb when it comes to watering succulents is 1 Tablespoon per week per 2 inches of pot. For example, if you have a succulent in a 6 inch pot, you will want to water it 3 Tablespoons of water a week, if the soil has dried out between waterings. You'll want to apply the water directly to the soil. Remember, succulents and cacti come from dry regions, and there isn't a lot of humidity in the air, if any, so no misting.
Watering Air Plants
Air plants are a marvel of the plant world because they don't have (or have minimal amounts of) the one thing that makes plants plant-y: roots! Instead they have tiny structures on their leaves called trichomes. The type of trichome usually found on an air plant is called scale or peltate hair, and is made up of a shield-shaped cluster of cells attached directly to the surface of the plant. These clusters, spread all over the surface of the air plant help the plant collect moisture from from rain, dew, dust, decaying leaves and insect matter.
Rather than "watering" your air plants, misting is a great way to provide them with the moisture they need. You can do this once a week, if the plant has completely dried out since the last watering. If you water your air plant too often or when it has not completely dried out, it can cause rot, which usually leads to plant death.
Some plant parents prefer to soak their air plants for an hour once a week or so. We tend to shy away from this method as it can be very easy to trap excess water in the air plant's core, which leads to rot. Instead, we prefer to mist, as it is closer to the natural way the air plant would take moisture from its surroundings.
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