The Right Way To Water Your Plants
The Right Way To Water Your Plants
They’re the age-old questions, “How often do I water my plants?” and, “Am I overwatering my plants?” You can check 10 different sources and get 10 different answers but we’re going to give you a few good rules of thumb to live by.
First, we’re sure our horticulturist would BEG us to remind you that the correct amount of water is different for every plant. Start by reading our #ProPlantTips for care to see if the plant you’re eyeing likes moist soil, like Buttonbush, or drier conditions like Lavender.
Next, you’ll want to make sure you understand the soil you’re planting in. Soil with more Clay will hold water longer than soil with lots of sand, which dries out more quickly. Ideally, you’re looking for a planting site with a healthy mix of both.
If you’re working in less than ideal dirt, don’t worry. Check out our blog on all things well-draining soil here!
Ways to Be Water Wise
Sure, you can stand out in the garden and run the hose over various parts for hours, but that’s not exactly great for the environment, and it’s rarely good for the plants. Here are a couple of key ways you can conserve water and keep your plants happy at the same time.
Mulch, Mulch, MULCH!
This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned it and we’re sure it won’t be the last. Adding a layer of mulch or arborist wood chips around the base of your plants is one of the best ways to conserve water and keep a plant healthy.
There are a number of reasons this is the case. You can read about the finer details here, but we’ll go ahead and recap too.
- It reduces weeds that compete with your plant for nutrients
- It’ll absorb water and use it to hydrate your plant longer
- It protects root systems from temperature extremes
- It’ll put a gorgeous finishing touch on your landscape!
Use the Finger Test
Never grapple with whether your plants need watering ever again. The soil will tell you everything you need to know!
Stick your finger into the dirt near the base of the plant, if the soil is dry, that’s when you water. If you feel moisture then your plants are doing just fine and you can put the watering can away.
The Finger Test Steps:
- Stick your finger in the dirt, usually up to the second knuckle
- Determine if there is soil moisture or not
- Water if dry, skip if wet
For larger outdoor plants, you might be able to determine if it’s time to water or not by laying your hand flat on the soil surface. It's really that simple!
Water at the Base
Plant roots are primarily responsible for absorbing water while leaves take care of photosynthesis. Watering at the base ensures you aren’t wasting any on parts of the plant that can’t utilize it anyways.
It might be tempting to use the latest and greatest rain shower hose attachment but it’s not necessary. In fact, that may only serve to water the leaves and flowers more!
Adding moisture to leaves, branches, and flowers increases the chances of diseases sneaking in and harming your plant. We suggest watering in the morning, that way the sun will help evaporate excess water that may have landed on leaves and branches.
Utilize Nativars in Your Garden
Another great way to consciously keep your garden’s water consumption down is to use native plants.
These are plants that can be found naturally in your region. This usually means they’re adapted to thriving off of the natural amounts of water in your area. Skip the hassle of watering altogether when you pick sustainable plants!
Sometimes the worry is that nativars aren’t as pretty or ornamental. We’re not sure how this rumor was started but we want to set the record straight, nativars rock! Plus, they often bring beneficial pollinators into your garden, boosting your local ecosystem.
Learn more about creating a pollinator paradise here. Or check out some of our favorite natives:
Watering to Establish Plants
No matter the plant, watering well and watering deeply during the first growing season after planting is especially important and the key to the success.
Trees will eventually grow root systems that do a good job of finding water on their own but growing roots takes time! Until then, it’s a good idea to thoroughly soak your tree often.
During the first couple weeks, water up to once daily. After those critical weeks have passed you’ll notice your plants will become less dependent on your water frequency. Until the roots are entirely established, you should be watering your tree about once per week.
The best way to help a tree establish itself is by watering slowly. You can do this by using a tree watering bag like the Dewitt Dew Right Tree watering Donut, which will slowly release water over 5-8 hours.
Watering perennials and bushes follow largely the same rules. Water often when establishing and scale back after the first growing season.
- During first weeks: Water daily
- During first growing season: Water weekly
Watering Once Established
Once a tree is established, you shouldn’t have to worry about watering much at all. Their root zone is large enough to find food and water on their own. If you’re having a particularly hot, dry summer it doesn’t hurt to run to let the water run at the base of the plant for a few minutes.
Perennials don’t have the extensive root systems that trees do and may need some extra help throughout the season.
Try to give your perennials about an inch or two of water per week. If that doesn’t come in the form of rain or an irrigation system, then consider hauling out your soaker hose to the bed and watering by hand.
- Established trees are usually fine
- Water bushes and shrubs weekly if needed
- Water perennials weekly
Container watering can be tricky if you’re new. Always make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, this helps eliminate the possibility of overwatering.
Since the only way for these plants to get water is through you (and maybe the occasional rainstorm if it’s sitting outside) it’s very important you water diligently and check the soil’s moisture often.
If you’re not sure whether your plant is ready for a drink or not, use the finger test. It’s simple and easy.
Knowing the best practices for watering helps you conserve water and keep plants happy and healthy. Feel free to reach out to our plant experts or watch our watering video for further information!