How often should plants be watered?

watering plants

When I first started gardening, I realised that one of the biggest questions I had was about how often should plants be watered. I was very eager to see my plants grow, and this led to regularly overwatering plants. In reality, there is no basic answer to this question, as the level or frequency of watering depends heavily on criteria such as climate, time of year, location and type of plant. Proceed by reading the below and you will find some clever and useful ideas to help answer the question: How often should plants be watered?

1.      Even moisture

Most Plants enjoy soil that is evenly moist throughout. When watering, make sure that you water the soil evenly across all areas, instead of flooding only one part of the plant with water. At this stage, it is useful to mention that leaving the plant to dry out slightly can encourage new root growth. Always watering at the same spot can also lead to incorrect nutrient absorption in the soil. Therefore, always water around the plant and cover all areas.

2.      Less regular, more thorough

Some gardeners believe that it is better to water less regularly but then do so more intensively. For example, a flower bed might require watering only once or twice a week. Again, giving time for some drying out can help strengthen plant roots and in certain cases encourage flowering.

3.      Timing

It is usually recommended to water in the early morning or late evening. Cool soil enables better retention of water by reducing water evaporation. This gives plants more time to supply themselves with the hydration needed. Be careful, however, as too much water at night (especially if the plant is kept in a pot with a plate or saucer) might damage the plant when it remains too wet for too long. If watering at night, I prefer removing any excess water from the plate or saucer that drained from the container.

4.      Keep leaves dry

Keeping leaves dry has several advantages. Leaves that are kept wet at night can develop mould and diseases. On the other hand, leaves that get wet during a hot day or in direct sunlight can form burn marks. These burn marks caused by water on leaves in hot sunlight are sometimes called the burning glass effect, as the water droplets became a sort of magnifying glass on the leaves.

5.      Water the roots

The roots of every plant play a critical role in the survival and growth of that plant. For this reason, you need to be sure that during watering, enough water reaches the plants’ roots. If the quantity of water is too low, it might only wet the top layer of soil. Another problem is if there is too little irrigation, or something covering the soil itself, such as mulch. Certain vegetables are especially dependent on enough water when ready for harvest, such as basil and tomatoes. Sometimes, water needs a moment to seep into the soil and can require repeated watering for the part to moisten properly. Basil and tomatoes are also companion plants, that can improve each other’s taste if planted together.

6.      Save water

Water is one of the most precious resources we have on this planet. For this reason, it is very important to water plants in such a way as to minimise any wastages. Sometimes, plants can be watered on top of each other, so excess water flowing from one plant can water the next one. Certain vertical gardens work exactly in this fashion. A simple irrigation system or a moisture sensor can further assist in minimising the use of water. If it rains, try to collect water in buckets and containers, or preferably a well, for later use in watering your plants. Let’s save water!

7.      Waterlogging 

Waterlogging is caused by too much water in a particular area. This can be temporary or permanent, depending on the conditions that are causing it. When it happens, the soil is unable to cope with the amount of water and cannot absorb the water in the way it is intended to. Waterlogging reduces the oxygen levels available in the soil for the roots.

8.      Use quality soil

As much as possible, use soil that is rich in clay, as it can hold water better and more consistently. However, water drainage in pots and containers is still very important to prevent waterlogging, especially if the soil is exposed to too much water for a long period.

9.      The finger test

Another way I find very useful to determine whether a plant needs watering is what I call “the finger test”. Simply put your finger a few centimetres into the soil, and this will help you feel whether the soil is wet or dry. Plants that have the upper layer of soil dry, but the rest of it wet do not necessarily require watering. If, however, more than the first 2 or 3 centimetres (depending on pot or container size) of the soil is dry, it needs watering.

10. Containers

Different plants in containers will normally need more regular watering when compared to others that are planted in soil. Under normal circumstances, the water in pots will drain out from the bottom holes of the pot whilst watering, therefore less water is retained. Another reason is that soil tends to warm quicker, causing greater evaporation. Making things worse is that the plant’s root system is smaller and limited in size, which means it cannot go deeper into the soil looking for more water if needed. In hot periods, containers plants will need daily watering, especially if kept outside in the sun, and this can eventually become a little difficult to maintain unless an irrigation system is installed. As a general rule, you need to water plants growing in containers when the top few centimetres feel dry to the touch, or if you notice that the plant is wilting. Water until excess water runs through the holes in the bottom of the pot, so make sure that you have a plate or saucer to collect excess water and reuse it, especially if watering indoors.

11. Raised Beds

Raised beds require more frequent watering for reasons similar to the above. The composition of the raised bed, the type of plants and the soil being used can also impact the watering schedule required. Your best estimate is to closely monitor the health of your plants along with soil moisture, using these as a watering guide.

12. In the Soil

If nature does not provide enough water in the form of rain (very common in hot summer months), additional watering is necessary. Water plants grown in soil deeply to saturate the soil. Typically, watering once or twice will be enough, but more frequent watering can be required during very hot or dry weather and when the plant is undergoing growth or fruiting. For example, most fruit trees need regular watering all year round to avoid damage to the fruit when it rains too much.


Monitor your plant’s soil daily to understand whether these need more water. Try and find ways to save water and make the most of this scarce resource. Keep in mind that younger plants or seedlings will not require as much water compared to growing or older plants.

Some plants prefer drying slightly between watering, but not all plants require the same level of water. Always check the watering guidelines for your particular plants, use “the finger test” or a moisture sensor for more precise watering.

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