How Do You Know When A Plant Needs Water?
One of the most important aspects of gardening is knowing when to water your plants. You may have heard the old saying, “plants don’t like wet feet.” It means that plants don’t like their roots to be constantly wet. It’s best to let the soil dry before watering again. As you become more experienced, you’ll be able to look at a plant and determine whether it needs water or not. There are 4 ways to know your plant needs water:
- The Leaf Test
- The Touch Test
- The Size Test
- The Weather Test
The Leaf Test
Some plant leaves droop when the plant is thirsty. Some plant leaves begin to turn pale, or even a little yellow when the plant is dry. However, if the plant leaves have begun to turn yellow, the plant has suffered some damage/stress due to dry conditions. Observe your plant’s leaves to know it’s time to water.
Stressed Plant Example
A recent example is when we were on vacation for a few days, and the weather was very warm (mid 90s). Upon returning home, we noticed our Red Salvia plants had several yellow leaves, indicating that the plant needed water. We immediately watered the plants and pruned off the yellow leaves. We didn’t apply fertilizer right away because the plant needs to regain it’s strength. After a week, we applied an organic fertilizer, which provides natural nutrients to the plant. For details on fertilizing, click here.
The Touch Test
The best way to determine if your plant needs water is to touch the soil around the plant. Stick your finger into the top half inch of soil. If the soil feels dry to the touch, and you know it’s been at least a few days since it rained, or you applied water, then go ahead and water the plant. If the plant is in a pot, you’ll see water draining from the bottom when the soil is fully saturated.
The Size Test
If the plant is in the ground, the size of the plant affects how much water it needs. For a small plant (less than 6 – 8 inches tall), apply 3 cups of water. For a medium size plant (8 – 12 inches tall), apply 1 quart of water. A plant or shrub between 1 and 2 feet tall requires a half-gallon to 1 gallon of water. A plant, shrub or tree larger than 2 feet requires 1 – 2 gallons of water.
The Weather Test
Of course, the weather, temperature and rainfall have a huge impact on how often to water. An inch or more of rain, or a good thunderstorm, means you don’t have to worry about watering for at least 3, maybe 4 days, depending on the temperatures. For plants that have just been potted or planted in the ground, water everyday for a week, so that the roots get established. After the first week, use the rules of thumb just discussed, such as checking if the soil around the plant is dry.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are exceptions to every rule. Drought-tolerant plants, such as sedum, can survive dry, hot climate and little water. Sedum are succulent plants, which means that their leaves retain water. Therefore, it is not necessary to water sedum as soon as the soil is dry.At the other end of the spectrum, some plants like wet feet, such as tropical Canna. To promote beautiful blooms, keep the soil around tropical Canna wet. One of the most important factors determining a plant’s health is adequate hydration. Too much water or too little water will determine the success and beauty of your garden. For the beginner gardener, trial and error will help you develop the experience needed to get it right. It’s Gardening Time!
This video shows a Red Salvia with yellow leaves, a sign that the plant needs water.
This video shows a Tropical Red Canna plan with droopy leaves, a sign that the plant needs water.
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