How to Water Indoor Plants
Last Updated: March 29, 2019 References
This article was co-authored by Katie Gohmann. Katherine Gohmann is a Professional Gardener in Texas. She has been a home gardener and professional gardener since 2008.
There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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Indoor plants, or houseplants, have different needs than plants grown outside. They rely on you for everything. Watering your indoor plants involves knowing what specific plants need, watering on their schedule, and frequently checking the soil. You can help your plants by potting them in pots that drain well and pots that are fitted to the plant’s size. Healthy plants also require the right type of water and the proper amounts, but there are ways to help stabilize plants that have been overwatered, too.
How to Water Indoor Plants. Indoor plants, or houseplants, have different needs than plants grown outside. They rely on you for everything. Watering your indoor plants involves knowing what specific plants need, watering on their schedule,…
Is It Bad to Water Indoor Plants at Night?
We’re busy people, and sometimes we only tend to our indoor plants at the end of the day. If you’re like me, you’ve tried to adjust your schedule, but it’s hard to keep things on track with work and other activities. Still, you figure it doesn’t really matter what time you water your plants as long as they get watered, right? You might be surprised by the answer.
Is it bad to water your indoor plants at night? By watering your indoor plants at night, you could encourage the development of diseases like root rot. These occur because there’s no light in which to slowly evaporate the water, thus allowing pathogens to propagate. Bacteria and fungi can also spread.
In this article, we will explain what happens when you water indoor plants during the day versus at night, including the negative effects of the latter. We’ll also give you some tips for getting on a watering schedule that works for you and your plants.
What Happens When You Water an Indoor Plant During the Day?
Let’s talk for a moment about watering plants during the day. Even though your plant grows indoors, it probably has access to at least some sunlight. Barring that, you have another source of light, even if it’s artificial. After all, no plant will live without light for long.
Okay, so you get your watering can and sprinkle some water on your indoor plant during the day. The sunlight or artificial light allows for the water to get absorbed into the soil. This spreads the water deeper, ensuring it can get to the plants roots and keep it healthy.
Besides this absorption, the water on the plant also evaporates when it has a source of light. Now, this may sound like a bad thing, but it isn’t. When a plant gets too much water—be it an indoor or outdoor plant—the soil gets waterlogged. It doesn’t have enough oxygen and thus could essentially strangle your plant. Imagine if you suddenly didn’t have enough oxygen. It’d be awfully hard to breathe, right? Plants can experience similar effects. Also, too much water can allow root rot to occur, which could kill your plant.
Thus, they need the light. Even artificial light works, provided the light source is strong enough. Dim lighting might not be sufficient for absorption to occur, so watch which light you expose your indoor plant to.
If you’re brand new to using artificial light to help your indoor plants grow, consider checking out our article on LED lights vs LED grow lights .
What Happens When You Water an Indoor Plant at Night?
Now that you know the importance of light when watering an indoor plant, you can understand why many gardeners discourage doing any watering at night. If we were talking about an outdoor plant, then the light of the moon is not nearly enough for water absorption to occur. If you had a sprinkler system set up, the plant keeps getting water all night, even though it can’t absorb what it already has. Thus, it can die a lot faster.
Of course, we’re focusing on indoor plants, so your setup is a little different. The moonlight probably can’t even get into your home or apartment, thus eliminating it as a light source, even a weak one. What’s worse is you more than likely turn off all the lights in your home when you go to bed, thus leaving your indoor plant in the dark all night. If it’s positioned by a window, the light of dawn could trigger some water absorption, but you’d likely need more sunlight for this to occur.
There are several maladies your indoor plant could suffer if you only give it water at night. Let’s discuss these possible issues in more depth now.
Although more likely with outdoor plants than indoor ones, we have to talk about what happens if you were to water your plant in the cold. Perhaps you keep your home at a frosty temperature in the summertime or you turn off your heat in the winter before you go to bed. Then you water your plant and head to your room to cozy up under the covers.
Where does that leave your indoor plant? Well, depending on how cold we’re talking, you could induce an artificial frost. This frost forms when the water droplets don’t evaporate and instead freeze in the cold. In some plants, this could kill them. Others can get severely damaged, especially if artificial frost becomes a recurring problem.
We’ve already touched on the wreckage waterlogging can cause to your plant, but we want to cover it now in more detail. To reiterate, plants need sunlight. It’s crucial to their survival. Sunlight lets the soil absorb the water and the droplets to evaporate so they don’t damage your plant. Without some sort of natural or artificial light, none of this can happen.
Thus, your indoor plant can become waterlogged. You could wake up after a few days or weeks to a plant with root rot. You might also notice the crown and stem of your plant look worse for wear.
The soil you choose could also waterlog your indoor plant. You need the soil loose, not tight and compacted. With the latter, the soil can’t travel nearly as easily. Thus, water gets stuck and puddles before it ever reaches the plant.
Finally, we do want to mention that there’s rarely any need to water your plants in the morning and then again at night. That’s likely way too much water. You could end up again waterlogging the plant.
Development of Pathogens
Plants have what are known as stomata. These small holes almost breathe, passing water vapor as they do so. This whole process goes by the name transpiration. Plants can do this best with light, especially sunlight.
In the dark, transpiration is less likely to occur. Thus, the plant has more moisture on its outer surface, making it a perfect target for pathogens. These can ruin the flowers and leaves of your indoor plant as well as trigger a bad case of root rot.
By opening a window at night, it’s possible your plant could respirate, but it depends. You need light winds for it to happen.
Bacteria and Fungus Growth
Besides pathogens, bacteria and fungi also quite like wet surfaces like your freshly watered plant. If bacteria target your plant, it could die. That becomes especially true if your plant already has prior damage.
Tips for Developing a Reliable Watering Schedule
Your indoor plants have survived a few nighttime watering sessions, but it’s not something you want to put them through again knowing what you do now. Thus, you want to get on a reliable watering schedule that works with your lifestyle. Here’s how you go about doing this.
- Choose a time that you can stick to all seven days of the week. If, for instance, you get up early in the mornings on weekdays but not on weekends, then don’t set your watering schedule to 7 a.m.
- Consider the seasons. For example, let’s say you opt to water your plant when you get home from work at 5:30 p.m. It will be light out at that time in the summer. However, it won’t always be that way. As autumn arrives and then winter, it will get darker earlier and earlier. You’d thus have to bump up your watering time.
- Jot down when you water your plant. You can do this via an app or even with a pen and paper if you’re a little more old school. Make sure you track the date and time you watered so you don’t accidentally water your plant twice.
With time, watering your plant will become such a part of your daily routine that you won’t even have to write down when you do it.
Should you water your plants at night during the summertime?
The summer sun can be especially unforgiving. Thus, you may worry about it quickly sucking up all the water on your plant and leaving it totally barren. So, to give the soil a better chance to absorb the water, you might consider watering your plant at night. Is this the right idea?
It’s the right idea, yes, but maybe not the right decision. As you know, your indoor plant needs some light for water absorption. If you wait to do any plant watering until nighttime during the summer, you’re putting your plant at risk of the issues we covered in this article.
Since your plant is indoors, it’s not getting the full brunt of the summer sun like an outdoor plant would. Thus, the chances of the plant going barren in the heat are much lower. Still, if you want to be on the safe side, you can always water your plant at dusk before the sun sets.
What time of day do plants best absorb water?
Gardening experts advocate for watering your plants in the morning, and we agree. The earlier in the day, the better. That’s because the outdoor temperatures have yet to reach their full potential. Your plant gets the sunlight without the heat or cold.
Again, for an indoor plant, the temperature part doesn’t apply as heavily, but you should still aim to water your plant in the morning. It’s okay to do it in the afternoon, too, but it’s not as good as the morning.
I’m a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I’m focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I’m good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.
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