How to water a plant: 4 watering techniques to keep your houseplants happy and hydrated

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Lauren Geall
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A woman watering her monstera plant

From bottom watering to giving your plants a shower, here are four easy watering techniques to try now.

Plants need water to survive – that’s a well-known fact. But how you choose to give your plants that water is entirely up to you.

Although most people tend to water their plants from the top with a watering can, there are actually a number of different ways to water a plant – each of which offers its own unique benefits to your leafy friend.

So, what are the different watering techniques? And what are the pros and cons of each method? We asked Patch’s plant doctor Richard Cheshire to give us his expert insight. 

Using a watering can 

A woman watering her plant with a watering can
Using a watering can allows you to control how much water your plant receives.

The most well-known watering technique of them all, using a watering can is a great way to have control over how much water your plant is getting.

“Watering slowly over the topsoil guarantees the roots being fully immersed in water,” Cheshire says. “Prayer plants, in particular, enjoy a good even soak as this enables their leaves to rise as the sun sets.”

To make sure you’re not giving your plant too much water, Cheshire recommends placing the plant in a nursery pot – the plastic pots with holes in the bottom – and then placing that pot inside a decorative one, so you can remove it from the outside pot when watering and check that all excess water drains away.

“Alternatively, you can pot your plant directly into a terracotta pot with drainage holes and sit it on a tray to the same effect,” he says. 

Bottom watering 

Bottom watering is a watering technique in which the plant is part-submerged in a container of water and left to draw up the water through the drainage holes at the bottom of its pot.

Not only is it a great way to avoid overwatering – if you do it right, bottom watering allows the plant to soak up only what it needs – but it’s also a safe way to water plants that don’t like having wet foliage, Cheshire explains.  

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“Some plants like tradescantias and fragile succulents really don’t like getting any water on their foliage, so watering from the bottom is a great way to create tall or lush trailing plants without losing any leaves,” he says.

“However, soaking the soil for too long will cause problems such as root rot or even waterlog the soil, so make sure the plant is not left sitting in water for too long.”

Giving your plants a shower 

A shower head
Showering your plants stops dust and debris from building up on the leaves.

This watering technique really is as simple as it sounds – simply stick your plants underneath the shower and let them soak up the water which falls from above.

Because dust and debris tend to build up on plants’ leaves over time, this is a great way to give them a wash as well as a water, Cheshire says. “Cleaning the leaves will maximise the amount of sunlight the leaves can absorb, which helps them grow more quickly and retain a lovely shine.”

However, Cheshire warns, make sure to remove your plants from the bathroom after they’ve had their time in the shower.

Bathrooms can often be a little cool and damp so make sure you don’t leave your plant babies in the bath for too long, as they could develop a little mould on the topsoil,” he says. “Pop them back in the sunshine after half an hour.” 

Using a water dispenser 

If you’re looking for a watering technique that saves you time and gets the job done, then this is the one for you. 

You can either buy a water dispenser online or make a DIY one at home – in short, it’s a container that, when popped upside down in the soil, releases water gradually over a period of time.

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However, this method of watering won’t suit all plants, Cheshire warns.

“Some plants will prefer a more even and thorough watering so if you prefer to be a bit more hands-off with your watering, choose a hardy, drought-loving plant like a snake plant or corn plant,” Cheshire says. “They will be happy with a gentle watering from a dispenser.” 

New to plant parenthood? Check out Stylist’s guide to buying, styling and caring for plants to get started. 

You can find out more about the most common houseplant problems by checking out our range of plant care content, too. 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.