2021 Guide to Bottom Watering Houseplants
Bottom watering is exactly what it sounds like – it is the process of watering your plants from the bottom! This allows the plant to take in the water that it needs in order to be happy. It helps the roots maintain uniform moisture, which is imperative for healthy plant growth.
Bottom watering is also incredibly helpful if you have a plant that is so dry the soil has pulled away from the sides of the pot. Once you see the soil touching the sides of the pot again, you will know it has been in water long enough!
There are a LOT of good reasons for bottom watering your houseplants. For starters, many plants (like African violets) are very, very sensitive to water getting on their leaves. Even careful plant parents can sometimes get water on leaves that don’t like it with traditional top watering. It is a great technique to use for succulents, who hate excess moisture!
One of the most common household pest problems that plagues plant parents are fungus gnats. These are black flying bugs that bury their larvae in the damp layers of soil in houseplants – one very easy way to avoid them is to bottom water! No damp top soil, no place for larvae. Note: if you are already dealing with fungus gnats, switching to bottom watering alone will not get rid of them.
Are you guilty of overwatering your plants? Bottom watering helps ward against that – which can also help you from finding root rot! If you overwater your plants and have noticed gnats or lots of drooping, yellowing leaves, bottom watering could be a perfect fit for you. Change your sick plants’ soil to start fresh.
So, how exactly do you do it?
Bottom watering is so easy – but it does take a little more work than regular watering. For starters, any hanging plants will have to come out of their hangers. If you have a nursery pot inside a decorative pot, you will have to take it out. Most of the work of bottom watering comes from moving your plants!
- Fill a tray or sink with 3-4 inches of fresh distilled or filtered water.
- Place your plants inside the water.
- Leave for 30-60 minutes. If you are unsure whether your plant has had enough water, poke it with your handy moisture meter to confirm.
- Dry the containers, dump the excess water, and return plants to their normal spot.
Easy peasy! Check out this reel for a quick overview.
What about sick plants?
If you have plants with pests or fungi keep them quarantined and do NOT let them soak with other plants! You can still use the bottom watering method for sick plants, but make sure that they are the last ones to soak.
- How long should I leave my plants in water?
- A good place to start is leaving them in the water for at least twenty to thirty minutes for small plants. Medium sized plants will probably benefit from an hour soaking, so it is good to consult your moisture meter while figuring out what works best for your plants. This author has left her plants in water for a couple of hours, especially for larger pots that take longer for the roots to get enough moisture.
- How do you know if you are using enough water?
- You want to fill your sink/tub/tray with a couple inches of water, 2-4 is a good range for most plants.
- Does bottom watering promote root rot?
- It does not! In fact, it can also help protect against it if you tend to overwater your plants.
- Is this better than watering from the top?
- For a lot of people, it is! Especially for those that overwater or who are trying to get rid of fungus gnats. It also helps plants that are root-bound receive necessary moisture.
Bottom watering is a simple way to keep your plants happy. If you are solely bottom watering, it is important to note that you will need to “flush” out any excess minerals or fertilizers hanging out in the top few layers of soil, so you should run a little water over the top of the plant every month to wash those out.