Although watering seems pretty straightforward, people often overwater or underwater plants without realizing it until it's too late.

This guide will help you know exactly how to water plants in pots, whether indoors or out and never have to worry about the safety of your plants.

Same Difference

Not all plants need the same amount of water. Some plants can go weeks without any water at all, others can go about a day or two. Just because you go to water one plant, doesn't mean that you should water all of them at the same time. The timing could be too soon for some or too late for others.

Things like cactus and other slow growing plants, or plants with thick leaves, need less water, because they hold the water inside their leaves or stem and use it as they need it. These may need water as little as once a month.

Plants with thinner leaves and vining plants will need watered more often because they lose water more quickly through their thin leaves, or they grow fast and need more water to keep growing. These plants need water at least once a week, and more if they are in warm temperatures.

Check The Tag

The plant tag will always tell you how often to water your plant. The plant tag should always be with a new plant. If you go to buy a plant and it doesn't have a tag, don't buy it! You may not know what you're actually getting, even if it looks like the plant you were getting-it might be a different variety.

Of course, if you've had your plants for a while or have lost the tags, then you may not know how much water to give it. In that case, go by the following guidelines.

Look At The Plant

This might seem obvious at first, but you can tell a lot about a plant by simply looking at it. If it is one of the thin-leafed or vining plants we mentioned earlier, you can tell it needs water when it starts to look wrinkled, saggy, curled up, and some parts may start to turn brown. This is definitely a sign of too little water.

But with cactuses and thick-leafed plants, they'll look the same way if they've had too much water.

Lift The Pot

If you're able to, lift the plant to see how much it weighs. You don't need to actually weight it, but you should notice if it's too heavy or light compared to the size of the pot, the pot material (plastic is much lighter than terra cota pots), amount of soil, and size of the plant. If you have a pot too large to lift, try tilting the pot in one direction, just to get a sense of the overall weight.

If the entire thing feels heavy enough then it probably has enough water.

If it feels too light for the size, then it probably needs water.

This sounds very vague, but once you've lifted about 10 different pots with plants you'll get the hang of it and be able to do it with most any pot you come across.

The Finger Test

Poke a finger into the potting soil up to your second knuckle to see if it's damp. If you haven't felt any dampness in the soil, then the soil is getting too dry and you should water the plant.

Watering Gadgets

There are a number of watering gadgets out there to help you water or know when you water your plant. Some of them are bulb-shaped waterers that release water when the soil gets too dry.

Others tell you when the water is too dry so you know when to water it yourself.

Unfortunately, you can't always afford to buy one of these for every potted plant you have and you'll eventually have to water plants if you expect them to live.

However, these are nice gadgets to have on hand if you need them.


Following these tips will help you avoid dead plants from overwater or underwatering, because once you know how to water properly, your plants will thrive.

Other Tips

These tips work for shopping at a garden center also-they sometimes can neglect watering. This way you'll be sure to get plants that have been freshly watered and will make the trip home.