Bottom Watering

What is bottom watering?

Bottom watering is a method of watering houseplants that involves immersing the bottom of the pot in water and allowing the soil to absorb moisture. This process is aided by capillary action, which draws water up into the soil through the drainage holes.


Advantages of Bottom Watering

Bottom watering avoids water damage to the leaves and stems. If done properly, it can also prevent overwatering because soil can only absorb so much. It also encourages robust roots that grow down towards the water source rather than outward.

(The Houseplant Resource Center)

Plants that prefer bottom watering

  • Tradescantia

    Bottom watering is ideal for Tradescantia plants because it avoids getting water on their sensitive leaves and stems which can cause rot.

  • African Violets

    African Violets prefer to be bottom watered because the crown and stems are susceptible to rot if they get wet.

  • Carnivorous Plants

    Many carnivorous plants would prefer to be bottom watering because it avoids getting water on their sensitive leaves.

  • How to Bottom Water

    1. Fill the bottom of a container or sink with enough room-temperature water to cover the bottom of the pot by an inch or so.

    2. Place the plant's pot in the basin so that the bottom of the pot is submerged in the water.

    3. Check the plant every 10 minutes or so for the surface of the soil to feel damp. Once it does, the soil is done wicking.

    4. Remove the pot from the water and let it drain for a few minutes.

    (Houseplant Resource Center)

  • Considerations

    When bottom watering your houseplants, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your plants don't get overwatered. Here are some tips:

    Don't leave the plant in the water for too long. Once the top of the soil is moist, water absorption is complete.

    Regularly check the soil moisture to make sure your plants are getting enough water.

    Make sure the pot has proper drainage to prevent water from pooling at the bottom of the pot, which can lead to root rot.

    Mineral build-up can occur from bottom watering which resembles salt on the surface of the soil. Consider using distilled water and occassional rinsing the soil.

Top Watering

What is Top Watering?

Top watering is a common way of watering houseplants where water is poured directly onto the surface of the soil. This method is convenient, especially for plants that only need light watering.

Advantages of Top Watering

Top-watering is a straightforward way to water plants. However, pots without proper drainage may cause overwatering.

Plants that are commonly top watered

  • Snake Plant

    Snake Plants are often places in low-light conditions. Plants in low lighting will require fewer waterings.

  • ZZ Plant

    ZZ plants are susceptible to root rot if their soil is consistently wet.

  • Rubber Tree

    Ideally, the soil around a rubber tree should be kept moist but not overly wet.

Top Watering Considerations

Check the soil before watering. If the soil is already moist, you don't need to add more water.

Make sure the water is lukewarm. Cold water can shock the roots of the plant.

Water evenly. Watering too much in one spot can cause root rot.

Don't leave the water sitting on the leaves. This can cause fungal diseases.

Water the soil, not the leaves. This will help the plant absorb the moisture more efficiently.

Check the saucer for pooled water. Remove any excess so it doesn't get reabsorbed into the soil.

Soak & Dry

What is soak & dry?

Soak and dry is a watering method where soil is thoroughly watered until water runs out of the drainage holes. Soil is watered again once it beomes dry.

(Plant Care Today)

Advantages of Soil Rinsing

This method of watering ensures that water reaches the root system. It is also an excellent idea after fertilizing because it flushes away flush out excess salts and minerals from the soil.

Plants that enjoy soak and dry

  • Cacti & Succuclents

    In deserts, cactus and other other succulents typically go for long periods of time without water and then experience intense soak.

  • Pothos

    Pothos like rinse and dry watering because it simulates heavy rainfall similar to their native climate while allowing soil to dry between waterings.

  • Peace Lilies

    Peace lilies are tropical plants that naturally grow in rainforest environments where they receive regular, heavy rainfall followed by periods of drought. As a result, peace lilies have adapted to this pattern of wet and dry cycles.


Can Humidity Water Plants?

Yes! Infact, some plants can absorb moisture from the air. However, it's important to note that while some plants can absorb atmospheric humidity, they might still require an additional source of water and too much moisture can cause fungus and bacteria to grow.

Benefits of Humidity

Humid air provides several benefits to plants such as inreased growth and reducing temperature especially in dry regions.

Plants that love humidity

  • Orchids

    Orchids are epiphytes, which means they naturally grow on trees or other surfaces in their native habitats. In these environments, they are exposed to high humidity levels.

  • Ferns

    In their natural habitat, ferns often grow in shady areas where the air is moist and humid, such as in rainforests, and they require a consistent level of moisture in the air and soil to thrive.

  • Air Plants

    Tillandsia, also known as air plants are epiphytes that grow without soil and absorb nutrients and moisture from the air. In their native habitats, air plants are often exposed to high humidity levels.

  • Misting is not be the most effective way to increase humidity. Alternatively, try adding a humidty which will increase the humidity in a more sustainable way.

    Choose the right time such as morning or early afternoon, as it allows the leaves to dry before cooler temperatures in the evening. Avoid misting on very hot days, as the water can evaporate too quickly.

    Be gentle when misting your plants, and avoid spraying too much water, which can lead to water droplets pooling on the leaves and increasing the risk of fungal growth.

  • Monitor the moisture levels of the soil by sticking your finger about an inch into the soil to see if it feels dry to the touch. If it does, it may be time to water your plant more thoroughly with a watering can.

    Use the right type of water. Tap water may contain minerals or chemicals that can damage your plants over time. Consider using filtered or distilled water.

Soilless Gardening

What is soilless gardening?

Hydroponics and hydroculture are soilless gardening methods that are similar expect that hydroculture utilizes a solid growing medium while hydroponics does not. In both methods, plants are grown in a nutrient solution that is carefully balanced to provide the necessary nutrients for plant growth, and the pH of the solution is also monitored to ensure that it remains within the optimal range.

Advantages of Soiless Gardening

Soiless gardening has several advantages over soil-based gardening, such as water conservation, increased growth rate, better control over nutrient intake, fewer pest and disease problems, and no need for soil.

Plants that can grow soilless

  • Lucky Bamboo

    Lucky bamboo is a plant that naturally grows in water, making it an excellent candidate for soilless growing which provides the plant with the consistent moisture and nutrients.

  • Basil

    Soilless gardening provides basil with consistent moisture, nutrient delivery, oxygenation, and space optimization. These factors contribute to healthy growth and high yields of fresh, flavorful basil.

  • Spider Plant

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  • How to Grow Hydroponic

    Choose suitable plants: Not all plants can be grown in water, so it's important to select houseplants that are suitable for soilless growing.

    Select a container: You'll need a container that's large enough to accommodate the plant's roots and allow for growth. Glass jars or vases are a popular choice for hydroculture, as they permit you to observe the roots and the water level. Make sure the container is clean and free from any contaminants.

    Add water: Fill the container with clean, distilled or filtered water. Tap water can contain chlorine or other chemicals that can be damaging to plants, so it's best to avoid it. Ensure the water level is high enough to cover the roots of the plant, but not so high that the stem or leaves are submerged.

    Add nutrients: Plants grown in water need nutrients to thrive. You can add hydroponic nutrients to the water, following the manufacturer's instructions, or you can use organic materials like fish emulsion or seaweed extract. Monitor the nutrient levels and adjust them as needed.

    Place the plant in the container: Carefully remove the plant from its pot and rinse the soil from the roots. Place the plant in the container, making sure that the roots are fully submerged in the water.

    Maintain the plant: Change the water every 2-4 weeks or as needed, and make sure the water level remains consistent. If algae or other contaminants start to grow in the water, replace it with fresh water.

    (University of Minnesota Extension)

  • Hydroponic Considerations

    When growing plants in water there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your plants stay healthy and thrive. Here are some tips:

    Water quality: Use clean, filtered, or distilled water. Tap water can contain chlorine or other chemicals that can be harmful to plants, and can also contain minerals that can build up over time and damage the plant's roots.

    Nutrient levels: Plants grown in water need nutrients to thrive, so it's important to monitor and adjust the nutrient levels as needed. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions when adding nutrients to the water to avoid over-fertilizing.

    Algae growth: Algae can grow in the water and can be harmful to the plant's roots. To prevent algae growth, avoid placing the plant in direct sunlight, change the water regularly, and add activated charcoal or hydrogen peroxide to the water.

    Root rot: Root rot can occur if the roots are constantly submerged in water, which can cause the roots to decay. To prevent root rot, make sure the water level is not too high, and change the water regularly to prevent stagnant water.

    Air circulation: Plants grown in water still need air circulation to thrive. Make sure the container has some ventilation to allow for air exchange, or use an air pump to add oxygen to the water.

Watering Tips

  • Water Quality

    Tap water can contain chemicals such as chlorine, fluoride and high mineral content, which can lead to a buildup of salts in the soil and cause root damage.

    To avoid these issues, it is recommended to use distilled water, rainwater, or allow tap water to sit for 24 hours before using it to allow the chemicals to evaporate.

    -Watering Mistakes-

    Using water that is too cold or too hot (room temperature is best).

    Using a pot without proper drainage which causes water to pool and plants to become overwatered.

    Not checking soil moisture levels (each plant has different needs depending on size, type, and growing conditions).

    Placing an ice cube on the soil can lead to uneven watering and temperature shock which can damage the roots of the plant and lead to stunted growth.

  • Cleaning Leaves

    Wiping or washing the leaves of your houseplants can improve light absorption, better air exchange, help control pests, and make them look more attractive, thereby enhancing their overall health and appearance.

    Use a soft cloth (like a microfiber cloth), a bowl of lukewarm water, and mild soap (like castile soap or dish soap). Carefully wipe each leaf without applying too much pressure.

Works Cited

USGS - Capillary Action and Water Capillary Action and Water

Houseplant Resource Center - Bottom Watering Plants | How to Do it the Right Way

Plant Care Today - What Is the Soak and Dry Watering Method?

Images Cited