Watering Plants: Seven Signs Your Garden Plants Need More Water


It is best to water in the morning, if possible, as this is when the sun comes up and the plants start to use water. The foliage and soil surface are also likely to stay dry longer than evening watering, at the same time discouraging slugs, snails and late blight diseases. Plants begin to sweat in the sun, drawing water from their soil, through roots, stems, and through tiny pores on the leaves called stomata. Evening watering is also suitable, as cooler conditions mean less water is lost through evaporation.

How often should you water?

Gardeners and plant keepers are often advised to water plants well, but what exactly does that mean?

To put it simply, there is no rule of thumb for watering because each variety of plant has different needs.

For example, a potted plant in hot, sunny weather might need a glass of water a day, while some houseplants do not need it for several days.

One good thing to note is that plants will use more water if they have more, so you can let them dry out a bit between waterings.

The size, species and stage of growth of the plant will have a big impact on how much water it needs.

READ MORE: When to water tomatoes – the best time of day

The larger and more leafy a plant has, the more water it is likely to lose and the more nutrients it takes to help it thrive.

As these are normally absorbed by the roots dissolved in water, it usually takes more to produce fruits and flowers.

The texture, structure and compaction of the soil and its organic matter content are also big variables.

Plants cannot squeeze every drop of water out of the soil, and some different types can still appear wet even though the plants have started to wither.

This is most often found when it comes to clay soil.

While clay soil can hold more water than its sandy counterpart, plants are able to extract much more water from sand than from clay.

In contrast, sandy soil can appear dry even though there is often still moisture available for plants to extract.

Whether the plant grows in a border, container, or with a root restriction – such as next to a wall – can also be an important factor in knowing when to water.

A large plant in a large pot will need to be watered more often than a plant planted in a border.

In a border, the roots can grow anywhere there is soil, allowing them to draw moisture from a much larger mass of soil than if the roots were stuck in a pot.

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If the surface of the soil or compost is dry, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the plant needs more water.

Water is needed at the ends of the roots, so moisture along the top is not always the best indicator.

If you’re using the tactile test, poke your finger into the compost or soil at least up to your knuckle to see if it’s wet, rather than just feeling the surface.