|Watering Potted Plants
Most Potted Plants require
more care than those planted in the earth. The reason is that in their
unnatural isolated environment, they do not have the benefit of the moisture
and nutrients that the earth can provide to them. Whatever they require
to remain beautiful and luxurious must be provided by you.
When you water your
potted plants, do you wonder if they get enough? Often we give them just
enough to keep the overflow from making a mess. When plants are regularly
watered from the top, there is no way to be sure that every Root and Rootlet
got a drink.
The "drink" contains dissolved
nutrients that the moisture has removed from the soil. The plant needs
these for health and growth. Every Root is important to the well being
of the whole plant. Imagine if your family got lots of food, but YOU were
The next time you finish watering
a smallish potted plant, do this:
Fill a bucket with water and
submerge the plant. If air bubbles pop to the surface of the water, there
probably were roots that were still thirsty. The rest of your potted plants
are very likely similar.
#1 - The DIP Method
The Dip Method was just described,
where you submerge the whole plant. Keep it under water until there are
no more air bubbles surfacing. You can be sure that every Rootlet is satisfied,
and the foliage got a bath at the same time. This may not be possible with
larger plants, but read on. . .
#2 - The TUB Method
This method is handy for pots
that are too cumbersome or large to lift. Here the potted plant is kept
in a tub that has a drain threaded to accept a garden hose. The tub must
be higher than the soil level in the pot. Fill the tub with water until
it is above the level of the soil and the bubbles stop surfacing. Then
drain the water out with a garden hose. Leave the hose on until there is
no more seepage. Then screw a water-tight cap on the drain.
#3 - The RESERVOIR Method
With this method, a small pot
or other container with a hole in the bottom
is buried in the center of the
container, level with the soil. It is filled with water every day or two,
and has the effect of watering from the bottom of the container.
I prefer that the watering pot
reaches to the bottom of the container. The taper may cause the pot to
be rather large. Or you can use a length of 1" plastic pipe that
is cut off at an angle to prevent it from sealing on the bottom of the
container as below:
#4 - The PIPE Method
This is similar to Method #3,
except that the pipe holds less water, and so it may take longer to pour
enough water to satisfy the plant.
#5 - The DRIP Method
With this method, a length of
small-diameter tubing brings water from a pressurized source or an elevated
reservoir. A valve controls the flow to an occasional drip. The drip must
be just often enough to replace the water that the plant and air have absorbed.
One drop every ten minutes may be adequate for a small plant in a cool,
humid location. But another tube going to a large plant where it is hot
and dry may have to supply a drop ever few seconds. It is important to
check the output occasionally, in case the supply has been interrupted.
#6 - The WICK Method
Here the tubing from Method
#4 has been replaced with a length of wick that moves water by capillary
action. It has the benefit of being more or less automatic in that dry
soil will take more water from the wet wick than damp soil will.
Of course, the water supply may not be pressurized. The wick can be a rope
made of absorbent material. If you put the wick inside a length of tubing
(except for the last 6"), there is no chance of things it accidentally
touches becoming wet. The diameter and elevation of the wick determines
the water flow. Several wicks may be needed to water a large potted plant.
These last two methods may be
ideal for vacationers. If you use any of these methods, it is best to have
the pot in a saucer to catch any seepage. Usually seepage will evaporate
from the saucer before it overflows.
of these methods attempt to get water to the bottom of the pot. When the
pot is watered from above, the tendency is for roots to grow near the surface
where the nutrients are dissolved. This causes plants to be "shallow-rooted".
This same inadequate watering outdoors may cause plants to suffer greatly
on hot summer days when the roots get warm and dry.
The water may contain dissolved
natural or commercial plant nutrients, which you prepare according to the
directions on the package.
To be sure that roots
are getting adequate water, you can use a Moisture Meter. It has a metal
probe that you push into the soil to indicate the amount of moisture present.
I find them to be very useful.
While you may not appreciate
the appearance of opaque containers, they do have the advantage of visual