Watering is the trickiest part of houseplant success. In low light, our plants work at low speed or have a low metabolism, so they need less water. As the light increases the plant’s metabolism increases and it needs more water.
A plant in a darker living room might go a couple or more weeks between watering while plants in a patio room with lots of windows may need watering several times a week. Plants in small pots retain less water and will need to be watered more often.
Plants in large pots have more soil that holds more moisture and can go longer between waterings. The most common problem with houseplants is over-watering, as folks forget how the low light slows down the metabolism and the drinking and feeding of our houseplants.
The best watering meter is your finger. Feel the soil surface and wait to water until the soil is dry to the touch — not dusty but dry. Water thoroughly until water starts to drain out the bottom of the pot then wait to water again until the soil feels dry again. If in doubt whether to water or not, err to the dry side and wait.
Most houseplants survive dry better than wet. Be particularly careful not to over-water if your houseplants are in a pot or decorative container without drainage where the water is not able to drain from the pot.
January is a good time to pick out some houseplants and green up your life.
Rodd Moesel serves on the Oklahoma Horticulture Industrial Council and the Oklahoma State University agriculture dean’s advisory committee. Email garden and landscape questions to email@example.com.