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Watering Container Plants: Everything You Need to Know | 💦🌱

What's going on everyone. Kevin from Epic Gardening here.

Now the number one question I probably get, and I get it in many different forms is,

"just how do I water my plants?"

It is an extremely common one, just because it's one of the key things that a plant needs to survive

and there's just so many different variables that go into it.

So instead of giving you a recipe, do this, do that, do this,

I'm gonna try to give you in this video is an understanding of the principles beneath.

So that you can kind of solve your own watering problems going forward into the future.

So we're gonna go over some general watering tips.

Some variables that will affect how and when you might decide to water your own garden.

And then some physically how to actually water, some techniques that have worked for me

as well as a couple different ways to either self-water,

automate your watering and just some products that I like as well.

So let's go ahead and figure out how to water our plants.

So the first tip I have for you is, think about where this plant, any plant actually evolved

and what watering conditions it was subject to in those environments. Right?

So if we're talking, I mean the most extreme example would be something like a succulent versus a firm.

Succulents for the most part are growing up and involving and endemic to,

which means that's where we found them in the first place,

too desertified or extremely dry climates with loose porous soil;

versus ferns are often growing in forests under canopies

and they don't get a ton, ton of light

but it's relatively humid and moist environment.

And so if these are where the plants actually evolved,

it makes sense to try and water and replicate those environments.

So that's Tip # 1.

So for here you have a Snake plant

versus an Alocasia amazonica.

Different evolutionary paths,

different ways that they evolved to fit the environments they are endemic to.

So different watering.

Our next tip is to water, based on the type of plant.

This is a Dioscorea elephantipes,

I believe is the way to pronounce it, also known as the Elephant's foot.

You can see it has this really large

codex here, which holds a lot of moisture and the plant puts out these beautiful

beautiful trailing, very wispy sort of vines

but in the summer, this plant will

basically go dormant in a way. So it sort of goes opposite to most plants

and basically when you want to water this plant is, when these leaves are looking

more or less like this, when there's a lot of leaf growth that is pushing out

quite a bit of growth and it actually exists on the plant.

In the summer, these will die back and there's not really a big point in watering

because there's nothing really that this plant needs to sustain.

So this would be a good example of a plant that's kind of the opposite of most plants.

So you also kind of want to go in turn with the growing season.

So as a plant is putting out a lot of vigorous growth

then obviously it's gonna need more of all the resources it needs to survive.

Water, light, nutrients, etc.

But as you go into that dormant phase, which for many plants is going to be the fall, winter, less light, colder,

it's going to need less of all of those things.

So it's going to need less water, usually less nutrients, you don't fertilize it as much.

So that's just a tip. Go in tune with the plants of natural growing cycle.

Now we have to talk about the different variables that go into determining how and when to water.

So like anything else, everything sort of affects everything else right.

The type of pot you use.

Whether there's air circulation or not.

So let's go ahead and go through these one by one

and I'll talk about how each of these variables affects the way that a plant should be watered.

So the very first is going to be the overall warmth of your house.

We know that on hotter days evaporation happens a little bit faster.

On colder days, it happens a little bit slower.

So the actual temperature of your house is going to be a variable that affects how

often you need to water, and on top of that with temperature, there's air circulation.

You know one of the ways that you can actually cool something

like a hydroponic reservoir is evaporative cooling;

blowing air over the top of the nutrient reservoir.

Well, in a house plant, in a potting situation, it's going to be similar but the opposite effect

or the opposite intended effect.

If air is blowing all over the place in your home,

then water is going to evaporate quicker from the soil

leading to it drying out quicker, which means that you're typically going to

want to have to water a little bit more.

But this is also why most house plants don't prefer extremely draughty areas of the home.

Next variable we're going to talk about is the size of your pot.

Now intuition would tell you, the larger the pot, the less evaporation

or the less quickly soil is going to be drying out.

That's simply because there's more of it, it's harder for those evaporative

effects to get into the center of that soil versus here.

Now, this is about a 6 to 8 inch diameter ZZ plant in a pot

and then you've got a small little cutting right here, in about a 4-inch Azalea pot.

Or maybe even a 3-inch pot. This is gonna dry out way way way quicker actually and what I like

to do is I like to go ahead and water, based on size sometimes

because I know, this is gonna dry out twice as quick as this.

And especially if I have put a plant in this one that actually needs water more often,

then I have to water even more.

So these are just ways to think about how size affects

how often you'll need to water.

Our next pot based consideration is the actual material

that the pot is made out of.

So terracotta, I personally grow almost everything in terracotta

because it actually does lose some water.

It's a porous material, which means water can actually seep through the clay, come out of here

and slowly slowly evaporate out as compared to the nursery pot you might buy a plant in.

This is just a plastic pot, it's not porous. The only way water is getting out

is through the top, through the leaves or through the bottom

versus here, it can get out from more or less every part of the pot.

So you've got the actual transpiration effect of the leaves, you have evaporation from the top,

you have evaporation from the sides as it waters through and then you also have

the drainage hole at the bottom. So if you do decide to grow in the terracotta pot,

first of all, it's not all bad, just because water evaporates out of this,

it doesn't mean that's a 100 % bad.

You know a lot of the reasons why people kill plants is they overwater.

Terracotta actually helps prevent against that.

However, on plastic side or any other non-porous material,

what's happening here is, you're more prone to over watering

but you're less prone to under watering.

So it really sort of does depend on your unique, maybe your sin, as far as watering house plants.

If you tend to overwater, I personally love terracotta. That's almost everyone by the way.

And if you tend to under water, I personally would go with something more like plastic.

But honestly if it was me, I would stick with terracotta.

Now we're gonna talk about actual watering tips.

You can see I have a long-handled watering spout here

and that's because, if I have a lot of plants in one area,

I want to be able to quickly and easily get to different parts of the pot

without having to manually come through and like dump little bits of water here and there.

So long handled spout I find really helpful.

So, if you haven't watered in a while, your soil is going to be extremely dry of course,

which means that it's not going to take water up as readily at the start.

So, one thing that I like to do is, I call it the water wait water method.

What you'll do, is you come through and you give it a nice little drink, just do that.

Let it sit. Let this water sink in.

You can see, it's kind of sitting at the top a little bit.

People think "oh no, my soil is so dry or something's wrong with my soil."

Not really, you just need to give it a second.

Let it actually sink in, let it absorb

and then all the soil at the top is much more ready to take on water

and so the Water Wait Water method.

You go ahead and come back in.

Give it a nice drink.

You can see it, it does pool a little bit, but it's just going to take a little bit of time to soak through.

And as far as watering those, that is my number one tip as far as the, like actual technique of watering.

Now what you'll see here, is you can see water has already started to make it through .

Now if you water up here too quickly,

water is gonna run straight through empty pockets and just pool right here.

And actually what's gonna happen is maybe this part of the plant or this part of the soil

will be watered, nothing here will get wet

and then down here, it's just gonna pour right out.

So, that's why I like this Water Wait Water method. I think it works really well.

And let's talk about this down here.

What you're seeing here, is quite a bit of water has now pooled at the bottom in the saucer,

which by the way, I always love using saucers and it's strictly for this reason.

But the last thing you'll want to do is leave this water here.

Once you're sufficiently satisfied that you've actually properly wetted the soil up top,

the root zone is nice and moist, it's gotten a good drink and you know

it didn't just run straight through, then what you'll want to do is wait a little bit,

take this off and then dump this out or maybe recycle it into another, you know container for watering.

Because if you leave it there, you are extremely prone to root rot.

Now, one thing you'll hear a lot of people say

is dip your finger into the soil and so, about an inch or so deep,

maybe 2 inches is a good enough amount to see, you know what, "is the root ball actually dry down there

and does this plant need more water?"

Now, a lot people will say, "oh, this is so confusing,

some people say go an inch deep, some people say go 2 inches deep,

some people say don't do this at all."

Well, it all goes back to what I talked about before.

You have to take everything into account.

This is a terracotta pot, so it's gonna dry out a little bit more.

This is as ZZ plant. It has bulbs down in here that hold quite a bit of water

and this plant is extremely tolerant of neglect.

So, just because this plant is dry to maybe 2 inches, doesn't necessarily mean

it automatically needs more water.

You do have to understand, what physical plant you're actually growing

and don't always rely on these guidelines.

So, another thing you might notice is, for plants you've had for a while,

the soil might start to look a little crumbly.

It might kind of bunch up and then it might even pull away from the sides.

I don't know if you can see, but in the back here it does. It has pulled slightly away from the sides here

because I haven't watered this plant in a little bit and it's just gotten a bit dry.

Now, if that's the case when you pour water in, it's going to run straight down

because it's gonna go through the path of least resistance.

So it's gonna go straight down here and kind of flow down this inner edge right in here,

and then just dump right out the sides.

So what I like to do is, I come in and I kind of break up the soil

with maybe a little screw as you see me doing here.

You can use chopsticks, you can use a specific aerator

and this is replicating what's happening in nature. You know soil is not static in nature.

It doesn't exist in this small little pot and so I'm breaking the soil up

just like the micro organisms, the worms, the beneficial bacteria,

all the soil life would normally do and then boom, you have this little fluffy soil again.

It's going to be much more ready to take up and absorb water instead of just running right off.

So, if we come through and we water it now,

see how it's much more likely to actually accept the water, where the water landed,

insteaed of laying flat on top and kind of like sheeting off,

like it was being watered on concrete or something like that.

So, much more ready to take the water.

Way less dripping and draining out of the drainage hole.

In fact I don't even have the saucer on the bottom of this

and it's completely fine and there you go.

Now, those are my general tips for watering

but there are definitely some plants, that you really are growing

way outside of their normal environment.

Now ferns for me are one that just don't grow anywhere near where I'm at,

and the climate here just is not amazing for them.

I don't guess that most of you've had a problem growing ferns once or twice in your life too.

So, there are some cool products you can use.

This one's called HYDROBOX. Comes in all different types and shapes and sizes

and they are actually the sponsor of this video.

So, thanks to them for sponsoring the video.

Letting me bring this type of stuff to you.

Now it looks very simple. It's just like a little black disc.

But what it is, is in effect, it's a self-watering planter.

It will convert any pot into a self-watering planter.

We're gonna go through how to set it up

but more or less if you've seen some of my self-watering planter designs,

this part is placed at the bottom of a pot

and then it is moisturized, you have to soak it in some water first and then your soil goes on top

and then you transplant your plant.

And what it does is, it acts as that water reserve that you would normally see in a classic self-watering planter.

So, let's go ahead and pop up a plant using the HYDROBOX.

So, the first thing we have to do is just hydrate this

and they recommend doing it for about dozen or so minutes.

10-15 minutes. So I'm gonna sit this here. Let it soak up and we'll be right back.

Alright, so it's been about I don't know 8-10 minutes.

It's soaked up quite a bit and it's going to take on even a little bit more

but I think we're ready to go. I've got a Peperomia plant here,

that I got from Josh's Frogs, that is you know, it's a little bit bigger than the pot.

It needs to be potted up.

Normally, I wouldn't say go, you know, double the pot size but I think this plant is a pretty vigorous grower.

It can handle it, so the first thing we need to do is get rid of this soil because we need to get down to the bottom.

So, I've cleared it out. We've got no soil in there now.

And what I'll do, make sure I give it a little bit of a whoop.

There we go.

Now this fits pretty nicely down on the bottom, so I'm just gonna slot it in right there

and you can see it.

It just sits right there and you might be saying oh, it's blocking the drainage hole.

Well no, because this will drain water out.

You know, if you squeeze it bunch of water will come out, it will still drain

but it's basically, now a bottom that allows water to wick upwards through the growing material or the soil.

So, what we'll do, is we'll start adding back a little bit of this soil,

up until the point, where we can get our Peperomia transplanted in.

You know because we're adding soil from this as well, so we don't need to add all of it back.

So,

take some of this dead root matter out of here.

And if you want, you can go ahead and amend this soil too, of course.

But, you know this is a video on watering, not necessarily on the transplanting and potting up sort of techniques.

So, we have our root ball here.

We're going to place it right there. We can break the soil up just a little bit if we want to.

And then we can go ahead and fill around the edges.

Now, after you do this with the HYDROBOX, you still want to water it in quite significantly,

because if you put dry soil in and the HYDROBOX on the bottom, what's gonna happen is,

it's just going to wick it all straight up and then it's going to be dry

and it'll be really hard to remoisten that at the start.

So you want to give it a nice healthy drink

and then after about three weeks or so, you can considerably reduce the amount of watering

because that wicking mechanism is in full effect.

So, we're more or less potted up here. It's time to give this a nice drink.

One other thing I do by the way, is I always leave a tiny little lip.

Maybe a half inch or so lip, because I don't want water to pour straight off and just fall down.

I want it to at least, if it's extremely dry soil, collect at the top,

so it has time to break that surface tension and actually water in well.

And just a little tip to prevent some of the mess you might have

when you're watering in your indoor house wine garden.

So let's not waste the water that we used to hydrate the HYDROBOX. I'm just going to dump it in.

Since I don't have that long handled spout, I'm gonna try to come around a couple sides

and you can see how it pools here, because this soil was extremely dry. That's fine.

We're gonna follow the rules that we set out earlier. Water Wait Water.

And we're gonna let it fill up.

So, what I did is, I broke up some of that soil like I did before.

Watered it in and now we have the HYDROBOX sitting right here

and water is going to be wicking up via capillary action from here upwards.

Now that doesn't mean you never have to water, you still have to water because eventually

there will be no water in the HYDROBOX. However, after about 2 to 3 weeks of watering

what you can do, is you can kind of significantly reduce

just because the way that the plant is using water,

the way the roots have adapted to this way of watering

is going to be very efficient and you just have to water a little bit less.

So, there are definitely other ways you can solve that self-watering problem for some of those trickier plants.

I personally find these to be pretty good because not only are they inexpensive but they come in

different shapes and sizes, so you could do like you know, this is like a standard kitchen herb planter size,

you've a square pot size.

They have different diameters for the circles and really they are pretty inexpensive.

So, instead of doing something like cutting up sponges and putting it at the bottom or

doing the gravel thing, which really doesn't work that well in my experience,

I like to use something like this just because I'm pretty much never gonna have

a problem with this guy for quite some time.

And it's a vigorous grower. It's gonna love that nice consistent amount of water that's getting in.

So, it's gonna be a happy happy scenario. So those are our tips for watering, guys.

I know that's a lot to go over. Maybe it's a bit of a jumble

but I promise, once you sort of get it in your head, the variables that plants need to survive.

Especially when we're growing them indoors, way outside of their normal environment,

you know, your light, your air circulation, your temperature, the size of the pot,

the type of material of the pot, the plant itself,

does it want more water rather than not?

What part of the growing season the plant is in?

Is it putting out a lot of growth? Water it probably more.

Is it putting out not so much? Going into dormancy? Water a little bit less.

So, all these things start to really coalesce and make a lot of sense

and that's what I'm hoping to do here on the channel.

Not so much just say, here's exactly how much to water this plant,

here's exactly how much to water this plant.

It's more about giving you the tools, so you can do this all yourself

and you don't have to look stuff up all the time.

So, that's pretty much it guys.

If you want you can always check out HYDROBOX. Links will be in the description.

And check this out. I just got the word that my book is available for pre-order.

So, I will leave a link in the video description.

It's the Field Guide to Urban Gardening.

It's got 225 pages maybe something like that

and there's so much in it. For container gardening, for raised bed gardening,

for cool tips and tricks like using stuff like the HYDRABOX or other

different products that I like, different plans everything you could ever want.

Hydroponic plants, growing micro-greens etc.

It's all in the book. So link is gonna be in the description below.

If you pre-order, definitely send me an email.

Kevin@epicgardening.com with your receipt because I'm gonna mail you out some seeds from my friend.

So just a little way to say thank you.

I think the seeds are like $5 a packet or so $4 to $5 a packet.

They're relatively expensive for seed packets,

but they're really high-quality from my friend Brijette in San Diego Seed Company.

So check that out.

Thanks again to HYDROBOX for sponsoring the video and for keeping my

Peperomia alive and healthy for many many months, years to come.

I'll see you in the next one. Good luck in the garden and keep on growing.