Struggling to know how best to water your houseplants? Want to know more about how, why and when to water from the bottom up? Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we will be going through when you should choose the bottom watering method, how to do it and what to look out for along the way.
Before we get into the how part, it’s important to understand what bottom watering is and how it can be beneficial. Bottom watering is when you add water to the saucer or planter that your plant is in rather than watering from the top of the soil downwards.
You might not think that the way in which you add the water has much of an impact on your plant but it can actually rapidly change root growth and play a part in issues such as over or underwatering. This is why it’s super important to understand how you should be using the different watering methods to your advantage.
Although you can bottom water pretty much all of your houseplants, there are several which benefit from it more. We strongly recommend bottom watering tall plants as this encourages their roots to grow downwards, towards the moisture. This increases the overall stability of your plant.
What you need to be able to bottom water your houseplants
Pot with drainage holes
It’s really important that you pot your houseplants using pots with drainage holes at the bottom. This allows your plant to not only take up water from the saucer, but it allows excess water to flow out of the holes if you are top watering. This prevents a build-up of excess water in the soil which is the number one cause of overwatering and root rot.
Tray or saucer
Make sure you use a tray or saucer that is slightly wider than your pot. It’s not ideal to use a really big saucer as that could lead to accidental overwatering if filled up.
You shouldn’t be using really cold or really hot water to water your plants as this can cause shock or even burn the roots. Instead, use room-temperature water.
How to successfully bottom water your houseplants
Check that your plant needs more water
To avoid overwatering and rotting the roots, it’s crucial that you only water your plants when they actually need it. This is why we refrain from using calendars and strict watering schedules because your plants don’t work on a schedule like that.
The most reliable method is to use a moisture meter to check the soil moisture but you can also lift up your plant (if it’s not huge) or use the chopstick test to determine if your plant needs water.
Add water to your plant’s saucer
Depending on the size of the saucer compared to the pot, it may be easier to remove the plant whilst you do this. However, if you’re using a watering can with a narrow spout, then this should work without having to move your plant. How much water you give depends on a lot of factors such as the size of your plant, temperature and seasonality.
Let your plant sit for 10-20 minutes
This gives your plant enough time to absorb as much water as it needs but isn’t enough time for the soil to become waterlogged.
Remove any excess water
About 10-20 minutes after watering, we recommend removing any excess water that is in the saucer. This prevents waterlogged soil and root rot.
What are the benefits of the bottom-watering method?
It helps to prevent overwatering and root rot
As you are removing excess water about 10 to 20 minutes after watering, it prevents the roots from sitting in a pool of water for days on end. Instead, the plant is able to absorb only what it needs.
The plant will absorb water more evenly
Often when we use the top watering method, we fall into the habit of only watering in one spot. This can lead to only one half of the pot receiving moisture which in turn means the roots grow more on one side. This can lead to an unstable and uneven plant. Instead, the bottom watering technique means the plant absorbs moisture a lot more evenly spread across the pot diameter.
It encourages deeper root growth
When the bottom of the pot receives more moisture, the roots are more likely to grow downwards to reach it. This is really beneficial when it comes to the stability of your plants, making it especially important for tall plants. Having deeper root growth means the leaves are less likely to fall over.
Things to be cautious of when bottom watering
Make sure to remove the excess water
To avoid damaging issues caused by overwatering and root rot, it’s important to remove any excess water at the latest, half an hour after watering. It can be easy to forget but don’t tick water plants off your list until you’ve removed anything left in the saucers. Doing this can also prevent stagnant water from starting to smell, so it’s beneficial for both you and your plants!
Don’t add too much water
If your plant is sitting in a really large saucer or a deep tray, it can be easy to just fill it up. However, this can be giving your plant way too much water and if you aren’t removing the excess, then this can very quickly cause serious issues for your plant. Every plant is different in terms of how much water it needs so monitor how much it usually takes up. Checking moisture levels before you water can also help to give you an indication of how much it needs.
This method might benefit plants with shallow roots
If you have a fairly new plant or one with very thin short roots, then bottom watering might not be the best method. It can mean that the roots don’t actually get to any moisture and might dry out over time.
Frequently Answers Questions
Bottom watering houseplants is when you add the water to the saucer or the planter. This allows the roots to take up water from the bottom upwards rather than pouring water over the top of the soil. Bottom watering has plenty of benefits and great for tall houseplants that need good root stability.
Tall plants benefit most from being watered from the bottom. This is because their roots will grow downwards towards the moisture. This results in deep roots which aids the stability of your plant.
You can either use a tray or saucer that sits underneath your plant pot. Alternatively, if you have a ceramic planter that your plant pot is sitting in, then you can also bottom water by lifting your plant out of the planter and adding water to the bottom.
There are two main benefits that come with using the bottom-up watering technique. Firstly, it creates deep root growth to help your plant become more stable. Secondly, bottom watering allows you to easily remove any water left over after about 15 minutes so that your plant’s roots aren’t sitting in a puddle of water.
Bottom watering your plants does help prevent overwatering as you are able to remove any excess water that is still in the saucer 15-20 minutes after watering. This allows your plant to take up as much as it needs, without creating waterlogged soil.
If you aren’t removing excess water then yes, bottom watering can lead to issues such as root rot. However, this is easily avoidable if you pour away any water that is left in the saucer, tray or planter about 15-20 minutes after watering your plant.
Bottom watering is suitable for all plant types, so long as they are potted in absorbent soil.
If you are exclusively bottom watering, then it can mean that there is a build-up of salts and minerals in the soil from fertilizing. Top watering does a great job of flushing these through which is why we recommend balancing different watering methods. Bottom-up watering can also leave the top of the soil very dry which can mean some of the roots crisp up at the top of the plant.
We hope that this guide to bottom watering your houseplants has been useful. There are lots of benefits to this method and it’s especially great for tall plants such as Snake Plants and Scheffleras. There are a few things that you need to be careful of though and removing excess water will be crucial to keeping the roots healthy and fresh.
Written by Billy Dawson