Question: I have trouble deciding when to water my indoor plants. I especially seem to lose more indoor plants this time of year. Could you give me some suggestions?

Answer: Light conditions are very low this time of year. As a result plants are growing slower and need less water. Plants are more likely to be damaged from overwatering this time of year.

The best single way to determine if a plant needs water is to feel the top of the soil with your finger. If the soil is dry on top, then it is probably time to water. After you have watered a plant several times you will find out about how long it takes to dry out. Wet soil is darker than dry soil, so after a while you can tell by color when a particular soil is starting to dry out. Not all potting soils are the same color, so you need to feel the soil a few times until you learn the relative color.

The most common question when purchasing a new indoor plant is, “How often should I water it?” There is no simple answer to that question. It depends upon many factors. What are the light and temperature where the plant will be growing? How big is the plant in relation to the pot? What type of soil is it planted in?

Since there are so many factors involved in how often a plant dries out, you should not try to water all plants at equal intervals. If you check plants every day or two for a while you will find out which ones need frequent or infrequent watering.

Plants with thick leaves such as cactus and jade plant like drier soil than plants with thin leaves. Drooping or wilting of leaves is a sign that a plant is too dry.

Water quality is also important. Softened water has more sodium chloride than is good for plants. Sodium chloride or table salt damages plant roots and soil structure. Most cold water taps in the kitchen do not have softened water.

However, cold water can slow plant growth, especially in the winter. I like to fill my watering can with cold water and let it sit until it reaches room temperature.

If plants require too frequent watering, it may be time to transplant them to a larger pot. If you have a plant which is not growing larger in size, it may be time to down size it to a smaller pot. Deteriorating plants are more often caused by over watering than under watering, unless the problem is wilting of leaves.

Allen Wilson can be contacted by email at allenw98663@yahoo.com

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