What Is Bottom Watering?
When you bottom water your plants, you transfer the plant – pot and all – to a shallow water bath. The roots soak up all the water they need, then you return the plant to its original location.
Houseplants can be finicky about water, some more than others, so if yours are highly sensitive, you must be especially careful.
It is also crucial to think about where you administer water to your indoor plant because, if some water splashes on the leaves or flowers, the plant can react negatively.
There could be discoloration or spots in the areas where it was wet, which can make you reluctant to water it again. However, you really can’t skip watering all together. You just have to find a way to water your plant more effectively.
This is why some indoor gardeners are increasingly using bottom watering. With bottom watering, your plant stays hydrated and since the foliage and flowers are never wet, they remain healthy and happy.
What Are the Benefits of Bottom Watering Your Houseplants?
Probably the most frequently asked question among indoor gardeners is why bottom watering is beneficial. Here are some benefits of the bottom watering method.
Maintains Foliage Color
I will discuss which houseplants are most suited to bottom watering in the following section, but for those plants that love this watering method it is highly recommended. Your plants will look fresh and lush with no water spots or other signs of poor watering.
Prevent Soil Compaction
If you overwater your houseplant over a long period of time, your soil can become compacted, an inevitable result of its regular watering. It’s not like you can simply stop watering your plant.
When you water your plants from the bottom, you avoid top-down irrigation, which places pressure on the top layer of soil and descends down on the layers below. You can maintain the quality of your houseplant’s soil for longer by watering from the bottom.
Might Reduce Pest Risk
There are indoor gardeners who believe that bottom watering will lessen the risk of pests invading their houseplants. This is because the outer layer of a plant’s soil is dry so moisture-loving insects will not come around.
The leaves of the plant are also dry to the touch, so they won’t suckle on these. Water comes from the root system, oblivious to the pests. Whether you’ll have fewer pests is negligible, but it can’t hurt to try.
Could Increase Root Strength
If you top water indoor plants, the water doesn’t have to travel through inches and inches of soil to reach the roots, which would then have to work to drink the water. Instead, the water reaches the roots directly, which will encourage the roots to grow downward as they should.
Is It Better to Bottom Water Plants?
Even though bottom watering has many benefits, conventional methods are just as effective. Watering from the top occasionally may help flush any added fertilizer, plant food, or even excess salts sitting on the soil surface through the drainage hole in the soil.
Which Houseplants Should You Bottom Water?
Almost every houseplant species should be watered from the bottom, but there are a few you’ll always want to do this for. Here are the ones you should always use this method for.
Indoor gardeners love the violet flower Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia, but those flowers can lose their beauty if exposed to too much water. African violets are an excellent choice for bottom watering, which is why they’re often recommended for the hobby. However, even bottom watering those pretty flowers is worth the effort so you can impress your friends and family.
Snake plants, also known as mother-in-law’s tongues and blade plants, can grow upwards to four feet in height. Whether you have variegated leaves or simpler, unadorned ones, it is disappointing to see leaves spotted with unappealing water spots. You will be able to get rid of those black or brown spots on your snake plants once you start bottom watering them.
Unlike the African violet, the cape primrose produces bright hues of pink, purple, lavender, and fuchsia. In order to keep its vivid color, you must water it while its roots are damp but not soaked. In order to keep the cape primrose flowers beautiful, you must keep any water away from its flowers. The best way to water a cape primrose plant is on the bottom.
A young plant is still extremely vulnerable to being watered from above, as the force of the water may be too much for the developing plants. By bottom watering, you avoid disturbing the soil and getting the new plants wet, which will certainly be appreciated by them.
Mid-Sized Plants (or Smaller)
Large potted plants need to be transferred into larger amounts of water, like a bathtub or sink, during bottom watering, so if they are so heavy and large that moving them is difficult, then they are not suitable for bottom watering.
Your plant will already have work cut out for it when it needs to move to a new pot. Save the stress of moving it for an eventual necessity.
How to Bottom Water Your Houseplants
If you have houseplants that you would like to start watering from the bottom, here are the steps you need to follow.
Step 1: Choose a Bottom Watering Method. The best place for your house plant to soak depends on its size. For smaller plants, using a container full of water is sufficient. For larger plants, a container might be too small, so you should fill your bathtub with water and place your plant in there.
Step 2: Fill the Container/Tub with Water. Depending on the size of your plant, it’s okay to add an additional inch of water, as the roots must be able to drink the water. When the plant is sitting in the container, tub or other container, you should fill it with water, at least 1 inch deep.
You may have to deal with leaves turning brown and crunchy instead of a discoloration or water spot if your plants can’t do that. If your plants can’t do that, they’ll be underwatered. Nevertheless, there is a fine line here. You can’t really overfill a container, but you can definitely do it with your bathtub.
When you bathe your houseplant, try not to soak the soil up to the roots. Too much water will cause the soil to soak, leaving the plant vulnerable to root rot.
In addition to the quantity, make sure you don’t use any old type of water. Tap water is a no-no, since it contains chemicals, so don’t use it. Distilled or filtered water is best, as is rainwater, if you collect it.
No matter what method you use to water your plants, it’s always best to use a tepid or room temperature water when doing so.
Step 3: Put Your Plant in the Water. After you have bottom watered your plant, you don’t need to remove it from its pot. Simply plunge the whole thing in the tub or container. Let the water sit for at least 10 minutes.
Depending on how long it’s been since you last watered your houseplant, you can double the amount of time, but don’t let it sit longer than 20 minutes, otherwise the soil will get soggy, creating conditions conducive to root rot.
Step 4: Drain and Replace. The next few minutes will see water seeping out of the drainage holes in your houseplant’s pot, so I’d suggest placing it down on some towels now. After the water drains, dry off the plant’s pot and replace your houseplant.
Plants suffering unnecessary stress can be put in danger by being moved too often. Keep your plants in their original locations after watering them.
In general, houseplants thrive more consistently with consistent light sources. Essentially, do not force your plant to adjust to a new position every time you water it, but instead place it in the same spot.
Tips for Bottom Watering Plants
Though you don’t need to give your plants a lot of care when bottom watering, mistakes can still occur. Here are some mistakes to avoid.
Always Do the Soil Test Before Bottom Watering Your Plants
You can use the soil test to determine when you should bottom water your plant as you would if you watered it from the top down. I always say that this is the most accurate indicator of when your houseplant needs water.
It’s essential to wash your hands thoroughly before taking a soil test. Then, press one finger deeply into the soil. If it feels moist, your plants aren’t ready for watering. The soil should be moist or dry a few inches deep. If it is moist or dry, then do another soil test in a few days. From there, determine your decision. If it is dry, then fill up your tub or container; the plant needs water.
Ensure Adequate Drainage Hole Size when bottom watering
A plant’s pot needs to have enough drainage holes to allow water to exit when bottom watered. Otherwise, standing water may cause root rot. If your plant’s drainage holes are less than an inch in diameter, you might want to consider repotting it.
Don’t Overcrowd Your Plants
If your indoor garden includes snake plants, African violets, and maybe a cape primrose or two, you should bottom water all of the plants. However, you don’t want to have too many plants in your tub at once, so one is bound to have less than it needs.
Clean Your Tub Prior to Using it to Bottom Water Your Houseplants
The tub needs to be completely clean before putting plants in it, so rinse it well with soapy water to remove any leftover chemical residue or soap scum.
Using soaps and chemicals that may be safe for you, but not for your houseplant, in a tub or container during watering may damage your houseplant.