There are several methods of watering houseplants: top watering from above with a watering can, dipping plants in a bowl of water and draining them, or even letting them drink from below. Plants usually have a preference as to which method they should use.
Whatever method you choose, room temperature is the best, soft, distilled water or rainwater. When it is time to water, let the water fully saturate the soil. After watering, let the water run out of the bottom of the pot and discard the excess water from the drainage plate. Don’t expose to extremely bright light immediately.
- Watering Plants From the Bottom
- Why Water From Below
- How to Water Plants From the Bottom
- What Plants Can Be Watered from Below
- Disadvantages of Bottom Watering
- Final Word
- Frequently Asked Questions
Watering Plants From the Bottom
Now that your plants grow in the right light and the right temperature; the next urgent need may well be a drink. The reason plants need water is that minerals such as phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium are dissolved in the soil water and absorbed by the roots, along with the water.
Watering your plants from the bottom is also called reverse watering because instead of pouring the water on top of the surface from the top, you let your plants drink from below.
Why Water From Below
If your plant has hairy leaves or the foliage covers the compost, you want to water from the bottom in order to avoid splashing the leaves.
The reason why you want to avoid splashing the leaves is that some plants like African violets, Snake plants, and Cyclamen are prone to fungus and bacteria if their splashed leaves don’t dry out properly before being exposed to bright light. Splashing the leaves will also create ugly marks and lead to the leaves rotting.
Next, bottom watering helps to develop stronger root systems as sometimes plants don’t get all the benefits of watering if you don’t water thoroughly. Moreover, bottom watering plants minimize the risk of pest infestation, fungus, and diseases.
Another reason you want to water from below is if your plant is wilting due to underwatering. So, if you have forgotten to water your Peace Lily, watering from below will revive it within an hour. Here follows how to bottom water.
How to Water Plants From the Bottom
The main thing here is to select pots with enough drainage holes. If not, the plant won’t be able to absorb water.
Secondly, it is best to use room-temperature water, ideally soft and distilled water. You can enrich it by using a water-soluble fertilizer or banana peel fertilizer to improve soil structure a bit.
Thirdly, bottom watering takes more time than top watering. You need to allow time for plants to absorb water properly. Allow at least 15 minutes for smaller and medium-sized plants, while larger plants will need more time. Use the finger test after 15 minutes to check the soil moisture.
You want to fill in your bowl, tray, or bucket with enough water, between a few inches to half depending on the size of the pot and plant. Smaller plants need less water.
Method 1: Stand the smaller potted plants in a saucer or tray of water for between 15 and 30 minutes depending on the type of the plants. Drain afterward.
Method 2: You can also move plants somewhere shady and fill a bowl or container large enough with tepid water. In just their plastic pots with drainage holes, dunk your plants into the water, weighing them down if they start floating. Soak for around 30 minutes and drain. This is an especially good method if your plant is wilting due to underwatering.
Method 3: Watering from the bottom is also possible if you put your plants in a tub or sink that is filled with a few centimeters of water. The water will get absorbed through the roots without waterlogging the soil. Most plants in larger containers will love this with their dry soil. Don’t shower plants with sensitive leaves like ferns.
You always want to drain any excess water from the saucer. Weigh the pot in your hands to check the water level and see if it has been saturated enough. This will also help you determine when you should water next time.
You don’t want to repeat this procedure too often because it will lead to overwatering and rotting.
Aim to make the compost moist, but not wet, as sitting in soggy compost will lead to root rot, so make sure to let the excess water drain away.
Compost in terracotta pots dries out more quickly than in plastic pots, but don’t water to a timetable. Get to know your plant’s needs instead. Poke a finger into the soil to test it. Also, a very light pot will have dry compost. That will be your guide.
Related: Best Self-Watering Pots
What Plants Can Be Watered from Below
We have already said that plants with hairy leaves like African violets, Snake plants and Cyclamen should be watered from below because their leaves are prone to developing leaf spots and attract fungus and bacteria if splashed.
Bottom watering is perfect for smaller to medium-sized plants. On the other hand, watering tall and heavy plants in this way is a burden and they are best watered from above.
The following plants like being watered from below:
- Watermelon Peperomia
- Begonia Rex
- Dragon Trees
- Pothos plants
- Fiddle-Leaf Fig
- Ponytail Plant
- Spider Plants
Disadvantages of Bottom Watering
There are some disadvantages when it comes to watering from below. Firstly, you can’t rinse salts and minerals contained in the soil with this method, as it is only possible with watering from above.
Next, it is a time-consuming process for some people. They don’t like waiting half an hour to water a plant and top watering is a lot quicker process.
Finally, some people forget that they are watering plants and went on to do something else, which may eventually kill the plants if you leave them in the water-filled bowl for too long.
It is worth mentioning that not all plants like bottom watering. Be careful with succulents, for example. Always check the advisable method for watering for individual plants.
Bottom watering plants is a great technique for when you what to take your time with watering and replenish the soil your houseplants are growing in. Bottom watering will protect the sensitive leaves, encourage strong plants’ roots and instantly revive the plant’s appearance, especially if you enrich the water with water-soluble fertilizer. Your plants will love it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Overwater Plants by Bottom Watering?
Yes. Allowing plants to sit in the water for too long is the main cause, so the potting soil becomes waterlogged and the plant may eventually die. If you use reverse watering method too often, you also risk killing the plant. Your aim should be moist soil, so let the potting medium drink up water, but allow excess water to drain through the drainage hole.
How Long Should You Water Plants from the Bottom?
The bottom watering method takes between 15 and 30 minutes depending on the size of your plants. Larger plants need more time. Use room-temperature, soft water rather than tap water that contains harmful excess salts. Refer to the article above to learn how to bottom water.
Can I Bottom Water Any Plant?
A small to medium-sized potted plant is the best candidate for bottom watering, such as the Snake plant or African violet. Tall and heavy plants aren’t practical for this method. Plants with hairy leaves are also good candidates for this because they don’t like wet leaves, while succulent plants shouldn’t be watered in this way. Always check a plant’s preferred method of watering and stick to it.
Is Bottom Watering Better Than Top Watering?
There is no better method, only the one that a plant prefers over the other. Each has its benefits and flaws. Top watering is a quick process that rinses off excess salts on top of the soil, but you risk inviting fungus gnats and overwatering. Watering your plants from below protects plants’ leaves and promotes stronger roots, but it is time consuming. In both cases, you should check the moisture level of each plant and be extra careful with the timing.
How Do You Properly Bottom Water Plants?
Properly bottom-watering plants are an important aspect of houseplant care. You fill a container or a bowl with room-temperature, soft water and let your plant sit in it for at least ten minutes. After ten minutes, check the soil moisture. Leave it for another few minutes if the soil isn’t fully soaked.
What Plants Like Bottom Watering?
Plants with hairy leaves should be watered from below because if water droplets get spilled on their hairy leaves, it can cause scorch. That said, you want to water them from below. Some of those plants are Snake plants, Dracaena trees, African violets, Monstera, and Yucca.
How Often Should I Bottom Water Plants?
There is no set timing when you should bottom water your plants. Check whether the top of the soil feels dry and light. If it does, that’s an indicator that it is time to water. Make sure not to overdo it as it may lead to root rot. Check the soil regularly and use a moisture meter.