About watering our plants…

Quite likely, there are more plants that are planted in containers which are killed by poor watering practices than by any other means. But damaging or killing plants by using excess amounts of water is not limited to container plants with low volumes of soil or soil mixes. Excessive amounts of rain last spring and again this spring have clearly shown the adverse effects too much water can have on plants growing in our fields and landscapes.

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to tell someone exactly how to water any particular plant. This is a practice or skill that a person must, over time, get a “feel” for. For sure a number of factors are in play when a plant is watered. One of the chief ones is plant species. Generally speaking, even those who are new at plant culture know that a cactus cannot handle nearly as much water as a tropical species. And those who enjoy cacti quickly learn that too much water too frequently will result in a dead plant from rotted roots. Knowing the water preferences of each plant in your collection or landscape is a good first step in proper water management.

Size of plant is one factor that may dictate how much water is needed as big plants with a lot of leaf surface to transpire moisture will nearly always require more water than a plant that can be held in the palm of your hand. How much light a plant receives is also a factor that plays a role in determining the amount of water a plant needs. When plants get sufficient light for the photosynthetic process to function efficiently, more water will be required than for plants that are stressed due to low levels of light. Of course, we know there are always going to be exceptions in nature.

Inside a home where humidity levels tend to remain relatively low due to heating equipment and air conditioning systems, potted plants will be affected and may require more water than expected. To compensate for these dry conditions it is recommended that such plants be placed on pebbles or chipped bricks or stones over a vessel of water. The bottom of the pots must not touch the surface of the water. The water will evaporate and rise among the various parts of the plant thereby raising the humidity surrounding the plant and reducing the amount of water the plant needs.

The materials from which the various containers are made also influence watering practices. Clay pots, when new, are very porous and permit water to pass through their walls rather easily so that over watering is less of a problem. However, in time the pores of the pot get clogged with minerals and salts from fertilizing and that porosity is greatly diminished. Plastic pots are widely used because they’re less expensive, but over watering may be more of a problem as water can only escape from the bottom drainage holes and the soil surface at the top of the pot. The problem is compounded when a pot with bottom drainage holes is set on a flat surface. Containers made of other materials have both their advantages and disadvantages.

 The media in which plants are grown clearly affects watering frequency. Soiless mixes can either hold moisture better than native soil or can drain much faster than ordinary soil. Thus, plants with high water requirements need a mix with generous amounts of organic matter while plants that prefer less moisture tend to thrive on mixes with sharp sand, perlite, etc. which promote rapid drainage.

Air temperatures surrounding plants have a direct bearing on plant performance and watering practices. High temperatures typically increase a plant’s need for water and this translates into more frequent watering.

Credits Shreve Port Times

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