Bottom watering is an effective technique to water plants, removing the fear of over watering. Although effective, bottom watering should be done on a schedule to prevent overwatering.
Bottom watering should be done after every three to four days. This gives the water in the soil enough time to hydrate the plant and mobilize the minerals within the soil making it easily available for absorption. Wind, humidity and temperature affects how fast water dries out and how often to bottom water.
To protect your plants from drying out, you need to provide them with enough water at the right interval.
Watering plants from the bottom up is not an exception and we have covered what you need to know on how often to bottom water your plants and what factors affect the schedule.
What is Bottom Watering?
Bottom watering is done by placing the plant in a tray of water at approximately 1 to 2 inches high. The water is then absorbed into the soil from the bottom up after which it is allowed to drain freely leaving the soil moist and aerated.
Bottom watering :
- Stimulates healthy root growth
- Prevents pests such as gnats
- Prevents overwatering
- Allows fresh air into the soil
Why Bottom Watering?
Watering plants is essential practice when growing healthy plants. The most common method of watering them is by pouring water onto the surface of the potting soil, known as top watering.
Watering in this way is considered favorable for most plants, however, it is not the ideal method for many plant varieties.
For instance, some plants, such as African violets, become discolored and blotchy if water is dropped on the leaves.
If your plant is becoming rooted, the moisture may not soak into the soil and may run down the sides of the pot instead.
Watering potted plants from the bottom eliminates these problems and adds moisture to the soil more efficiently.
You’ll save time and effort, and give your plants a healthier environment once you learn how to water your plants from the bottom.
How Long Does Bottom Watering Take?
When watering from below, the pot is immersed in water ⅔. The plant takes about 15 to 20 minutes to absorb the required amount of water for its proper functioning and healthy growth.
The pot can be removed from the water once the soil surface becomes wet. Let the water drain off before placing the pot in its original place.
The soil remains moist for 3 to four days before it can be bottom watered again.
The best time for watering from below is in the spring/summertime when the maximum water consumption of the plant occurs within a day from the moment of the previous watering.
Cacti, succulents, orchids are an exception.
A Quick Note: Whenever we buy new plants from the nurseries, we should check if the plants are dry then it is the best time to water them from below.
After moistening the earthy coma, do not forget to check if the roots of the plants are alive.
When to Remove the Plant from the Tray?
Remove your plant from the try filled with water after 15 to 20 minutes. It’s really important that you don’t let your roots sit in water.
Just drain the excess water out into a bucket after 20 or 30 minutes.
How to Measure Soil Moisture?
The soil is composed of minerals, air, water, solutes, and organic matter, and essential nutrients for plants (especially nitrogen).
When managing your garden at home it is important that the soil is aerated and with good drainage, as well as favoring the water retention capacity so that the plant can take advantage of all the nutrients for its development.
There are also different methods to measure soil moisture which can be very effective in determining how wet the soil is and when to water the plant.
Let’s discuss them in detail.
Finger Test Method
When potted plants are watered, the key is in the moment. Press your finger into the ground between the wall of the container and the stem of the plant.
If you push down on the second knuckle and you still do not feel moist soil, it is time to water the plant.
Find a container large enough to hold the pot and fill it up to half with distilled or filtered water. Tap water often has too much chlorine, which can damage the plants.
Place the pot in the container and leave it alone for 10 minutes.
Check the humidity level in the container again to see if the substrate has absorbed enough water.
If it’s still dry below the surface, keep the pot in the water for up to 20 more minutes to allow it to absorb as much water as possible. Remove excess water.
Bottom-watered plants keep the roots evenly moist, but they do not remove the salt and mineral deposits that build up on top of the soil after a while.
To rinse the soil and remove excess minerals from it, it should be water from the top once a month. Pour water over the top of the soil until the bottom drains.
- Insert the wooden stick into the ground as far as you can. Be careful with the roots.
- Leave the stick on the ground for 5 minutes. This will give the stick time to absorb the water from the soil.
- Remove the stick. If the stick has a watermark or dirt stuck to it, the substrate is wet. If it is dry then there is no color change then you should bottom water the plant.
- Sanitize up the stick and let it dry to reuse it next time.
Soil Moisture Meter
Soil Moisture Meter is an easy-to-use and accurate device for detecting soil moisture.
The soil moisture meter shows you the current moisture in absolute percentage as well as the wilting point or the degree of saturation of the soil or soil.
The simplest meters are a type of hygrometer and have humidity sensors to measure soil moisture levels.
Often showing the humidity level on a color-coded scale from 1 to 10, a decimal number or a percentage value where lower numbers indicate drier soil and higher numbers indicate wet soil.
Best Moisture Meter for Measuring Soil Moisture:
- XLUX Soil Moisture Meter
To take the guesswork out of determining how much moisture your soil has, you can use this cost-effective soil moisture meter from amazon.
XLUX Soil Moisture Meter is an excellent and pocket-friendly moisture meter to know when exactly your plants need water.
With XLUX Soil Moisture, all you need to do is stick it in your potting soil or garden soil, wait a few seconds and read the gauge to know how moist the soil is. That’s all.
Knowing the moisture level of your soil will save you from problems like overwatering and underwatering.
- VIVOSUN Soil Tester:
To test the moisture and pH of the soil you can use the cost-effective Trazon Soil 3-in-1 Meter. It not only tests for pH but also moisture content and light intensity. You can find it by clicking here!
This 3-in-1 Plant moisture sensor meter is also pocket-friendly and easy to use.
How Soil Type Affects Watering Time?
The soil enriched with clay minerals ensures the best growth and also retains moisture better and more evenly.
In rainy summers and winters, this soil provides good drainage, avoiding waterlogging.
Sandy or sandy loam soil is characterized by the presence of a large number of voids between soil particles.
Because of them, the number of capillaries in the soil is reduced, gravitational forces prevail, under the influence of which the lateral distribution of moisture decreases and its outflow downward is observed.
Clay soil has a larger number of capillaries, which cause the movement of water to the right and left outside the distribution point.
At the same time, the gravitational indicators, leading moisture downward, are reduced. Water permeability in such soil is low, moisture remains for a long time in the root zone.
In clay soils that have been compacted, the downward outflow of moisture is even more limited.
Excessive watering on such soils can lead to stagnation of water in them and inhibition of the root system of plants.
The most optimal characteristics of capillary movement in medium-heavy soils: Loams are 15-25% clayey and 75% dusty.
See our detailed article on how bottom watering affects soil quality and vice versa how soil quality affect the time it takes to bottom water plants.
All in all, most of the plants just need 15 to 20 minutes to soak the required moisture.
The soil remains moist for 3 to four days before it can be bottom watered again.
You can bottom water your plants twice a week for normal functioning and healthy growth.