What Can Prevent Bottom Watering From Working? Things to Avoid


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Bottom watering is an effective way to water plants, which helps prevent overwatering and the many problems associated with it.

Watering plants from the bottom will not work if the soil is severely compacted or there is too much clay within the mix. Additionally, having too little water in the watering tray or having the tray tilted will not provide sufficient water to reach the full mass of the soil.

We will explore the things that can prevent bottom watering from working so you can figure out what you can do to ensure the bottom watering process is working for you.

Bottom watering plants infographic

Once the bottom watering process has the right conditions the water can travel throughout the soil and then drain drain out leaving the soil and roots moist. This is also effective in the combat against gnats.

1. Stones At The Bottom of The Plant Pot

Stones at the bottom of the plant pot may be a greater reason for preventing the bottom watering procedure. 

As too many stones can prevent capillary movement of water upward into the soils. 

Capillary movement is a movement or action by which water from the roots of the plant body moves to the upper parts of the plant body for example scales or fronds. 

Therefore, if there are rocks at the bottom of the planter, add enough water to the tray so that it reaches 1 inch higher than the rocks.

2. No Hole At The Bottom of The Plant Pot

If there is no hole at the bottom of the plant pot, your plant will not be able to soak water from the tray. 

As through the hole of the plant pot, water seeps up to the upper parts of the plant body. 

Due to the absence of the hole, water will move or seep up very slowly through the micropores of the pot, only if the planter is made of soil or clay. 

Therefore, make sure your planter has a drainage hole at the bottom. 

3. The Water in The Bottom Watering Tray is Too Low

We can say that the quantity of water in the bottom watering tray is directly proportional to the activity of the bottom watering. 

If there is very little water in the bottom watering tray it would decrease the rate of the bottom watering as well. 

4. The Tray is Tilted or The Water Level is Not Even

If the bottom watering tray is tilted, it may also be a reason to prevent or slow down the activity of the bottom watering. 

A tilted tray would have an unequal level of water, so the side or edge which is having the least quantity of water would be able to absorb enough water. 

Therefore, make sure that the bottom watering tray should be balanced. 

5. The Soil is Compacted

Different types of soil will absorb the water differently especially if the soil is compacted. 

The compacted soil would prevent the phenomenon of the bottom watering to some extent. 

It may reduce the capillary movement of the water molecules to the upper part of the plant body. 

So, in the case of the compacted soil-plant body should not be bottom watered. 

Due to the compacted soil, (particles of the sand or soil are closely packed so that holes are lessened or vanished), the number of holes would decrease in the soil and it would become very difficult for the water molecules to move upward. 

6. The Soil Has a High Ratio of Clay

If the soil has a high ratio of clay, bottom watering may not work effectively. 

As the size of the molecules of the clay is greater, it has a  high capacity to hold the molecules of the water with it. 

The water molecules will not be able to move upward. Clay also hardens when it gets parched or dehydrated so it would become very difficult to dampen the clay after every watering activity or rain.

Bottom watering Calathea

When Not To Bottom Water Plants:

According to agricultural research, plants should be watered at specific times of the day depending upon the specific conditions. 

The following hours or days are not considered ideal for bottom watering plants:

Time of Day (Midday)

According to several botanists, midday is a risky time to water a plant. As at this specific time, the sun is at its peak; it would have maximum effect on the environment due to its heat as well as light. 

Bottom watering plants during midday will not hurt the plant but it can cause some little trouble. 

When you bottom water a plant during the peak hours of sunlight, water evaporates faster as compared to morning and evening. 

With the rise of 18°F of temperature, the amount of water lost by plants doubles. Water evaporates quickly before it can reach the various parts of plants. 

That is why it is not recommended to bottom water your plants during middays.

Therefore, try to avoid bottom watering your plants while the sun is dancing on their heads unless the water is not crucially needed at that time. 

Hotter Days

It is generally stated that plants should be bottom watered or top watered in the early morning especially in the case of the hotter days. 

As in the hotter days, the loss of water is at its peak due to the stomatal or lenticular activities of the plant. So much of the water would be wasted in the form of vapors. 

Additionally, on hot days, there is excess sunlight and the soil is too warm. The water evaporates faster from hot soil leaving behind the soil dry.  

When watering a plant during a hot environment, the water will spread in plant organs, but due to excess heat, this water will start evaporating from the leaves of plants. 

The water which you gave has now evaporated. In short, watering plants during hot days is of no use. 

Therefore, it is highly advisable to water your plants during the early hours of the morning to ensure your plants’ safety and healthy growth. 

Colder Days

In the colder days, you should water your plant frequently. As in the colder days, the soil of the plant is more heated than that of the environment. 

So, in the colder days, bottom watering should generally be done at night. 

Can You Overwater From Bottom Watering?

No. Bottom watering plants will not lead to overwatering because the soil will only hold a certain amount of water-based on the bonds between the water molecules and the soil as it opposes gravity. 

Any additional water will not be absorbed into and held in the soil during bottom watering.

The water supply will be used up to an extent that the soil cannot hold anymore. 

Excess water in the soil will drain out when the plant is removed from the bottom watering tray or sink.

See our detailed article on how bottom watering prevents overwatering.

Your plant won’t be able to reach and absorb water if the water in the tray is too low. 

Make sure you fill your tray or sink with enough water so that it will reach 1 inch from the bottom of the soil in your planter. 

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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