THE FINGER TEST | How often should I water my indoor plants?
April 2018 | Our Green Sanctuary Blog

Almost every day I get asked the same question "How often should I water this plant?" and because one of the worst things you can do to your plants, is over water them. I've put together this post to help you understand how often you should water your indoor plants.

If you're not sure how often you should be watering your indoor plants, read on. I'll share with you the two main ways we can tell a plant need's water, and which way I recommend for checking your houseplants water requirements. 

2 ways to tell if a plant needs water

There are two main ways we can tell a plant needs water.

1. Looking 

2. Lifting

Look at the plant. 

Are the leaves looking less shiny? Are there yellow leaves that have appeared? I have a Peace Lily Spathiphyllum, that's leaves will become very droopy and flat if I neglect to give it the water it needs. 

Next is lifting. 

Try picking up the plant and checking the weight. You'll first need to know how light the plant can weigh when it's dry and how heavy it is when it's wet. Then, when you are checking, the heavier the plant is, the less likely it needs a drink. This is easiest if you have plastic pots. 

Try picking up your plants to see if they need water

Unfortunately for me, many the pots we use at home are heavy glazed clay pots so this strategy isn’t always suitable. If you keep your plants in lightweight plastic pots then you can give this one a try.  

The way I recommend you check if your plants need watering is:

The Finger Test.

Simply stick your finger into the dirt as far down as you can and see if the soil is dry.

Check to see if your plants need water
Stick your finger into the soil

When you remove your finger, any soil sticking to it indicates moisture. When your finger comes out relatively clean, it’s time to water. Feel the soil by rubbing your fingers together. Dark & sticky soil is a sign of moisture.

Stick your finger as far down into the soil as you can
Any soil left on your finger indicates moisture

When you find the soil is still moist, don't water yet. Check back again in a day or two. Depending on how many plants you have this task might seem tedious at first. To keep your plants happy it's well worth the effort. Eventually you will get to know the watering requirements of each of your plants.

Rachel's Top Tip:

Group plants with similar water requirements together

There are a few other signs to look for if you think it's time to water your plants.

Leaves shriveling up, browning  or becoming crusty;  indicates the plant has dried out.

A plant dropping leaves, can be a sign of both under and overwatering. The finger test should help you determine which. 

Not all your plants will need water at the same rate. This will all depend on the type of plant; cacti and succulents need less water than a tropical plant.

If you want to water your plants at the same rate you will need to ensure the correct potting mixture for each plant type to ensure correct and efficient drainage. Find out which potting mix you need.

The size and type of pot can also influence how much water a plant needs. Clay pots absorb moisture and help plants dry out quicker.

Larger plants in small pots, doesn't leave much room for their roots and so there is less soil which means it can’t hold as much water. In this case you might find it easier if you repot your plant. I've written a separate post about that here.

What are your tips for watering indoor plants? 

Tell us in the comments below. 


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About the Author Rachel Okell

A self confessed plant nerd, Rachel loves indoor plants, tropical plants and learning about new plants. Rachel is currently working as a Horticulturist helping people solve problems, pick plants & plan gardens. The best part of her job is being surrounded by plants all day! Rachel has a deep appreciation for all things green & hopes to share her knowledge and passion to help people learn about plants.

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