A Plant Watering Trick to Change Your Relationship to Your Houseplants

It's easy, mess-free, and works with a variety of plants. Here's how you can do it at home.

Social media can be an excellent tool for learning new things. Of course, books, the internet, and experts are also useful, but sometimes you see something on a social networking site that's completely enlightening on techniques, with information you've never seen or read about before. Recently, we found a popular video on TikTok (with more than 600,000 likes) of someone watering potted plants in an interesting way. Before you roll your eyes and ask, 'How different can it be from tipping a watering can over various containers?'—prepare to be amazed by this different take on hydrating your houseplants.

In the clip, Hilda, a TikTok user who developed a passion for gardening during the pandemic, sets an assortment of potted plants, including mint, anthurium, English ivy, and various cacti and succulents, in a container filled with a few inches of water. (The tub is slightly larger than the plant pots.) The mesmerizing time-lapse shows that each one soaks up the perfect amount of water, almost as if by magic. Many people have commented on the video, revealing their amazement, including one person who writes, "I feel like I've just learned a really high-level gardening secret."

Naturally, we've known about this trick, but the Tik Tok clip was so persuasive, we decided to test it out on a Thanksgiving cactus and a succulent. And yes, the method worked like a charm. But how, exactly?

The technique is known as bottom watering. The potting soil basically acts like a sponge and draws the water into the tiny spaces between soil particles. Bottom watering works best on smaller houseplants that can be easily move around. They need to be in a pot with a drainage hole that will allow water to be absorbed by the soil. Just as Hilda's video shows, all you do is place your potted plant in a few inches of water. Wait about 10 minutes, and you'll notice the water level will have dropped as the soil absorbed moisture. Then put your plant back in its home.

Bottom watering is super easy and is less messy than carrying a dripping watering can around your house. It's also harder to overwater your plants, because the soil will only absorb what it can hold. And you won't have to worry about splashing water onto sensitive leaves, like those of African violets and many succulents. So, the next time you need to give your houseplants some love, give this technique a try.

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