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The best time of day to water your plants is when it’s easy for you

Watering houseplants illustration
(Julia Yellow / For The Times)
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If you’ve ever wondered when to water your houseplants, try to think of them as individuals with distinct personalities.

The Reader’s Digest handbook “Success With Houseplants” advises to “never water routinely by the calendar. The best way to determine when to water is to examine all plants every day or two to assess individual needs.”

Erica Marino of the Sill agrees. “One of the biggest mistakes is sticking to an exact watering schedule,” she said. “Watering on exactly the same day every week may do more harm than good.”

Marion recommends watering when the soil is dry — not just surface dry — but 2-inches-deep dry (think of it as your hand’s first knuckle). This can vary depending on the amount of sunlight your plant receives, the soil density, time of year and humidity level.

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“Rather than looking at a specific time, it’s best to test the soil to determine the moisture level,” Marino said. “If the soil is 2-inches-deep dry, it’s time to water. Just remember, it’s OK to be flexible in your plant care.”

Los Angeles County master gardener Julie Strnad prefers to water in the morning because it allows plants to absorb water all day. “It’s best to water them in the morning when they are going to have the most light,” she said. “They can draw moisture inside and hydrate themselves. “

Like Marino, Strnad wants home growers to be realistic about what they can and cannot manage. “When you work, or you’re gone from the house for periods, you have to water when it’s best for you.”

Strnad suggests creating a routine that is manageable. “Don’t put your plants in out-of-the-way places like high cupboards just because they look cute up there,” she said. “It will be too much trouble for you to see if the plant needs water.”

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Watering may be a constant requirement, but soon you’ll be able to look at your houseplants and know if they need water. And there’s always your index finger, Strand said. “I am constantly touching the soil surface of my houseplants to see how dry they are.”


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Lisa Boone is a design writer for the Los Angeles Times. Since 2003, she has covered home design, gardening, parenting, even youth sports, for the Home section and L.A. at Home. She is a native of Los Angeles.