Hanging plants are a cool way to make your rooms look more beautiful and literally “lively.” However, taking care of hanging plants is usually a lot tougher and sometimes counterintuitive if you’re only experienced with handling potted plants. The most radical way hanging plants differ from potted plants is in the way their drainage works.
Hanging plants can be thoroughly watered and drained over a sink or a bathtub. You can water your hanging plants without taking them down, but you’ll need to use a cachepot or a saucer to collect dropoff through the drainage hole to prevent a mess. Drainage is important as it prevents overwatering.
In the rest of this article, I’ll tell you how to properly drain your hanging plants so you can avoid overwatering them. I’ll also share with you some practical solutions for managing hanging plants that drip.
How To Properly Drain Your Hanging Plants
If you’ve noticed that one of your hanging plants looks weak, the leaves are wilted, or it hasn’t been growing well, it’s likely because you haven’t been watering it right.
In this case, you probably would like to know how to water it properly to bring it back to life without worrying about water leaking through the container and creating a huge mess.
Water the Plant Thoroughly
In this case, the best way to water a hanging plant is to take the container down and water the plant over the sink or in a bathtub. You also have the option of taking it outdoors and watering it with a garden hose. This way, you can saturate the soil all the way through and not make a mess as the water drains.
It’s best to keep watering the soil until you see water exit through the drainage holes at the bottom of the container. This is an indicator that the soil in the container has reached its maximum capacity for water retention. Watering beyond this point would be pointless. In fact, it would only serve to cause problems.
However, you can also employ bottom watering, which is where you let the container sit in water and let the soil soak water up through the drainage holes. The soil will only soak up the amount of water it can hold and no more, which effectively diminishes the risk of overwatering.
Allow the Container To Sit and Drain Excess Water
Once you’re done, leave the container be for a while so the excess water can drain out. This can take as little as a few minutes or up to an hour, depending on how large the container is, how much potting mix is inside, and how well it can drain water.
After water stops dripping out of the drainage hole, hold the container up, move it about a bit, or shake it slightly. You don’t have to if the container is too heavy, but it’ll help get the last bit of excess water out so you can safely resuspend the container at its designated spot.
And you’re all done. Watering thoroughly in the way I’ve described above will ensure that your hanging plant stays hydrated for a fair duration before you have to water it again.
Tips To Consider When Watering a Hanging Plant
Taking off a hanging plant just to water it can be a little troublesome. Especially if you have multiple of them and they’re heavy, and you don’t want plant watering to become yet another chore.
As many plant owners do, you could water the hanging plants without taking them down. But there are a few things to consider:
- You won’t be able to water the plant as thoroughly. It’ll get thirsty sooner, and you’ll have to water it more frequently.
- If you don’t have a cachepot, water might leak through the drainage hole and dirty whatever surface is underneath. So if you have a carpet, it could get dirty.
- Watering a hanging plant increases its weight considerably. Too much water and the container might collapse.
So what do I recommend? I think it’s best to water your hanging plants both ways.
For your regular watering routine, you can water the plants without taking them off. This will restrict you to light watering, but that’s okay.
Every once in a while, take down the plant and water it thoroughly, as I’ve discussed above. This will ensure your plant stays well-hydrated most of the time and that any unwanted substances in the soil are rinsed out before they present a problem.
How To Deal With Hanging Plants Dripping Water
Hanging plants frequently drip water after watering. Unfortunately, it’s very common and one of plant owners’ most prominent issues with hanging pots.
Fortunately, there are several easy fixes.
Drain the Pots Thoroughly After Every Watering
After watering a plant over a sink or bathtub, give the container time to drain all excess water.
If you add too much water into the container, to the point where water has stagnated over the topsoil, turn it over onto its side. This will allow the stagnant water to fall out from the top instead of slowly going through the entire plant and exiting at the bottom.
Water Your Plant With Ice Cubes
You can use ice cubes when you’re watering your hanging plants without taking them off.
Ice cubes melt and release water slowly, giving the potting mix ample time to absorb the water before it escapes down the drainage hole.
Watering with ice cubes is one of the most effective ways to prevent your hanging plants from leaking.
The only thing you should remember while using this technique is that direct contact with ice cubes can cause cold shock and damage to foliage.
Avoid placing the ice cubes anywhere near the plant’s stem of foliage. Instead, place them closer to the edges of the container.
Use Basket Drip Pans
You can use a basket drip pan to catch and hold the excess water that drips through your hanging container, as they were built for this purpose.
In fact, many hanging containers today come with said drips pans, so you don’t have to go out of your way to get one.
These convenient attachable holders are readily available online and offline if you don’t have one. They don’t cost much, so getting one is worth the trouble it saves you.
Double Pot Your Hanging Plant
Double potting, as the name implies, is when you use two pots, one inside the other.
You can utilize double potting if your hanging plant container is a pot.
It’s as simple as placing pot A (the grow pot) into pot B (the cachepot). Of course, pot B has to be slightly larger than pot A to accommodate it.
Also, your cachepot can’t have a drainage hole, which would defeat the purpose of using a cachepot.
Double potting is one of the best ways to use those pots that don’t have Drainage holes since you shouldn’t use them as standalone growing pots.
By double pot-ing your hanging plant, you’ll increase the total weight that needs to be suspended.
Place a Tray Under the Hanging Plant
This last tip is a little less graceful than the others but works just as well. If you don’t want to bother with the above, you could simply place a tray below your hanging plants.
The tray will catch any water drip off. If your hanging plants are too high up, the falling water droplets will create tiny splashes upon coming in contact with the tray, so you’d need to use a larger tray.
Practical and convenient, for sure. But maybe not the most aesthetically pleasing. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide.
Why Hanging Plants Need Proper Drainage
I’ve looked at how to manage drainage in hanging plants in this article. But why do hanging plants even need drainage in the first place? Can’t we just make do without the drainage hole? That would certainly solve our problems very quickly by preventing water from dripping everywhere.
Unfortunately, plants, whether they’re potted or hanging, absolutely need drainage.
Drainage holes allow excess water to escape. In pots without drainage holes, excess water has nowhere to go and simply sticks around in the soil until it evaporates.
However, this is a lot more dangerous than it sounds.
Plants Without Drainage Can Lead to Overwatering and Root Rot
Containers without drainage are prone to overwatering. Overwatering is one of the most common killers of indoor houseplants.
This is partly because we overestimate how much water plants need; they actually need much less water than we think they do, and many popular houseplants are drought-resistant and do just fine in dry soil.
Why is too much water a problem?
Plant roots need oxygen to survive. When there’s too much water in the soil, they can’t get this oxygen. Roots that stand in water for too long eventually suffocate and die. They turn black and soggy and start to decay, and this can happen in just a few days of standing in stagnant water.
Unfortunately, this usually results in the plant dying too. Roots are the most important organ in a plant; they keep the rest of the body alive by gathering nutrients. Once the roots are gone, there’s usually no hope for survival.
All this is to say that overwatering is a real threat and shouldn’t be taken lightly. To add to the problem, the rotting roots often attract pests such as fungus gnats.
One of the easiest ways to overwater your houseplants is to not let them have a drainage capacity.
How To Prevent Overwatering
Proper drainage will give you room for error since excess water will drain out.
However, it’s still very much possible to overwater a plant that has drainage, so here are a few tips for you:
- Water deeply and less frequently.
- Let the soil dry out between waterings.
- Use high-quality potting mix. Don’t use garden soil; it’s heavier and doesn’t drain as well.
- Keep your houseplants closer to sunlight.
Plants Without Drainage Can Cause Salt Buildup
Hanging plants (or even all potted plants, in general) also need drainage to rid themselves of unwanted substances.
Salts such as fluorides, for example, are often found in tap water. You add a little bit of these salts to the soil every time your water your plants.
If fluoride salts are allowed to build up, they can cause the soil to become toxic. Therefore, it’s important to flush them out through the drainage hole with deep watering from time to time.
If you use chemical fertilizer, the need for drainage becomes even greater. These fertilizers contain many chemicals and compounds that would be fine in moderate quantities but harmful if they’re allowed to build up.
Do Hanging Plants Need a Lot of Water?
If you have an indoor collection, you may have noticed that your hanging plants dry up faster than the ones on the ground.
Generally speaking, hanging plants do need to be watered more frequently than their peers on the ground. The soil in hanging containers loses its moisture content faster.
There are three primary reasons for this faster water loss:
- Slightly hotter temperature. Hot air goes up, and cold air goes down. This interesting phenomenon causes slight temperature differences in the same room. Hanging plants experience relatively hotter temperatures, which has a marginal effect on the rate of water loss.
- More exposure to the wind. Baskets hung outdoors are especially affected by the wind.
- Lower water capacity. How much water a container can hold is determined by the quantity of soil in it. Since hanging baskets can weigh a lot, the type of soil used and the quantity is limited. This directly affects how much water the container can hold at maximum.
So while hanging plants do need more water than regular plants, it’s usually not to the point where you have to water them daily.
How Often Do Hanging Plants Need To Be Watered?
If not every day, how often do hanging plants need to be watered, given that they dry out so fast?
Most houseplants can tolerate a brief period of dryness without suffering from any long-term health effects. A day or two of being in dry soil every now and then is actually good for your plants because it’ll encourage them to grow their roots.
Therefore, I recommend watering your hanging plants when the soil dries out. You don’t want it to get bone dry, but it shouldn’t be moist, either.
You can check how moist the soil is by sticking your finger in it. Try to dig at least two inches (5.08 cm) deep, as topsoil hydration rarely accurately represents how much moisture is still accessible to the roots.
Under this criteria, I expect you to have to water your hanging plants two or three times a week, at most. You should soak the plant’s potting mix thoroughly with each watering, although this is harder to do if you don’t take the hanging plant down first.
As long as you let the soil dry out between waterings, there’s little risk of overwatering and root rot.
Now, some plants, such as ferns and orchids, are more water-demanding than the average houseplant. For these moisture-loving plants, you should water their soil before it dries out completely to keep them happy and hydrated.
If your hanging plants are drying out so quickly that you must water them more than thrice a week, you need to take steps to improve water retention and reduce water loss.
How To Keep Your Hanging Plants From Drying Out
Here are a few ways you can keep your hanging baskets from drying out, so you don’t have to water them as often:
- Hang your plants in a high-humidity room. Higher humidity directly reduces water loss via evaporation. It also keeps water-loving plants comfy and moisturized. You can place your plants in bathrooms or kitchens, which are naturally more humid than other rooms, or you can run a humidifier.
- Don’t keep your hanging plants outside when it’s windy. Fast winds will sap the moisture out of a well-watered plant in hours. As such, it’s best practice to bring your hanging plants inside when it gets windy.
- Keep indoor hanging plants away from vents. Drafts of hot air dry out the soil and hurt exposed plants.
- Use a larger container. As I mentioned earlier, the amount of water a container can hold depends on the amount of soil in it. Larger containers hold more soil, which, in turn, can hold more water.
- Use a moisture-retaining potting mix. You can add organic matter to the potting mix to improve its capacity for water retention. Most commercially available potting mixes will already have lots of organic content from the get-go.
You should water your hanging plants over a sink or bathtub to drain away the excess dropoff without creating a mess. It’s best to let all excess water run through the drainage hole before hanging the plant again, which can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.
You can also water your hanging plants without taking them down, but you won’t be able to water them as thoroughly unless you use a drip basket, a cachepot, or a standard tray to collect dropoff through the drainage hole.