How To Water Outdoor and Indoor Plants (Ultimate Guide)

Water is an essential resource, and like sunlight, it is critical to the health of all outdoor and indoor plants. It aids in the feeding of plants, enables them to absorb nutrients from the soil, facilitates resource transfer to the rest of the plant via the root system, provides shoot support, and assists the plant in remaining erect throughout its life. Therefore, it is unsurprising that you must get a handle on watering to care for your plants appropriately.

Here’s how to water outdoor and indoor plants:

  1. Mist indoor plants regularly.
  2. Water your plants at appropriate times.
  3. Use a pot with drainage holes.
  4. Maintain ideal environmental conditions.
  5. Always use suitable water when watering your plants.
  6. Avoid overwatering or underwatering plants.
  7. Water your plants from the bottom.
  8. Examine the soil before watering.
  9. Keep plants in soil with good drainage.
  10. Use watering cans.

Although both types of plants share many similarities, in terms of watering, outdoor plants usually need more water more frequently since they’re exposed to harsher conditions. I wrote this guide to serve as a comprehensive manual for watering indoor and outdoor plants. Read on to learn more about the ideal watering routine for your greenery.

1. Mist Indoor Plants Regularly

I wanted to start off with this tip, as it’s the only one that is especially relevant to indoor plants.

Indoor air can become very dry, and this low humidity level may affect the transpiration rate. It can be necessary to give your plants a frequent spray or increase the humidity level in your home to help your plants absorb more moisture from the air.

Many indoor plants originate from tropical regions, where humidity is typically high. However, humans tend to keep their homes relatively drier than these plants like.

For instance, humans feel comfortable with indoor humidities between 30 and 50%, while some tropical plants prefer over 60%. Misting is usually a good middle ground, through which your greenery gets the water it needs while your health doesn’t suffer from excessive humidity levels.

Pro-tip: Misting doesn’t effectively increase the humidity around your plant for a long time. At best, the effect lasts only a few minutes.

Still, misting—paired with occasionally wiping your plant’s leaves with cloth—can remove dust and debris that may block the leaves’ stomata and inhibit photosynthesis and transpiration. For this purpose, it’s best to mist and wipe your plants at night when the stomata are closed.

Misting is a simple and efficient way to avoid underwatering your moisture-loving indoor plants like ferns. Efficient misting requires that you take note of the leaves’ color and texture. Misting is also an excellent way to care for plants whose leaf tips quickly turn brown or dry.

You can mist more often than you water, but I recommend that you still check the soil moisture content before misting. Although misting your plants might seem like it uses less water than regular watering, it does not. However, you likely won’t overwater your plants as quickly when misting.

Not all plants are suitable for misting, and some plants may even suffer severe damage if you mist them. Succulents are at the top of the “no-mist list” as they enjoy conditions with low relative humidity, and misting them will make them display symptoms of overwatering, including root rot.

2. Water Your Plants at Appropriate Times

Plants need water, but giving it to them too late or too early can be just as bad as overwatering or underwatering. You must ensure you only water your indoor and outdoor plants at optimal times to ensure the watering process is effective.

However, what constitutes an appropriate time?

Early in the morning, just before ambient temperatures rise, is the best time to water your outdoor plants. Watering at this time can assist in minimizing quick evaporation and guarantee that the soil absorbs all of the water they need.

You should avoid watering your plants at night, as low temperatures can slow down evaporation, causing the earth to become soggy and encourage the growth of harmful fungi.

Factors That Affect Watering Frequency

The watering frequency depends on quite a few factors, which are not especially easy to control for outdoor plants.

The main factors that affect watering frequency are:

  • Ambient temperature
  • Plant type
  • Soil moisture content
  • Weather
  • Relative humidity

You can water your indoor plants once or twice weekly since you can control indoor conditions and only need to watch out for soil moisture content. You’ll want to ensure you don’t overwater the plants by misting them even if you feel the soil is still sufficiently wet.

Outdoor plants are a different matter. Since they’re exposed to the elements, their watering needs can vary much more often. You need to carefully observe the weather, check soil moisture content and observe the temperatures and relative humidity to determine how often you should water them.


You will have to water your outdoor plants more frequently when sunny—at least once every day. Rain also affects the necessary watering frequency. You’ll need to observe how much precipitation falls to gauge how often you need to water and how much water you need to use.

Slight rain showers may have little effect on soil moisture content but may help mist your plants a little. On the other hand, heavy rainfall will ensure plant roots get a lot of water, sometimes waterlogging the soil in the process.

Seasonal Temperatures

Since your plants will be exposed to more sunshine and heat in the summer than in winter, they will require more water as the earth dries up faster. On the other hand, less light and milder temperatures in the winter and fall months mean they’ll need less water than usual.

The same factor applies to both indoor and outdoor plants, especially indoor plants that sit on the window sill. I advise that you check on your plants frequently and water them when they show signs of drought stress. Keep in mind that not all plants require the same amount of watering.

It’s also always best to water outdoor plants deeply to encourage the roots to grow deeply into the ground instead of growing shallow lateral roots that try to keep up with the moisture on the surface of the ground.

Extreme heat will cause the surface moisture to evaporate more quickly than your plant’s roots can access it. Watering your plants deeply early in the morning during sunny weather will introduce adequate moisture to the root zone that your plants can use efficiently.

Soil Moisture

Most importantly, ensure you always check the soil moisture content before deciding on an ideal watering frequency. I recommend using a soil moisture meter for outdoor gardens to efficiently monitor soil moisture content so that you can make efficient watering decisions.

On the other hand, a finger test is often enough to check the soil moisture for indoor plants. Plants that require consistently moist soil need to be watered when the soil is dry 1-2 knuckles deep. On the other hand, cacti and some succulents prefer the soil to dry out between watering.

Watering Succulents at the Appropriate Times

Different plant species will react uniquely to their surroundings. One of the most particular varieties is succulents, which is why I’ll take you through their ideal watering schedule.

Agaves, cacti, and aloe vera are some of the popular commercially grown succulents on earth. They can retain and absorb copious amounts of water in their shoots and leaves, allowing them to survive and grow in extreme conditions. It is best to allow the plants to dry out between each watering to prevent excessive water retention.

I recommend watering your outdoor succulents as often as once a week. If weather conditions grow more or less intense, you may need to adjust the watering schedule accordingly.

Nonetheless, like all living organisms, they get thirsty from time to time. As a result, it’s essential to pay attention to their watering requirements just like any other plant.

You also need to check the soil’s moisture content and keep an eye out for symptoms of dehydration between watering rounds.

The best time to water outdoor and indoor succulents is when the soil is slightly dry, although some varieties might need water only when completely dry. You should water these plants just as soon as they show symptoms of dehydration.

When to Use a Watering Schedule

Let’s face it, even the best of us forget to water our plants now and again. It is natural that we might want to set up watering schedules or even design automatic watering systems to ensure our plants don’t die because of our forgetfulness. But how feasible is this idea?

You don’t need to make a watering schedule for your outdoor plants. It isn’t necessary because outdoor plant watering requirements vary based on various changes in their surroundings.

Some gardeners use a watering schedule for convenience, but it can prove harmful to your outdoor plants. Various regions in the US have different climates and weather patterns. Seasons can also vary in length and intensity annually.

On the other hand, you can use a watering schedule for your indoor plants since you can control the environment in your home. However, you shouldn’t stick to a strict watering schedule, as it’s still crucial to check the soil manually for moisture.

The schedule can only give you a rough estimate of when or how frequently to check. For instance, once your plant has established roots, you can monitor how long it takes for the soil to dry out enough between waterings. From there, you can plan a watering schedule.

Each indoor plant has its unique watering requirements, so you should note how often you water each and create a schedule as you deem appropriate. You can use an Excel sheet or download scheduling apps to help set up a watering schedule for your indoor plants.

3. Use a Pot With Drainage Holes

You need to remember that too much water in the soil can kill most plants, regardless of where you plant them. As a result, you must ensure that your pots include holes for proper drainage. You may purchase customized pots with holes or modify an existing container to accommodate your plants.

Some people prefer to grow outdoor plants in pots. They usually do this for aesthetic reasons or to help control these plants’ space. Some gardeners even use pots as nurseries for plants before transplanting them to the earth.

Although you may grow your plants in regular pots, water can pool at the bottom and keep the soil waterlogged for an extended period, subjecting them to overwatering difficulties.

Additionally, using a regular pot takes more time and knowledge, as the watering process and schedule must be continuously monitored and controlled to keep your plants in top condition, especially when it comes to your indoor plants.

Many plant owners worry that using pots with drainage holes may cause unpleasant spills. Spills are not a problem since most drainage pots come with saucers to hold excess water and prevent unsightly pools of water in your home.

You can also create efficient plant pots at home. You’ll only need a drill to create your own drainage holes in ordinary plant pots. The type of material used to build the pots is also critical in assuring the success of your plants.

Water evaporates faster in porous materials such as terracotta pots compared to glass pots. As a result, your glass pots may require a layer of stone and charcoal to aid drainage.

Ensure you’ve conducted enough research and have understood the advantages and disadvantages of each material and pot before choosing a container for your plants.

4. Maintain Ideal Environmental Conditions

The success of indoor and outdoor plants depends on how well you can manage their environmental conditions to ensure they thrive and flourish throughout their lifespan. It’s not surprising that the watering process depends on how well these different elements are balanced and maintained.

Adequate watering demands that you keep the environmental conditions your plants live in at optimal levels. You’ll need to inspect and regulate key situations in the garden and water as often as feasible to keep the ecosystem at its best. 

The watering process will be more effective and easy to carry out if you practice regular maintenance. 

Be sure to keep the following conditions in mind when watering your indoor and outdoor plants:

Soil Moisture Content

Indoor and outdoor plants do not need too much water, but too little can cause severe damage by affecting critical biological processes. You should ensure the amount of water in the soil is just right before watering your plants.

Relative Humidity

On average, most indoor plants flourish at 40 to 60% humidity levels. Extreme plants (like some succulents) require 10 to 20% relative humidity levels, whereas African violets prefer 80%.

Water Temperature

The water temperature should be between 62 and 72 °F (17 and 22 °C) to ensure that it doesn’t adversely affect the plants. Watering with hot or cold water can potentially kill your plants.

Water Quality

Your plants can become severely damaged due to inadequate water levels or poor quality. Try to avoid using tap water, as it contains minerals to which plants’ organisms don’t react well (more on this in the following section).

5. Always Use Suitable Water When Watering Your Plants

The type of water you use for your plants is essential, and its temperature and quality are just as crucial when it comes to ensuring they’re able to thrive.

Water temperature can only be determined using thermometers, and you need to check water quality manually. It’s essential to inspect water quality beforehand to verify that it is not polluted or unclean in any manner.


The water temperature has a significant impact on your plants, regardless of their location. It affects plant development by stimulating or interfering with vital biological processes.

Photosynthesis, transpiration, the mechanism that allows plants to absorb nutrients and water (capillary action mechanism), and translocation are all examples of these processes.

Keep the temperature of the water between 62 and 72 °F (17 and 22 °C) while watering plants. However, most plants flourish when watering temperatures hover around 68 °F (20 °C).

Extreme temperatures might alter plant metabolic activities, so keep an eye on the water temperature during warmer and colder weather conditions like the scorching sun or heavy snowfall.


You also need to consider pH when watering plants. Your plants will flourish if you give them water with a neutral pH level of around 6.5 to 7.5. However, these pH levels may be hard to pinpoint only by judging them based on the water source, so you need to get a pH meter or test strip to measure the pH of your water accurately.

You can use a pH meter to check the pH of the water before you use it on your plants. The gadget is a quick and easy tool that helps you check the water’s pH accurately.

You can also use test kits like the Varify Drinking Water Test Kit (available on to check your water’s pH and general quality. The test kit is easy to use and will give you pretty accurate results to ensure you don’t harm your plants throughout the watering process.

Plant nutrient availability according to water pH

Water Source

The ideal types of water for most plants are rainwater and distilled water. Tap water is not an ideal source for your indoor plants.

Some minerals in tap water, such as chlorine, magnesium, copper, sodium, and calcium, may lead to the creation of white spots on leaves or build up in the soil, especially in confined spaces like pots.

Meanwhile, outdoor plants generally don’t mind water from the tap or garden hose as the occasional rain can leach the excess minerals.

In addition to rainwater and distilled water, you can also use melted snow. These kinds of water are packed with the minerals your plant requires while remaining clean enough to avoid any potential harm. 

Just keep in mind you may need to be careful when using rainwater, as acid rain may be a problem in some regions. You may collect rainwater and store it in tanks to use all year to irrigate your plants. Be careful not to use metal tanks for this purpose since they might rust and pollute the water and hurt your plants.

Also, test the water regularly to confirm it’s safe to use on plants. To be extra safe, avoid using stored rainwater on edible plants.

Although distilled or filtered water likely won’t hurt your plants, it also won’t help them grow. It has been cleansed of essential substances, including dangerous minerals and beneficial elements. Instead, you can use distilled water during fertilization to dilute the mineral and facilitate beneficial chemical reactions.

6. Avoid Overwatering or Underwatering Your Plants

Overwatering and underwatering are relatively common mistakes, but they come with a plethora of risks to your plants. Both overwatering and underwatering can cause severe damage to the roots and shoots of your plants. It is essential to know what constitutes the right amount of water during each watering process.

Outdoor plants, such as succulents and various herbaceous plants, can tolerate dramatic weather changes and flourish in the open air. Indoor plants have less room to develop, impacting their watering needs.

Underwatering Plants

Underwatering your plants means that they do not get enough water to grow. Some plants can survive a lack of water, although they may not thrive in such an environment. If you notice telltale signs such as wrinkled and dried-up leaves on your plants, you’re probably not providing them with enough water.

You can use several approaches to ensure you’re providing enough water for your plants. The efficiency of these methods may depend on each variety’s requirements, and you may need to develop unique strategies for each type of greenery to better serve their needs.

Make sure you water the soil directly so that the watering process is as efficient as possible. Some may not water properly and assume the plants are being unusually sensitive without realizing most of the water they use doesn’t get to the roots of the plants.

I already talked about misting earlier. You can utilize this method for indoor and outdoor plants to ensure they are never underwatered.

Some plants need more drastic strategies to keep them healthy and satiated. Succulents are one of those plants.

One of the most efficient watering strategies for outdoor succulents is the “soak and dry” approach. The procedure is simple and the most effective way to avoid overwatering or underwatering your plants.

Water the soil until it is completely saturated or until the water runs out of the drainage holes in the pots to employ the “soak and dry” approach. Make sure the soil is dried before you water it again. The most straightforward way to save a plant that has not been getting enough water is to water it more often.

I must warn that you should never overwater your plants to make up for the lack of water in the past. Your plants may suffer irreparable damage if you make this mistake.

Overwatering Plants

If you don’t let the soil dry out a little between waterings, your plants may become overwatered. Overwatering your indoor and outdoor plants can cause various problems, including stem rot, leaf crack, and root rot.

Rotting in stems is a telltale indicator of overwatering, and it typically suggests the plants’ roots have been harmed as well. Discoloration and drastic changes in the leaves are other signs of overwatering. Plants may become spongy, mushy, and even transparent in severe cases.

Stop watering your plants immediately if you think you’re dealing with an overwatering problem. Then, wait for the plant and soil to dry out before watering again. Doing this is usually enough to save most plants, but you may need to take on a more surgical approach if they show severe symptoms of overwatering.

First, remove the plants from their pot (or earth). Afterward, brush away all dirt from the plants, paying particular attention to any soil that adheres to the roots.

After you’ve cleaned the plants, carefully inspect them for rot and water damage. You may need to cut away damaged parts of the plants to ensure it survives. However, some plants (like succulents) can survive and grow even after losing their roots. You can cut off the roots of these plants if they are severely damaged.

After the cleaning and inspection process, you’ll want to replant your plants in good, damp soil. Afterward, you can only start watering after the soil has become fully dry

You must be very careful when taking care of overwatered plants so that you don’t cause them serious harm in the process.

7. Water Your Plants From the Bottom

There’s a science to the watering process, and your plants will greatly benefit if you water them a certain way. You can water your indoor and outdoor potted plants from the bottom. Bottom watering is exactly what it sounds like: a method that allows you to efficiently water your greenery by wetting the soil directly.

Directly water the soil to allow water and essential nutrients to reach the plant’s roots, the central water-absorbing organ. When caring for some delicate plants, you should take care to only water from the bottom up as the water can shock the visible components of the greenery.

Bottom watering is also essential since the leaves of exotic plants, such as African violets, may undergo an unsavory color change when moist. You don’t want this to happen, particularly if you grow a plant for its aesthetic appeal.

Additionally, some outdoor plants are more susceptible to rot when their shoots get wet as you use a water hose with a wide nozzle or wand. This disease is notably prevalent in rosette plants and other herbs.

Several plant species benefit from bottom watering in different ways. When plants are irrigated from the bottom up, their roots grow directly toward the water source, which will help them get more durable with time.

Furthermore, regardless of whether you put your plants directly in the ground or a pot, water always needs to get to the bottom to reach their roots. But I must note that watering from the bottom only benefits your plants if the technique is well executed.

When watering your earth-planted outdoor plants, all you have to do is to add water directly to the soil using a watering can or hose. To avoid overwatering your plants, make sure you use fast-draining soil.

Watering potted outdoor and indoor plants from the bottom requires a somewhat different strategy. Nonetheless, anyone can complete the procedure in a few simple steps.

Here’s how to bottom-water your indoor and outdoor plants:

Fill a Container With Water

Get a big container and half-fill it with appropriate water. Choose a big enough container for this process. Remember only to water your plants using distilled water or rainwater.

Add Your Planter

Next, place your planter in the container. Allow the potted plant to soak up water for about 10 minutes after placing it in the container.  

Monitor the Soil’s Moisture

Keep an eye on the soil’s moisture level to see if your plant has absorbed sufficient water. I recommend using the finger test to assess the moisture content of your soil correctly.

If the surface or the layer one knuckle deep is moist, you can remove the pot. Let the planter stay in the container for longer (up to 20 minutes more) if the moisture level is too low.

Remove Excess Water From Your Planter

Always use planters with drainage holes to ensure water drains well.

To learn more about bottom watering, you can read my article: How Long Should Plants Sit While Bottom Watering?

8. Examine the Soil Before Watering

Your soil is as vital to the watering process as the water used and the plant species being watered. Some plants demand a greater amount of water than others. I recommend frequent soil inspections to guarantee that the watering procedure is as efficient as possible, preventing your plants from being overwatered or underwatered.

It’s important to be able to identify the signs of overwatering and underwatering.

When plants need more water, they’ll often display wrinkles or lose leaves. Underwatered soil typically becomes broken and burnt. Excess water will flow across the surface of an overwatered ground, making it spongy and noticeably damp.

You must always check the moisture level in your soil and water as needed.

Understanding how the moisture content in the soil affects a species’ watering needs is also essential. For most plants, the soil should be almost dry before you water them. However, some varieties cannot stand dry soil, so you’ll need to keep their soil constantly wet.

You should only cease watering your plants when the soil is wet enough. Your soil and plants will get enough water if you practice bottom watering. This approach can also help you add the right amount of water every time without risking drying up or soaking your plants. 

9. Keep Plants in Soil With Good Drainage

Regardless of whether they can survive extreme conditions, all plants will die if left in water for a prolonged time (aquatic plants being the exception, of course). They need rough and quick-draining soil to grow, which is why investing in a high-quality mix can be crucial.

Well-draining soil that doesn’t retain too much water will guarantee that your plants’ roots have adequate space to breathe and grow.

You may also improve drainage by adding perlite to your soil. You should make sure your pots include drainage holes in addition to quick-draining soil and effective drainage media. The drainage holes in the pots will aid in the removal of excess water that might cause root rot.

When it comes to cultivating outdoor plants, quick-draining soil is a must. If you use fast-draining soil and a suitable pot, you’ll be able to be more carefree regarding your watering routine. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go overboard during your watering sessions.

You can get fast-growing soil at your local store and use it just as you would other types.

10. Use Watering Cans

Watering plants with a watering can is a terrific idea. It makes it simple to distribute water to your plants’ roots, where it is most required. As I previously mentioned, bottom watering is beneficial, but by using a watering can, you’ll be able to make sure you’re getting the water directly into the soil for in-ground plants.

Rose-head cans can allow you to water the shoots of some plants without using so much pressure it breaks the leaves. 

When utilizing watering cans, make sure to hydrate the stem bases but not the surrounding area. You’ll get the most water to the plants’ roots this way when you’re caring for them.

You can also use a soaker hose when watering. Soaker hoses have porous layers that allow water to soak through the hose, allowing moisture to seep through the soil and reach the roots of your plants.

You can use sprinklers for outdoor plants and self-watering pots for your indoor plants. Self-watering pots enable plants to use a reservoir, so they’re never left without water. However, you need to consider the plant species when using these types of approaches that will expose your plants to a steady stream of water.

You can also use a regular garden hose when watering. Although these do not come with automatic systems or porous layers, they’re a reliable, practical tool when it comes to watering many plants.

The Truth About Watering Myths

There are several gardening myths out there, and they can influence an inexperienced gardener to make poor choices that might harm their plants’ health. As a result, it is essential to clarify these facts and debunk some old watering myths. 

Here are three common watering myths:

  • Watering plants in the sun will burn them.
  • Using pieces of earthenware in pots will improve drainage.
  • Using sand can aid drainage.

Watering Plants in the Sun Will Burn Them

Some people feel that watering plants in the sun is hazardous, as the water droplets can focus sunlight by turning into tiny lenses, which can cause plant leaves to burn. They also believe that the sun may heat the water on the plants’ surfaces, scorching them and harming the leaves.

Your outdoor plants will survive being watered in the sun. Contrary to popular belief, water droplets on plants do not intensify sunlight or trap excessive heat. They cannot cause any harm to the plants.

Given that water will evaporate faster in the sun, you may need to adjust the amount you use accordingly.

Many gardeners may avoid watering dry, wilted plants in hot weather for fear of scorching them because of the alleged “lensing effect.” Yet, doing so can cause further damage to plants since they’ll be deprived of a crucial resource at a critical period.

So, what exactly happens when you water your plants in the sun?

The water droplets quickly evaporate when you water plants in the sun. Although the high ambient temperature causes this evaporation rate, it won’t directly influence your garden plants. However, due to said high evaporation rate, only a small amount of water will be able to reach the roots of your plants.

Using Pieces of Earthenware in Pots Will Improve Drainage

Using “crocks in pots’’ is another watering myth that has managed to carry over into the modern gardening world despite available evidence suggesting it is a myth. This myth is especially prevalent in many parts of England. According to it, covering a container’s drainage hole with a generous amount of broken terracotta pots should increase drainage.

The theory was debunked over a century ago. It doesn’t work as thought because of the nature of fluids. Liquids travel more slowly between different substances than between a single medium, and this may cause your pots to drain slower.

Nonetheless, many people suggest that you only use this method for terracotta pots, as plastic and resin substitutes usually have several drainage holes. However, terracotta pots are porous and prone to drying out too quickly, making them unlikely to become waterlogged. Using this trick likely won’t affect their drainage rate.

Crocks in pots may have one benefit—they can prevent soil from dropping out of drainage holes after transplanting. However, mesh or a piece of a shattered pot might be a better alternative for this purpose.

Using Sand Can Aid Drainage 

Some gardeners use clay soil in their gardens, which may cause drainage problems. As a result, this myth recommends that you dig a large hole in your garden and fill it with sand. A mix of equal parts of sand and clay can help open up the clay structure and enhance drainage.

However, scientific studies have revealed that you’ll need to add more than 50% of sand to the mix to improve drainage. That’s a tremendous financial, environmental, and—let’s face it—physical cost to pay.

Luckily, there’s a better alternative. If you replace sand with organic matter like compost, you’ll need to add far less material to get the perfect soil consistency. Moreover, you’ll receive the additional advantages of increased nutrients and microorganisms for a fraction of the expense and work.


Watering is a reasonably straightforward process. It can be easy for many gardeners to overlook its importance or properly consider efficient ways to water indoor and outdoor plants.

The tips I discussed above are surefire ways to ensure that every drop you use goes toward improving the quality of plant life in your home and garden.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the founder of and its lead content writer. He created the website in 2022 as a resource for horticulture lovers and beginners alike, compiling all the gardening tips he discovered over the years. Alex has a passion for caring for plants, turning backyards into feel-good places, and sharing his knowledge with the rest of the world.

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