|Written By Lara Wadsworth
Being watered is the most consistent input plants need from us. Unless they are outdoors in a rainforest, chances are they need to be watered. But why do they dry out so fast? This never-ending cycle can be frustrating at times, even for my fellow plant geeks. Here are a few reasons why plants dry out so fast and how to fix it.
Not Watering Enough
Sometimes the problem is as simple as not watering the plants enough. The best way to water is infrequently but deeply. “Infrequently?” you may ask. Kind of. This means the soil should be soaked completely, saturating it from top to bottom, when you do water. Then, enough time should be allowed for the plant to use that water before soaking the soil again. For houseplants, you should see water leak out of the bottom of the pot and have the soil in the pot be evenly moist. For a garden, this means watering at least a full inch of water evenly over the growing area at least once a week. The deeper the water can sink, the deeper and more sturdy the roots will grow, and the less often it will need to be watered.
Regularly watering as the surface appears dry can lead to shallow and fragile roots. This is because the soil below surface level may still have adequate moisture in it. If you can dig your finger into the soil about an inch or two and feel moist soil, wait. Check again at a later time. Only water when the plants need it. Allowing the plants to rely on deeper soil moisture creates a healthier and more sturdy plant. When the dry summer hits, the deeper root systems will make better use of the water held throughout the garden bed or container. While you will need to increase the frequency of your watering times for the hot summer months, your plants will fare much better with a stronger root system established during the spring months with this type of watering method.
Soil Not Retaining Water
Whether indoors or out, in a field, or in a pot, the water retention of soil is critical for allowing plants to absorb the water that they need. The best way to improve water retention is to amend the soil. Adding organic matter, such as well-rotted compost or worm castings, can help. One of the easiest ways to help soils prone to quick drying is to mix in some type of water crystal, such as Retain. Retain is cross-linked polyacrylate, bentonite clay, lava rock, and silicates that absorb water and then slowly release it over time. This completely safe and non-toxic material reduces the watering needs of plants by retaining the water that would otherwise drain away as excess. By storing water in the Retain soil amendment, you reduce the amount of water that drains away as excess without overly saturating the soil. This stored water is then released into the soil as needed.
When growing in containers, the soil around plants tends to dry out faster. Instead of having the earth to surround a plant, they only have a limited number of gallons of soil to rely on. This just means that they need to be watered more frequently. However, adding a product such as Retain is an easy way to help the soil retain more water. We have thoroughly tested this amendment at our Utah warehouse with regular potting mix comparisons, and it has proven itself over and over again.
Houseplant Needs Repotting
If it suddenly seems like the houseplant that used to only get dry once a week or less is seeming dry every day, it probably needs to get repotted. Old potting soil retains less water, and, as plants grow, they make more roots to absorb the water. Both of these reasons contribute to plants needing to be watered more frequently. Repot the plant in a slightly larger container, gently fan out the roots, and be sure to completely replace the potting soil in the new pot. Add organic matter like compost, worm casting, or coco coir, along with Retain, to improve the water absorption of the soil.
What is Retain?
Retain's incredible water-absorbing materials (cross-linked polyacrylate, bentonite clay, lava rock, and silicates) are unique from other water-retentive soil amendments because they do not absorb and release water as quickly. Retain crystals can absorb up to 40x their weight in water. This incredible feat increases the water-holding capacity of the soil by at least 60%. This means the plant takes up as much water as needed from the initial watering and then absorbs the rest over time from the crystal’s storage. The great superpower of the Retain soil amendment is that it does all of this while maintaining good drainage for root development.
How to Use Retain
Retain crystals are activated by water. For integrating into a garden or lawn, incorporate the crystals into the soil dry and then water liberally to activate them. For mixing just a small amount into a potted plant, we recommend portioning out the amount that is recommended by the chart provided by the product for the size of pot you are using and then presoaking them. Soaking the crystals before adding them to the potting soil gives them a head start at holding precious water for your plant.
Having a garden or owning house plants doesn't need to be as intimidating as some feel it is. Getting a good feel for how much water plants need is a critical skill in agriculture and horticulture. Knowing how to help plants that dry out too quickly is even bigger. It may take time to acquire this skill, but as you experiment with various solutions, your plants will be happy and healthy for years to come.
|Lara Wadsworth, True Leaf Market Writer
I am a native of Southwestern Michigan, where I also reside, and I love all things plants! I got a Bachelor's Degree in Horticulture and found the first work-from-home job I could get. Now, I spend my days writing for TLM, playing with my dog, eating delicious food with my husband, and plotting my next landscape or gardening move. I believe everyone should get down and dirty in the soil now and then. Happy Gardening!