Home » Garden » The Secret to Watering Plants Indoors

The Secret to Watering Plants Indoors

Are you wondering why your houseplants aren’t doing well? You are most likely overwatering them. Learn the secret to watering plants indoors with this simple tip!

While we could chat about a number of ways to keeping houseplants alive, there is one BIG thing we do wrong without even realizing it.


Did you know that the number one houseplant killer is over-watering?


And you might be overwatering your indoor plants without even realize you’re doing it.

In today’s post, I’m going to help you change your approach to watering plants indoors so your houseplants can thrive.

Are you ready to be the plant parent you’ve always wanted to be? Then let’s go!

(Posts on stacyling.com may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.)

shop for easy care houseplants here

Why Are My Indoor Plants Dying?

The biggest reason indoor plants die is from overwatering them. It’s a common mistake that even experienced gardeners make, but is very easy to fix.

So don’t sweat it if this has happened to you.

It’s happened to the best of us at some point or another in our gardening lives so now, we learn to become better gardeners from what we are doing wrong.

Don’t beat yourself up over it.

There are a few ways we tend to overwater, so here’s a few scenarios you might be familiar with.

Probably the biggest way we overwater is, we want to schedule ourselves on the same day every week to water plants so we don’t forget. DON’T DO THIS! It’s a surefire way to overwater your plants.

We might also look at the soil surface, think the plant is dry, and needs water. So we water it more.

Then, as those plants start to decline, many think it’s thirsty and needs more water.

So then you water it even more.

The problem with that is, the plant might already be oversaturated near the roots and instead of allowing it to dry out, you’re giving it more water.

So the plant is sitting in wet soggy soil that will cause root rot, as well as other pest and disease problems. And then you’ll see plant decline and possibly death.

I’m going to teach you how to approach watering plants indoors differently so you can better manage the watering with a little less work in the long run.

Because rethinking how we water our plants will save a lot of heartache when an indoor plant succumbs to pest and disease problems later.

It’s an easy fix that will help you better care for your indoor plants and make it easier for you to care for plants.

Keep houseplants alive with tips from master gardener stacy ling

How to Water Indoor Plants the Right Way

In general, and I do mean “in general,” you’ll be watering indoor plants roughly 1x per week. This type of watering schedule may not work for all plants so don’t set that timing in stone.

NOTE: If you have succulents, snake plant, aloe, or other cacti, you’ll be watering 1x a month or less. These plants typically thrive on some neglect. I don’t water them much at all and almost leave them alone, particularly during the winter.

It’s important to understand when a plant does not need to be watered so we keep them hydrated without oversaturating them.

watering a chinese evergreen plant in a terracotta pot -The Secret to watering indoor plants

Why We Mistakenly Over-Water

Most people water houseplants because the soil looks dry or it’s that day of the week when they are scheduled to water.

The problem with both of these methods is that the soil where the roots are may not actually be dry.

And if the soil is not really dry, then plant roots sit in a wet soggy mess that promotes pest and disease problems.

So just because the top layer of soil looks dry doesn’t mean it is. And, the plant may not “need” to be watered on the scheduled watering day.

Garden blogger stacy ling watering chinese evergreen houseplant -The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

How Does Soil Retain Water and Still Look Dry?

Wet soil is very similar to a sponge.

If you soak a sponge and hold it upright, water collects at the bottom while the top dries out.

Soil acts in the same way.

So the soil surface may look and feel dry, but may not be dry where the roots are located.

Now that we understand how the soil retains moisture near the roots, how can you tell whether it’s dry or not?

Doing the cake batter test to see if chinese evergreen needs to be watered -The Secret to watering plants indoors
dipping plastic knife into to soil to check for dryness -The Secret to watering plants indoors

How to Determine Whether Houseplants NEED to be Watered

While I mentioned having a scheduled watering day could be harmful to plants, it is good to plan one so that watering is on your radar.

Instead of blindly watering indoor plants on that day, we’re going to be more intentional about it.

So choose a day of the week when you want to water.

Then check each plant using the cake batter test or a soil moisture meter like this one.

dipping plastic knife in potting soil to check for dryness -The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

How to Perform the Cake Better Test

  • use a finger, plastic knife, popsicle stick or something similar.
  • insert it in to the soil about an inch down
  • if the tester comes out clean, it’s time to water
  • if the tester comes out with some wet soil, do not water yet
  • Re-check using the same process in another day or two if the tester comes out with some wet soil.

I know this sounds like a task but you will get to know your plants and their watering needs after a few weeks and not need to do this as often.

Pro-Tip for New Plants: It’s a good idea to use the cake batter test for the first few weeks of care so you get to know the plant and its watering requirements.

Removing plastic knife from soil to see if soil is wet while checking if it's dryThe Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

To show you an example of how what the tester will look like, this Chinese Evergreen could wait another day or so to get watered.

The knife came out somewhat clean but there was some damp soil on it.

I’ll check it again in another day or so to see if it’s drier.

The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

When is the Best Time to Water Indoor Plants?

The best time to water indoor plants is in the morning. So if try to water in the mornings where possible.

It’s recommended to water all plants, whether inside or out, in the morning because it allows the plant to absorb the water before the heat of the day causes it to evaporate.

Watering in the morning reduces the risk of fungal growth that can occur when soil and leaves stay wet overnight.

And it gives plant foliage time to dry off before evening, which can help reduce the risk of disease.

watering a monstera deliciosa plant

Can You Water Plants at Night?

While it is generally recommended to water plants in the morning, you can water plants at night if you forget to do it in the morning and they really need it. But I’d avoid doing it if you can.

And I do not recommend making watering at night a regular practice.

One of the main concerns is that the soil and plant foliage may stay wet for an extended period of time, which can increase the risk of fungal growth and disease.

Additionally, if the plant is not able to absorb the water quickly, it can lead to water pooling around the base of the plant, which can lead to root rot.

Also, watering at night can also attract insects and pests which can be harmful to the plants.

If you have to water plants at night, try to do it as early as possible and only on a rare occasion.

monstera plant in farmhouse family room with sectional sofa and white throw pillows with round mango wood coffee table

How to Fix Soggy Soil After Watering Indoor Plants Wrong

If you’ve been unknowingly overwatering plants, we can fix it the problem and help improve their health.

  • Start by cleaning the plant from dust and debris.
  • Remove any and all dead growth so the plant doesn’t waste any energy into them.
  • Get rid of any mold you see too.
  • It’s a good idea to completely repot the plant and give it a fresh start in new potting soil in a clean container.
planting palm plant in fresh new soil to revive it -how to revive plants

To clean your container, use 9 parts water to 1 part bleach and clean the container well.

If leaves are yellowing, the plant can also be stressed from the following:

  • overwatering
  • poor drainage
  • too much light

Once the plant is repotted in a fresh container, keep it in a location where it can rebound and don’t overwater it! In fact, if the problem was due to overwatering, I’d repot it and leave it alone for a few days before watering it.

I shared more tips for reviving houseplants after they decline. So you’ll want to check out this article for more help with fixing an indoor plant that’s not doing well.

Close up of Monstera plant foliage

Can You Bring a Houseplant Back to Life?

I always say if the plant still has some green foliage and stem, there’s a good chance you can save it.

Take a look at the roots and see if the roots are white.

You can revive plants using these tips.

monstera delciiosa by the koi pond

More Houseplant Care Tips and Tricks

Click here to shop my vintage farmhouse with close up of the front porch with flowers

Looking to Buy Houseplants Online? Shop this Post

Sign Me Up!

Sign up for my free newsletter to get blog posts, seasonal tips, recipes, and more delivered straight to your inbox!

Plus, get free VIP access to my Resource Library where you’ll find insider freebies not readily available to the public.

Pin This to Remember It Later

Thanks for stopping by the blog today!

Enjoy your day! xoxo

Let’s Connect!

If you like this post, please follow me @bricksnblooms on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel. Or join my Facebook Group.

The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive
houseplants, terracotta pots and garden decor on a potting bench -Potting Bench Idea made from wood pallet and has lots of terracotta pots with houseplants, flowers and potting shed sign

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I’m a serial over waterer! Thanks for all the tips. I’m sure my house plants will be much happier now that I know this!

  2. Your site is so informative. I truly love it. I need to send you my rose begonia. Every year I love them when they are for sale in the plant nursery and then I get them home on the porch for a couple months and they just simply digress. I know that ‘s not really a house plant…but I’m puzzled by it anyway.

  3. Pingback: Welcome Home Sunday with Bricks n' Bloom - Sincerely, Marie Designs
  4. Stacy this is so helpful! I sadly just killed a lovely ivy plant. I think I over watered it. Pinned for future plant love !☺️

    1. I’m so glad you liked it! Believe me, I’ve over-watered plenty of houseplants – it’s so easy to do without even realizing it!

  5. Great to see your feature over on Welcome Home Sunday! I always love your gardening tips and seeing your beautiful home. Maybe you’ll rescue me from my “black thumb” status!

  6. SI glad you joined us this week for Welcome Home Sunday! This is such a helpful post for your friend here who does not have a green thumb!

    1. We are going to work on that green thumb – you can do it! Thank you for including with me! I love joining you guys!

  7. Pingback: Welcome Home Sunday ~ White Arrows Home
  8. Thank you so much for all the tips. I used to grow beautiful plants, but now not so much. Could it be the water softener unit we have that uses salt and bleach