Should You Water The Leaves of a Plant


My wife left me with the household chores to do when she left on a trip for business. I needed to water the house plants and couldn’t figure out how much water they needed and if I was supposed to water the entire plant, top to bottom, or just the bottom in the pots where the roots are. Should you water the leaves of a plant?

Yes, Plant leaves can absorb H2O & will add humidity, good for the health of the plant. Misting leaves on a houseplant can be good for rinsing off dust & dirt collected on it but it’s the water absorbed by its roots on a correct schedule that keeps the plant alive and from being over & under-watered.

Potted household plants can dry out real fast over the winter especially with forced-air heater vents that blow dry air over the space leaving no humidity inside. But there are ways to dealing with this.

How to Tell If a Plant is Overwatered or Underwatered

If a household plant is over-watered it can develop some visual things you will notice if you are paying attention to it every day. The first is some wilting leaves; Just touch the potting soil on top of the plant and if dry then it needs a drink if it’s soggy than skip the watering. In fact, only water your plants when it’s dry at the top of the soil. If your plants go beyond that and the plants have some brown on the leaves. Stick your fingers into the soil at the base of the plant. If the soil still feels dry, it may need water. Be sure to not let the fear of watering send you over the edge.

Edema-If you’re gone away for a week or so and you come home to check your plants and find a plant that has absorbed more water than it needs, it can cause the plant’s cells to expand and stress. Often, these cells are filled to the point of rupturing. You can check for signs of burst cells by inspecting and seeing any blisters or lesions on the plant. These lesions will turn to dark or even to white scar tissue. Another sign of edema is indentations on the top of leaves.

  • Look for wilting leaves on the top of the plant-under-watered
  • If you are seeing yellow-colored leaves that could be new growth or over-watering so check the last time you watered them.
  • You can see the feel the potting soil is dryunder-watered
  • If the Plants stem and roots are rotting the plant is over-watered
  • If the leaves turn yellow or brown the house plant is under-watered
  • Look for limp stems or dropping pedal-under-water & under-watered
  • Slow growth-under-watered & over-watered

Can Plants Absorb Water Through Their Leaves

The loving House Plant Grower’s Answer:

Although House plants can Absorb some water through their leaves it’s an inefficient way for plants to take in water that’s essential for growth and life. The majority of water intake that a plant uses is delivered by the roots. If you are spraying or misting the house plants with water it’s a good practice because of the humidity it adds to the plant and the more humidity the less opportunity the plant has to dry out. It keeps the plant in a healthy situation.

Also since small plants breathe through the stomata in their leaves as well, it is not a bad idea to wash the leaves as well. Wetting leaves of outside plants in the heat of the day when sunlight can evaporate the moisture off the leaves is not a great idea either as it causes the leaves to experience burn. Most plants take up little water through their stomata.

When wetting the leaves or misting plants the practice increases humidity, slows transpiration, and conserves water taken up by the roots. Most house plants that growers agree that plant leaves need a misting or even a wipe down now and again to keep them healthy. Use a wet paper towel and wipe both sides of the leaves on the plant. Talk or sing to them my wife does and she has killer house plants.

The Scientific Answer:

The leaves of your house plants and outside plants are covered with cuticles and stomata. The cuticles are a wax substance that waterproof the leaves, making it hard for them to absorb water. The stomata are small holes like pores covering the leaves that release water vapor and oxygen while they take in carbon dioxide. However, the concentration of the water vapor in the leaf drastically exceeds the concentration outside of the leaf aka the humidity outside.

This causes water vapor to be sucked out of the pores on the stomata and into the air a natural process called Transpiration. As a result, water absorbed from the roots is pulled up the xylems (the plant’s tissue that transports water) and distributed to the stem and leaves of the plant for photosynthesis to be achieved. Plants generally do not take water through the leaves but rely on their roots for this task. Misting plants leaves should be done with filtered water as tap water contains dissolved minerals that can collect on the leaves after the water on the leaves evaporates.

 

How Often Should You Water Indoor Plants

The best way to water Houseplants is to mimic nature and water them the same way as they are watered in their natural environments. Some plants will need time to dry out before the next watering. That could be days or a week. Other houseplants need moist soil constantly.

You can find out on the internet and get the perfect watering schedule. Watch for early signs of problems like yellowing leaves or stress. More houseplants die from overwatering than anything else. Plants whose soil is so soggy can’t get enough oxygen down to the roots system and will develop a problem. water until the water comes out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. It may take as much as ¾ or a gallon of water to thoroughly water a 10 to 12-inch container. 

Rainwater, well water, filtered, and bottled water generally agree best with houseplants. You can use Tap water if it’s not too hard. Softened water contains salt that can build up after a period of time so filter it for the best results.

For most houseplants, test soil mixture by dipping your finger an inch or more into the soil. If dry, add water. If moist, check again in a couple of days. Wet-loving plants may need water once the soil surface dries. use a long spout watering can and hit the sides of the plant with room temperature water. Add the water until it runs out the pots drainage hole. Dump the rest from the saucer. Indoor conditions can be tough on houseplants, especially during winter when low humidity dries out potting soil quickly. To ensure success, look for houseplants that can take periods of drought.

And try potting them in large containers; the smaller the pot, the more quickly it dries out.  Don’t forget to talk nice around your houseplant a tell it you love it. My wife tells me it’s the most important thing that you can do to keep it healthy!

 

 

JimGalloway Author/Editor

 

References:

Container Plant Watering: How Much And How Often To Water Potted Plants

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