Top and Bottom Watering
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The best way to water most plants is from the top, by slowly pouring water from a bottle or watering-can around the plant’s crown until water drips out through the drainage holes in the bottom of the container.
There is always a possibility that water applied this way will run over the top of the soil, down the insides of the pot, and then out the drainage holes in the bottom. When this happens, the plant’s roots may remain much too dry. To avoid this difficulty, poke holes in the soil and root mass using an ice pick or a wooden skewer to create spaces through which water can flow and then percolate into surrounding soil. You should also make plans to repot the plant, since this problem is often a symptom that more root space and fresh supply of potting soil are needed.
Another potential problem with top watering are water spots that form on plant leaves, which is a common issue with African violets, gloxinias, and other plants that have downy leaf surfaces. When any of these top-watering complications are present, water plants from the bottom. To do this, pour water into a tray or saucer, set the plant in it, and allow the plant to drink its fill for up to 30 minutes before emptying out any excess water. The biggest risk with bottom watering is waterlogging of roots, which is seldom a problem in small containers but may be if the pot is very large and made of plastic or another material that holds water well. Never leave a pot sitting in standing water for more than 30 minutes.
Most plants flourish when they are watered both ways; most often from the top, but occasionally from the bottom. Top watering is easy and practical, and leaf spotting can be minimized by watering in the morning and not soaking the leaves. Occasionally, do go to the trouble of bottom watering your plants. Bottom watering every month or so is an excellent way to avoid the formation of dry pockets in the container, a common problem with plants that are infrequently repotted.
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