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5 Top Myths on Watering Houseplants & Why They’re Dangerous

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People are generally very confused over how to water houseplants properly.  The problem is that it is easy to misinterpret a lot of aspects about houseplant care in general. 

This post focuses on one aspect of houseplant care, and that is to help you understand everything about watering your houseplant properly. 

Here are a few watering myths that I’ve come across that I would like to debunk.

Myth #1:  I shouldn’t soak my succulents.  They only need a little bit of water at a time.

WRONG!  Almost without exception, I recommend thoroughly soaking your houseplant, regardless of whether it is a succulent or not. 

And no I’m not crazy.  It works and I speak from experience, so trust me! 

Keep reading though…because you might be wondering “oh I thought succulents don’t like much water?”  Well that’s only partially true. 

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If you just add a little bit of water (because succulents don’t need that much water, right?), you are doing a big disservice to your plant. 

If you don’t thoroughly soak your plant and just add a little bit of water, you are encouraging a shallow root system.  And if you have a poor and shallow root system, your whole plant will suffer.  Without a healthy root system, you will not have a healthy plant.

Yes it is true that succulents don’t need as much water as many tropical foliage plants, however, you should still soak your plant. 

The critical part for succulents is that after you water, you should wait long enough for the potting soil to pretty much go completely dry before watering again.  And when you do water again, soak it again!  

Let the water drain through the drainage hole and discard any extra water.  Less frequent, but thorough-watering, is superior to frequent mini-drinks of water.

Myth #2:  Houseplants Need to Be Watered Once a Week

WRONG!  Well, the real answer is that it depends!  In some cases, yes this may work!  But only under certain combinations of conditions. 

It’s ok to have a regular checkpoint to see if your houseplants need water or not, but you shouldn’t blindly water a houseplant just because your schedule tells you to. 

If you watered a plant, and a week later the top of the soil is still moist, you should NOT water it again.  Doing so will invite root-rot. 

how to water potted plants

When a plant stays too wet, you are depriving the roots of oxygen and they will proceed to rot.  As a general rule of thumb, you should wait to water until the top inch or two of the soil is dry (depending on the size of the pot). 

Then go ahead and give it a good soaking.  There are some exceptions though.  Some plants, such as succulents or cacti, should be allowed to go completely dry before watering again…but don’t wait TOO long!

The concept of “overwatering” houseplants is very rampant and it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think! Check out my blog post on overwatering and find out what it really means.

Myth #3:  You Water Orchids with Ice

NO!  Unless you’ve seen a monkey with a popsicle in the jungle, then you should not water your orchids with ice.  This is one of the worst marketing gimmicks I’ve ever seen. 

Do NOT use ice to water your orchids.  First of all, when the ice melts, it does not provide enough water in order to soak the potting medium and thoroughly moisten all the orchid roots. 

Secondly, the ice can damage the roots if they come into direct contact with the ice.  It makes absolutely zero sense to water orchids with ice. 

This scheme is mainly marketed for Phalaenopsis or moth orchids.  Phalaenopsis come from the tropics of southeast Asia and I guarantee you they’ve never met an ice cube.

To read more details on why you shouldn’t use ice cubes, be sure not to miss my 5 Reasons Why You Should NOT Water Orchid With Ice Cubes blog post.

Myth #4:  If I fuss over my houseplants, they’ll grow better

Don’t get too happy with that watering can!   You have to let nature take its course and a lot of people tend to overwater their houseplants. 

Like I mentioned, it’s OK to have a regular checkpoint to see if your plants need water, but don’t water just because you told yourself you need to water every Saturday. 

I can’t emphasize the following point enough:  If your calendar is telling you that it’s your normal watering time, and you feel the surface of the soil and it is still moist, then don’t water! 

On the other hand, you might find a houseplant that dried out terribly and once a week may not be enough.  You may need a couple checkpoints during the week. 

Why is this?  Watering needs vary drastically depending on:

Temperature:  Higher temperatures means that soil will dry out more quickly.

Pot Size:  Smaller pots will dry out much more quickly.

Pot MaterialTerra cotta pots will dry out very quickly because they are porous.  Plastic or glazed ceramic pots will take longer to dry out. 

Choosing a pot type based off of your specific plant can work to your advantage or disadvantage, so choose carefully depending on the moisture needs of your plant.

Growing Season:  Depending on where you live, plants will slow down or stop growing in the middle of a dark/cold winter. 

So they will not use as much water and you have to be careful not to “overwater” especially during this time.  On the other hand, during the growing season, plants will use more water.

Root System Size:  Recently I was shocked because I had watered my large hibiscus tree indoors in the middle of winter, and 3-4 days later, it was very dry. 

This plant has an extensive root system and is in a large pot.  I probably won’t be repotting that plant anymore otherwise it’ll be too difficult to move. 

Having a pot-bound plant, coupled with increasing growth as days are getting longer, all increase the need for watering.

Humidity:  In a more humid atmosphere, soil will generally take longer to dry.

Light Levels:  The higher the light levels, the more water a plant will use.  A plant that is sitting in a dark corner will use much less water than a plant that is in brighter light that is actively photosynthesizing and growing.

Myth #5:  Everything on the internet is true

WRONG!  This one is a BIG WRONG.  You can tell the websites that just regurgitate material versus those that truly have knowledge to back it up. 

Be weary of any old website, or many sources on social media, when getting houseplant care information especially when it seems vague and generalized. 

I’ve seen so much misinformation online.  So if you are researching online, trust reputable sources (such as Ohio Tropics!)  Or if you have very specific questions, it is best to refer to the numerous plant societies out there such as:

So there you have it!  Hopefully you have taken away some helpful pointers in houseplant watering.  Did you read anything here that was new information for you?  If so, comment below!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:



Tuesday 31st of August 2021

Hello, my question is about the sansevieria with round leaves. A friend gave me a small one 5 years ago. I repotted it this summer and it is growing like a weed. Some of the cylinders are about 2+ ft and arch out. I've seen some online that appear to be a grouping of many individual cylinders sprouting straight up from soil, but mine is more of a fan like form. I am trying to decide if it is S. suffruticosa or S. cylindrica. I am considering roping up the fanned out leaves so that it doesn't take up so much room, although that sounds like plant abuse lol. I would appreciate your input. Thanks!


Wednesday 29th of December 2021

Hi Danese! Sorry for the delay in my response. I try to get to all comments and missed yours. It's hard to say without seeing it, and there are a lot of varieties...I wonder if what you have could perhaps be the 'Boncel' variety.


Wednesday 10th of March 2021

Great article. Would it be safe to just go by the weight of the pot and color of the soil and not have to stick your finger into the soil? I ask because I have a bad nervous habit of picking the dry skin around fingernail and got a nasty infection one time from digging in the soil. Also I am using Mosquito bits soaked in water to kill some fungus knats and am afraid to put my finger n that bacteria, please help I don’t want to kill my plants I already lost a peace lily from over watering,


Friday 12th of March 2021

Hi Connie, whatever works for you is fine. You can also just touch the surface of the potting mix and not bury your finger in there. Sometimes the color can be I don't always go by that.

Sarah Stark

Friday 8th of January 2021

Hi! I have a question about my monstera plant. I’ve been struggling finding a solution for some issues on my leaves. I’m very new to plants and for the past couple weeks my monstera has been developing tiny holes in middle of the leaf that grow bigger and around them is a dry ring of crispy brown. I thought I was under watering but using the finger test and my moister meter my soil is moist. On a moister meter it usually reads around a 5-6. I am very confused and just want healthy leaves as this plant has many of them. One last question, how can I get my monstera to grow more up and taller rather then out and very bottom heavy? Thank you so much for your help :)


Monday 11th of January 2021

Hi Sarah, I'd have to see photos to help more, but as far as growing up more, you'll just have to give it time. The only thing you can do to speed this up is make sure you have enough light, but otherwise you'll just have to wait. I would honestly ditch the moisture meter and only use your finger. Moisture meters are just not reliable and many people have killed their plants with them. If you want to send me a photo, use the contact form on my website, and when I reply, you can attach your photos. Please also describe how you water and how you approach watering, and also describe the light situation (how far from a window, what exposure it is, etc.). Hope this helps!


Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

Hello, I used to live in a bright and sunny high rise flat and could drench my spider plants when they looked a bit sad and they were fine. Since moving to a colder flat, with less direct sunlight and poor ventilation, this same water technique has caused root rot. I would like to what all my plants as you suggest but I worry that the plants will all stay to wet for too long. Do you have any advice?

Thank you,



Tuesday 29th of December 2020

Hi Erin! I have a few comments to help you out. You may already be doing some of these things, but here are my thoughts. One thing you can supplement with grow lights. I've done this in my sun room and added grow lights along the wall of Northern windows. It helps a lot especially in the winter time. Another thing is when you repot your plants, only go up one pot size. If you go too big, you'll have a lot of excess potting mix that will take a long time to dry out, especially in cooler temps and low light. I don't know what kind of potting mix you use, but I like to add perlite to my packaged mixes. It also will help, especially if you also do everything else described above. You may already be doing some of these things, but it's important especially in climates like ours :-). Also, keep your plants as close to your windows as you can to maximize the light, and don't be afraid of direct sun especially in wintertime. It will benefit all of your plants.

Pradipta Kumar Bhuyan

Saturday 12th of September 2020

Your above article gave me in depth knowledge of watering the indoor houseplants.Thanks.Waiting for the upcoming articles.