Watering: top or bottom? -part 1: intro and bottom watering

Watering: top or bottom? -part 1: intro and bottom watering


Watering from the bottom or the top? It has divided nations. Many a friendship has been ruined.... Many a cherished plant a casualty....


Many arguments can be made for either watering from the bottom or from the top. To help you decide what suits you we will discuss in two parts the pro’s and cons that one should consider when making this community splitting choice. In many cases it will be about the plant not you. What really is the best way to water your plants?  The answer is not as simple as you may expect.


Part 1/2   Bottom Watering and what is it?


This is a process where you add water to the saucer or another suitable container and then allow the pot to absorb the water via its drainage holes. Generally a 10 to 15 minute soak will suffice.

If the soil still feels dry, give it another 5 minutes or more time to get moisture to the top. You do not want to leave it any longer as you risk nutrients leaching back out into the resevior you have created. A few drops of fertilizer in your water minimises the risk of nutrrient depletion.


Bottom watering: Advantages


  • The leaves will not get wet. This is particularly useful should you have plants that perform less well with standing water on their leaves. Water marks on your leaves will be a thing of the past too.
  • It is thought that this method stimulates better overall root growth encouraging the roots to spread out and get stronger
  • Water generally gets distributed more evenly through your substrate
  • The very top of the soil remains relatively dry, discouraging pests such a gnats
  • With proper timing this method allows for better or more effciient nutrient absorption throughout the entire media
  • Watering generallly does not need to be done as often
  • Plants who’s natural habitat is bog land or where the water table for whatever reason is usually high will respond noticibly better



Bottom watering: Disadvantages


  • Too much bottom standing water will ultimately deprive the roots of oxygen and can result in anerobic conditions which encourages nasty bacteria
  • More likely to be a contributing factor to root rot if not done properly
  • Overall in the domestic setting this method can be generally more time consuming and messy
  • Can be impractical for larger plants where lifting the pots easily is not an option  
  • Can contribute to salt, chemical and mineral build up over time
  • The effects of shock can be greater should the water temperature be drastcially differnt to the ambient temperature your plant is used too. The prolonged exposure to a temerature fluctionion will likely casue your plant to exhibit signs of stress.
  • Some plants have naturally shallower roots that you may not be effectively reaching consistantly 


In the greenhouse we always water from the bottom as it’s  easier to flood the beds with water then it is to make sure all plants get enough water than if we water from the top. As the plants are growing in optimal conditions here, they  simply just use every drop of water we give them. As with any method we then manually check our plant pots before unleashing another tsunami refreshment



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