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Plant Magic: Water you doing wrong? Winter houseplant watering for worried plant parents

By Cheryl Rafuse for Boston Compass (#131)

January 14, 2021

To water or not to water? It’s winter and it's dry as heck but it seems like your plants don’t want much H2O. So what’s the deal? Should you water more because it’s so dry, or less because your plants are dormant?!

It depends on a few factors in your home:

  1. Do you have many plants bunched up together? This might mean that through transpiration they stay a bit more moist.

  2. Is your heat on full blast? Plants nearest to the heater may dry out faster so it’s important to check their soil more frequently.

  3. Are you an overwaterer or underwaterer? If you really soak the bejeezus out of your plants then you might be able to water them less frequently.

  4. Do you have a humidifier going? This can help even out the moisture in the air not just for your plants but for you as well!!

  5. Do your pots have drainage? This is the Most Important piece to your watering puzzle. Without drainage if you ever overwater your plant the water will sit in the bottom and grow bacteria that causes root rot!

Keeping these things in mind, you also can invest in a moisture meter or Soil Sleuth for like $12 so you can always know what’s up with the dirt in your pot! The “dry to the first knuckle” trick can get dicey in the winter months so these tools are a huge help. Now get out there and confidently water your plant babies!


Check out all the art and columns of January's Boston Compass at


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