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How to Bottom Water Plants: Easy Tips & Tricks

bottom watering the succulent plant

There are a couple of essential practices that must be observed to help a plant thrive. First, plants must receive proper sunlight, be properly aired, and of course, watered. No plant can grow without being properly watered.

The methods of watering plants by spraying water on them from a watering can or letting them take a shower in the rain are popular. However, in this article, we will discuss a method called “Bottom Watering.”

Read on to find out the benefits, uses, and conditions surrounding the bottom watering of plants.

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An Overview of Bottom Watering

Bottom watering of plants, just as the name implies, involves supplying water to plants from the base by allowing the roots of the plants to soak up moisture as opposed to the usual top spraying with a can. This method is also referred to as Reverse Watering.

Why Should You Use the Bottom Watering Method?

There are several reasons why some gardeners might prefer to use the bottom watering method to water their plants. One primary reason is the even distribution of water in the roots of the plants.

With the usual top watering, water sometimes misses some parts of the roots that are blocked by leaves or unreachable. With bottom watering, you are sure that all parts are being equally watered.

Another major reason is that the leaves of some plants get discolored and start to develop plant diseases when they get a lot of moisture. Since there is no way to avoid spraying water on the leaves when top watering the plant, some gardeners prefer to use the other alternative.

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Advantages of Bottom Watering

Overwatering is prevented

One of the disadvantages of top watering is that oftentimes, we end up supplying more water than is needed for the plant, leaving the excess water at the base of the plant pot. This can be harmful to the plant as it can cause the plant roots to be marshy. With bottom watering, the water at the base of the pot is drained out, and waterlogged roots are avoided.

Pest attack on the plant is curbed

When the topsoil of a plant is damp, Fungus gnats are attracted to it. With bottom watering, the top of the soil remains dry since it does not collect any moisture. This prevents fungi, insects, and other pests from attacking the plant, thereby keeping it healthier.

Uniform absorption of water

Since the entire roots of the plants are placed in the same quantity of water at the same level and at the same time, they tend to receive moisture more uniformly. This encourages the healthy growth of the plant.

It supports the growth of stronger roots

The root of a plant tends to grow towards its source of nutrients. When the plant receives moisture from the bottom, the root grows downwards, enabling it to be healthier and stronger.

It prevents leaf splashing

Some leaves do very badly when water is splashed on them. It could lead to discoloration and loss of vital nutrients in the leaves. Also, when water is splashed on the leaves, diseases can easily be spread from leaf to leaf. To avoid all these, bottom watering is more favorable.

Disadvantages of Bottom Watering

Over accumulation of minerals at the base

While the roots are getting healthier and growing downwards towards the source of water in bottom watering, a lot of minerals and salts can start to accumulate at the bottom of the soil. This can cause the roots to get weak and eventually lead to root burns.

Not suitable for larger plants

A larger plant will take a lot of time to absorb moisture when watered from the bottom. It is faster to get larger plants watered from the top than from the bottom.

Lack of sufficient oxygen

When the plant is watered from underneath, aeration becomes a bit of a problem. This is because the space for air to pass through the soil upwards to the rest of the plant may be blocked with moisture.

It does not flush the soil

When the plants have been fertilized, or other growth chemicals have been added to them, the natural process of top watering can detoxify the soil when excess water is sprayed on the plant. This is healthy for the plant, as you do not want to leave the residues in for a long time. However, with bottom watering, there would be no form of flushing down.

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How to Bottom Water Plants

  1. Find a container larger than your plant pot so that it can contain the plant.
  2. Place the plant inside the large container and add about an inch of water to the container. In the case where the plant is placed in a plant pot, the pot will need drainage holes underneath it for water to be absorbed into it. Place the pot into the container.
  3. Leave the plant in the reservoir for a while, 10 to 30 minutes depending on several factors.
  4. When you think the plant has been properly moisturized (you can confirm by feeling the topsoil, if it is a bit moist, then it’s a good sign), then take out the plant from the large container.
  5. To ensure that the plant does not get overwatered, do not allow the plant to retain excess water. You can place the plant pot into an empty container to allow the excess water to drain out of it before taking it out.

Factors That Determine How Long You Should Leave in the Plant

  • The drainage capacity: The larger the drainage holes on the plant pots, the more water the plant will be able to absorb in a short while, and vice versa.
  • The pot size: Larger pot sizes will take more time for the plants to be properly watered.
  • Soil permeability: This determines how fast the soil can retain and absorb water, thereby determining the mixture intake capacity of the roots of the plant. Sandy soil will take a longer time than loam soil to absorb water.

Plants That Are Most Suitable for Bottom Watering

Bottom watering has a more positive effect on some plants than it does on others. Here are some favorite plants to bottom water:

  • African violet: These beautiful plants are known for being quite choosy. They are sensitive to temperature, so the water used in the process is very important. Bottom watering is the best watering method for the African Violet plant. Also, splashing can harm the sensitive leaves.
  • Jade plants: Jade plants do not enjoy waterlogging. It is important to let the moisture dry up first before watering the plant again. Therefore, Jade plants thrive better with bottom watering.
  • Pothos: Pothos are also sensitive leaves, thereby requiring a good soak-up instead of water splashing.
  • Seedlings: Seedlings are tender and require tender care. The seeds need to be dampened enough but not wet. At the same time, you cannot afford to underwater the seed. The best way to properly water a seedling is to bottom water it.

Tips for Proper Bottom Watering

  • Timing is very important. Put all necessary factors into consideration and find the perfect time for bottom watering your plant, then stick with it.
  • The quality of water you use is vital. If you are unsure about the quality of your tap water, use rainwater or distilled water for the plants.
  • The bottom watering process is faster for plants in plastic containers than for plants in terracotta pots.

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The key is balance. Even plants that require bottom watering will need to be splashed occasionally to flush the soil. Find a way to provide balance for the plant such that it is neither under-watered nor over-watered.

Featured Image Credit: Brothers Welch, Shutterstock


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