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Proper watering of houseplants is critical to their success. Improper watering accounts for the majority of deaths in houseplants. Most houseplants are from the tropics so in turn, they respond best when watered with warm water (room temperature). Using cold water can stunt the growth of the plants and, in some cases, if the plants have hairy leaves, can damage the foliage.
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The plant will tell you when it needs to be watered. The first sign is when the foliage takes on an off-green color. In more extreme cases, the youngest growth starts to flag or wilt. Do not wait until you see severe wilting because by this time some root and leave damage may have occurred. Water as soon as you see the first signs of wilting.
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It is usually easiest and best to water the plants from the top. Apply warm water with a sprinkling can, usually without a rose or water breaker attached. Apply a gentle stream of water. It is recommended not to get much water on the leaves of the plants because this can cause leaf spotting.
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Some plants, like African violets, prefer to be watered from below. Fill the plant's tray with a little water and let it sit for 20 minutes or so. Remove any water that is not absorbed.
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When you do water, drench the soil. Make sure the plant is in a container with a hole in the bottom so that excess water can flow out the bottom the pot. If you use a tray or a platter to catch the excess water be sure to empty it after watering. Leaving your plant sitting in water will make it susceptible to root disease.
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When the soil has been allowed to dry out too thoroughly, it is sometimes difficult to wet it again. If this happens, it is best to take the potted plant and put it in a sink filled with several inches of warm water. Let it sit there for several hours until the water is absorbed into the soil mass.
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It is difficult to say how often a plant should be watered because of many variables. If the plant is growing in a clay pot versus a plastic pot, it will probably need to be watered about twice as often. If the room has low humidity or the plant has out-grown its pot, again, it will have to be watered more frequently. One way to increase the humidity around a plant is to fill the tray it's sitting in with pea gravel and water. The water evaporating from the pea gravel will raise the humidity in the plant's immediate vicinity.