Experts say This Hack for Watering Houseplants Could be the Answer to Flourishing Foliage

This watering technique is one of the best ways to give your greenery the refresh it deserves, and it has expert approval

Three houseplants in white pots on small plant stands
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If you're a long-standing plant parent you'll know just how demanding green-fronded decor can be. They need fertilizing frequently, occasional repotting, and of course, a regular watering regime in order to look their very best. Admittedly, the latter of these is the most important - as well as the most straightforward - but experts say there's a particular watering method that you might be missing to reap the best benefits.

You've heard of misting your fronded friends, perhaps you've heard of underwatering them via their drainage holes, but have you ever considered bathing your houseplants? Yes, you heard that right - treating your plants to a proper soak by submerging them under water comes with a whole host of benefits and could be the secret to flourishing foliage when decorating with plants.

Just when you thought you knew everything there is to know about houseplant care, it turns out regular watering just doesn't cut it. This clever plant care technique should definitely be part of your repertoire if you want foliage that's so healthy it will make your fellow plant parents green with envy. To find out more about how the trick works and when to use it, we spoke with some plant professionals who shared their insights. Here's what you need to know.

What does soaking houseplants entail?

Two tall palm houseplants in grey ceramic pots on a kitchen countertop

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When it comes to how often to water your houseplants, most prefer a big drink every few weeks rather than little and often. Every once in a while, however, those that like a thorough drink best will benefit a long soak in a deep bath instead.

So, how does it work? 'To soak a plant, place it in a sink or basin and fill it with water until the soil is submerged,' explains Richa Kedia, houseplant expert at Simplify Plants. 'Let the plant sit until the soil is saturated, typically 10-15 minutes, then drain completely before returning it to its usual spot.'

It really is as simple as giving your plants a bath, and if you're dealing with a lot of them at once, filling a bath might be best. Richa is quick to note, however, that this hack doesn't need to be done frequently. 'Perform this trick when the soil feels dry to the touch, which could be every 1-2 weeks, depending on the plant and the environment,' she says.

Jack Lewis, CEO and Founder of plant care brand Sowvital agrees that no matter how fun this activity seems, it's not one that needs to be done regularly. 'While soaking houseplants can be beneficial, particularly for those that thrive in more humid conditions, I often lean towards regular watering with a watering can as a more controlled and consistent method,' he says. 'When it comes to soaking, it's something that should be done with consideration – perhaps once a month or less frequently, depending on the plant's natural habitat and individual needs.'

What are the benefits of soaking houseplants?

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As long as only carried out occasionally, a soak in water can have great benefits to your foliage. 'The benefits of soaking include ensuring that the water reaches the entire root system, providing deep hydration' explains Richa. 'It can be more effective than regular watering for some plants because it helps prevent dry spots in the soil and ensures that water isn't just running down the sides of the pot.'

Like bottom watering your plants, soaking allows the soil to hydrate fully, but the added benefit is you can clear any dust and debris from the foliage at the same time. This helps with the photosynthesis process, ensuring more light reaches your plant for brighter, healthier leaves. It's also a great opportunity to add liquid fertilizer or use a insect or gnat treatment by adding a few drops to your sink as you dunk your houseplants.

That said, sometimes a more precise method of appliaction will be preferable. 'I've observed that soaking is especially effective for ensuring deep hydration, reaching the roots where it's needed most,' notes Jack. 'However, I've also found that regular watering with our House Plant Elixir from a mister allows for more precision and regularity, which many house plants prefer. The key, I believe, is to find a balance – using regular watering for plants that are more suited to it, and occasional soaking for plants that need a deeper hydration boost. This combination approach often yields the best results, promoting healthier growth and resilience in plants.'

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Which houseplants benefit best from soaking?

houseplant being watered in the sink

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Not all houseplants are made equally, and any green thumbs out there will know that your individual plant babies can have different wants and needs. That means that not all plants will benefit from a soak as much as others, so it's important to do your research before you test it out. 

'In my experience, not all house plants are suited to soaking,' says Jack. 'It’s important to consider the plant's origin and natural environment. Plants like succulents and cacti, which are adapted to drier conditions, often fare better with careful regular watering, avoiding the risks of overwatering and root rot.'

On the other hand, he says that tropical, humidy loving plants - which are used to more moisture - can benefit from the occasional soak, as well as plants susceptible to hydrophobic soil. 'Understanding and respecting these nuances is key to effective plant care,' he says.

As with any new plant hack, it's important to trial the method first and keep a close eye on results. 'From my perspective, the most important aspect of plant care is observing and responding to your plants' needs,' Jack says. 'Whether it's soaking, regular watering, or a combination of both, the goal is to create an environment where your plants not only survive but thrive.'

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.