Bobby Berk’s Unconventional Method for Watering Houseplants has Experts' Approval

The Queer Eye star's latest tip goes beyond design and into the world of plant parenting

wood dining table with houseplants
(Image credit: Future)

Aside from being an acclaimed interior designer and Netflix star, Bobby Berk is also a seasoned plant parent. His Instagram is dotted with informational reels featuring helpful tips on how to take care of your plants, and this particular little trick happened to stand out among the rest.

With the onset of summer comes seasonal revamps and we've found that the easiest way to inject some life into a space is to introduce some greenery to the room. Indoor gardens are a beautiful concept, but we can all agree that dry, wilting, or dying plants don't make a good impression on guests.

While plenty of practices can be added to your routine to better care for your plants, regular watering is undoubtedly the most important of them all - but how do you do it properly? Well, Bobby Berk uses an unconventional method to keep his houseplants hydrated, and it's one that's piqued our interest. And, according to experts, it can have great benefits for your greenery, too.

Bottom watering for hydrated potted plants

kitchen garden window with cactus plants

(Image credit: Thomas Kuoh, Design Studio Munroe)

One of Bobby's recent Instagram reels showcased his chosen method for watering houseplants, and it really turns the idea on its head. In the reel, he places his potted plants in a glass bowl partly filled with water and speeds the video up to showcase the reduction in water levels as the plants drink up. Bobby put it best in his video as the subtitles read: 'Stop watering your plants. Instead, let them water themselves.'

According to Tony O'Neill, founder of Simplify Gardening, this little trick is commonly known as bottom-watering and it's proven to be an effective method for feeding potted plants. 'By allowing plants to absorb water from the bottom, you ensure that the roots receive adequate moisture without over-saturating the soil,' he explains. 'This method helps prevent issues like root rot and encourages healthier root development.'

Bottom-watering houseplants is also a great method for plants that might be sensitive to over-watering, plus it helps reduce the risk of fungal diseases by keeping the foliage dry.

Author Tony O'Neill Head Shot
Tony O'Neill

Tony O'Neill is a gardening expert and best-selling author with a thriving YouTube channel. Through his award-winning website he shares his passion for gardening and sustainability. He's also authored books including "Composting Masterclass," "Your First Vegetable Garden," and "Simplify Vegetable Gardening," empowering individuals to cultivate their own green spaces.

Plant expert Nicole Elizabeth Dillon also gives Bobby's advice her seal of approval. 'My houseplants actually have a bath day,' says Nicole. 'I have a large, farmhouse-style sink that I fill with a few inches of water and my houseplants have one big party each week during the summer.' A ceramic tray, bathtub, or even your laundry room sink is perfect for trying this hack for soaking houseplants.

It's not just for indoor plants, either. Nicole finds bottom watering to be great for outdoor container gardening as well as your potted houseplants. 'For my outdoor hanging baskets and containers, I use a large, plastic storage tote and water them every few days,' notes Nicole. 'I set them in the water and then go do other gardening maintenance tasks, like weeding making this method of watering an efficient use of my time.'

Nicole actually prefers this method over top watering and finds it to be far more effective. 'When you water a plant from the top, it's difficult to tell how deeply you are actually watering,' she says. From her experience, soil tends to be hydrophobic when quickly watered from the top and the water just runs right through. Whereas, bottom watering ensures that the plant is intentionally hydrated through and through.

White bookcase and houseplants room divider by Furniture and Choice

(Image credit: Furniture and Choice)

A post shared by Bobby Berk

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Besides the obvious benefits of this watering technique, we must also admit that there is a subtle element of joy that is brought about by this practice. I think it's because this hack gives us a transparent peak into the plant sipping away to stay hydrated. So the personal mood boost is a plus.

If you have the unfortunate reputation of a plant killer or you're not sure how often you should water houseplants, add this trick to your plant care routine. This way, you can turn over a new leaf and leave your bad streak of drooping plants in the past.

Alternative watering tools


How can you tell if the plant is adequately hydrated?

Tony explains that you can easily tell if your plant's thirst has been quenched by simply examining the top of the soil. If you touch the soil surface and find it to be moist, your plant is done drinking. You can then remove the plant from the water bowl and leave it to drain. Nicole also points out that if the top of the soil is darker in color as compared to the way it looked pre-watering, it's likely hydrated.

How do you know when it's time for another bottom-watering session?

According to Tony, the frequency of bottom-watering generally depends on the plant's needs and environmental conditions. However, he explains that it's advisable to treat your houseplants to a bottom-watering whenever the top inch of soil feels dry.

Which plants thrive when bottom-watered?

Tony tells us that bottom-watering works for most plants but especially benefits grows like African violets. This is because these gorgeous flowers are particularly sensitive to water on their leaves, which can cause spotting and rot. So bottom-watering keeps the foliage dry and provides the moisture they need, making it a win-win environment for them to flourish in. He also shares that bottom-watering efficiently caters to ferns and succulents to maintain consistent moisture levels.

News Writer

Amiya is the News Writer at Livingetc. She recently graduated with a Masters Degree in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London and has lent her words to beauty, fashion and health sections of lifestyle publications including Harper’s Bazaar and Women’s Health. Her experience as a research analyst has equipped her with an eye for emerging trends. When she’s off the clock, she can be found reading, listening to music or overanalysing her latest Co-Star update.