The most overlooked aspect of indoor growing is watering your plants. It sounds simple, which means it's easy to forget. We often complicate these topics more than we should. Let's take a second to focus on the foundations of indoor gardening.
There are three ways to think about watering your plants. Under watering, over watering, and optimal watering.
Overwatering can lead to root rot when there is not enough air in the soil for roots to breathe. Root rot destroys the roots of your plants and causes them to enter a shock phase. Once a plant has root rot it is unlikely that the entire plant will recover. Propagating salvageable parts would be the best bet to save the plant. You might also see yellowing of leaves, a tell tale sign you watered too much or too soon.
Under watering is something that shouldn't always be avoided. It can be beneficial for many plants at certain times. When the soil is dry, roots will expand in search of more water. As a general rule, under watering is better than overwatering. Over long periods of drought plants may drop or have leaves that turn brown and crispy.
Optimal watering is subjective based on your goals at the time. If you are trying to force your plant to solidify it's root system, you would consider dry soil "optimal". If you are exiting a dry soil phase, optimal moisture content would be if the soil is moist at the top 1/2" of depth. Optimal will always vary based on the specific plant that you are tending too.
How to check if your plants are watered properly:
When watering is optimal you will see your plant flourish. Mastering what your plant requires is an acquired skill, remember that! It takes practice but you will learn to read your plants and what they are telling you. All plants are different, and should be watered based on their individual needs instead of a schedule. Signs that it is time to water your plant can include drooping, becoming wrinkly, the ability to “taco” the leaves, or that the soil is dry when fingers are stuck in.
Moisture meters can also be a helpful tool, gauging how wet the soil is further down than most fingers can reach.
Some of things that you can do to help provide a properly hydrated substrate:
Creating the proper substrate for your plants will help smooth out a heavy watering hand. Using coco coir, perlite, and rice hulls encourage air flow and drainage in the soil. Some plants will respond better to a fast draining soil, so this isn’t a one size first all solution. Common types that prefer fast draining soil are Succulents, Cacti, Hoya ,Fiddle leaf figs, and Philodendrons.
If you are looking to retain water in your soil, mixing sphagnum moss into your substrate is a great choice. Clay Leca balls can also be used for thirstier plants. Make sure to take into consideration the fertilizer needs of the plant, and if your prior routine used a fertilizer that was something other than liquid.
The planter you use can also affect the water retention in your soil. Clay pots, such as terra cotta, absorb moisture and dry soil much faster than a plastic or ceramic glazed pot. Because of this, many succulent and cactus keepers choose clay planters for their plants.
No matter how often you water your plants, or how much drama your plant makes when it doesn’t get watered EXACTLY on time. All gardeners should be aware of the signs of over and under watering. Consider taking the time to note down how the above items affect your plants. Keep a journal and look back on what worked and what didn't.