Bottom watering plants. What is that? Why would you water plants from the bottom? There are a couple of reasons people choose to water that way. Let’s talk about bottom watering plants and the benefit there may be.

Beautiful African violet

Beautiful African violet

What is bottom watering?

Let’s first define bottom watering. It simply means your plant is placed in a basin of water and the water is pulled up through the bottom drainage hole/holes by the plant. This technique is used instead of watering from the top with a water receptacle (i.e. watering can).

top watering a plant

Top watering a plant with a watering can

Is bottom watering necessary?

Bottom watering isn’t necessary most of the time. Some people believe that plants such as African violets cannot tolerate getting their foliage wet. I’m here to tell you they can. They naturally grow in Africa and it rains there….. So, you can top water a violet and even rinse off their fuzzy foliage that is collecting dust. The key is not to use cold water which will damage the leaves. I also don’t let water sit in the crown of the plant which may cause it to rot.

bottom watering an African violet

I used an old pie plate to bottom water this African violet.

Why bottom water?

So there is one reason to bottom water. If a plant has dried out and the potting medium has pulled away from the sides of the pot, bottom watering is the best way to rehydrate the plant. If it were to be top watered, the water would run right down the side of the root ball between the pot edge and the potting medium, never wetting the root ball at all. Set the plant in a basin of water and let the water slowly be drawn up into the plant. As the potting medium absorbs the water, hopefully, it will re-expand to touch the pot edges so next time it can be top watered. After the plant has drawn up as much water as it needs, dump the remaining water out so the plant isn’t standing in water too long.

soil shrinking from pot side

This plant is so dry, the potting medium has shrunk away from the sides of the pot.

Flush the soil

If you do choose to bottom water your plants regularly, the potting medium will need to be flushed out often to remove any harmful fertilizer residue that may be in the potting medium. Flushing the plant out entails running an excessive amount of water through the potting medium to “flush” out any unwanted substances that may be there from the water itself or fertilizer residue.

Final thoughts

I’m not saying bottom watering is a bad thing or is a watering technique that shouldn’t be used. I am saying that in the case of African violets, it isn’t necessary as many have been led to believe. It is helpful in the case of an overly dry plant that needs its potting medium to be rehydrated. As I always say, if what you are doing is working for you, keep doing it. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. But if you are finding your plant isn’t growing as well as you would like and you only bottom water, it may need to have the potting medium flushed out or just a repot with fresh potting medium. I hope this little tidbit is helpful to you.

Have a great week, my plant friends!

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