Water and fertilize your houseplants/potted plants

When to water your house plants and potted plants?

My grandmother had a simple rule to water and fertilize houseplants – she used predominantly Water Days and if necessary Earth Days for in-between top-ups. This simple trick makes sure that you don’t over or under-water your plants which are the most common reasons why houseplants die.

The only rule is to Avoid Air Days. Keeping to this routine will make sure that you have a thriving home garden.

The right way to water houseplants:

As well as frequency, it is also important to do it the right way. Fill a big watering can with water (ideally rainwater). If you only have tap water to hand, leave it to stand for 24 hours. Add a small shot of liquid fertilizer (see below for homemade recipes) and water between the top soil layer and the rim of the pot. The plant will now take up the water it needs. Any excess should be able to drain into a waterproof dish. This is important – as no drainage and the plant will hold excess water and eventually die.

My tip is to go around watering and don’t worry if you add too much water. After about an hour, go around again and dispose of all the excess water that has now gathered in the waterproof dishes into the bucket.

Signs of underwatering: leaves curl and get brown edges, oldest leaves fall first, wilted leaves and little growth, not enough flowers form

Signs of overwatering: leaves also look brown and wilted with brown tips. But both young and old leaves fall, and mould forms at the leaf stem together with an unpleasant smell.

Misting: During the winter months when the central heating is on and in dry climates, it is not enough to just water the plants. They also need to be misted with a water bottle that forms a fine mist. Use this on leaves and flowers in the morning or evening, avoiding direct sunlight.


If you live in a small space or an urban setting, it is best to buy a good reputable liquid fertilizer. Algae-based ones are also very good. 
My top tip is to add ground coffee to the water (after you use it!). When I empty my plunger, instead of tipping the coffee grinds into the compost, I keep them in a jar and add  2-3 teaspoons per liter of water. My plants love it so much that I rarely use other liquid fertilizers. 

For the garden here are two other alternatives. 

Charcoal water:
If you have an open fireplace that burns predominantly wood, collect the burnt ash to make charcoal water. This is a particularly good fertilizer for fruit and fruit like vegetables, like tomatoes. 

Recipe: Mix 3 handfuls of ash with 5 liters of water. Use a large wooden stick or spoon to blend the ash with the water. Some Biodynamic Gardeners swear by stirring the pot for a good 20 minutes (always stir clockwise) to energize the water. Reserve this water in a couple of glass bottles and add a good shot to your watering can.

Nettle Brew is another classic organic fertilizer and is often referred to as the ‘cure all’ plant healer. If plants are weak after being infested or are ill or not thriving, a good dose of nettle brew might do the trick. Just like charcoal water, add shots into the water. 

Here is how to make it: You will need a garden, as it can be a bit smelly in the making process. Get a container that holds 5-10 liters. In spring fill your container about half its size with young light green nettles and fill up the remaining container with warm water. Cover it with a fine metal mesh lid, as air needs to get to the brew.

Every full moon and new moon stir with a long wooden stick to improve air circulation.  Add now and then a handful of bone meal or stone meal to the brew. Leave to stand for 2-3 moon cycles. This mixture can become quite smelly, so don’t wear nice clothes when you handle it, and leave your container well away from any sitting area!

Once the brew is ready, strain it through a garden sieve into a few dark glass bottles with lids. The sieved nettle part can be discarded on the compost heap. When you start watering, add 2-3 shots of nettle brew to a whole watering can. If you make both, use most of the time nettle brew and during the Gibbous Waxing Moon and around the Full Moon switch to the charcoal water, especially for flowers and vegetables. Both are easy to make and of course (almost) free. 

If you keep using the tips above,  you will have a natural thriving garden with healthy and happy potted plants!

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