The Best Time To Water Your Plants Is Before Sunrise—Here’s Why

Photo: Stocksy / DZ FILM
If you’ve *finally* graduated from the killing-every-plant-that-enters-your-home stage, by now you probably know the basic ins and outs of growing plants. You probably know what it means when their leaves turn yellow, and you may have picked up a few niche plant care tips along the way (like the dirt test!).

Now that you’ve mastered the basics of plant upkeep, you may be looking for ways to even further promote their growth and lifespans. Striking up a proper plant watering routine can ensure your green babies will thrive for many seasons to come. Ahead, plant experts share the best time to water your plants, plus tips and tricks that’ll ensure your lucky plants get the hydration they deserve.

Experts In This Article

When is the best time to water plants?

Early risers, rejoice! According to Nick Cutsumpas, the plant coach and urban farmer behind Farmer Nick, there really is a ‘best’ time to water your plants, whether you're taking care of potted plants or a vegetable garden.

"Do so in the morning a few hours before or after sunrise," says Cutsumpas. There's a reason for that very specific timing. "Watering in the morning allows your plants to absorb more because less water is evaporated in the cooler temperatures. Watering at night may seem like a good alternative, but without the sun to warm the plants and soil, excess and standing water may lead to fungus issues."

Bacteria thrives in damp conditions, and without an opportunity to fully dry out, your potted plant’s soil can quickly become a breeding ground for honey fungus or phytophthora. If you know, you know: Fungus is a common houseplant issue you definitely don't want.

According to Monique Leonard-Segovia, plant pro and founder of The Brown Thumb plant shop in Denton, Texas, excess water can also lead to root rot. When a plant is overwatered, its roots can no longer draw in enough oxygen from the soil, and the plant will begin to drown. Leonard-Segovia puts it this way: A stagnant, damp pot of soil is the plant equivalent of a dirty diaper.

“You want to make sure your soil is going to drain and dry up,” says Leonard-Segovia. “You want to be able to have the ability to water whenever it actually needs water; you don't want to just sit in the nasty, damp soil.”

If your potted plant’s soil stays damp for several days at a time, it may be time to repot your plant. Poor irrigation can make water accumulate inside your pot, leading to bacteria overgrowth.

What is the best time to water plants during a heatwave?

Unlike indoor plants where the temperature is better controlled, you can't do much about summer heatwaves. This is why watering your plants and vegetable gardens during early morning hours–when the temperatures are cooler–is especially important in the summer. The best time to water a garden is during dawn, just as the sun is rising and before midmorning, when the temperature begins to rise.

During periods of prolonged heat, your plant’s watering needs will change, and Cutsumpas says the key is striking a balance between conserving as much water as you can while still giving enough to your plants.

"The best way to do this is delivering water straight down to the soil as opposed to top watering—AKA standing with a hose and spraying the foliage on your plants," he says. "Not all of the water reaches the soil, and water on the leaves can lead to fungal issues like powdery mildew."

While there are certain container gardens—like the EarthBox—that have a built-in water tube that makes watering plants easier. These gardens seep water straight into the soil, and can be automated for bigger gardens. "I set up a drip irrigation system, which runs throughout my garden. Each drip can be adjusted to release more or less water depending on the plant in question, and I set up a timer so that it goes off every morning automatically," he says. "It’s the most efficient way to deliver the exact amount of water directly to the base of the plant."

A smart way to preserve water during these heat waves is to set up rain barrels. "They're a great way to collect water that can be stockpiled for climates where drought is prevalent," says Cutsumpas. There are many different options available online that range from collapsible and portable rain barrels to beautiful options that can collect rain straight from your gutter. In times where running the hose isn't an option, having rain water stockpiled and ready to go can save your garden.

How often should you water your plants?

Outdoor and indoor plants live in different environments, which means they’ll have different plant care needs. Outdoor plants are subjected to frequently-shifting weather conditions and direct sunlight, while indoor plants live in a controlled environment. Ahead, learn how often you should water your plants, depending on where they live.

Indoor plants

Since indoor plants are shielded from precipitation and extreme temperatures, they typically need less frequent maintenance in comparison to vegetable gardens and outdoor potted plants. Because of this, overwatering indoor plants can sometimes be easier to do than underwatering them.

Many indoor plants can thrive with two waterings a week or so, but identifying your plants and understanding their specific needs will help you come up with a proper watering schedule.

“Put your finger in the soil down two inches; if it's dry, water, but some plants need that moist soil,” says Leonard-Segovia.

Outdoor plants

As far as how often you should be watering your outdoor plants, Cutsumpas says it totally depends on the plant, the soil, and the weather. "A tomato is a heavy feeder and will require water nearly every day, where a hardy ground cover like sedum can go days without water," he says. "Soil quality can also impact the water retention, and mulch can be applied to keep the soil moist. But in general, I water every day."

Since you're dealing with outdoor plants, you'll also want to pay close attention to the weekly forecast. "A savvy gardener also monitors the weather to make sure they aren’t overwatering on rainy days," he says. "Some automated irrigation systems can tap into your WiFi and control the water based on the rain forecast."

While Cutsumpas says the finger test can apply to outdoor plants as well, there's another way you can figure out when it's time to water, too. "You'll notice leaves shriveling and drooping," he says.

With that being said, there's more room for error when it comes to watering a garden versus a houseplant. "I notice my outdoor plants are a bit less dramatic than my indoor plants, and more well-established outdoor plants can handle periods of drought."

Watering FAQs

What is the best time to water plants in hot weather?

It’s best to water your plants in the early morning in hot weather, according to Cutsumpas. The cool temperatures at dawn allow for better water absorption by the soil. When the sun has been out for a while, the heat and sunshine can evaporate water quickly, making it difficult for water to reach your plant’s roots.

Is it okay to water plants at night?

Because there’s no sunlight during the evening hours, Leonard-Segovia suggests avoiding nighttime waterings when possible. Sunlight helps dry newly-saturated soil, preventing the roots from sitting in stagnant water. Soil that stays damp for too long can lead to fungal growth and root rot.

“It’s better if you do it during the day,” adds Leonard-Segovia.

Should I water my plants everyday?

It depends.

During warm months, outdoor potted plants and vegetable gardens may require daily watering due to the heat and exposure to sunlight. High temperatures evaporate water at a quick rate, so your plants may benefit from daily watering.

For indoor plants, you can probably get by with watering them twice a week or so, depending on the plant species. Use the two-inch rule of thumb to see if they need watering: Place your finger into the top of the soil, reaching about two inches deep into the dirt. If it’s damp, don’t water your plant again; allow the soil to completely dry before you re-water.

“On the day that you're watering, you can water it as much as you want,” adds Leonard-Segovia. “You can even put it in the sink and drown it, and it’ll be fine. Just don't go back and do it the next day if the soil is still damp.”

Is it okay to water plants in the hot afternoon?

While it’s certainly fine to water your plants during the hottest parts of the day, it’s not exactly efficient. Water evaporates quickly during hot weather conditions, meaning your plant will have to fight to absorb the water you give it.

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