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Should You Ever Be Watering Your Houseplants In The Bath? A Pro Weighs In

Emma Loewe
Author:
April 12, 2019
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
April 12, 2019

One of the trickiest parts of plant parenthood is figuring out how often to water. Too much and your green pal will suffer root rot; too little and it will dry out.

I've always erred on the side of caution and kept my plants on the dry side because experts say that overwatering is the No. 1 cause of houseplant death. So why, then, is my Instagram feed filled with photos of plants stuffed into people's bathtubs, leaves dancing in the downpour? Wouldn't running the shower on your plants for an extended period of time drown them out?

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I took my confusion over to Rebecca Bullene, the founder of biophilic design shop Greenery NYC, and, it turns out, there's a time and a place for a full-on plant showering.

How you can tell your plant needs a more thorough watering.

Along with her five top houseplant maintenance tips for spring, Bullene gave me a good rule of thumb about how you can tell when a more thorough watering is OK.

"If you forget to water for a while and your soil is really hard and cakey, putting it in the shower is a great way to rehydrate it," she says. Another telltale sign your plant is too dry is if it's "channeling," which basically means that little channels have formed in the soil that make water drain straight to the bottom quickly.

In situations like these, hand watering might not be enough to get your houseplant the nutrition it needs, so you can pop it in the shower for a few minutes. (Think of water like food to your plant pal). Bullene likens a dry plant to a dry sponge: It needs to be damp before it can really start to absorb the good stuff. Sticking your plant in the shower will saturate its soil again and clean off its foliage too.

However, it's possible to overdo it—especially if your home doesn't get much light. "If you don't have high light, you shouldn't put your plants in the shower because they'll have so much water to process now, and they need enough light to do it," Bullene explains.

If you have a really dry plant in a low-light area, she says there are a few options: You can put it in the shower and then move it to an area that gets more direct sun, invest in a grow light, or forgo the shower and just compress your soil instead. Using the back of your hand, press down hard on your soil to break down the channels that have formed. Don't be afraid to really get in there! Once you've lowered the soil level, you can add a new layer of topsoil and give the whole thing a good hand watering.

That's one plant paradox solved.

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Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 articles on mbg, her work has appeared on Bloomberg News, Marie Claire, Bustle, and Forbes. She has covered everything from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping to a group of doctors prescribing binaural beats for anxiety. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.