Your polka-dot plant thrives when potted in well-drained, moderately moist soil. If you let the soil dry out too much, the plant will struggle and leaves will wilt; overwatering is simply asking for root rot. So, how often should you water your polka-dot plant?
As a general rule of thumb, water your polka dot plant when the top quarter-inch to half-inch of soil has dried out. Never let the soil get too wet or dry out completely. You should consider the plant size, season, temperature, and humidity, as well.
As you may already know, polka-dot plants prefer the soil to be evenly and consistently moist. But not water-logged; your plant will succumb to fungal/bacterial diseases if the soil is soggy. Worse still, the foliage will develop brown leaf tips, wilt, and eventually fall off if you habitually underwater your plant.
That said, watering your polka-dot plant can be tricky to master. But don’t worry – I’ll take you through everything you need to keep your freckle face hydrated and happy, including the factors, rules, and steps to properly water your polka-dot plant. I’ll also show you how to recognize the giveaway signs of overwatering or underwatering.
Factors That Impact Watering Frequency of Polka Dot Plant
As with most annuals, a polka-dot plant reduces growth almost to a halt during colder weather. Your polka dot plant should pick up normal growth once it gets warmer. Consequently, you should tweak your watering routine according to the time of the year.
- In summer, your polka will bloom and experience a growth spurt. A combination of hot, sunny conditions means the soil will dry out quickly. So, you should water regularly to ensure the soil is consistently moist. To avoid root rot, make sure the top ¼ inch of soil has dried out before the next irrigation.
- In winter, polka-dot plants often become dormant or grow slowly. Accordingly, you should ease up on the watering hand. Make sure to check soil moisture every week or so. Wait until the top ½ inch of soil has dried out before you water it again.
- In spring, you should start resuming your normal watering routine. During this time of the year, your polka-dot plant will sprout buds and maybe bloom. Still, make sure the top ¼- ½ inch of soil is fairly dry before watering again.
- During flowering, polka-dot plants use the most resources. As such, you should rev up your watering to keep up. Check the foliage for signs of yellowing, wilting, or brown spots. Polka-dot plants typically bloom in late spring or summer, so water more regularly.
Size of the Plant
It’s a no-brainer that the size of your polka-dot plant will influence watering frequency. The larger your plant, the more moisture it needs. And the more frequently you need to water it.
Larger plants need more water for photosynthesis and respiration. They also lose more moisture through transpiration. Don’t forget that some young plants grow faster and therefore need water during the growth stage.
Polka-dot plants are happiest when parked in bright, indirect sunlight. They prefer warmer temperatures, ideally ranging between 70°F (21°C) and 80°F (27°C). You may run night temperature 5°F (-15°C) lower than day temp.
Even so, your polka loses more moisture when it’s hot. The soil also dries out faster in high temp conditions. It’s a given that you should increase watering frequency accordingly.
In colder temperatures, polka-dot plants are rather inactive and absorb less moisture. Therefore, you should cut back on watering to prevent waterlogging.
The humidity doesn’t just affect how quickly the soil will dry out. It also impacts the rate at which your plant loses moisture through transpiration. Your polka-dot plant likes warm, humid conditions, but this will vary depending on the variety.
Your home may have lower humidity in winter when the air is cold & crisp. As a result, you should increase your watering frequency slightly to make up for the moisture loss.
If your plant is located near a humidifier, bathroom, or other sources of humidity, it should be okay with regular watering. You should maintain a relative humidity of around 50% for the best results, though.
Location of the Plant
If you own an indoor plant, you may have to water it more frequently than those planted in the ground. Outdoor plants often receive rain and take advantage of opportune moisture sources like dew.
If your plant is located in a spot where the air is always moving, such as close to an air vent, it will lose more moisture through evaporation and transpiration. This increases your plant’s water requirements.
Location will also affect light, temperatures, humidity, and other physiological factors that affect watering frequency. For instance, a shaded polka-dot plant will need less frequent watering than one that’s partly exposed to sunlight.
Type of Pot
You’ve got three potting options for your polka-dot plant: plastic, ceramic, or terracotta pot. Some types of pots lose moisture faster than others, warranting increased watering.
- Terracotta pots: While perfect for polka-dot plants because they increase soil aeration, terracotta pots lose moisture faster through convection. Often, you’ll have to water every 5-10 days.
- Plastic pots: These maintain soil moisture longer than terracotta pots. You must not water polka-dot plants in plastic pots too often because they’ll get waterlogged.
- Ceramic pots: This pot type offers the best of the two worlds. However, you must inspect the soil for moisture content to determine when it’s right to water again.
Size of Pot
Once you’ve chosen an ideal kind of pot, don’t forget the size will also matter. Larger plants potted in smaller containers will need more frequent watering. If the pot is too small, moisture will escape faster, too.
The opposite is also true. If the pot is too large for your polka-dot plant, you’d want to take it easy on the can. If you water too often, the soil will become wet and soggy, the perfect conditions for root rot.
Type of Potting Mix
Ideally, a polka-dot should be potted in a well-drained and aerated mix. But it can tolerate a wide range of soil types. High quantities of tightly packed, small, organic matter will retain water for longer, so less frequent watering.
Well-drained potting mix with vermiculite, perlite, or sand often loses moisture faster. As such, should be water as soon as the top ½ inch of soil has dried out.
How Do You Know If Your Polka Dot Plant Needs Watering?
As you’d expect from most plants, a polka-dot plant will likely show some distress signs when it needs watering. You should be able to spot the majority of these signs by inspecting the plant. Or perhaps you can use a simple test.
1- Check Moisture Level Using A Stick or Finger Test
You don’t need to spend a penny to carry out this simple test. Simply poke your finger or measuring stick into the soil.
- If the top quarter-inch of the soil is still moist, wait out for a day or two then check again
- If the top ¼- ½ inch of the soil has dried out, that’s a fair sign your plant needs watering
Also, make sure that the soil doesn’t remain wet and soggy for long.
2- Check Potting Soil Color
Aside from measuring soil dryness, you can also check its color. I find that moist soil appears darker than dry soil. If the soil looks grayish, it’s highly likely that it has dried out enough to be watered.
Like most savvy gardeners, I don’t rely on this technique alone. I usually conduct a stick or finger test to confirm my initial findings.
3- Inspect the Plant for Wilting or Drooping Leaves
I have noticed that underwatered polka-dot plants stay lush for a while. However, when you see any signs of wilting or drooping leaves, you should water them immediately.
Note, however, that drooping, curling or wilting foliage is a sign of extreme dehydration. So, you don’t want to wait until that occurs.
4- Brown Leaf Tips
It’s never a good sign when leaves look dead, dry, and brown on the tips or edges. This is often an indication that you need to water your plant because it’s suffering from extreme dehydration.
It pays to know that brown leaf tips in polka-dot plants can be due to a variety of other cases. Lack of humidity, overwatering, edema, sunburn, and salt buildup are other potential culprits you must check out.
5- Leaves Wrinkling
Leaf wrinkling usually happens along with wilting, curling, and drooping off. Like other drought-resistant plants, polka-dot plants wrinkled their leaves in a natural attempt to protect themselves from over-dehydration.
6- Are Leaves Turning Brown or Yellow?
The foliage of your polka-dot plant can turn yellow or brown from both underwatering and overwatering. You should immediately water your plant thoroughly and properly. If you don’t, the foliage will dry out, and eventually, the whole plant will die.
7- Leaves Drying Out and Falling Off
If this is happening, you have a slim chance of saving your precious polka. This is a sign that your plant is long overdue for watering. You may have noticed some leaf yellowing, wilting, or browning before they dry out and fall over.
Move your plant to a shaded area and water it thoroughly. Leave it there until the leaves become vibrant and return to their freckled color.
8- Measure the Weight of The Pot
To use this method, you must have a rough idea of the default weight of your pot. Potted plants usually weigh more when they have enough moisture. If the weight drop is drastic, make sure to water your polka promptly.
9- Use Moisture Meter
You should resort to using a moisture meter if your plant is too finicky about water requirements. You should be able to get a more precise reading of the soil moisture level. To get more bang for your bucks, you should invest in a multipurpose gardening meter.
A reading of 3 and below on a 1-10 scale should tell you that your plant needs watering.
Signs of Overwatered Polka-Dot Plant
- If your polka-dot is suffering from overwatering, the leaves will often turn brown or yellow.
- Leaves are limp, droopy, or wilting because roots aren’t working properly.
- Water-logged soils – if it feels soggy and wet, you must ease up on the can.
- Your plant is shedding both new and old leaves.
- Any signs of root rot, which is a fungal disease associated with waterlogging.
- The base of your polka-dot plant often becomes weak, mushy, or gives off a rotten smell because of overwatering.
- Your plant’s foliage may develop watery brown spots surrounded by yellow halos. These are telltale signs of bacterial infections.
- You may notice water pressure buildup
How to Water Polka Dot Plant
Your polka-plant likes consistent moisture. That’s why you should pick an ideal watering method for your situation.
1- Watering from Above
- You must steer clear of overhead watering. Splashes on your polka leaves make them prone to fungal and bacterial disease.
- Invest in a narrow-nozzle watering can that will not leave dampness on the leaves.
- Water thoroughly when the top ½ inch of the soil has dried out a bit. You must stick to earning morning or later evening watering. Water until water drains out of the bottom.
- Dump out excess water on the bottom after ten minutes.
2- Watering from Below
You’ll soon realize that watering your polka-dot plant from below delivers the best results. For this reason, you should purchase a sturdy saucer with pebbles.
- You should start by filling the saucer with fresh, distilled, or filtered water.
- Spread some clean pebbles to prevent sogginess.
- Let your pot sit on top of the water saucer or tray.
- Wait until the soil is uniformly moist then dump out excess water
3- Self-Watering Pots
If you’re looking for a set-it and forget-it watering method, look no further than self-watering pots. You won’t have to lose sleep over overwatering/underwatering. Just refill the reservoir as required and the self-watering pot will do all the heavy lifting for you.
Golden Rules of Watering
1- Keep the Soil Evenly Moist
If the soil is not uniformly moist, this will generate localized water-logged spots that will encourage root rot.
2- Dry Out Between Watering
Make sure the top quarter-inch to half-inch of the soil has dried out before you water your polka-dot plant again. That’s not to say the soil should be completely dried out.
3- Water Early Morning or Water Late Evening
If you water early morning or late evening, any spills or splashes on the leaves will have plenty of time to dry off before it gets warmer during the day.
4- Do Not Wet the Leaves
Most bacterial and fungal diseases that may attack your polka thrive in hot and wet conditions. You must leave the leaves as dry as possible to deter these microbes.
5- Ensure Water Reaches the Roots
You must water thoroughly until the water comes out of the draining holes on the bottom. This ensures that the roots can absorb enough water before the soil dries out.
6- Avoid Waterlogging
Waterlogged soil is your polka-dot plant’s worst enemy. It prevents the roots from breathing, so they won’t absorb nutrients and water efficiently.
7- Use Well Drainage Capacity Soil
Polka-dot plants flourish in well-drained soil. This means the potting mix is well-aerated and won’t become soggy from watering. This pulls double duty — prevents root rot and ensures proper absorption.
You May Also Enjoy: How to Fix a Leggy Polka Dot Plant
Watering Polka Dot Plants After Repotting
You may want to repot your polka-dot plant after every year or two. This way, you can reinvigorate and revitalize your precious plant with a fresh, more fertilized potting mix.
You may also want to repot your polka sooner because of severe issues. These include extreme salt buildup, chemical toxicity, serious waterlogging, overfertilization, and so on.
The last thing you want for your recently repotted polka-dot plant is to overwater it. After all, overwatering is the leading cause of their death. This is especially true before the repotted plant has re-established its roots. It’s best to err on the dry side of things.
Here are a few steps you need to take to properly water your polka dot plant after repotting:
- You must ensure the new pot is well-drained: Make sure it has holes on the bottom for draining excess water and improving aeration. You must pre-moisten the potting mix before repotting.
- Set up a tray/saucer: If you’re planning to water from the bottom, you must have a good saucer filled with pebbles.
- Ensure uniform moisture: Water until the new potting mix is evenly moist. This will ensure uniform root development.
- Check often: Inspect the soil almost every day for signs of waterlogging or dryness. Make sure the leaves aren’t wet. If the top ¼ to ½ inch of soil has dried out, water your repotted plant again.
- Your polka-dot plant is more likely to suffer from overwatering than underwatering
- Water only when the top ¼ to ½ of the soil has reasonably dried out.
- Reduce watering frequency during winter, and pick up the pace from early spring through summer to fall.
- Avoid overhead watering; instead opt for base irrigation, from-below watering, and self-watering pots.