Bottom Watering Plants: Complete Guide from 10yrs Experience

Bottom Watering Plants

When placed in a watering tray, bottom watering enables plants to collect water from the bottom up through capillary action throughout the soil. After 15 to 20 minutes, the plant is taken from the tray, and the extra water is allowed to freely drain from the soil.

Before it can receive another bottom watering, the soil is still wet for 3 to 4 days.

The measures you can take to bottom water your plants successfully based on our years of experience are outlined in this post along with an explanation of how bottom watering works. So read on to discover the advantages of bottom watering for your plants.

What is Bottom Watering

Applying water to plants from the ground up is known as bottom watering. In contrast to the traditional watering technique, capillary action pulls the water up into and throughout the soil.

Plants are put in a bottom watering dish and given 15 to 20 minutes to sit there.

In our experience, this watering technique works because it provides the water adequate time to enter and fill the entire root system.

The roots are now more readily accessible to nutrients from the surrounding soil. This has led to healthier plants with more vibrantly green foliage.

Are you considering bottom watering trays? I was fortunate to find some sturdy, reasonably priced trays that worked nicely for all of my plants. By clicking here, you can access them.

How Bottom Watering Works?

The ability of the soil to absorb water through upward capillary action is how bottom irrigation works.

It should be noted that not all soils will absorb water at the same pace.

The type and quantity of soil amendments, as well as the soil’s structure, affect how quickly substances are absorbed.

The soil’s quality is one of a few factors that can, however, prevent the bottom watering procedure from failing.

Bottom Watering tips

  1. Easy-to-manage plants that require little water
  2. Make sure the planter has drainage holes at the bottom.
  3. Until the soil is damp on top, water.
  4. After bottom watering, place the plant in a different container to allow any extra water to drain.
  5. Utilize a special flat container that is larger than the plant.
  6. Depending on the plants’ nutrient needs, think about applying fertilizer when bottom watering.
  7. Rotate the bottom watering schedule for various plants if you have a lot of them, as I do, so it doesn’t seem like a chore.

How to Bottom water plants

Step 1: Pour water into your tray or container until it is 1 inch above the dirt in your planter.

Note: Different soil types absorb water in different ways, especially if the planter has rocks at the bottom. This must be taken into account by pouring enough water such that the soil is 1 inch higher than the pebbles.

Step 2: Set your plants inside the water-filled tray.

In my experience, when tiny plants with really dried-out soil are submerged in water, the plant and soil can just float to the surface. You can leave it there without worrying since it will gradually soak up water and settle back into the container. It could be wise to repot the plant at this time, as I have.

Step 3: After the plants have been in the water for 15 to 20 minutes, check the soil’s moisture level.

I’ve discovered that you can take the plant out of the watering tray once the top of the soil feels moist to the touch.

After some time has passed, if the soil’s top is still dry, you may simply add some water to the top and let it drain so that the entire mass of the soil is moist.

Step 4: Drain the water from your sink and hang the plants out to dry for a while.

The water level in the watering container will decrease as the water is absorbed by the soil. This is totally acceptable. You will need to top up the container with water if all of the water has been used up and the top layer of soil still feels dry to the touch.

When I use bottom watering to water my various plants, I’ve noticed that the majority of them will take the water right up to the top of the soil and very few won’t.

This is not a major problem, but you should look into it because there might be something wrong with that soil.

Repotting the plant with fresh soil and soil supplements will usually be quite beneficial!

Additionally, there are several locations, such as sinks, bathrooms, and even the outdoors, that make bottom watering enjoyable and simple and can help prevent any mess created by spilt water.

Bottom watering can be done on –

  • Ceramic pots
  • Textile Planters
  • Pottery Pots
  • Pliable pots
  • Cement-based pots
  • Metal vases

Plants that Bottom Watering Works Best with

The best method for small- and medium-sized plants is bottom watering. Heavy and tall plants should not be grown with this strategy.

For instance, African violets can grow discolored leaves if you water them from the top.

Some root-bound plants prevent the soil from absorbing adequate moisture, but bottom watering can solve this issue.

Similar to piggyback plants, watermelon peperomia does not like wet leaves, thus you can utilize the bottom watering method on them.

Plants that prefer bottom irrigation.

  • drake tree
  • fig fiddle leaf
  • Pothos
  • Cissus
  • Vegetable spider
  • Ponytail
  • Calatheas

With seedlings, bottom watering is also quite successful, and we have created a thorough essay on how to do it. view the article here

Can you Bottom Water Succulents?

Yes. Succulents can be bottom-watered.

Succulents that are bottom watered receive just the right amount of water for the soil, preventing the plant from becoming overwatered. The soil only absorbs as much water as it can hold before draining freely and being sufficiently moist. Succulents that are bottom watered don’t develop the mushy, soft leaves that come from overwatering.

Advantages of Bottom Watering Plants

The benefits of bottom watering mostly stem from the stimulation of plant root growth that results from the uniform distribution of water throughout the soil. The plant root is encouraged to spread and acquire all of the nutrients the soil can offer as the entire soil structure gets moist.

Prevents Overwatering

Bottom watering helps plants and seedlings to get only the quantity of water necessary for healthy growth and development by allowing the soil to remain moist for a period of time.

I’ve observed that the plants I’ve watered using this technique grow steadily well without my having to worry about overwatering them.

When to remove the plant from the tray can be determined by a quick touch test. For the majority of plants, we have discovered that this time frame is often between 15 and 20 minutes.

Helps plants develop Stronger roots

Roots typically grow more healthily as they receive only the necessary amount of water when the entire soil mass is exposed to water through the wicking action of the water from the bottom to the top.

Water cannot saturate the air voids and deprive the roots of oxygen, which can cause root rot and other fungi-related problems.

Roots spread Evenly throughout the Soil

Plants receive superior physical and nutritional support when they are irrigated from the bottom because their roots spread uniformly throughout the soil’s mass.

The advantage for nutrition is that by allowing the roots to access all of the nutrients the earth has to offer, they can maximize the amount of nutrients taken up by the plant.

Plants grow healthily as a result of this.

Reduces Plant Pests and Fungal diseases

Bottom watering maintains the surface moist for a brief time, which promotes the growth of fewer pests and causes the leaves to flourish.

Small bugs called fungus gnats infest soil. Their larvae chew roots, which can be a concern, although they largely eat fungi and organic debris in the soil. These flies prefer overwatered soil because it offers the perfect setting for reproduction.

By preventing water from building up at the surface for extended periods of time, bottom watering helps to reduce gnat infestations in the soil surrounding the plant.

The start of root rot, which is brought on when water overcrowds the roots and stops them from taking oxygen from the surrounding air spaces, is additionally prevented by preventing overwatering.

Disadvantages of Bottom Watering

In addition to its many advantages, bottom watering has a number of drawbacks.

Mineral Buildup 

Bottom watering can result in the buildup of salts and minerals in the soil, which can weaken the roots and result in root burns.

Tap water is the most accessible and, in most circumstances, safe for plants, so it is simple to use for bottom-watering plants. Personally, I drink tap water.

However, using tap water to water plants continuously may eventually cause salt and mineral buildup on the roots, which may make it difficult for the plants to absorb nutrients.

This causes rotting, stunted development, and root tip burning. Membranes exist in plant cells, allowing water to enter while keeping bigger salts out.

What I do advise is that you occasionally change things up. Rainwater or some distilled water applied from the top will help flush out any mineral buildup around the roots.

Bottom Watering Larger Pots

For larger plants, bottom watering might be fairly tricky. Larger plants will take a long time to absorb enough moisture if you have some at home.

If your plants are in clay pots, the issue gets worse. You must therefore strike the ideal balance between watering your huge plants from the bottom and the top.

Larger plants can be difficult to manage and dangerous if you make a mistake because you could hurt yourself as well as the plant.

Additionally, there are bottom watering systems that have an integrated water tank that waters the plant when full, allowing plants, particularly those in larger pots, to be bottom watered.

The Inconvenience 

Sad to say, but I’m now finding it difficult to maintain a schedule for watering all of my plants from the bottom.

Aside from the fact that some of them are so difficult to manage, I really don’t want to strain myself by lifting 20 or more heavy plants every few days to water them at the bottom.

Honestly, even for a plant nut like myself, it may get to be a nuisance.

If you have a lot of plants, I do advise that you bottom water them selectively.

Alternate the watering schedule to prevent the impression that you are being drained of vitality. My numerous plants benefited greatly from this.

These watering trays, which I have discovered to be incredibly sturdy and manageable, also contributed.

How Often Should you Bottom Water Plants?

Bottom watering guarantees that the plant receives only the necessary amount of water by using the same methods for watering plants.

Plats need to have their bottoms irrigated twice a week. With bottom watering, the soil mass receives enough water to endure for three to four days. In order to give the roots enough time to absorb the necessary amount of water before it needs to be watered again, the soil will begin to dry out from top to bottom.

Visit our in-depth post on how often to bottom water plants for a more thorough explanation of when to do so and the variables that influence the procedure.

When to Bottom Water Plants?

Early in the morning, late in the evening, and at night are the optimum times to bottom-water plants. The amount of time the water needs to seep into the soil can be sped up by bottom watering between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. For optimal results, bottom watering should be done when the soil is dry.

However, there are environmental factors that might impact bottom watering’s effectiveness, which we explore in detail in our article on when to bottom water plants.

Best Water for Bottom Watering

Rainwater is the ideal liquid for watering plants at the soil level. The plant’s growth is influenced by the water’s quality. Different types of water, including tap water, pool water, well water, and mineral water, contain varying levels of minerals and nutrients, and not all are suitable for watering plants at the soil’s base.

Tap Water

A tap or water dispenser valve is used to supply municipal or tap water. It comes from a treatment plant that removes impurities and purifies the water before it is piped out and eventually reaches our homes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rank the United States’ drinking water supply as one of the safest in the world (Source).

I believe that if something is safe to drink, it is also safe to water plants. And quite rightly so—I’ve been watering my plants with tap water for years without experiencing any negative effects related to plant diseases.

However, depending on where you live and the surrounding environment, the water from your tap can include toxins. If you have reason to believe it does, you should look into other, more practical water sources for the sake of your health and the health of your plants.

As was previously mentioned, tap water can have some drawbacks in terms of minerals and their gradual deposition on the roots.

Rain Water

The finest water to use to water your plants from below is rainwater. Calcium, magnesium, and iron are among the minerals found in trace amounts in rainwater. Additionally, it has a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, making it mildly acidic. The mild acidity encourages the plant to absorb nutrients.

It has little in the way of minerals, but it is also free of pollutants like fluoride and chlorine.

I’ve tried using rainfall to water the ground, and it has always worked.

The only issue is that setting up a workable system for gathering the water could be challenging.

However, it could be against the law to collect rainwater in some states. The only states that have strict regulations to prevent homeowners from collecting and using rain that falls on their land are Colorado and Utah.

Well Water

Untreated groundwater is known as well water. An aquifer, or subterranean layer of permeable rock containing water, is where the well is drilled.

Well water is one of the least expensive options for plants, excluding tap water.

Potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium are just a few of the crucial elements for plants that can be found in the water that filters through rocks and ends up in the well.

However, it has occasionally been discovered that through the same filtering, contaminants like mercury and high nitrogen levels may also be present in the water, which can seriously harm both your and your plant’s health.

Distilled Water

A sort of purified water that has had impurities and minerals removed is called distillate water.

To get rid of contaminants and minerals, water is heated to a boil, then the steam is condensed back into a liquid during the distillation process.

This is by far the cleanest water you can give your plants, but it takes some labor and costs extra to boil the water.

In order to ensure that your plants are receiving the necessary minerals, I would advise you to stick to your fertilization schedule since this water doesn’t contribute any minerals to the soil.

Can you overwater from bottom watering?

No, because the soil can only store a finite volume of water due to the connections formed between water molecules and the soil as it defies gravity, bottom-watering plants won’t result in overwatering. During bottom watering, any more water will not be absorbed by and retained in the soil.

The water supply will be depleted to the point that the earth can no longer contain it. When the plant is taken out of the bottom watering tray or sink, the extra water in the soil will drain off.

Bottom watering essentially stops overwatering by letting water that has been absorbed into the soil freely flow out of the soil through the same hole it entered.

Can bottom watering affect soil?

When a plant is bottom watered, a good bottom watering soil should have good aeration and gaps for the water to be efficiently absorbed.

Bottom watering moistens the soil, enables stale air to be forced out by the water during the process, and allows fresh air to be brought back in when the water is drained.

Bottom watering has a beneficial effect on soil because it leaves the soil fully hydrated after watering, enabling the plant to use the mineral ions in the soil in an atmosphere with enough oxygenation (aeration).

Bottom watering gives the following advantages for soil:

  • A Population of Healthy Microorganisms
  • Enhanced aeration
  • Increased availability of minerals to plants
  • keeps dirt from compacting

Adding Fertilizer when Bottom Watering

Bottom watering encourages root growth, when combined with fertilizer, it can also promote plant growth.

When watering from the bottom, fertilizer can be added. Bottom watering enables the fertilizer to travel up into the soil with the water. This enables the plant’s complete root system to get the fertilizer’s nutrients.

During the growing season, a water-soluble fertilizer should be mixed with the water during bottom watering.

When fertilizer is mixed with water, the nutrient can move upward and soak into the soil during routine watering.

Based on our experience providing fertilizer while bottom watering, we wrote a more in-depth article.

Bottom Watering vs Top Watering

Bottom-watering plants keeps the soil evenly moist so that the entire root system receives water, but the drawback is that salt buildup occurs over time.

Top watering promotes the growth of fungus and gnats while the water can be directed away from the soil and does not go to the complete root system.

However, combining them will solve these issues.

We’ve published a thorough post comparing bottom vs. top watering.

Ground WateringBest Watering
minimizes overwateringCan overwatering occur?
Eliminates pestsmay result in leaf fungus
Enhances the growth of the rootsroot rot due to excessive irrigation
hydrates all of the soil.Water easily channels out.

The Takeaway

Bottom watering is a simple method for letting plants absorb only the water they require. It entails setting up a watering dish for the plant and letting capillary action carry the water upward into the soil.

Bottom watering has a variety of benefits, but the main one is that it encourages good root development, which in turn leads to healthy plant growth.

If you have a lot of plants, it also pays to change things up sometimes or follow a rotation schedule so that the minerals in the water don’t accumulate at the roots and hurt your plant.

Happy bottom watering from us to you on your plant watering journey! We hope this post was useful to you.


How long is too long for bottom watering?

The medium should be completely moistened in 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the soil’s permeability, the size of the plant’s pot, and its capacity for drainage. There is no set period of time that you must keep a plant submerged. While a half-hour is acceptable, leaving children unattended for hours is unsafe.

Can you overwater with bottom watering?

Can you overwater by watering the bottom? Yes, you can still overwater your plant by watering from the bottom if it has been submerged in water for too long. Bottom watering is a more controlled way to water your plants, though.

How long should plants sit in bottom watering?

15-20 minutes

Does bottom watering cause root rot?

When plants receive too much water from bottom watering, the roots become mushy and snap off easily, killing the roots and increasing the risk of root rot. For larger plants, bottom watering might be fairly tricky. Larger plants will take a long time to absorb enough moisture if you have some at home.

Is it OK to bottom water plants overnight?

Never, ever leave your plant submerged in water for a long time. We’ve observed people leaving their plants in water overnight, but we don’t recommend it. You should wash the soil through once a month from the top to remove any salt or minerals that may have accumulated on the surface.