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Bottom watering can be a great way to ensure that your Monstera’s soil is thoroughly moistened when you water. It can be easier, if you have the space to set up a bottom watering station, but it’s neither better nor worse than top watering.
Your Monstera just want water. It doesn’t care which end it comes in.
If you’re new to houseplants, I have a complete guide to Monstera deliciosa here.
What’s the best way to water a Monstera?
Whatever’s easiest for you.
There is no right way to water a plant – just, you know, make sure it has enough water.
Ideally, we’d soak the rootball thoroughly as soon as it’s more or less dry.
Make sure water is running out the drainage holes. If you’re bottom watering, wait until the soil is moist at the top.
Remember that in the wild, a lot of a Monstera's water comes from rain, and that's not ideal, because most plants would prefer to not get their leaves wet. But as you'll probably agree, it works pretty well as a system. not all water can be groundwater - it has to get into the ground somehow.
I mix it up.
Sometimes I bottom water, sometimes I top water.
Just depends on how I’m feeling.
Sometimes I gather all my plants outside, hose them down, and leave them out to dry off whilst I vacuum up all the errant soil around my house*.
*I don’t recommend this if you have as many plants as I do. It’s exhausting.
You know when you decide to declutter a room so you get everything out and the exact moment you lose all motivation is when the messiness is at its peak?
It’s the same with moving dozens of heavy plants.
Is bottom watering good for Monstera?
It depends on the size of your plant. it can be a pain in a big plant.
Basically, the bigger your Monstera, the bigger the bucket you’ll need to sit it in to get it to absorb water all the way up to the top.
The way bottom watering works is that water is sucked up through the soil using capillary action BUT water is heavy, and after a while, gravity negates the capillary action and the water can’t get any higher unless the water level rises.
When I bottom water big plants, I put them in a bucket, fill the bucket so that it reaches about halfway up the side of the pot, and leave it until the top of the soil is wet.
If you're bottom watering to get rid of gnats, take out the top layer of soil, then put it back when the rest of the soil is wet. I mean, I could say 'take the Monstera out of the bucket just before the top of the soil gets wet' but that is a useless instruction. If you want to keep the top of the dry...don't let it get wet.
Bottom watering isn’t inherently better or worse than top watering – there are pros and cons to both, but if you ONLY bottom water or ONLY top water…that’s fine. Your plants will NOT care.
However, there are a couple of instances when bottom watering can be beneficial.
The first is the aforementioned fungus gnat issue.
If you have a bottom watering regime that reduces fungus gnats, good for you.
If your Monstera is too big to bottom water (i.e. you can’t actually move it without it being a massive ballache), then you can top dress with sand/stones or, as I said before, remove some soil when you come to water.
The second is hydrophobic soil – bottom watering can help it start absorbing water again. Top watering can cause soil compaction over time (though if you have a nice, chunky mix it’s unlikely to be an issue) and bottom watering can free it up again.
That being said, bottom watering isn’t the whole cure here – it’s just the first step. You’ll likely have to add orchid bark or something to the soil to stop it from happening again. Unless you just forgot to water your cactus for a year. I’ve been there!
How long should I leave my Monstera to bottom water?
A lot of bottom watering articles say to leave your plant for about 15 minutes, but in my experience that’s not long enough at all, unless you’re using a very dense potting mix.
Fifteen minutes might be fine for a very small plant, but a large plant may need a couple of hours. I used to leave my plants soaking whilst I was at work, and then take them out when I got home. Sometimes I’d leave them overnight.
Monstera have pretty sturdy roots and as long as you’re not soaking them too often (make sure they’re dry before soaking them) they won’t mind this at all. Unless it’s winter when they might find it a bit chilly.
Will bottom watering my Monstera cause root rot?
Bottom watering is no more likely to cause root rot than top watering unless you’re using a VERY dense soil mix.
Watering style is 100% about convenience – especially with hardy plants like Monstera.
That being said, there are rumours that you can only bottom water plants such as African violets because they’ll die if they get wet leaves.
You can top water African violets.
They get wet in the wild. Just try to make sure to tip off excess water so the water doesn’t pool on their leaves.
There is nothing about either top or bottom watering that is better or worse. If you want to top water go for it. Ditto bottom watering. As long as your plants are getting water they won't care at all.