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I’m gonna guess that you’re here because you’re a serial overwaterer.
That’s ok, but it’s also not something you can continue to do without killing plants.
I’m going to give you a list of plants that like to stay moist BUT it’s important to know that NO plant will survive consistent overwatering, not because they don’t like to have damp soil, but because they need oxygen.
If you overwater plants, the soil becomes mud, and there are no gaps for air. Anaerobic bacteria start to thrive, which cause rot. It’s not the water that’s to blame – it’s the bacteria.
BTW - Plants that grow in just water have water roots, so they can absorb oxygen from water, just as fish can using their gills. That water must be kept relatively clean and be well oxygenated. Very few plants grow well in boggy, muddy conditions, and those that do require very specifc care. Approach with caution.
‘Good at overwatering plants’ does NOT mean ‘great at caring for bog plants’. If only.
Calathea do NOT like to dry out, but that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to things that Calathea do not like. Here’s a non-extensive list of things Calathea hate:
- Too much light
- Too much dark
- Low humidity
- Really high humidity
- Too much fertiliser
- The wrong kind of fertiliser
- Being hungry (you know how cats are with food? Same with Calathea. Some are fine with anything, some are NOT)
- Lack of airflow
- Too big of a pot
- Too small of a pot
- Anything touching their leaves
- Anything in their water that isn’t hydrogen or oxygen, but the molecules must be arranged in a particular way
The great thing about Calathea is that they’re non-toxic. They are also delicious though – my rabbit ate one and a half large Calathea overnight – so it’s fine if your cat eats them, but also your cat WILL eat them.
Oh, and you what else fins them irresistible? Spider mites. Good luck getting rid of THOSE bastards.
But also they’re so beautiful, so you will need to experience the pain before giving up and deciding to go with…
They’re beautiful, not at all fussy*, and they come in various pink colourways. They’re not massive on drying out a lot, but they survive it.
If you keep them in a terrarium they grow quickly and BIG.
*ok, some are fussy, like the Pictum Tricolor, but since it’s expensive and difficult to source ethically, I’m just not gonna get one.
Fittonia are incredibly easy to keep IF you’re great at keeping them damp AND you have great humidity. If not…I wouldn’t bother personally, because I’m an underwaterer, but you know you best.
They also stay small and you can get a load of different colours.
Ferns differ a lot when it comes to how tolerant they are of under/over watering. If you’re an overwaterer and have a nice bright spot, you might be one of the few, lucky souls that can keep a maidenhair fern alive without having to dedicate a not insignificant amount of time to it.
High ambient humidity is a must when it comes to keeping the more delicate ferns healthy – they do NOT like to get their fronds wet. We used to spray down our terrarium soil to increase the humidity (this only works in a small space) and the maidenhair fronds were dead and brown but there was a tonne of new growth.
Peace lilies either thrive or they don’t. I have no idea what determines this other than luck.
I have no problem keeping them alive, and I’m a neglecter by nature. I water one of mine when it droops and the other one lives in water (it’s in the top right of the aquarium above).
They do like to stay moist, but they don’t mind drying out. Or they do, it depends on yours.
I have seen literally hundreds of Facebook posts either bemoaning peace lilies and their inability to hang onto life, or people wondering why they’re often seen as picky when there’s isn’t.
I have no explanation, other than that peace lilies like to keep up our toes/driving us up the wall.
The most important thing about pothos care is light. Give them great light and they’ll grow like weeds.
They’re not particularly fussy either way when it comes to watering. If you want a plant to overwater, stick a pothos in a VERY airy, chunky, well-draining soil mix and water away. If you want to leave it for months on end, stick it in a dense mix and leave it alone
R. tetrasperma are happy to live in consistently damp soil IF they have well aerated soil and good light.
In fact, good light can be the key to saving plants from overwaterers because it enables the plants to grow quickly and use the water before it becomes stagnant and gross.
Alocasia like to stay consistently damp but they do NOT like to be overwatered. They’re notorious for getting edema and if you water them too often you end up with rotten leaves.
They also guttate a lot (I have an article on guttation here, but it’s when plants expel excess water through their leaves – you often see a water droplet hanging from the tip of a leaf or two)
Similar to Alocasia, but they have thicker leaves so they’re tolerant of being overwatered for longer, but not forever.
Remember at the beginning when I was talking about how much of a pain bog plants are to take care of? In the house plant industry, the main bog plants that we come across are carnivorous plants.
And they are NOT easy to care for.
- They need to be kept consistently damp
- They need a special carnivorous plant soil mix
- They need bright light but burn easily (yes, this is a thing)
- They do NOT like to be touched. Don’t force them to close/touch their, er, insect catchers (???)
- They need a consistent supply of food
- They are VERY particular about water quality
A lot of house plant hobbyists specialise in carnivorous plants and insist they’re easy to care for. And I’m not accusing them of lying. They probably are once you know what you’re doing. But they’re different to other house plants and need specialist care.
Imagine you get a goldfish. They’re easy to care for and you don’t need much equipment (you think). You put it in a bowl and look after it. It’s similar to getting a snake plant. It’ll live in a dark corner and never need watering (you think).
Then you get a bunch more (tropical) fish/house plants and do a bit of research.
As it turns out, goldfish need a tonne of care, and a literal pond to meet their MOST BASIC needs. Snake plants need decent light for the same reason.
If you’re keeping up with the analogy, carnivorous plants are like marine fish. They need more specialist care and the wrong water will kill them. It’s not that they’re impossible to care for, but you’re better of building a foundation of knowledge before splashing out on a load of equipment just to watch them die.
Plants can’t survive in a muddy quagmire. Even plants that live in a muddy quagmire are INCREDIBLY specific about the parameters of that muddy quagmire.
If you can’t stop overwatering, you’re gonna need to get a really, really chunky soil so that the water drains quickly.
Another thing you can do is invest in a grow light like the Mars Hydro 1000w (review here). It’ll not only give the plants more energy so that they grow faster, but it creates a bit of heat that’ll dry out the soil (and create a bit of bonus humidity!).