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Best time of day to water landscape plants

When it comes to watering plants in the yard, there is a lot of conflicting advice, which can be perplexing for a gardener. We’ll answer the question, “When is the best time to water plants?” by explaining the science behind it.

You will also learn if you can rescue wilting plants.

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When to Water Your Landscape Plants

It is common knowledge that plants need regular watering to survive. But very few people know the specific functions of water for the health of plants.

Why do plants need water?

Many chemical processes involving water are directly involved in the construction and breakdown of key cell components.

Photosynthesis, the process in which plants produce sugars for all living things, necessitates the presence of water. Water also aids in the formation of bigger molecules in cells. In biology, water plays a vital structural role. Water fills cells to help them keep their shape and structure.

Fresh water is an essential need for terrestrial plants. And, seed germination is made possible by water. Its inorganic mineral nutrition is facilitated by its absorption from the soil, and its flux via the plant’s vascular tissues distributes nutrients and minerals all over the plant.

Watering plants is best done in the morning.

The best time of day to water landscape plants is early in the morning while it’s still cold, preferably between 5 AM and 9 AM. This is especially true if you’re watering your plants with a garden hose, sprinkler, or other things that will make their leaves wet.

When you water plants in the morning, you ensure fast drying of the wet foliage, which prevents fungal disease. Furthermore, applying water in the morning lets the water get absorbed into the soil with minimal evaporation.

What about watering plants in the afternoon?

Watering your plants during midday can be less effective because of faster evaporation, and because water droplets that sit on leaves in the hot midday sun can cause the leaves to burn. Also, if you’re relying on a sprinkler for afternoon watering, you may find that the increased wind might carry some of the water onto the patio, driveway, or other surrounding areas.

What about watering plants in the evening?

In the evening, when you’re watering plants with your sprinkler or garden hose, your plants have a higher risk of getting diseases because the plant leaves will likely stay moist all night.

What if you’re not using a sprinkler or something that will wet the leaves?

When utilizing a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system, watering gardens in the mornings and evenings is ideal. Because these approaches don’t make the plant leaves wet, watering in the evening isn’t an issue.

A plant needs more water if there’s heat and dry soil.

With only a few caveats, plants need water when the soil is dry to the touch. As a result, the frequency of watering will depend on how quickly the soil dries up. Push your finger about an inch deep into the dirt to ensure it’s dry underneath the surface as well. This simple method is particularly useful if it’s your first time growing plants, as it will get you accustomed to how your soils hold water.

Deep watering is the best for your plants. Watering a plant deeply will allow the water to soak deep into the soil which will encourage the roots to grow deeper, increasing the drought tolerance of the plant.

Most people don’t water deeply enough because it takes more time. You need to apply the water slowly, so that it will soak in, rather than run off. A well placed soaker hose is great for this. Be sure to soak the entire root area of the plant for maximum water intake.

You need to be aware of your soils absorption capabilities. If you have heavy clay soils that hold water for a long time, you need to give the soil time to dry out a bit in between watering. Plants that sit in a pool of water for long periods can’t get enough oxygen and will drown.

This is why it is so important for you to actually insert your finger into the soil near the roots so that you can feel the moisture. Automatic watering systems will often over-water the plants, which can be as damaging as under watering them.

The age of a plant matters.

To build a healthy root system, young and freshly planted plants require an adequate amount of water. To enhance root strength and growth, shallow and weak roots need extra water. Mature plants don’t require as much water as younger plants; instead, they require more water every time so that their deep roots may grow.

It might be tough to determine when to water because there are so many different plant types, but look for the obvious indications, such as wilting leaves.

When a plant is adequately hydrated, the water pressure inside the stems and leaves is sufficient to keep the leaves healthy and sturdy; when a plant is not properly hydrated, the pressure inside the stems and leaves decreases, causing the leaves to wilt.

If your plant’s health is deteriorating, the flowers refuse to blossom, the leaves are wilting, yellowing or browning, or the petals and leaves are falling off, the plant may be receiving too little or too much water.

Can you save overwatered or underwatered plants?

Did you know that overwatering also causes plants to wilt?

The very first step in rescuing your overwatered or underwatered plants is determining whether they are over or under watered. Once you have determined that, just remedy the situation and the plant should recover.

If you had been checking the soil moisture with your finger, this wouldn’t be likely to happen unless you live in an area with prolonged rain events or the plant is in an area that simply remains too wet at all times, in which case it will need to be moved to a new location or raised up higher to get it out of the water.

Because various plants require varying quantities of water, it’s important to test each one separately.


As you can see, caring for our landscape plants isn’t hard, it just takes some common sense. Far too often humans over complicate things when the simple answer is the best one. You don’t need moisture sensors and rain gauges, you just need to stick your finger into the ground like your ancestors would have done.

Walking through your yard with a clear mind, taking note of the conditions of the ground and the plants should tell you all that you need to know about the health of your yard. This isn’t a high tech or high stress situation, this is nature.


Smithsonian Science Education Center


Oregon State University

University of Vermont

UCSB Scienceline


University of Vermont

New Mexico State University