Does rosemary prefer to be bottom watered or watered from the top? If you have wondered that, then this post is for you.
It was not until fairly recently, when I spoke to a professional gardener with decades of experience more than me, that I really understood how much of a difference it can make to water rosemary from the bottom. This is what the gardener told me about it:
It is always best to water rosemary from the bottom when possible. Bottom watering promotes root growth, reduces the risk of overwatering and the risk of mold on the soil and leaves, and ensures a more efficient watering.
The only disadvantage of bottom watering plants is that it takes a little bit longer than watering from the top, but the benefits outweigh that by a lot. At least in my opinion.
Below, I cover four reasons why it is worth it to water your rosemary from the bottom even though it takes a little bit more time.
If you still prefer to water your rosemary from the top, that’s fine, but then I recommend you at least read from the last headline in this post, as I share some tips that can make it much better for your plant without taking more time.
Why Bottom Watering Is Best for Rosemary (4 Reasons)
Bottom watering essentially means that instead of just pouring water directly onto the top of the soil a plant is growing in, you pour the water into the plate, tray, (or whatever else) a potted plant is placed on. That way, the water is soaked up into the soil instead of flowing down from the top, which has several advantages.
Not so long ago, I had a good chat with an older gardener who had been growing rosemary for more than a decade, and she told me some really useful things about why it is good to water rosemary from the bottom. I have shared everything she told me in this post.
1. Bottom watering encourages root growth
The most important reason it is better to water rosemary from the bottom than from the top is that it encourages root growth, leading to bigger, healthier, and more productive plants.
Bottom watering plants promotes root growth by encouraging the roots to grow and stretch in order to better reach and absorb the water. A bigger root system allows the plant to obtain water and nutrients more efficiently, resulting in larger, faster-growing, and overall healthier plants.
The reason why bottom watering leads to a bigger and more robust root system is that the roots will try to seek out the water. Roots will do what they can to reach water, so when you pour the water into the plate underneath the pot, the roots will try to stretch to reach it. When you water the plant from the top, the water will flow right down to the roots without any effort on their side.
2. Bottom watering reduces risk of overwatering
Bottom watering is also an excellent way to reduce the risk of overwatering rosemary. I learned that the hard way before I knew how good bottom watering was.
You can reduce the risk of overwatering your plants by using the bottom watering method. Simply pour water into the plate underneath the pot and wait for the water to be soaked up. When the water no longer gets soaked up, the plant has had enough, so make sure to remove the excess water from the plate.
By reducing the risk of overwatering, you also reduce the risk of other issues such as powdery mildew, which is a white, powdery fungus that can sometimes be seen on plants’ leaves.
Of course, overwatering can still happen even though you water your rosemary from the bottom, but the risk is significantly lower. If you need to know more about overwatering rosemary, I have written a post where I cover five signs to look out for and another post where I explain how to save it.
3. Bottom watering reduces the risk of mold
Bottom watering rosemary can also reduce the risk of mold. Both on the soil and the leaves.
By bottom watering rosemary, the top of the soil will dry out more often, which reduces the risk of mold appearing on the soil significantly. Additionally, keeping the plant and leaves dry also reduces the risk of mold on them significantly.
Having water on the leaves can also sometimes result in the leaves rotting, but I have only ever seen this a few times. It does take a while for leaves to rot after all, and the water will usually not stay for so long.
4. More water gets obtained with bottom watering
Other than encouraging root growth and reducing the risk of various issues, bottom watering can actually also be more efficient than watering from the top when it comes to the amount of water used.
Bottom watering increases the amount of water a plant can absorb. The reason is that the water is not as exposed to the sunlight as it would be if it was poured directly onto the top of the soil, which can cause some of the water to evaporate before it sinks into the ground.
This is perhaps most relevant for plants that are staying in full sun, but since rosemary is one of those plants, I wanted to include it. You can read more about rosemary and sunlight here.
It is, of course, only possible to water a potted plant from the bottom if the pot has drainage holes where that the can be soaked up through. But if you are growing rosemary in a pot without drainage holes, I highly recommend that you move it to one with one or more holes at the bottom, as good drainage is one of the most important things for rosemary to grow well. I use and recommend terra cotta pots.
I cover drainage and more in this post about finding the best place to put rosemary.
If you prefer to just water rosemary from the top because it is faster or easier, that is fine, but then I highly recommend that you read the next few paragraphs, as I cover a few tips that can make it better for your plant without taking more time.
Is It Fine if You Don’t Bottom Water Rosemary?
Before writing this post, I talked to a gardener with more than a decade of experience with growing rosemary. I told her that I had been watering my rosemary from the top for a long time and asked if that was a problem.
She said that it is usually fine to water rosemary from the top, but that it can lead to some issues that can be avoided by bottom watering the plant. Namely these:
- Watering rosemary from the top causes the roots to grow less than with bottom watering, ultimately causing the plant to grow and produce slower.
- If you get water on the leaves when watering a plant, it can affect how well the plant obtains sunlight, so try to hold the watering can or hose close to the ground to prevent the water from splashing onto the leaves.
- Leaves can take damage if there is water on them. Either if the water is heated by the sunlight, or if the water stays for long enough to cause the leaves to rot.
Finally, the gardener I spoke to about this told me that no matter what, it is always better to water your plants, regardless of the method, than not watering them. So if you don’t have time to bottom water your rosemary, just water it however you want, but try to implement the tips I shared here.