Gardening experts reveal the best and worst time of day to water your plants

Gardening experts reveal the best time of day to water your plants, debunking a common gardening myth along the way

Watering healthy plants
(Image credit: Getty)

The best time of day to water your plants has been determined – and it may not be what you think. There's often considerable confusion around the correct time of day for watering plants. Should you do it at night or during the day? Will lunchtime watering scorch your plants, and if you've missed the best time for watering, should you water anyway? 

Even experienced gardeners, it turns out, sometimes get this crucial part of garden plant care wrong. Fortunately, now we have a definite answer on the subject from experts. 

Purple flowers in flowerbed with metal watering can

(Image credit: Irina Papoyan/Alamy Stock Photo)

Gardeners everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief because it turns out that so long as you water your plants at some point during the day and not at night, you are watering correctly. Many gardening experts will advise to water in the morning, if possible, because this will ensure optimal hydration throughout the day. 

This is not because lunchtime sun will burn the leaves of your plants. As gardener James Wong writes in the Guardian, 'we are told to avoid watering on hot, sunny days at all costs, as water droplets can apparently create tiny lenses to focus the sun’s rays and burn the leaves of plants.' Actually, this can't happen because 'water droplets evaporate off far too fast for this “lens effect” to ever actually happen.'

By not watering 'extremely thirsty, wilted plants in scorching weather due to fear of burning them' you may actually be doing more harm than good. If they need water, just water them. 

If you live in a drought-prone zone and don't want to water often, take a look at our Mediterranean garden ideas for advice on drought-tolerant plants.

raised garden beds: Girl waters her raised beds with hosepipe

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There is, however, a reason why watering in the morning might still be better. As Wong explains, 'precisely because water evaporates off quickly on hot, sunny days, watering in the cool of the evening or morning is generally more efficient.' 

Dobbies Horticultural Director, Marcus Eyles, agrees: 'Early morning is the optimal time to water plants, avoiding the hottest part of the day when this will quickly evaporate and allowing a chance for plant roots to take in what they need. Late afternoon or early evening is ok for watering, so that the plants have time to drink up the water before the heat of the following day.' 

Whatever you do, however – don't water 'too late at night as this can lead to fungus growth.' Canadian soil scientist Ashley Labrecque who runs the Gardening in Canada YouTube channel confirms: 'You are going to reduce the risk of bacterial, or fungal, or any sort of infection by watering during the day because you have more air movement' in the soil. This is very important for preventing harmful bacteria from growing. 

Morning, lunchtime, or afternoon – the choice is yours; just don't water after dark. And explore our low maintenance garden ideas so you don't have to water too often during the summer either.