Gardener's Monthly and Horticulturist 17: 85-86 (March 1875)

Do Plants Need Water?
Thomas Meehan

If any one thinks plants need water, he can try by stopping up the hole in the bottom of a flower pot, in which a plant is growing. This will be one of the best ways of learning that the essence of all good culture is to get rid of the water in the soil as soon as possible. This is the great principle that underlies the practice of underdraining land. We want moist air in the soil, not water. "Firm potting" favors a large amount of air spaces. If soil is moderately dry, the more we "pound" it, the more we pulverize it,—and pulverization means dividing into minute particles. The more particles the more spaces—the more spaces, the more porous is the mass. Every pore contains air, and this air is moist air, and it is on this moisture that the plants draw. There is no difference in the manner by which a root draws moisture from the atmosphere under the ground and that by which a root of an air plant draws moisture above the ground. If you take the earth in which a healthy plant is growing, and handle it you will find no water in it; but you will find it moist enough to dampen a piece of paper perhaps. We do not know that any amount of pressure would squeeze water out of some soils in which plants grow healthy, though possibly moist air might be so compressed as to make water. Indeed the matter seems so clear to us, that we supposed it would only be necessary to state it as we have, to ensure conviction. And we wonder very much that writers still continue to use the word water, when they speak of the necessary conditions in the food of plants.—Ed. G. M.]