Water is a vital necessity for all living beings on the planet Earth. Humans need water to flush toxins out of systems, prevent organ failure, and many other essential purposes. Plants also need water just as much as humans do and may suffer or wither if they don’t get enough water.
Here are the nine signs that your plants are not getting enough water:
- Change in soil color
- Dry soil
- Leaves changing appearance/color
- Dry and dead leaf tips
- Drooping plant
- Decreased production
- Slow or no growth
- The plant feels lightweight
- The plant is dying or already dead
This article will cover the nine signs that your plants are not receiving enough water and tips on how to get them rehydrated in no time!
1. Change in Soil Color
While your plant might not immediately show signs of dehydration, you can confirm it by checking the color of the soil or substrate you planted it on.
If you take a peek into the plant pot and the soil is a deep color, your plant most likely has enough water. However, if the soil color appears lighter than it should, you may need to water your plant accordingly.
However, it also depends greatly on the type of plant you have. Some plants, such as succulents, can endure a bit of dry soil between watering schedules. If you have such a plant, you wouldn’t need to water it as soon as you notice a change in soil color.
2. Dry Soil
Maybe your plant has gotten so overgrown that you cannot get an accurate read on the soil color.
There are two ways you can check if the soil has dried out:
The Touch or Finger Test
To see if the soil on your plant is dry, simply touch it. You can use a finger or your whole palm, depending on the size of the plant. If your finger or palm feels damp, then your plant has enough water. If your finger or palm feels dry, then watering is needed.
You can also poke your finger an inch or two (2.5-5 cm) into the soil to check how dry the soil is below the surface. Depending on your plant’s moisture requirement, this is often a good indicator that your plant needs water.
The only downside is if you’re growing a plant that’s almost as wide as the pot or has spines, such as cacti.
The Stick Test
Plant care can sometimes be dirty work, but maybe this time around, you don’t feel like getting your finger or hand dirty. Take a wooden chopstick, pencil, toothpick, or whatever you have lying around, and stick it into the pot 1-3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm) deep, depending on your plant’s moisture requirement.
Just be careful not to damage the roots in the process. Stop right away or redirect the stick when you feel some resistance. Wounding the roots can make the plant susceptible to diseases.
If the object you used comes out of the soil darker or with dirt attached to it, your plant is well-watered. If the object comes out the same color or without any soil attached to it, your plant is in need of water.
Understand your plant’s water requirements and provide them accordingly. Sometimes, even if you stick to the recommended watering schedule from your plant’s supplier, the issue may be with your soil’s inability to retain or drain excess moisture.
If your soil dries up too quickly, you may need to repot your plant or add organic material like compost into your pot to increase its moisture retention capacity.
A moisture meter is an excellent device to check your soil’s moisture level. It comes with a long metal probe that can vary in length depending on the brand. Ensure that you wipe the probe clean each time you stick it into the soil for an accurate reading.
Many houseplants require deep watering once every 1-2 weeks. However, if your plant is drying up too soon, it can indicate a problem with the soil quality and texture.
Say for instance you have a peaty substrate that’s supposed to hold moisture for longer. If the reading on the moisture meter shows dry (1-3) only 1-2 days after watering your plant, there’s a chance that the peat moss has become hydrophobic.
3. Leaves Changing Appearance/Color
If you have had your plant for any amount of time, you’d know what color its leaves should be on a typical day. You will also know if your plant’s overall appearance seems off. So if one day you notice your usually green leaves are turning colors or are looking dull, this could be a sign of dehydration.
Yellow leaves are a tricky color because they can be a sign that your plants are not getting enough water, but it can also mean they are getting too much water.
The yellowing of your plants’ leaves is definitely a time when doing the touch or stick test can come in handy, so you know whether your plant is over-watered or under-watered.
However, adjusting your watering to fix the problem will not turn your leaves back to green. Just snip off the yellow leaves and observe any improvement based on the color of the new leaves growing.
Brown leaves have multiple meanings as well. A dehydrated plant typically has brown, dry, and crisp leaves starting from the edges.
Sometimes it is a dehydration issue, but it could also indicate a pest or bug infestation. To check for bugs, use a flashlight or hold your plant up to the window and look under the leaves for anything that might be hiding.
Brown leaves can also be a sign of bacterial infection or root rot. Bacteria typically appear in spots on your plant, so check your plant for spots. All bacteria have different signs alerting you to their presence, so you’ll know it’s there even if you cannot identify the bacteria.
The touch or stick test is your best bet to confirm if the browning of leaves is due to dehydration.
Dull or Curling Leaves
Dull or curling leaves can also be a sign of dehydration. It can also signify that you need to give your plant a good cleaning. So if your potting mix passes the touch or stick test, give your plant a good cleaning and see if that helps.
Wipe the leaf surface with a clean piece of moist cloth to remove dust and debris that could be preventing transpiration.
4. Dry and Dead Leaf Tips
Dry and dead leaf tips can mean multiple things for your plant. It can be a sign of dehydration from not getting enough moisture from the soil but could also mean your plant needs higher humidity.
So if you have checked your plants and they have ample water, then your plant might need higher humidity.
Getting a Higher Humidity
If it turns out your plants’ leaves are drying out and going dead because of lack of humidity, there’s an easy fix for that.
Grouping plants together helps naturally build up the humidity in that area. If this method does not help, then buying a humidifier is the way to go. Humidifiers come in all shapes, sizes, and price points, so you are sure to find one that fits your needs and budget.
If your plant requires moisture from the air, you can also try to spray some water around the leaves and see if that improves the situation. However, this will only temporarily raise the humidity and might risk leaving the weak leaves too moist, inviting mold or fungi spores to thrive.
You can also move your plant into the kitchen or bathroom, where it is more humid.
5. Drooping Plant
When humans need water, we tend to look depressed. We are lethargic, we do not stand up straight, and we look as bad as we feel. So if you have noticed your plant looking droopy and overall not looking its best, this is a sign that it needs water.
You may also do the touch and stick tests to confirm if the soil is dry. If your soil dries up more quickly than it should, you may need to add mulch to help retain moisture. Water your plants more often than you normally would and observe for signs of improvement.
However, there are some plants that are overly dramatic in their drooping. For instance, peace lilies will start to droop the moment they need water. So if you notice your peace lily drooping, give it some water, and it should bounce right back up.
Syngonium is another plant that is very expressive when it comes to dehydration. However, they have a bit more dry tolerance than peace lilies do. So if you notice your Syngonium drooping, that means it is in serious need of some watering. It might take 24 to 48 hours for your Syngonium to bounce back up, so do not panic if it takes some time.
Besides dehydration, there are a few reasons why your plant might be drooping, so let us dive into those.
If your plant is infested by bugs, this can lead to your plant drooping. Aphids and mealybugs are the most common culprits causing your plant to wilt.
When pests infest your plants, they suck the fluid out of your plants, which leads to loss of internal water pressure, negatively impacting your plants’ infrastructure. So if your plant has been a recent or current victim of a pest infestation, this could be your culprit for droop.
Treating your plant with a few sprays of insecticidal soap should do the trick. If that doesn’t work, then try a pyrethrin-based repellent.
To prevent future outbreaks from occurring, you can put some sticky traps around your plants’ pots to catch any insects that might try to make your plants their new home. Once the infestation is under control, give your plant some extra sun and water to perk it back up.
Sometimes a plant might grow too tall to stand upright on its own anymore. While this is excellent because it means your plant is growing, it can cause added stress on your plant, which is terrible.
You can tell if this is the case by checking your plant. Are the leaves and stems still firm? If they are, then this is a sign that your plant needs some extra support.
Carefully stick a rod or wooden stake into the soil, avoiding stabbing the roots. You can use garden ties, twine, or any soft string to tie the plant to the rod or stake for added support. Adding extra support is a process most likely needs to be done with Monsteras, Snake Palms, and other plants that grow tall or long.
Another reason why your plant might be drooping is that it’s time for repotting. When plants get too big for their current pots, it can cause them to droop or lean. If the plant grows too large, it can topple over, taking the pot down with it.
Move your plant from its current plant pot into a new one with more room for it. Place fresh, sterile soil into the new pot, removing as much of the old soil as possible from the plant. Place the plant into the new pot, make sure it is secure, and its days of droop should be over.
Those reasons just listed can be some of the culprits as to why your plant is drooping, but lack of water is another one (and most times the culprit).
So once again, using the touch or stick test will determine whether your plant needs water or not. Don’t water a plant that doesn’t need it, and water a plant that does.
6. Decreased Production
Sunlight and water are the two essential requirements for plants to grow healthy. These essentials are why areas with an excellent balance of rain and sunshine always have such beautiful foliage. In contrast, they are also why regions that suffer from droughts or lack of sun have lackluster foliage.
Unfortunately, if you live in an area with insufficient sunlight and rainfall, you’ll have to take extra steps to care for your plants. You need to use artificial lighting and manually provide enough water to your plants.
It is a must to ensure that your outdoor plants, flower and herb gardens, vegetable crops, fruit trees, etc., have ample water when nature isn’t providing enough.
If possible, you can also bring your plants indoors and put them under a grow light to help with their light requirements during seasons when there is not enough sunlight.
For your indoor flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruits, having enough water and sunlight is vital to keep their production up. After all, you want fully ripened tomatoes or fresh basil plucked from your plant, not shrunken, rotten fruit!
Much of our daily needs, like oxygen and shade, come from being surrounded by healthy, blooming plants. Walking through a thriving and lush nature is proven to help with our mental health.
Fruits and vegetables are a vital part of our everyday dietary needs. Without these things, we will suffocate, be depressed, and starve.
So be sure to keep these plants adequately watered, and they will return the favor by giving you oxygen, serotonin, and food.
7. Slow or No Growth
As discussed, a plant that is not getting enough water will not bear flowers or fruits. Even if it does, the produce will be of poor quality. A well-watered plant that gets plenty of sunshine has consistent growth. So if your plant is growing slowly or not at all, lack of water could be the reason for that.
An under-watered plan can stay alive or barely alive, depending on how dehydrated it is, but it does not promote new growth. So if you know your plant is getting plenty of sunlight, but you have doubts about water, it is time for the trusty touch or stick test.
The best way to ensure your plant is not under-watered is to keep it on a solid watering routine, which will help promote consistent growth in your plant.
Check on your plants regularly and inspect the soil about 2 days before the next watering session. If it’s dry enough, you can go ahead and water the plant. Otherwise, give it a few more days to dry a bit more to avoid overwatering.
However, plants like cacti and succulents are the exception to this rule. Cacti and succulents have an excellent capacity for holding water. They can go weeks without watering and still thrive. So you can go without constantly watering these two plants and still see signs of growth.
8. Plant Feels Lightweight
A dry houseplant may be very light when you pick it up because the soil will not be as compact as when it is wet. So pick up your potted plant, and see how heavy it feels. If it feels light, then it needs water. If it feels heavy, you don’t need to add water.
This method is excellent for plants that do not mind drying out a bit, like cacti and succulents, but plants like Calatheas and ferns will not appreciate this method, as they do not like drying out too much.
9. The Plant Is Dying or Already Dead
Many people may not have enough time to check their plants regularly and just stick to the recommended watering schedule. Some people may even forget about the last time they watered their plants if they don’t have a calendar or haven’t developed a routine yet.
While plants like succulents can thrive for a long time with little water, they will eventually die if left for extended periods without it.
When caring for a plant, pay attention to its water supply. Because if your plant is not already dead from neglect, they are most likely dying, and it may be impossible to reverse the situation.
We understand that it is easy to overlook your houseplants because they cannot tell you when they need water like a child or a pet can. However, that’s why it’s so vital to keep an eye on them and have a regular watering schedule.
Here are some strategies that you can use to ensure that your plants are well-watered:
- Set the alarm on your phone to remind you when to water your plants.
- Download an app that keeps track of the plants you own and their watering schedules.
- Make watering them a part of your morning routine.
Our plants depend on us to give them water and keep them thriving. If we fail in that responsibility, we can lose our plants and the benefits they bring us.
Luckily, plants communicate their thirst for water through easily observable physical signs. So watch out for the nine signs mentioned above, be vigilant in your watering routine, and your plant should be back to thriving in no time.