Problem Identifier / Signs of Underwatering Plants

Did you know that plants are approximately 90 percent water? Water is necessary for the health of all plants, and specifically for photosynthesis, which is critical for the creation of food. As water evaporates, it is exchanged for carbon dioxide. This occurs through extremely small openings in the leaves of your plant and is referred to as transpiration. The little openings or stomata allow carbon dioxide to enter when there is sunlight.

Plants use water pressure, also known as turgor pressure, within the stems and leaves to maintain their strength and structure. When there isn’t enough water to maintain that pressure, the plant begins to wilt.

Evaporation of water during transpiration allows plants to cool during the heat of the day. Without the right amount of water, they are unable to regulate temperature and protect themselves.

Underwatered plants are unable to grow because the biological processes necessary for health are unable to take place. The leaves start to wilt and then fall off. Without water, your plant will eventually die.

Signs of Underwatering Plants

Underwatered Cucumber Plants
Distressed, wilting leaves of a cucumber plant.
  • Wilting
  • Dry soil
  • Slow growth
  • Discolored leaves
  • Soil retains footprints

Wilting Plants

Underwatering your plants will result in limp and wilting leaves. Your plants must have enough water to pass through the cells for turgor. If there isn’t enough water, the plant will not only wilt but also close its stoma to prevent evaporation. Closed stomata prevents the plant’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide – which is necessary for growth and health. Checking your plants regularly will help prevent any under watering issues.

Dry Soil

If soil feels dry to the touch, there is a good chance watering is necessary. You can always test the soil by placing your finger into it as far as it will go. If you do not feel moisture at all, it’s time to water. Different plants have different requirements such as dryer soil. Be sure to understand the needs of each plant species and water it as necessary for optimal health.

When growing potted plants, soil pulling away from the sides of the pot is a clear indicator that the plant is underwatered and needs attention.

Slow Growth

Under watering your plants will result in slow growth. This can cause temporary or permanent issues. If the decrease in water is temporary, your plant should start to grow again within a short period of time. If your plants do not have enough water for an extended period of time, resuming proper moisture levels may not result in normal leaf growth. It also does not mean your plants will be unable to recover.

Each plant is different, some are more tolerant to extreme conditions than others. If you correct the issue fairly quickly, the majority of plants will survive and thrive.

Discolored Leaves

Take a close look at the lower leaves on your plant. If your plant is under watered, the leaves will turn yellow then begin to curl around the edges. The edges will start to feel dry and brittle before falling off of your plant.

Soil Retains Footprints

If your plants are planted directly in outdoor soil, look for footprints in the nearby grass. If the level of water in the tissues of your grass is not sufficient, it will be unable to spring back after being compressed by your shoes or feet. If your footprints do not disappear by the next morning, you need to water both your grass and your plants to prevent them from going dormant and dying.

Underwatered Plant Recovery

Under Watered Cannabis Plant
A very thirsty group of ladies.

Underwatered plants will need time to recover. In most cases, this is between three and four weeks. After this time, you should start to see the growth of new leaves and stems where the old ones withered and died. Only water your plants when the soil feels dry to your fingertips. If you continue underwatering your plants, they will not survive.

How to Ensure Perfect Moisture for Your Plant

Water in the Morning

During the night, the environment around your plants is cooler. This means the roots are able to absorb water better in the morning. Watering your plants at night is not recommended because the water will be unable to evaporate properly. This can result in numerous issues including mildew. You want to make certain your plants are not struggling to grow in dry soil.

Water Deeply

Watering just the top layer of soil will not provide sufficient moisture for your plants. This is because the top layer of soil dries out a lot faster. Water is necessary for the roots of your plant which are located much deeper in the soil. Make certain to water enough to reach the roots every time you water. The larger the area, the more water you need. Make certain your plants are able to drain properly. You can always install an irrigation system to ensure perfect watering every time.

Choose the Right Plants

Not every plant has the same requirements. Some require more or less light or water. Consider your environment and commitment to care before deciding which types of plants to purchase. If you are uncertain which plants grow best in your area, ask a local nursery for advice.

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