Plant 101: Signs You’re Underwatering your Indoor Plant

Discover the signs of under-watering indoor plants. Rescue them before they die with this simple method.

By: Lively Root
October 27, 2019
Plant 101: Signs You’re Underwatering your Indoor Plant
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"Am I Overwatering my Plants?" is a common plant care question. As confusing as it may be, signs of under watering are very similar to signs of over watering plants. As you accidentally give your plant a little too much to drink, it can start to drown your plant’s roots. As much as the roots of your plant love water, they also need oxygen from the soil, so if you over water you get rid of any of those air pockets that exist within the sand. Under watering, on the other hand, can lead to the soil pulling away from the sides of the pot, or the soil drinking up water very quickly!

Some of the first signs of over watering include leaves that start to turn yellow or brown and wilt away. While this is a sign of under watering, this also is the most common sign of over watering plants. The best way to tell the difference is the texture of your leaves. If your plant is thirsty, the wilting leaves will often be crunchy and dry. When you over water, the leaves are much more likely to be limp and discolored, not crispy. 

Another way to tell if your plant isn’t being watered correctly is if your plant starts to grow oddly. You may notice strange blisters that heal into warty growths. What this indicates is the cells within the plant absorbing too much water and bursting, indicating over watering. You may also see that your plant stops growing as much as it used to. This lack of growth can be due to both over- and under-watering.

How to Revive Your Underwatered Plants

  • If your houseplant lives in a small container with a drainage hole, fill your sink full of room temperature water and submerge it in the water. Let all the bubbles stop before you remove the plant from the water. Let excess water drain from the pot before you place it back on its saucer and be sure to replace any lost soil.
  • Larger, root-bound houseplants are more susceptible to underwatering and will want to be repotted to give their roots a bit of space to spread out, get nourishment, and drink up water.
  • For larger indoor plants, water from the top several times (rather than submerging) and break up the soil on the surface so water can penetrate down. Since dry soil usually contracts, water might just flow down the sides without adequately soaking the soil. Be ready to repeat a few times.
  • After you’ve given your plants a good drink, prune and cut away any dried leaves to tidy the plant.
  • Set a recurring reminder on your phone to check your plants each week! One of the best ways to test the soil is by poking your finger an inch down. If it is moist all the way down, no need to water! You also can invest in a moisture meter, which helps take away the guesswork of when to water.


Looking for signs of over watering plants?  Checkout our next Plant 101 article: Signs You're Overwatering your Indoor Plants.