If you are an avid gardener, your number one goal is to grow healthy plants. However, this isn’t a straightforward task.

One of the critical components to a plant’s healthy growth and survival is water. Plants have an optimum water requirement that every gardener needs to meet.

Failure to stick to a clear watering regime could lead to two possible outcomes: over-watering or under-watering your plants.

Our focus today is on under-watered plants, under-watering symptoms, and whether plants can recover from under-watering. Let’s delve deeper. 

plant-lacking-waterPlant Water Requirements

According to (L.S. Pereira, 2013) in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences Journal; Crop Water Requirements (CWR) are defined as the depth of water in (mm) needed to meet the amount of water lost through evapotranspiration (ETC) by a disease-free crop, growing in large fields; under non-restricting soil conditions.

Though this definition is aimed at food crops, it still shows plants consume water for not only photosynthesis but also to make up for moisture lost during processes such as evaporation and transpiration.



A large percentage of the water does not remain in the plant but escapes to the atmosphere as vapor, mainly via leaves and stems. This is what is referred to as transpiration which occurs during the day.


evaporation-processWhen water escapes from an open water surface during the day, such as from the soil surface and leaves and stems of a plant, this process is called evaporation.

In essence, the water needs of a plant boil down to transpiration plus evaporation referred to as evapotranspiration.

Additionally, other factors determine the daily water requirements of a plant. These include: 

  • A plant’s growth stage: Growing crops/plants need more water than those that have just been planted.  
  • Climate: Plants in a hot and arid climate require more water than crops grown in a cloudy and cool climate.  
  • Crop type: Certain crops require more water than others. For example, sugarcane requires significantly more water than beans and wheat. 

Signs Of Under-watering Plants 

Under-watered plants struggle to grow because of poor health resulting from interference with their biological processes. Here are the common symptoms of under-watered Plants. 

1. Wilting 

wiliting-flowersA common sign of under-watering in your plants is wilting leaves. As mentioned earlier, your plants need enough water for turgor pressure.

A lack of water causes a reduction in turgor pressure which causes drooping of leaves. The holes on the leaves shut up, preventing evaporation and carbon dioxide intake, which interferes with the plant’s healthy growth. 

2. Slow Growth 

Failing to provide plants with enough water slows down their growth. A temporal absence of water may lead to temporal issues, which you can fix once your plant starts receiving sufficient amounts of water.

On the other hand, failing to provide your plants with enough water for an extended period could lead to permanent damage. The plant could fail to regain its typical leaf structure even after achieving the required moisture levels.

Your plant’s response to under-watering will also be dependent on its ability to withstand harsh climatic conditions. Some plants tolerate drought conditions better than others.

How fast you fix the issue corresponds to how fast your plants recover from under-watering.  

3. Loss Of Colour In Leaves 

yellowing-leaveThe lower leaves of an under-watered plant turn yellow and begin to curl around the edges.

They will feel dry and brittle on touch. The next thing you should expect is them falling off your plant.

4. Dry Soil 

dry-soilDry soil is always an indicator that your soil is devoid of enough water.

You can determine the moisture levels of your soil by dipping your finger into it as far as it can go.

Dry soil will feel hard and rough, a clear indicator that it lacks moisture. Before you embark on fixing a plant with dry soil, understand its water requirements so that you can water it optimally. 

5. Visible Footprints On Turf 

visible-foot-orintsIf you walk on your lawn and notice you leave footprints around, you have a reason to worry. Your footprints indicate low water levels in your grass blades.

The lack of water makes the grass blades lack turgor pressure which ultimately affects their vigor and structure. Under low water levels, it becomes difficult for your grass to spring back after stepping on it.

Ensure to water your plants or grass as soon as possible to prevent them from dying. 

Under Watered Plant Recovery 

If you notice the symptoms mentioned above in your plants, there is no need for further proof that your plants are stressed from under-watering.

Luckily, there are chances that you could save your plants. Under-watered plants take about 3-4 weeks to recover.

What follows is the emergence of young leaves as the old ones die away.

In this section, we mention techniques you will find handy to ensure your plant recovers from the effects of under-watering. Here are some required steps:

1. Move Your Plant To A Sheltered Area

shelterd-areaYou should move your underwatered plants away from the full sun and ensure to get rid of any dead or dry leaves. This will help reduce further stress on the plant.

Next, water the plant and keep it consistent; the same amount of water at regular intervals. Pour two cups of water to plants with a height of 2-3 feet and 3 cups of water for plants with 3-6 feet tall plants.

2. Water Your Plants In The Morning

watering-plantsThe best time to water your plant is in the morning hours before the rate of evaporation becomes higher under the full sun. Similarly, avoid watering your plants at night when the rate of evaporation is meager. The excess water retained could result in the occurrence of mildew. 

3. Ensure Deep Watering

Deep watering is necessary to ensure water doesn’t only settle at the top layer of soil but permeates deep into the soil to reach the roots.

Additionally, the top layer of soil dries out faster hence the need for more water. A large surface area will need more water than a small surface area. 

4. Ensure Proper Drainage

drainageWith more water comes the need for proper drainage. Ensure your plants can drain water properly to avoid the other issue of over-watering. A hole at the bottom of your plant pots is critical.

Similarly, ensure a proper sloped water drainage system underneath if growing your plants outdoors.

5. Understand Your Plants Water Requirements 

plants-water-requirementDifferent plants have different water requirements. Having this knowledge forehand will be handy in determining how you water your plants going forward.

Know what plants are best suited to grow in your local area and what climatic conditions they best fit in. 

Units For A Plant’s Water Requirements 

You can calculate the water needs of your crop in mm/day, mm/month, or mm/season. For example, if your plant water requirement is 10mm/day, what this means is your plant requires a 10mm layer of water over the whole surface area where the crop is grown.

This amount does not need to be supplied by irrigation or rainfall daily. Essentially, you could irrigate 100mm every ten days or half the time interval. The water gets stored in your plant’s root zone and is gradually absorbed 10mm per day. 

Why Is Water Of Essence To Plants?

Your plants must get the proper amounts of water for the following reasons: 

Wrap Up 

If you have under-watered plants, the first step is to identify the symptoms.

The common symptoms you should watch out for include wilting, dry leaf edges, slow growth, and leaf discoloration.

Recovery from under-watering is always possible. The techniques mentioned above should be able to make your under-watered plants regain their vigor and health. 

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