How do you tell if plants are over or underwatered?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Determining whether plants are over or underwatered can be a bit tricky, but there are some key signs to look out for. By observing the leaves and the overall condition of the plant, you can get a good idea of its water needs.

1. Touch and Texture: As mentioned earlier, the texture of the leaves can provide valuable clues. When plants lack water, their leaves tend to become dry, crispy, and brittle to the touch. On the other hand, overwatered plants have leaves that feel soft, limp, and may even appear waterlogged.

2. Leaf Color: Another indicator is the color of the leaves. Underwatered plants often have brown, wilted leaves that may curl or shrivel up. Overwatered plants, on the other hand, may have yellowing or drooping leaves, which can be a sign of root rot caused by excessive moisture.

3. Soil Moisture: Checking the moisture level of the soil is crucial in determining whether a plant is getting too much or too little water. For underwatered plants, the soil will be extremely dry and may even pull away from the edges of the container. Overwatered plants have soil that is consistently wet, sometimes with an unpleasant odor due to the lack of oxygen in the root zone.

4. Root Health: Examining the roots can provide further insights into the watering issue. Underwatered plants often have dry, compacted roots that appear brown or black. In contrast, overwatered plants may exhibit mushy, waterlogged roots that are pale or even grayish in color.

5. Growth Patterns: Pay attention to the growth patterns of your plants. Underwatered plants may show stunted growth, with leaves and stems not developing as they should. Overwatered plants may have excessive leaf growth but lack overall vigor, appearing weak and leggy.

6. Watering Schedule: Reflect on your watering habits and frequency. If you consistently water your plants on a regular schedule, yet they still exhibit signs of underwatering, it might be time to adjust your watering routine. Similarly, if you tend to overwater, try reducing the frequency and volume of water you provide.

Remember that different plant species have varying water requirements, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the specific needs of each plant you own. Factors like humidity, temperature, and the type of soil also impact a plant’s watering needs, so it’s important to consider these factors as well.

Determining whether a plant is over or underwatered involves considering the texture and color of the leaves, soil moisture levels, root health, growth patterns, and your watering practices. By observing these indicators, you can better understand and adjust your plant’s watering routine to ensure its optimal health and vitality.