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5 Signals You Are Underwatering Plants

Unfortunately the signals you receive from your plants for under watering are similar to the signals you receive when you overwater plants. Under watering and overwatering plants many times reach the same outcome – sick or dead plants. Below are some important signs to look for that will help you determine if you are overwatering or under watering your plants.

Your Plant is Wilting

Wilting is a sign of both under watering and overwatering your plants. In the case of under watering the plant, when you feel the leaves you will notice they are crisp not limp. Wilting in this case is a symptom of a lack of water passing through the cells of a plant. Plants have pores on the surface of leaves called stoma. They allow air to enter plants. When plants do not have enough water they close their stoma to stop evaporation and this leads to wilting. Remember plants also wilt because of other reasons including overwatering, too much sun, being root bound, too much fertilizer, or some diseases. Unfortunately, plants can’t talk so we can’t just ask them what’s wrong…or can we?

The Soil is Dry

A simple solution for testing soil moisture is a long screw driver. Walk your property and press a screwdriver into the ground. When the soil is moist, the screwdriver should penetrate the soil easily. The depth of penetration will vary by the soil type, size of screwdriver, and your strength. As the soil dries up, the screwdriver will be harder and harder to push into the soil.

Slowed Growth

A slowdown in growth is a sign a plant is not receiving enough water. This can be a temporary or permanent situation. If the plant experiences a temporary decrease in water supply, the growth may just slow for a short period. If the challenge is more permanent you may see new leaf growth being smaller than normal.

Discolored Leaves


The lower leaves usually suffer first, becoming yellowed and curled. The leaves also can develop dry edges.

Footprints Remain Visible on Turf

Walk across your lawn late in the day and examine the lawn behind you to see if your steps left any “footprints.” Your footprints will appear in a lawn when the grass blades have low levels of water in their tissues. When the grass blades are compressed by your feet, the low water levels prevent the grass blades from springing back up. If your footprints remain for an extended period of time, the lawn should be watered to prevent the grass from becoming dormant or possibly dying.

To determine if you are under watering or overwatering you will probably need to try a combination of activities. For example, when you notice yellow leaves and then check the soil with a screw driver to see if it is moist or dry. Once again we go back to the basic of water management. Understanding the signs of overwatering and under watering are the basics for more sophisticated water management. I’m sure you have a few to add to the list and would love to hear your comments about under watering. If you enjoyed this post please consider subscribing or follow me on twitter @H2oTrends.



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Richard Restuccia

Richard is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. Richard is a spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. He served on the Irrigation Association's Board of Directors and is a University of California Master Gardener. Richard also writes for other publications and is an award winning contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine. In 2014 his efforts were recognized with a “Leadership in Landscape” award. He has a great interest in the supply of clean water for people in developing countries and as an outdoorsman, spends his free time running, swimming and surfing.

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