Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Tell if Plants Are Not Getting Enough Water

Plants need three basic components to survive: water, air and sunlight. Each of these three components needs to be present, but the requirements for each of these vary from plant to plant. As a gardener, it can seem like a never-ending puzzle to calculate the individual needs of each of your plants. With keen observation skills and some knowledge of your plants, you can troubleshoot a problem with that plant by confirming or ruling out whether the plant is getting enough water.

Potted Plants

Observe the surface of the soil. If the soil is dry and cracked, or there is a gap between the side of the pot and the soil, your plant is severely dehydrated.

Feel the soil with your finger. Press your finger about an inch into the soil. If it does not feel moist even an inch into the soil, your plant is not getting enough water.

Pick up potted plants. Pots containing plants that don't have enough moisture will feel extremely light. You may need to compare the weight of your plant over time, observing how it feels after it has been watered, in order to compare weights.

Check the leaves and foliage of the plant. Withered and brown leaves are one indicator of an insufficient water supply. Transparent or dwarved leaves are also an indicator of insufficient water.

Look for drooping and wrinkling in succulents and cacti. Cacti may also lose their pads when they are not properly watered.

Outdoor Plants

Observe the foliage of the plant. Does the plant look droopy or otherwise wilted? If so, the plant may not be getting enough water.

Watch for fallen blossoms on flowering plants. Blossoms that fall before they wilt are a potential indicator of dehydration.

Check your plant for abnormal spots of color on the leaves. Discolorations, such as pale white or brown spots, may also indicate an insufficient amount of water.

Look at the soil around your plant. If the soil is visibly cracked and dry, there's a good bet that the plant is not receiving enough water.

Learn the requirements for each plant you grow. Different plants have different water requirements. These requirements are a general guideline for the care of your plants.


Over-watering can cause the same problematic symptoms of under-watering. For most plants, watering heavily, but infrequently, is a good plan.

Garden Guides