Four Signs You Are Underwatering Your Plants

Wilting is a sign of both of underwatering or overwatering. Plant showing signs of wilt. Is it a result of underwatering or overwatering?underwatering has deadly consequences Here's your sign. Unfortunately not all signs of underwatering are this easy to spot.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article concerning signs you are overwatering your plants.  It created interest in overwatering, but also sparked interests in the subject of underwatering plants.   Since some of the signs of overwatering and underwatering plants look very similar, I am sharing some signs of underwatering.

 1.  Your plant is wilting

Wilting is a sign of both underwatering and overwatering your plants.  In the case of underwatering 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 rootbound, too much fertilizer, or some diseases.  Unfortunately, plants can’t talk so we can’t just ask them what’s wrong…or can we?

2.  Soil is dry

Eric Santos Division Leader, Irrigation and Water Management at ValleyCrest Companies, is always reminding people 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.

3.  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.

4. Foot prints 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.

Once again we go back to the basic of water management.  Understanding the signs of overwatering and underwatering 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 underwatering.


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Richard Restuccia

Richard Restuccia 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. As the Director for Water Management Solutions at ValleyCrest, Richard is our 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. Currently he serves on the Irrigation Association’s Board of Directors. As a board member, Richard serves in a variety of capacities, including government/public affairs. He is the liaison between the board and its marketing committee on the best ways to promote water efficiency and educate industry professionals on new technologies, products and services. Richard is also a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.


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  1. Wednesday, 5:44 Drdean0

    I deal mostly with lawns. Here in the arid west, people tend to over-water every chance they get. (I read that installment as well. When I can jamb a screwdriver six or eight inches into the ground easily I tell my customer that they have enough water in the soil. On the other hand if the screwdriver won’t go in or is difficult to push in then there is a lack of water in the soil. Many people have moved into our desert from greener climes and figure that the grass and other plants should respond better with more water. Green is not the natural color for the arid West.

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