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People often beleive that house plants need less attention, but to keep them thriving, you need to take decent care of them. They can’t live without water just like any other living being. But what if we are traveling or busy and are unable to water them on time? How long will houseplants survive without water?
Most houseplants can survive without water for 2-3 weeks. However, the watering needs may vary depending upon the weather and types of plants you have. While plants like succulents and cactus can survive longer, other tropical plants like monstera, pothos may suffer.
Watering is essential to provide houseplants with crucial nutrients, minerals and function properly. How often your house plant needs water depends on various factors.
You can easily find out the water needs of your houseplants by following the essential factors influencing it.
- Plant type
- Plant size and age
- Growing medium type and condition
- Indoor conditions: Light, temperature, humidity, airflow
- Regional climate
- Growing phase
- Pot size and material
- Season of the year
- Current weather
While houseplants that are fast-growing and vulnerable to water are more prevalent, houseplants like succulents store water and survive without water for several years.
In this article, we have put together as many varieties of houseplants as possible to give you accurate information regarding their need for water.
Unlearn everything you know for a while and go through the article to understand your houseplant water needs, what can happen if they don’t get enough water, how to restore them, etc.
You will also get to know different methods to water your houseplants when heading for an extended vacation.
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How long can houseplants survive without water?
Houseplants need to be watered less frequently compared to outdoor plants, but no thumb rule can be followed to water any houseplants.
Each indoor plant has diverse water needs. You can spend time with your plants and know how long they can survive without water and find an appropriate watering regime for them.
We have tried presenting the watering need of common houseplants in a table below. But please note that it cannot be used as a rule of thumb. Your plant’s watering needs will vary depending upon a lot of factors like the size of the plant, season, humidity, and more.
|Plants Name||Watering Schedule(Approx)||Can Survive Till?|
|Rubber plants||5-7 days||13-15 Days|
|Pothos||5-7 days||10-12 Days|
|Monstera||5-7 days||10-12 days|
|Snake plants||2 weeks||18-20 Days|
|Spider plants||5-7 days||13-15 Days|
|Dracaena||7-10 days||20-25 Days|
|ZZ plant||1-2 weeks||20-25 Days|
|Ivy||3-4 days||10-12 Days|
|Peace lily||5-7 days||10-12 Days|
|Money Tree||10-14 days||20-25 Days|
|Lucky bamboo||14-21 days||20-25 Days|
|Areca palm||2-3 days||7 Days|
|Aloevera||15-20 days||25-30 Days|
|Bird’s Nest Fern||5-7 days||10-12 Days|
|Daisies||5-7 days||10-12 Days|
|Wax begonia||5-7 days||10-12 Days|
|Philodendron||5-7 days||10-12 Days|
|Peperomia||7-10 days||25-30 Days|
|Fittonia||3-4 days||10-12 Days|
|Club moss||5-7 days||10-12 Days|
|Parlor palm||2 weeks||25-30 Days|
|Calathea||5-7 days||10-12 Days|
|Boston fern||5-7 days||10-12 Days|
|Christmas cactus||7-10 days||10-12 Days|
|Air plant||5-7 days||10-12 Days|
Also read: Underwatering vs. Overwatering
What would happen to a plant without water?
If you want a short answer, the plant may die without water. Water is a necessity for any living being. Plants need water not just to survive but to function properly.
Plants need water to utilize sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide into energy to produce oxygen. This process is known as photosynthesis. Without water, your plants will not be able to make food, and as a result, their growth will be affected.
Water is also needed to make the plant’s tissue rigid; this is called turgor.
Turgor needs water to keep plants upright. Due to lack of water, plant cells lose water resulting in loss of turgor, which means the plants get to wilt and droop.
The plant will lower its transpiration rate, partially closing stomata and reducing all the internal functions to thrive due to drought conditions.
Apart from this, water also replenishes a small amount of nutrients in the soil. A lack of nutrients is also likely when your watering schedule is inadequate.
If your plant is left to dry out for a longer duration, then their roots will get affected. Your plant may suffer heavily and never recover back.
A lack of water in houseplants can wreak havoc on their growth. Some of the common problems you will notice are:
- Wilted leaves
- Droopy leaves
- Dull leaves
- Stunted growth
- Dying plant
If you see any of these signs, you need to act immediately, or you might not save them.
Also read: 13 reason why your houseplants keep dying
Can plants recover from lack of water?
Plants’ recovery from lack of water depends on their condition. Here are different stages and what you can expect:
- Mildly stressed plants can recover in a few weeks (only by rehydrating them promptly).
- Severely stressed houseplants might either take a lot more time to recover or may not recover fully. They may not be able to photosynthesize appropriately, and their growth will be affected in the future.
- The worst affected plant may die in a few days.
How do you know if a plant needs water?
Any plant owner should know their plant and their needs. By regular assessment and care, you can know when your plant needs water. They give clues when they are stressed so that you can identify quickly and fix them.
You should keep an eye on your plant, and avoid any watering schedule for better care, keep inspecting them every few days.
You can use a reminder app to help you remind the need to have a check on your plants.
Test the soil for dryness with your finger
The soil dryness can be tested with a simple method without any equipment with your finger. Dig your finger in the soil every 4-5 days to check whether the soil is dry or moist.
Sometimes the soil may look dry from outside but maybe soak from inside. So, dig your finger at least 2-3 inches in the soil to feel the level of moisture.
Test the soil for moisture with a stick or skewer
It is possible that the soil seems wet outside but might be stressed with drought inside and vice versa. To get more precise results, take a clean skewer or stick. Dig it deeper into the soil without disturbing the roots.
Now take it out after 1-2 minutes and see if there are any wet marks or stain on the stick. If the stick has come out clean and dry, this indicated an urgent need for watering. Repeat this every few days to know the water needs of your plant.
Wilting or drooping leaves
Due to water loss, the plant will halt transpiration, leading to a lack of water in the foliage. The plump and thick leaves will wilt or droop, indicating a lack of water.
Do not just react as you see wilted leaves; inspect further to get into the roots of the problem.
Wilting and drooping foliage is also a consequence of other unrelated issues, such as overfeeding, excessive lighting, pests attack or diseases, root decay, and even overwatering.
Dry leaves and leaf drop
Houseplants may start to lose their leaves due to a lack of water. The leaves get dry and fall due to under-watering. Check if the new and old leaves are getting dry and dropping abnormally, under watering is the culprit.
Check the soil dampness level to validate the symptoms.
Houseplants often drop mature and older leaves as a sign of aging/maturing. In this case, you don’t need to worry. It’s natural.
Yellow or brown leaves
Thirsty houseplants begin losing their color and turn brown or yellow. If they are further neglected, the leaves will get crispy and weak.
Though before fixing under-watering concerns, you should always go through your care routines.
Other factors like environmental stress, over-fertilization, and excessive lighting can also stress your plant resulting in discoloration, brown, and yellow leaves.
With little investment, you can have more accurate results of the watering needs for your plant. Get a moisture meter to determine when your plant needs water. They have a scale ranging from 1 to 10, 1 denoting very dry, and 10 indicating very wet.
Simply press the probe of the moisture meter in the soil for a few minutes. Take out and read the results. You can interpret the number shown on the scale according to the water your plant needs.
Color of the soil
You can easily glimpse at the soil of your plant and know if they need water. If the soil looks darker than the original color or wets from the top, they don’t need water.
Just keep an eye on your plant whenever you see any distinction in the soil color, i.e., the soil color gets light that signals to the need for water. You can evaluate your plant more closely for a more detailed assessment.
Weight of the pot
The weight of the pot keeps varying due to the water in the soil. When the soil is moist, the pot will be heavier and vice versa.
By familiarizing yourself with the pot’s weight, you can get a swift and rough idea of the plant’s water needs.
You can also validate by having a look at the soil color to verify that the soil needs water or not.
Watering house plants during vacation
Taking care of your plant when you are on holiday can be very stressful. You don’t know what your plants will do without you.
Well, all you need to do is pick between varieties of options available to water your plants when you are out for an extended vacation.
You can find a plant sitter to take care of your plant behind your back. You can help them by giving them special instructions or write down about your plant needs to take care of your plants.
Group your plants with the same watering needs and tag those areas by writing their water needs to make it easy for the plant sitter to water them. Also, keep your plants away from direct sun to avoid leaf burn and soil drying too fast.
There are many other methods to keep your water thriving when you are enjoying your vacation.
- Wick systems
- Drip systems
- Plant baths
- Capillary mats
- Mini greenhouse
- Self-watering pots
- Smart-home automatic systems
Wick system is basically carried by the capillary method. You need a container to reserve water, water-absorbent material, bolts/nuts. For the wick, you can use cotton, fiberglass, or nylon to absorb water. Even shoelace will do the job.
You can use containers to store water, one for each plant, or one big container for multiple plants. The size of the container should be as such that the water lasts until the time you return.
Tie the nut to the end of each wick and put it in the bottom of the container reserving water so that it remains in there. Bury the other end of the wick in each plant a few inches in the soil. That’s all.
A drip system is one of the easiest ways to keep your plants hydrated when you are away for a short vacation. All you necessitate is plastic or glass bottles.
Small pots contain less soil; they need less water. Use a small plastic bottle and drill small holes at the top of the bottle or in its cap. Fill water into the bottle and put back the lid.
Invert the bottle and dive into the just watered soil quickly. The holes in the bottle should be covered with the soil.
Large pots need more water as they hold more soil. Use glass bottles for such pots. You don’t need to drill holes in these bottles.
You can attach a bit of screening to avoid jamming in the soil. Place your thumb over the opening of the bottle while inverting it.
You can also use terracotta or ceramic bottles also.
Plant baths also help to nourish your plants with water. You need to pour water in the sink or tub up to 3-4 inches.
Put the plant in the sink or tub filled with water. The pot should have a proper drainage system to make this method a success.
This system is better for smaller pots; large pots would be heavy to lift, making them harder to lift.
Also, the bathroom or space in which you will do this method makes sure there is dapple light coming in, though not too much light.
Capillary mats are invented, keeping in mind the capillary action. They use the same method to keep the plants moist. You can buy them easily from any gardening store or make them at home.
Take a tray as big as you need, cut styrofoam (1 inch thick) to fit in the tray on all sides.
Take any absorbent fabric (wool, cotton, or felt), cut it to fit the styrofoam such that it hangs down, touching the two ends of the tray. Nail the fabric to the foam.
Immerse the tray with water, place your just watered plant on the tray. The capillary mat/tray will do the rest.
A mini greenhouse is created using clear plastic bags to capture the plant’s moisture and potting soil by evapotranspiration. Take a plastic bag big enough to cover your plant entirely and sticks to hold up the bag and away from the plant.
Water your plant and cover it with the plastic bag such that the bag does not cling or push against your plant; a little touching is acceptable. You can blow air in the plastic before sealing it.
Keep your plastic covered plant away from direct sunlight; otherwise, the heat build-up inside it will cook the plant and bring it to death.
Self-watering pots work through a mechanism called capillary action in which the plant roots and soil absorb water maintaining a decent level of wetness in the soil.
These self-watering pots have trended in the last few years as they are very easy to maintain and effective too. They can be formed with available materials at your home in a very inexpensive way as well.
Also, they are readily available in the market for urgent need or if you want a stylish looking container.
Smart-home automatic systems are for those intrigued by smart technology products.
Smart home automated systems are using a single reservoir to water different types of plants with varying water needs just by making settings for each plant individually.
This way, you can fulfill each plant’s water needs according to their requirement.
Are self-watering pots good for indoor plants?
Self-watering pots provide moisture in the roots and soil of the plant consistently. These pots are great options for moisture-loving plants, but plants that like their soil and roots to dry between watering might suffer.
Indoor plants usually like their soil dry in between watering and need water commonly at about seven days period or more. So using these pots may keep the soil soggy consistently.