People often believe that house plants need less attention, but you need to take decent care of them to keep them thriving. 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 succulents and cacti can survive longer, other tropical plants like monstera and pothos may suffer.
Watering is essential to keep your house plant hydrated. It also provides them with minerals and nutrients to function correctly. 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 them.
- 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
Houseplants that are fast-growing and vulnerable to water are more prevalent. In contrast, houseplants like succulents store water and survive without water for several years. In this article, we have assembled as many varieties of houseplants as possible to give you accurate information regarding their need for water.
This article will give you a perspective on what can happen if your house plant doesn’t get enough water, how to restore them, etc.
You will also learn different methods to water your houseplants when heading for an extended vacation.
Table Of Contents
Please note: Simplify Plants is reader-supported. Some links in the post are affiliate links and I get a commission from purchases made through links in the post.
How long can houseplants survive without water?
Houseplants need to be watered less frequently than 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, know how long they can survive without water, and find an appropriate watering regime.
We have presented the watering need of common houseplants in the 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|
|Aloe vera||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 correctly.
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, so their growth will be affected.
Water is also needed to make the plant’s tissue rigid, called turgor.
Turgor needs water to keep plants upright.
Due to lack of water, plant cells lose water, resulting in turgor loss, which means the plants 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 few 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, its roots will be 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 must act immediately, or you might not save them.
Also read: 13 reasons why your houseplants keep dying
The effects of direct sunlight on house plants’ water requirements
The plants that stay under direct sunlight have more water requirements than those that stay in indirect sunlight.
Therefore you need to water them accordingly.
Plants staying under the sun all day will need water every 2 to 3 days, whereas plants that live in indirect sunlight require water every 7 to 8 days.
It also depends on the plant type regarding their water requirement.
If it is a succulent, not watering it for a week or two will not kill it, even in direct sun.
The impact of temperature on house plants’ water requirements
Your house plants will need water as per the temperature. So in summer, they will need more frequent watering than in winter.
But if you have kept them indoors where the temperature stays more or less the same, they might need water less frequently.
I have noticed that different plants behave differently in high and low temperatures.
Plants like succulents can tolerate high temperatures and stay without water for a more extended period of time.
Still, plants like ferns cannot stay in harsh temperatures and can start drooping and wilting.
So to determine how often you need to water your plant, you will have to consider the temperature and the water requirement of the individual plant.
The Impact of Humidity on Houseplants’ water requirements
Tropical plants prefer higher humidity levels, while others, such as succulents, prefer drier conditions.
To determine how often to water your house plants based on humidity, you can do the following:
- To know how humid your room is, you can use a hygrometer. This device measures the amount of moisture in the air.
- A humidifier will be handy in case the humidity of your room is low, especially during the winter when indoor heating can dry out the air.
- Increase the watering frequency for plants that require high humidity levels, or consider grouping them to create a more humid microclimate.
- On the other hand, decrease the watering frequency for plants that prefer drier conditions if the humidity in your home is high.
- Always check the soil moisture regularly to ensure you’re not over or under-watering your plants.
The Impact of air conditioning on Houseplants’ water requirements
To understand how often you need to water your house plants when air conditioning is on, you can follow the below tips:
- A thermometer and hygrometer are suitable for monitoring the temperature and humidity indoors, so consider using them.
- Also, consider using a humidifier to increase the humidity levels in the room, especially if the air conditioning is causing the air to become too dry.
- If the room is cooler and less humid due to the air conditioning, your plants may require less frequent watering.
- Check the soil moisture regularly to ensure you are appropriately watering your plants.
The Role of soil type in Watering Houseplants
I have listed below some common soil types and how they can impact your houseplants’ water requirements:
- Clay soil: Clay soil retains water for a more extended period, and nature of this soil is dense and heavy, and it doesn’t need frequent watering.
- Sandy soil: Sandy soil does not retain moisture for long so this kind of soil might need frequent watering.
- Peat moss: Peat moss is a common ingredient in many potting soils. It retains water well and can help keep plants hydrated for extended periods.
- Loamy soil: Loamy soil is a mixture of sand, silt, and clay, often considered the ideal soil type for growing plants. It retains water but drains well, so plants grown in loamy soil may require less frequent watering than those grown in sandy soil.
To determine how often to water your houseplants based on soil type, you can:
- Regularly check the moisture of the soil.
- Plant your hose plants in their preferred soil so that you will not face challenges regarding watering.
- You will need to adjust your watering schedule depending on the soil.
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The role of fertilizer in watering house plants
I have mentioned below how fertilizer can determine the watering needs of your houseplants:
- Salt build-up: Excess fertilizers can build up salt in the soil. This can cause the soil to become compacted and make it more difficult for water to penetrate it. This can affect the root health of the plant.
- Nutrient absorption: Nutrients in the fertilizer will get absorbed by the plant, but if it lacks any nutrients, it will need more water to absorb that specific nutrient.
- Increased growth: The plant can grow a bit larger than its size due to fertilization. It will need more water to keep itself sturdy.
To determine how fertilizer impacts your houseplants’ watering needs, you can:
- Read the instructions on the packaging carefully to determine how often to fertilize your plants and how much to use because overfertilizing can create salt build-up in the soil, which is harmful to the plant.
- Keep checking if your plants are over and under-fertilized. They can show signs like yellow leaves, brown leaves, and stunt growth.
- You must change the watering schedule based on the plant’s growth. If the plant grows fast, it may require more frequent watering to support its increased nutrient requirements.
The effects of tap water on houseplants
Tap water can have below effects on your plant:
- Chlorine: Tap water may contain chlorine which can harm some plants, mainly if a build-up is caused in the soil.
- Hardwater: There are minerals like calcium and magnesium in the hard water. These minerals can also build up in the soil and impact its pH, making it more alkaline. So try avoiding tap water.
- pH level: Tap water can also impact the pH. Most plant needs a soil pH between 6 to 6.5. If this gets disturbed, the plants can be stressed and die too.
To avoid such problems, you can use a tap water filter. You can also keep a check on the pH. Bottom watering is another good idea to avoid build-up in such cases.
How do you know if a plant needs water?
Any plant owner should know their plant and its needs.
Regularly assessing and caring lets you 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 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 the outside but may be humid inside.
So, dig your finger at least 2-3 inches in the soil to feel the moisture level.
Test the soil for moisture with a stick or skewer
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 stains on the stick.
If the stick has come out clean and dry, this indicates 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.
Refrain from reacting 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.
Before fixing under-watering concerns, you should always go through your care routines.
Environmental stress, over-fertilization, and excessive lighting can also stress your plant resulting in discoloration and brown and yellow leaves.
Also Read: Why Are My Indoor Plant Leaves Turning Yellow? (Problems+Solution)
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 moisture meter probe 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 your plant’s soil and know if they need water.
They don’t need water if the soil looks darker than the original color or wets from the top.
Just keep an eye on your plant whenever you see any distinction in the soil color, i.e., the soil color gets light, which signals 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.
Also read: Overwatering vs. Underwatering(What you should know)
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 behind your back to take care of your plant.
You can help them by giving them special instructions or writing down about your plant needs to take care of your plants.
Group your plants with the exact 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
It is basically carried by the capillary method.
You need a container to reserve water, water-absorbent material, and bolts/nuts.
You can use cotton, fiberglass, or nylon to absorb water for the wick. Even a 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 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 each plant’s other end of the wick a few inches in the soil. That’s all.
A drip system
It 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 or in its cap.
Fill the 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 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 use terracotta or ceramic bottles too.
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, in the bathroom or space where you will do this method, ensure there is dapple light coming in, though not too much light.
These 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, and cut styrofoam (1 inch thick) to fit in the tray on all sides.
Cut any absorbent fabric (wool, cotton, or felt) to fit the styrofoam so that it hangs down, touching the two ends of the tray.
Nail the fabric to the foam.
Immerse the tray with water, and place your just watered plant on the tray.
The capillary mat/tray will do the rest.
A mini greenhouse
This can be 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 a plastic bag such that the bag does not cling or push against your plant; a slight touching is acceptable.
You can blow air into the plastic before sealing it.
Keep your plastic-covered plant away from direct sunlight; otherwise, the heat build-up inside it will kill and bring it to death.
These 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 straightforward to maintain and practical 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 needs or if you want a stylish-looking container.
Smart-home automatic systems
It is for those who are intrigued by intelligent technology products.
Smart home automated systems use 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.
Can plants recover from lack of water?
Plants’ recovery from lack of water depends on their condition. Here are the 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 take much more time or may not recover fully. They may not be able to photosynthesize appropriately, and their growth will be affected.
- The worst affected plant may die in a few days.
How to revive a dehydrated house plant?
Once, I went on a vacation for 3 weeks, and when I came back, I saw that my tropical plants were almost dead and dried out.
Below are a few techniques I used to revive them:
- Check for any signs of life in your plants. If you can see any moisture or green left in it, try watering it. You can also check if the roots are alive. If the roots are still not completely dried out and look white, they can still be revived.
- Check for over and underwatering situations because your plant can get dehydrated in both cases.
- Let access water drain out so the plant roots do not feel suffocated.
- If your plant has dried out, water it thoroughly, and after 2 to 3 hrs of watering, remove any leaves that are still dry and crisp. This can promote new growth in the plant.
- Try to increase the humidity around dehydrated plants, and you can also keep them away from direct sun for some time so that they can revive themselves.
- Keep an eye on your dehydrated plants and monitor them to see if they need more assistance. Make sure you do not overwater to avoid root rot.
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Houseplants can survive without water for varying lengths depending on their species, size, and environment. It’s essential to understand the specific needs of each plant and keep track of their development and growth.
The common mistakes that can harm your plants are overwatering and underwatering, so striking the right balance is essential. This will entirely depend on the type of plant, the soil, and the environmental conditions.
Investing in self-watering systems or asking a friend or neighbor to help water your plants while you’re away can help ensure their survival. Remember, caring for houseplants can be a rewarding experience and bring beauty and freshness to your home.
Do plants need to be watered every day?
No, They do not need to be watered every day. Depending on the conditions, you can water them thoroughly once a week or 3 to 4 days apart.
What plant can survive the longest without water?
Selaginella lepidophylla (Lycopodium lepidophyllum) is a desert plant in the spike moss family. This plant can survive even without moisture.
Can succulents go for 3 months without water?
They can survive anywhere between 1 to 3 months without watering. Indoor succulents can survive 3 months as the soil retains moisture for a long time.
Sources: College of agricultural studies, University of Vermont, National science foundation.
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