How Long Are Plants Able To Survive Without Regular Watering?

Getting the watering schedule for your plants is a crucial part of ensuring that they are able to thrive or just survive through to the next watering.

This isn’t something that you need to worry about all that much if you’re at home with them everyday. However, if you ever need to go on vacation for any extended period of time, things can get a little tricky.

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So how long can plants survive without regular watering?

Surprisingly, your plants are able to last up to the length of a week without any water at all.

But this isn’t a hard and fast rule for every type of plant – it will all depend on the type of plant you have, how old it is, how large it is, how hot things are in the room they live in, as well as the type of soil that they have. 

Some of the more tropical varieties of houseplants are able to last up to 2 to 3 weeks without any water at all, whereas other types of plants such as cacti and succulents are able to last up to a whopping 3 months without any water.

Today, we’re going to cover everything that there is to know about watering, and how long your plants will survive without regular watering.

How To Tell That Your Plant Needs To Be Watered?

The good news is that your plant has its own way of telling you when it needs to be watered. It will visibly show you that it’s thirsty, and needs that crucial water to help keep it thriving in your home. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways that you can tell whether your plants need to be watered or not!

Yellowed Or Drooping Leaves

The most obvious sign to look out for is the state of your plant’s leaves. If your plant is happy and healthy, depending on the variety of course, it will have luscious green leaves.

However, if it’s lacking water, these leaves will start to wilt and droop. Some leaves may even start to yellow, as the plant tries to redirect some of the nutrients it has stored in itself to survive.

So how does your plant do this? The vacuole inside your plant’s cells will start to shrink, which then pulls the cell membrane away from its cell wall.

Which then results in the turgor pressure being lowered within the plant cell. This shows itself in that signature dropping or curling of leaves.

When things become really dire, your plant will then start to shed certain leaves so that it can preserve as much energy as possible. So if you see any of these visible signs in your plant, it is well overdue a good watering.

Dried Out Soil

Of course, some of the signs that we’ve discussed above could be for other stress reasons. So it will be important to ensure that underwatering is truly the cause to blame here.

The best way to work out if this is the case is to determine whether your soil has become too dried out in the plant pot.

The good news is that there are several ways that you can tell if your plant’s soil has become too dry.

If this is indeed the case, then you will need to give it a good long soaking so that the soil becomes moist, and allows the roots to suck up all that glorious moisture.

The only exception will be succulents and cacti, which don’t like a lot of water.

Make sure to do this in an area where any excess water can easily drain out of your pot. Waterlogged roots will be just as much of an issue as underwatering.

Testing Your Soil To Find Out If It’s Too Dry

Let’s take a look at the best methods to use for testing the dryness of your soil.

Use Your Fingers

One of the most tried and tested ways of seeing whether your plant’s soil has become too dry is to use your fingers. Depending on the size of your plant pot, you will need to stick your index finger around an inch into the soil.

This should help you to tell whether your plant needs more watering, or whether it’s got enough water to last it another week.

Does your index finger come out of the soil fairly clean? Does the soil feel fairly dry to the touch? Then it will be time to give it a good watering.

Buy A Soil Probe

Don’t really like the idea of getting dirt all over your hands? Then your next best method for testing whether your soil needs watering is to buy a soil probe. These are fairly easy to find in your local garden center, or you can buy one online.

If you have any skewers, chopsticks, or a metal rod lying around, then this will work just as well.

Next, you will need to stick your soil probe into the soil of your pot. You will need to ensure that you are able to touch the base of the pot, so you are able to better judge the condition of the soil.

Pull out your soil probe, and examine its length to see if any soil has clung to it. If you notice quite a lot of loose soil, then it will be high time to give your plant a good watering.

Use A Moisture Meter

One of the best methods to use for telling how moist or dry your soil is, is to purchase a moisture meter. This has been designed with measuring the moisture content of your soil in mind, so you know you can rely on this for accuracy.

This method works much like the previous two methods. Simply place the rod part of your moisture meter into the soil, making sure that you push it up to your chosen depth.

Take a look at the display of your moisture meter. If you notice that the moisture meter has anything less than 3, then you will know your plant needs a good watering.

Weigh Your Plant Pot

One of the less reliable methods for measuring the moisture of your plant pot is to weigh the pot itself. This isn’t the most reliable of methods, as with larger plants this can affect the measurements that you read.

If you have a larger plant it will be better to opt with one of the methods that we have mentioned above.

This measuring method is as simple as its name suggests. Simply place your plant pot on a weighing scale, and make a note of the measurements. This is because moist soil will become much heavier than when the earth has dried out.

If you notice that the plant pot is lighter than normal, this could indicate that your plant needs watering.

Are Plants Able To Recover From A Shortage Of Water?

It can be distressing to come back from holiday and find your plants looking sad and droopy. It’s very tempting to think that it’s time to chuck them out and that all hope is lost for your little green friend. 

However, this isn’t necessarily the case! If your plants have lacked a water supply for up to 2 weeks, there’s still a chance that they could bounce back happy and healthy after giving them a good soaking.

The only thing to bear in mind is that if your plant has been left without water for anything longer than 2 weeks, this could cause damage to the leaves that can’t be reversed.

This is because of the process that we discussed earlier, where the cells start to fall apart. Your plant’s stems and leaves will start to droop over, and the plant may even start shedding flowers, leaves, or fruits.

If your plant has been without water for longer than 2 weeks, then your plant isn’t likely to survive.

What Affects How Long Your Plants Will Last Without Regular Water?

So we know that the general amount of time that plants can survive without water tends to be around 7 days. But things are a little more nuanced than this, as it will all come down to several different factors.

Some plants will last longer than this, and some will last less.

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Let’s take a look at the different factors that can affect how long your plant is able to survive without regular watering.

The Type Of Plant

First we need to consider what type of plant you are looking at. 

Some plants such as succulents, cacti, or tropical plants will be able to survive a bit longer than 7 days without water. The general rule for the vast majority of tropical plants is to give them between 1 to 2 inches of water each week.

Cacti and succulents are able to survive for even longer without regular watering. These types of plants typically only need around 1 to 2 inches of water every 2 to 3 weeks.

This is because they are highly drought tolerant, as this would be their natural environment.

Other plants such as flowering and fruit producing plants will need more regular watering. These will need to be watered at least once a week.

So if you know you’re not going to be around to water them because of taking a vacation, then you will need to ask someone to do it for you.

How Mature And Large Your Plant Is?

Interestingly, the maturity of your plant and its size will also dictate how long it’s likely to survive without water. If your plant is on the larger end of the spectrum, then this will need to be watered more often than a smaller plant.

This is because it will have a greater need for water, as it will need more water for the larger leaves and stems.

When your plant starts to grow larger, it requires more water in order to properly manage the turgor pressure inside the plant cells. This will help to keep the turgor of the plant cell film, and give the plant its signature shape. 

As we discussed a little above, when a plant doesn’t have water for long periods of time, this affects the turgor of the plant cell. So the less water your plant has, the more likely this will affect your plant’s plant cells.

It’s also worth considering that the larger the leaves of your plant, then the more surface area there is to lose water through.

The Type Of Soil

Other important factors that can affect how long your plant is able to survive without water includes the type of soil that you have it planted in.

If you have selected a type of soil that has great water retention, then the less likely you’ll have to worry about underwatering your plants.

Factors such as how much organic matter is in the soil, what the overall composition of the soil is, as well as the soil’s texture will influence how well it is able to retain water for your plant.

The better the water retention, the more likely your plant will survive.

Clay and silt soils tend to have much smaller particles than other soil types, but they also give you a larger surface area to work with than sand particles. This can help to retain water better for your plants.

The Temperature Of Your Room

If your plants are in an area that exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, then they are more likely to lose water through transpiration. Water can also evaporate from the soil much quicker during hotter temperatures.

Which will then mean your plants need to be watered more often.

What The Season Is?

Your plants won’t need as much water when they are dormant, such as during the winter time. This is often because there isn’t as much sunlight available, so this means photosynthesis tends to slow down during the wintertime.

So your plants will be able to survive without water for longer than they would be able to during the summer and spring months.

Watering Your Plants When You’re On Vacation

Ask A Friend To Water Them

Of course the easiest way to ensure that your plants get the water that they need is to ask a friend to come and do it for you.

Remember to give your friend specific instructions for each plant, just to ensure that they are able to properly care for your greenery while you’re away.

Alternatively you can hire a professional plant sitter for anywhere between $50 to $100. 

This is often the best method to take, as you can rely on your plants getting the right amount of water and nutrition.

Create Your Own Watering System Using An Inverted Bottle

A great DIY method for watering your plants while you’re away on vacation is to create a watering system using an inverted bottle. Secure the cap on your bottle, and punch a few holes in this using a nail and a hammer.

Fill up your 2 liter bottle with water, place the caps on, then turn the bottle upside down so that the cap faces downwards. You can then bury this into the soil of your houseplant so that it slowly drips water into the soil while you’re away.

Create A Water Drip System

You can also create a water drip system using an elevated bucket filled with water and some rope. Simply place this bucket on a stool above your plants.

Next, place one end of a cotton rope into the water, and then the other end of the cotton rope in the plant’s soil. This will then allow the water to slowly drip onto the soil.

Create A Mini Greenhouse With A Plastic Bag

Another fantastic option to choose is to create your own mini greenhouse so that the plants are able to water themselves. Simply place a large plastic bag over your potted plant, using wooden stakes to support the plastic bag.

Make sure that the leaves of your plant aren’t touching the plastic bag, securing it in place using tape. You can then leave your plants away from direct sunlight so that they can capture the moisture inside the DIY greenhouse.

Invest In A Drip Irrigation System

A drip irrigation system is arguably the best method to opt for. This is similar to the water drip system, but instead of using a cotton rope, you will have a timer which will automatically dispense water as needed to your plants.

This is the best method to use if you have no one to plant sit for you, and you will be going away for an extended period of time.

In Summary

So there you have it! You now know that plants can survive for up to 7 days without regular water. However, there are actually several factors that will come into play here. Depending on the type of plant you have, it will need more or less watering than this.

It will be important to give your plants as much water as they need, and to always ask a friend to come and water them for you when you’re on vacation.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy our post on ‘The Right Soil For Peperomia: Ready Made Potting Mixes And DIY Ones‘.

Amy Enrich