Learn how to identify the signs of overwatering and underwatering in your houseplants. This article provides helpful tips for troubleshooting these issues and maintaining healthy plants. Improve your gardening skills and keep your indoor garden thriving!


Have you ever wondered if your houseplants are getting the right amount of water? It can be challenging to strike the perfect balance between overwatering and underwatering, but understanding the signs of these two extremes is crucial for maintaining healthy plants. In this article, we will explore the difference between the signs of overwatering and underwatering in houseplants and provide helpful tips for troubleshooting these issues. So, let’s dive in and learn how to keep your plants thriving!

Signs of Overwatering

Overwatering is one of the most common causes of plant death among indoor gardeners. It occurs when plants receive more water than they need, leading to various negative effects on their health and growth. Here are some key signs indicating that your houseplant may be suffering from overwatering:

  1. Edema: If you notice blisters forming on the undersides of the leaves, your plant may have edema. This occurs when the plant absorbs more water than it can evaporate, causing the blisters to burst and leave corky scars[^1][^2].

  2. Yellow Leaves: Overwatered plants often exhibit yellowing leaves, starting from the lowest and oldest leaves. Glossy plants like anthurium, gardenia, and jasmine are particularly susceptible to this symptom. However, it is important to note that yellowing foliage can also be caused by high soil pH or nutrient deficiencies[^1][^2].

  3. Brown Leaves: Brown leaves can be a sign of both overwatering and underwatering. If the browning is limited to the tips or edges of the leaves, it is more likely a symptom of underwatering, low humidity, or overfertilization. On the other hand, when plants are starting to rot, their leaves may turn brown and fall off[^1][^2].

  4. Mushy Stems: Mushy stems can indicate root rot, which occurs due to overwatering. This rot can spread from the roots to the visible shoots, especially in plants with closely spaced stems like devil’s ivy, goldfish plant, and wandering sailor[^1][^2].

  5. Mold in Soil: If you notice mold appearing on the soil surface, it may suggest rotting of the plant’s crown, corm, or bulbous base. Certain plants like cyclamen, strawberry begonia, and ponytail palm are prone to this. Watering the soil beside the plant, rather than directly in the center rosette of foliage, can help prevent the occurrence of mold[^1].

  6. Fungus Gnats: Constantly moist potting mix can attract fungus gnats that lay their eggs in the soil. The larvae of these pests may feed on the plant’s roots. Allowing the soil surface to dry out before watering again can help prevent the presence of fungus gnats[^1].

  7. Wilting Plant: If a plant wilts even when the potting mix is wet, it may be suffering from root rot, making it unable to absorb water properly through its roots. Plants like the aluminum plant, purple passion, and Swedish ivy may exhibit this sign of overwatering[^1].

It’s important to note that overwatering is the primary cause of houseplant death. To prevent damage to your plants, it’s crucial to water them only when necessary and be aware of these signs of overwatering[^1][^2].

Signs of Underwatering

Underwatering occurs when plants do not receive enough water to sustain their growth and health. While some plants are more tolerant of drought-like conditions, most houseplants require a consistent level of moisture. Here are some signs indicating that your houseplant may be underwatered:

  1. Wilting: When a houseplant doesn’t receive enough water, it loses turgor, which is the rigidity in cells and tissues that helps the plant stay upright. Wilting is a common sign that your plant needs watering[^3].

  2. Dry Soil: If the soil around a houseplant is dry, it may indicate that the plant needs more water. However, certain succulents like cacti can store water well and don’t require frequent watering. Checking the moisture level of the soil is crucial for determining when to water your plants[^3][^9].

  3. Dry, Dead Leaf Tips: Insufficient water can cause the tips and edges of a houseplant’s leaves to dry out and turn brown. Eventually, the entire leaves may also brown and die[^3].

  4. Slow Growth: Chronic underwatering can result in slower growth in houseplants. New growth, such as leaves, may appear smaller than usual when the plant is not getting enough water[^3][^8].

It’s important to note that watering the houseplant should help revive it if it shows signs of underwatering. If the plant does not recover, it could be due to another issue like a viral infection or fungal disease that needs addressing[^8].


Maintaining the right balance of water for your houseplants is essential for their overall health and growth. By understanding the signs of overwatering and underwatering, you can troubleshoot issues and provide your plants with the care they need. Pay attention to the specific needs of each plant, check the moisture level of the soil regularly, and make adjustments accordingly. Remember, it’s always better to slightly underwater than overwater your plants, as they are more resilient to temporary drought conditions. By learning and observing the signs, you can ensure the thriving and longevity of your indoor garden.


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[^2]: 10 Signs You’re Overwatering Your Plants. (n.d.). The Family Handyman. Retrieved from source

[^3]: 5 Signs Of An Overwatered Plant + How To Save It Before It’s Too Late. (n.d.). Mindbodygreen. Retrieved from source

[^4]: Overwatering outdoor plants – 6 common signs you’re giving them too much water. (n.d.). Homes & Gardens. Retrieved from source

[^5]: How to Save a Plant Dying from Overwatering + Most Important Symptoms. (n.d.). Balcony Garden Web. Retrieved from source

[^6]: 9 Signs You’re Overwatering Your Houseplants. (n.d.). Indoor Plants for Beginners. Retrieved from source

[^7]: 5 Telltale Signs of Overwatered Plants | Bloomscape. (n.d.). Bloomscape. Retrieved from source

[^8]: How to Tell if a Plant is Overwatered or Underwatered. (n.d.). Houseplant Help. Retrieved from source

[^9]: How Little Is Too Little Water – What Does An Under Watered Plant Look Like. (n.d.). Gardening Know How. Retrieved from source

[^10]: 6 Signs Of Under-Watered Houseplants & How To Correct This! » Simplify Plants. (n.d.). Simplify Plants. Retrieved from source

[^11]: Plant 101: Signs You’re Underwatering your Indoor Plant. (n.d.). Lively Root. Retrieved from source

[^12]: 9 signs that your plant needs water. (n.d.). Planet Houseplant. Retrieved from source

[^13]: How to Water Houseplants the Right Way (and How to Know if You’re Overwatering). (n.d.). Better Homes & Gardens. Retrieved from source