Overwatering Or Underwatering – Which is Worse?

One of the most widespread plant issues is overwatering. But distinguishing between an underwatered and an overwatered plant can be tricky.

If you want your houseplants to thrive, you must know whether you are underwatering or overwatering them.

Curled leaves, leaf drops, dry leaves, wilting, and brown tips are all symptoms of plants being underwatered.

If you water the plant when the earth seems dry, it will thrive. In addition to the signs of underwatering (wilting, brown tips, and yellowing in spite of the damp soil), root rot can occur due to overwatering.

Why isn’t my plant thriving – Underwatering or Overwatering?

The first thing you should do if your plant is unhappy and you aren’t sure if it needs too much or too little watering is to feel the soil.

The soil around an underwater plant will always be bone dry. A complete lack of water is the root cause of submergence.

If the soil is dry and your plant is showing only signs of underwatering, you should water it and observe its response over the next 12 to 24 hours. A plant with too little water will quickly recover from its initial wilting and appear much healthier.

Overwatering is more likely if the plant shows both underwatering and overwatering symptoms. Too much watering causes damage similar to that produced by extended wet conditions, but the effects remain long after the soil has dried out.

Instead of watering your plant to see whether it responds, you should investigate the environment it has been kept in to determine the issue.

How to know if you’re watering too little or too much

Not knowing if you’re watering your plants too much or too little is one of the most frustrating things you can go through as a plant parent.

Signs of watering too little

  • Soil with low density

Picking up your container plants is a quick and easy way to tell if they are getting too much or too little water. The plant is underwatered if it feels light for its size. It’s overwatered if it’s disproportionately hefty for its size.

  • Leaves that are brown, crisp, and curl

Leaves that are lightweight, crispy, or curling are also a symptom of being underwatered. Both underwatered and overwatered plants suffer the same fate: their leaves turn brown.

Too much watering causes the leaves to become limp and mushy instead of crisp and easy to crush. Look for other signs if you can’t determine what your browning leaves signify.

  • Yellow leaves

Yellowing leaves (particularly at the bottom of the plant) are a sign that your plant needs water. But remember that yellowing leaves can indicate too little or too much watering.

Underwatered leaves typically turn brown and crisp a few days after turning yellow, whereas overwatered leaves remain soft and yellow for much longer.

  • Wilting

Wilting is an early indicator of being submerged in water for too long. Wilting can occur in plants that are either underwatered or overwatered. Water the plant when you’re not sure what to do.

If the plant awakens after you water it, it is likely under-watered. If the plant isn’t awakening, it could be getting too much water. In that case, keep an eye out for other overwatering signs!

  • Dry soil

Signs of too little watering include soil that is dry or pulling away from the sides of the container. The absence of dry soil may indicate that the plant is suffering from something other than underwatering, such as a lack of nutrients or pests.

Signs of watering too much

  • Mushy leaves or stems

The leaves or stem of an overwatered plant can feel mushy, much like your fingertips do after swimming for a while.

The plant’s roots are typically the softest part of the whole thing. You may need to repot your plant if the soil has become soggy from overwatering.

  • Wilting

The wilting of your plant may be a result of either too little or too much watering. In a plant with too little watering, the wilting will not improve after you water it, but the wilting will improve in a plant with too much water.

Check for other indications than wilting to see if your plant is suffering from underwatering or overwatering.

  • Limp brown leaves

Both underwater and overwatered plants can develop brown leaves. But like their yellow counterparts, the brown leaves of overwatered plants tend to be limp rather than crisp.

Brown dots with yellow margins may also emerge in the center of the leaves if you overwater them. Brown spots on the leaves of plants that have been submerged often appear at the leaf tips first.

  • Wet soil

Overwatering is an obvious problem if your plant’s soil is always damp and shows other signs of distress.

Soil can get moldy or smelly if it stays too damp for too long. You may need to repot your plant if it has become moldy and smells due to overwatering.


Overwatering is far worse for plants and is more likely to cause plant death. Damage to the roots from too much watering is usually so severe that repotting and root trimming are necessary for recovery.

Although underwatering typically results in leaf loss and dead leaves, the roots are typically the last section of the plant to be adversely harmed.

For this reason, there is a strong possibility the plant will recover if you return to a normal watering schedule.

Obviously, the degree to which the plant has been damaged by too little watering will determine how likely it is that you can save it.

Keep in mind that some plants only produce new growth at their tips rather than producing new leaves to replace old ones. The plant’s aesthetics and health could be negatively affected.