How long can plants go without water is a common question among gardeners. It makes sense as they would be interested in preventing their vegetation from dying.
Plants can survive between three days and three years, although many factors, such as the plant type, maturity, and others, determine how long a plant can go without water. Read on to learn the aspects in detail.
- How Long Can Plants Go Without Water?
- What Are Determiners of Plant Staying Dehydrated?
- How To Sustain Plants Without Water?
- What Are Signs of Thirsty Plant?
How Long Can Plants Go Without Water?
Plants can go to a maximum of a week without water, however, some plants can go for even longer periods of time, such as for two weeks or even a month. It would depend on the type of plant and its drought tolerance level.
What Are Determiners of Plant Staying Dehydrated?
The determiners of the plant staying dehydrated would be the type of the plant, the soil type of the plant, and the plant size. On the other hand, it could also be due to the plant’s space, and the season of its growth, where it wouldn’t require thorough irrigation.
– Plant Type
Some plants are built to withstand harsh conditions. Succulents, for example, have incredible features such as waxy leaves, small pores, and deep bulb-like roots.
These features are the ones that would ensure minimum water loss, and the bulb roots act as water storage. As a result, these resilient plants can survive without water, but remember this isn’t the case for all plants.
On the other hand, there are other plants that can be more tolerant to drought that can beat cacti and other succulents for living long without water, such as the resurrection plants.
These can survive for up to three years with zero precipitation. However, they will resurrect after feeding them water for a day or two, but again, they will last for a very long period of time with no water.
Other than cacti variety, if you have planted some vegetables, fruit, and flowering plants need much water to survive, which means you cannot ignore them for a prolong period.
These plant types depend on water for their nutritional intake, photosynthesis, and cooling, as they would only survive between three and seven days without water before they start withering. Past seven days, these plants start drying and eventually die.
There are other types classified as ‘dormant’ plants, and they tend to look lifeless, especially when they no longer receive water. They shed their leaves and even turn their color. But if you cut a part of them, you realize they are still alive since there is some fluid inside. Shedding and turning is their survival mechanism when there is little to no water.
They can go for two to three months without water. Dormant plants grow back to life after watering. They grow back their leaves in a few weeks and regain their glory.
– Soil Type
Soil type is classified according to the size of its particles, the organic matter it consists of, and its composition.
Clay and silt have a fine texture and small spaces between the particles. These characteristics make it have a slow drainage rate, retaining water for extended periods.
Although clay types of soils are often moist, it cannot sustain most plants since they do not prefer wet environments. Root rot and fungal infection are common to vegetation planted on this soil, because this is the ideal medium where fungi would grow and develop.
On the other hand, sandy soil drains pretty fast compared to other soil types. It has a rough texture and large particles. Because it cannot retain water, it dries fast, leaving the plants planted on it with little water. As a result, these plants start withering in a few days, and when not watered, they die.
Lastly, the option of having a loam soil has a good balance of organic matter and drainage qualities, and if your plant requires this type of soil, it means that the plant will not tolerate a prolonged period of time without water. It drains fairly well and has sufficient minerals for plants’ uptake.
– Plant Size
Smaller plants are more vulnerable than larger ones, because they need your full on support to grow very well, although they require frequent watering, although in small quantities. These plants cannot go for many days without water since they do not have big storage spaces and can die quickly.
On the same note, however, fruiting, flowering, and big plants require a lot of water. They need high nutrient intake during this stage to produce healthy flowers while maintaining beautiful foliage, and as a result they would produce quality fruits. Water helps with nutrient intake and cooling the plant, which is why plants at this stage take a lot.
After the plant is fully matured and is not flowering or fruiting, the water demand reduces, and this is because there are few processes taking place. The water in the soil is usually enough, and the mature plants adapt and survive with the amount they get.
– Plant Spacing
Whether you are planting your plants on a raised bed, in pots, or outdoors, you cannot ignore the spacing aspect. Plants use their roots to get water and vital nutrients from the soil. As they grow, their roots become big and spread wide or deep.
It means plants planted without logical spacing will need frequent watering and fertilizer feeding. The latter is because their roots compete for the available water and nutrients in the soil. It is worse when the plants are flowering or fruiting because they need a lot of water.
With wrong spacing and high competition for water, the days such plants can go without water reduces.
Some seasons are drier than others. Winter is the season most plants can survive without water than other periods. Why?
Photosynthesis does not take place since the conditions necessary for the process to take place are not present. Most plants tend to go dormant during this season. And because they are not actively growing or producing, they can go for long periods without water.
Summer and spring are the most active seasons for most plants. Plus, a lot of evaporation and transpiration take place during summer because of the high temperatures. A lot of watering will be needed in order to sustain the plants and help them cool.
How To Sustain Plants Without Water?
To sustain plants without water, you can always use the mulching technique, move the plants indoors, and create a mini greenhouse. Moreover, you can have a self watering container, use drip irrigation, invert a bottle, use a wick irrigation, use water absorbing crystals, and lastly hire a plant-sitter.
It involves reducing water loss from the soil through evaporation. Materials such as dried bark, leaves, wood chips, grass straw, and other dry foliage to dress the plants. Before dressing, the plants are fed with enough water, and then you must cover it with the mulch, and it will trap the moisture in.
What is important is that you should note that your mulch is thick enough to help you have a higher percentage of evaporation prevention.
Besides acting as an umbrella for your plants, the mulch also encourages movement of the earthworms, which helps improve the soil structure’s composition and nutrient cycling, and this would also keep them going for a period of time. The ideal mulch thickness is two to three inches thick.
– Moving the Plants Indoors
This solution applies to potted plants since you cannot move plants planted in the garden unless you root them. When you plan to travel, ensure you carry your plants indoors, and of course, before leaving, you must be very keen that they are properly hydrated.
Keeping your plants indoors reduces the evaporation rate from wind and high temperatures. This way, you can maintain your plants for days without water or dying.
– Create a Mini Greenhouse
You can create a mini greenhouse for your indoor plants using plastic bags, and the process is very easy and swift. The mini greenhouse works as the traditional greenhouse used in outdoor gardening. Simply, you can cover your potted plants with plastic bags and tape them to avoid falling off.
What happens is that due to the temperature difference and the perspiration of the plant, some water droplets form inside the plastic bag, and as the droplets then fall on the soil in the pot, the plant will water itself, basically. The key to this process’ success is to ensure your plastic bags are long enough and directed properly to ensure the water does not waste.
When the plants’ foliage comes into contact with these bags for a prolonged time, fungal infection and rot can occur. The remedy is to use wooden stakes to set posts for mounting the papers to create a mini greenhouse. A tape helps ensure the papers remain on the posts.
– Self-watering Container
Self-watering pots are great assets for frequent travelers. They come in different types, sizes, and shapes, as you would invest in the ideal one for your plant. Unlike regular watering, these containers use a special technique to water them through capillarity.
When you are investing in one, not that the self-watering pots have two compartments. The upper part is where the plant and its contents are planted. And a lower part where water is placed, in this case, a wick is used to water the plants from the water section through capillarity.
With a self-watering container, you can go for up to seven days without worrying about your plants. You only need to refill the water reservoir when dry.
– Drip Irrigation
Drip irrigation is one of the most advanced plant watering systems available today. It is preferred in areas with drier climates and water shortages.
With this form of irrigation, it is easy to control the amount of water you feed your plants. You can also automate your system to have a watering schedule for the plants. The method applies to indoor and outdoor vegetation.
You may not always be at home since it is natural to feel overwhelmed and want to get away for some time. It helps recharge your energies and clear your focus. The getaways often happen during summer, when plants need a lot of water, so you can drip irrigate it.
In addition, when you are a gardener, it can feel as if your plants are haunting you on your vacation if you leave them like that, and this is a very proper if you leave with some drip irrigation.
– Use Wick Irrigation
This irrigation method uses the same concept of capillarity as in the self-watering pots. However, wick irrigation uses bottles that are separate from the planting containers.
Fill a container or bucket with water. Then, poke a hole in the soil where you have planted your plants. Dip a wick in the bucket/container full of water and the other end in the spot you have poked in the soil.
Wick irrigation will keep your plants hydrated for days as long as there is water in the containers. The method is great for indoor and other potted plants. To ensure you don’t remain tense throughout your vacation, you can do a few things to ensure your plants do not die from dehydration and lack of nutrients.
– An Inverted Bottle System
An inverted bottle system mimics drip irrigation, only that it cannot be automated. Water is limited, and the period it can hydrate your plants depends on the size of your container. A big container is preferable if you are going away for a long period and have no one to tend to your vegetation.
Ensure the container you use does not have holes to prevent water loss. Make a few tiny holes on the bottle top of your container. The size of the holes helps in controlling the amount of water the plant receives.
Dig a few inches, about three to five, next to your plants and insert your bottle while inverted. Consider using several bottles per plant base if the plants are big and require frequent watering.
– Use Water-Absorbing Crystals
Water-absorbing crystals ensure your plant survives while you are away. These crystals work by absorbing water and then gradually releasing it into the soil as needed.
They are ideal for use in house plants where you mix them with the potting soil.
– A Plant-sitter
Most gardeners will resist the idea of hiring professionals to water their plants. Not that they do not need professional care for their plants, but because their services are quite expensive.
The best approach is to get a plant-sitter. This person can help you take care of the plants as a favor or as a hobby.
A plant-sitter charges between charging nothing, to charging a little money on a daily basis, which is reasonable. With a plant sitter, you must give them instructions on the frequency of watering your plants to avoid overwatering or under watering.
What Are Signs of Thirsty Plant?
The signs of a thirsty plant are observing wilted leaves, using a moisture meter to check the soil, the feel of the soil. You may check with a stick in the soil, or feel the weight of the plant, or develop knowledge about the plant’s type and water requirements.
– Wilted Leaves
It is a cheap method of checking whether your plants are dehydrated or not. If you are keen on your plants, you will notice some changes after a few days of not watering. The leaves can start withering and look unappealing, and you would see that they have become weak. They can also turn color from a vibrant green to yellow.
Some plants, such as the spider plant and palm varieties, will have their leaf tips turning brown and crisp. When you start experiencing these signs, it indicates that they need watering before it is too late to save them.
– Use a Moisture Meter
It is the most efficient method for all gardeners as it uses technology. A moisture meter helps determine your soil’s moisture and pH levels, giving more accurate results than other methods.
Stick the moisture meter, by placing it in three quarters of the soil you are measuring. Because these meters come in various types, their readings are done differently. For example, if you are checking if your long plants are dehydrated, some meters have gauges for you to read, while others use color codes to show the moisture levels.
– Feel the Soil
You can use your fingers to tell if the soil is dry. You can often tell when the soil is dry on the surface, when it changes color, and when the soil starts cracking. Such dryness is suitable for indoor plants such as rubber plant that requires watering when the soil has dried out on the surface.
If you are uncertain of the color change, use your fingers to feel the soil. When dehydrated, the soil feels dry. You can also stick your finger a little further to know the extent of the dryness. Sometimes, the surface can be dry while the soil beneath is still hydrated.
– Use a Stick
If you do not fancy poking the soil, consider using a stick. A stick tester does not have to come from a store. You can use a chopstick or one that has fallen from a tree. It uses the concept used in testing if a cake is ready when baking.
Stick the soil tester in your pot or garden, approximately three to five inches deep. Pull out the stick and check. If it comes out dry, your plant needs a good water feed, and if it comes with some soil sticking on it, you can wait a few more days before watering.
– Feel the Weight
This method is suitable for checking the soil moisture of potted plants. Lift your pots after watering and not how heavy they feel. Keep lifting the pots for some days, and if you notice a reasonable weight decline, it indicates that your plants are thirsty.
Although this method is ideal for checking the moisture level of potted plants, succulents such as the snake plant, rosuem, and crown of thorn. These do not mind going a few days with dry soil are best suited for the method. Otherwise, a long plant such as spinach or fern cannot be a good candidate for this approach.
– Know the Plant You Are Planting
Watering your plants without a planned schedule can lead to overwatering or underwatering. Some plant varieties thrive in soggy soils, while others prefer drier soils.
Before planting, ensure you know the growth requirements. It allows you to have a great watering schedule that helps grow healthy plants.
On the other hand, if you have a cactus variety, or a succulent, you don’t need to over water it like you would for vegetables or flowering plants, to sustain the development of the plant.
Gardening can be tedious when all you do is plant, and none of your plants survive.
The practice is also fulfilling when you plant; after some months, your pots and garden are filled with the striking beauty of flowers and other plant produce. Water is a major element required for making the vibrancy possible.
To prevent your plants from dying from dehydration:
- Use drip irrigation, whether you are around or not, to have a sustainable watering schedule. Understand your plants’ type, size, and maturity to ensure you know their watering needs.
- Use different methods such as a testing stick, a moisture meter, and lifting your pots to determine the soil moisture.
- Do not wait until your plants are dead to start watering them. They cannot come back to life, but if you wish to help the plant in recovery, you can irrigate it properly.
- You do not have to water your plants daily for them to survive. A few days are fine for the flowering, leafy and fruiting plants. But neglecting them will not give you favorable results.
- In order to sustain the development of your plant, you must water it properly because not all plants will survive without water.
Watering frequency should not stop you from cultivating your garden as long as you understand the variety you want to plant.
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