Overwatered plant vs. underwatered plants are two that result from improper watering but have different symptoms. While overwatered plants will have soggy soil and mushy or dark brown roots, the soil of underwatered plants is dry, and the roots are slimy black and mushy.Overwatered Plant Vs Underwatered Plants

Here is a guide to knowing your plants’ condition, so continue reading as we tell you all about their key differences.

Features  Overwatered plants Underwatered plants
Leaves  Leaves start yellowing and curling and develop brown tips. Leaves turn yellow, and the brown tips impact the entire leaf. They feel papery, curl, and drop.
Roots  Roots become mushy or dark brown Roots appear slimy black, mushy, or brown
Soil  Soil is overly wet, with an offensive smell Soil dries and pulls away from the sides of the planter
Growth pattern There is stunted growth The plant grows slowly and produces smaller leaves

What Is the Difference Between Overwatered and Underwatered Plants?

The main difference between overwatered plants and underwatered ones is in the leaves, roots, soil, and growth pattern. Overwatered plants’ leaves start yellowing, and their tips turn brown. Underwatered plants’ leaves also turn yellow and get brown ends, but the browning spreads to the entire leaf within a short time.

When the leaves lack water, they start turning yellow and falling off. The roots will also continue rotting, and failure to fix the problem can cause the plant’s death. And although every good plant parent wants to save their plant from any menace, knowing the cause of the problem can be difficult.

Although it is challenging to differentiate overwatered vs. underwatered succulents, you can examine the leaves, roots, soil, and plant growth pattern to determine the problem. For example, overwatering and underwatering cause the leaf tips to brown, but those of underwatered plants feel light and papery. Here is how to tell if your plants need more water.

– Structure of Roots

Examining its roots is another way to tell if your plant is overwatered or underwatered. Pouring much water on plants makes their roots mushy or dark brown. On the other hand, underwatered plants have mushy or slimy black roots, and others turn brown. The roots also dry up, causing irreversible damage.

In addition to this given, you should also know from the roots the quality of the plant, since too little or too much water affects plant roots, it will also affect their growth. Plants that sit in a pool of water for a long time will stop growing. If you are keen, you will notice that the plant has not grown an inch or produced new leaves in months.

– The State of The Soil

Plants with water deficiency continue to grow, but they grow slowly. Although these plants get new leaves, the leaves appear at a slower rate and are tinier than the previous ones. If you cannot tell your plant’s problem with the growth pattern, look at the soil. Overwatering means pouring excess water into the planter so that the soil will be soggy, and so the planter also starts smelling after some time.

On the contrary, underwatered plants don’t have enough water, so the soil will be overly dry. It also starts pulling away from the sides of the container, and you will see that the soil is becoming more compact and bound together.

What Are the Characteristics of Overwatered Plants?

The characteristics of overwatered plants are that they have faded, brown, and wilted leaves, that are also shedding. You will see the roots are mushy and dark in their color, the soil will be smelly, and the plant will have different pest or disease infestations.Characteristics of Overwatered Plants

One of the essential plant care tips is its water requirements, but sometimes, when watering is done excessively, some plants require constant attention by irrigating regularly. In contrast, others prefer to be ignored for some days till it soaks well. In this case, if your indoor plant does well in moist to dry soil, watering frequently can cause overwatering problems.

– Faded, Browning, and Wilting Leaves

The leaves are the first sign of an unhealthy plant, and you would tell by their texture, feature, and color that these leaves have been irrigated excessively. Whether your flower has green, red, or yellow leaves, overwatering will influence how they look, feel, and size. Overwatering plants cause them to have yellow leaves. This happens due to water and nutrient deficiency caused by rotten roots, which cannot deliver water and nutrients to the leaves.

The leaf tips could also turn brown and start wilting. The browning could spread to the rest of the leaf if you fail to take measures. Also, the leaves have too much water, making them feel soft. They also look big because the water has nowhere to go. This could result in easy injury of the leaves and bursting of the cells.

Browning and yellowing leaves lack chlorophyll, so photosynthesis will not occur, and this is because the sap is filled with too much water. Therefore, there will be energy deficiency, reducing the plant’s growth rate. And a complete lack of energy and food causes the plant to die.

– Mushy and Dark Roots

Check the roots if you can’t tell whether the leaf yellowing in your indoor plants is due to overwatering. Too much water suffocates the root system, making food, water, nutrient intake, and transportation to other plant parts difficult.

The soggy soil causes the roots to have fewer air pockets, limiting the oxygen supply, and this results in mushy and dark brown roots. But you may also think about how to know their color without killing the plant, which is why you must carefully uproot one succulent to examine its roots. If there are signs of overwatering, the other plants could suffer from the same problem.

Knowing that water is essential in the plant’s growth, too much suffocates the roots, causing root rot. Rotten roots cannot do their transportation work efficiently, so the leaves will need more nutrients and water supply, affecting their appearance.

– Smelly Soil

Checking the soil is the easiest way to know if you overwater your plant, and too much water causes wetness in the earth and makes it soggy instead of moist. The soil will also develop a soft or unstable smell, and some will have a rotten odor. Overwatered soil also feels spongy, attracts insects and pests, and has a very muddy texture.

However, checking the soil for overwatering also depends on your plant type. Some plants thrive in wet soil, while others do well in soggy soil. And besides, some are not affected by too much water, like the plants growing in swamps and rivers.

– Stunted Growth

Besides yellow and brown leaves and roots, you can tell that your plant suffers from overwatering by checking the growth pattern. A healthy plant grows an inch after some time, depending on the plant type. It could produce new leaves or get a bigger stem. On the contrary, these plants have stunted or slow growth, and you would also see that the plant is not developing properly.Brown Leaves of Plants

Stunted growth happens because nutrients are transported slowly from the roots to the leaves due to root rot. The yellow leaves also have little chlorophyll, meaning there is no photosynthesis. Therefore, the plant does not get the energy that supports growth.

– Leaf Shedding

While plants shed leaves for many reasons, like diseases and infection attacks, overwatering can also be a reason. First, too much water affects the plant structure, and with this, you would see that the extra water floods the leaves, making them too heavy for the branches. They, therefore, fall off. Besides, overwatering attracts insects and pests, which feed on the leaves and cause them to fall.

– Different Pests and Disease Infestations

When a plant gets watered in an excessive way, this issue causes them stress, weakening them and making them vulnerable to pests and disease attacks. Some pests attack the plants to feed on the weak leaves and stem, while the overly wet soil attracts others.

For example, fungus gnats and fruit flies live in wet areas, so the damp soil will be a conducive environment. These pests can infect your plants with fungal diseases, impacting their reproduction. So you would notice that overwatering might not kill the plant, the diseases could kill them in the long run, and some of them would be fungal development.

What Are the Characteristics of Underwatered Plants?

The characteristics of underwatered plants have drooping leaves, and the soil would also become very dry in texture. Moreover, the plant would also start having a slowed growth rate, it would face different pest attacks, and the roots would be dried up.Features of Underwatered Plants

Water is essential for plant health, strength, and photosynthesis, and because of the failure to provide enough water to plants causes underwatering, which leads to yellowing, browning, and dropping of leaves and slow growth. It can also cause pests and disease attacks on the plant or drying of the roots.

Besides, water is essential for the plant’s growth and rigidity. Therefore, underwatered plants have weak, papery leaves because their cell walls have lost turgor. The plant also becomes extra weak and dies.

– Drooping Leaves

When plants aren’t watered enough would cause the leaves to start turning yellow and look very weak. Too little water in the soil makes it impossible for the plants to take up nutrients. Lack of essential nutrients in the plants causes the leaves to turn yellow. And if your succulents have colorful yellow leaves, they will turn to another color.

Water is also essential for maintaining turgor pressure which strengthens and gives the leaves and stems their structure. When there is little water, the plant cells lack the pressure, becoming flaccid and wilt. The little pressure also causes them to feel papery and droop. Later, the leaves drop.

Besides drooping and wilting, other plant leaves start closing when underwatered. They curve inwards to preserve the little moisture left, which can affect the plant’s respiration and growth rate.

Before concluding whether your plant is underwatered, examine the positioning of the yellowing and drooping leaves closely. For example, if the leaves are close to the bottom of the plant, they could be yellow and drop due to aging. You can carefully remove these without leaving scars on the plant. However, ensure the rest of the leaves look strong and healthy.

– Very Dry Soil

The easiest way to know if your plants are underwatered is by checking the soil. The soil feels dry to the touch, cracks, and looks different inside the container. If you can’t see the signs of dryness by looking, use your fingers to feel it.

Consider watering the plant if your finger cannot go an inch deep into the potting soil. However, remember that different plants have various watering requirements. Some need to be watered after it completely dries, while others grow better in moist soil you must also, examine how the soil looks inside the container, so you must notice how too dry soil starts pulling inwards, leaving spaces on the edges of the container.

Panicking after underwatering your house plant can result in overwatering it, so be careful with the irrigation. You can sprinkle little water until the soil gets the required moisture. But generally, you will hardly tell the difference between overwatered vs underwatered flowers because they suffer similar symptoms.

– Slowed Growth Rate

When plants are not watered in a sufficient way it causes them to have a slow growth, and this happens because there is little water to transport nutrients necessary for plant growth. Other plants grow smaller leaves than the previous ones. However, the slow growth pattern continues for a short time, and the plant can resume average growth after watering.Watering Plants in Garden

The slow growth rate also happens when the plant’s leaves start yellowing. The yellowing reduces the plant’s chlorophyll, which supports the food manufacturing process, photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis produces energy that helps with cell division. Since there is little chlorophyll, photosynthesis will not occur, hence little to no plant growth. This results in stunted growth.

Low water supply can also cause flowering plants not to bloom and just as there is less water, the plant utilizes the remaining moisture for survival rather than beautification through flower production. In this case, you will have less produce.

– Pest Attack

Plants attract insects and pests for various reasons, and underwatering is no exemption. These underwatered plants are already weak, making it easier for the insects to feed on. Besides, other pests like spider mites prefer dry areas, meaning they will easily make your planter their home and start feeding on the flower.

– Dried-up Roots

A lack of water will affect your plant roots by causing them to dry, so you must now start to notice the dry roots if you remove the plant from the pot. This serious problem might not be reversible depending on the extent of the root dryness. This is because dry leaves cannot absorb minerals or transport water and nutrients to other plant parts, causing the plant’s death.


There are many similarities in the symptoms of underwatering and overwatering plants, but they are distinguishable. Overwatering leaves the soil soggy, plant leaves turn yellow and brown from the tips, and the roots become mushy. On the contrary, underwatering makes the soil extra dry, the leaves turn brown and feel papery, and they could stop flowering.

Overwatering and underwatering result from improper watering, but they have remedies. If your plants have signs of overwatering, you can reduce the watering frequencies, expose the plant to the sun and irrigate using little water. If you underwatered your succulents, pour more water to increase soil moisture, and use a moisture meter to know when to water next.

5/5 - (21 votes)
Evergreen Seeds