One Way to Tell if Your Houseplant is Dry That You Might Not Have Thought Of

by | Mar 7, 2016 | 3 comments

Is my houseplant dying? It is pale, kind of droopy, and not the right color. Sometimes you can “see” if a houseplant is dry by the color of the plant. Did you know that?

There are many ways to determine if your plant needs water. I’m going to show you one today you may not have thought of.

Is my houseplant dying?

I tell people I can quite often tell by looking at a plant whether it needs water or not. This is especially true of ferns, but it happens with other plants as well.  I’ve never been able to explain it to anyone but I can tell by the color of the plant. It is a dull, light green or as I call it, “see-through”.

While at my Mom’s house this week, I noticed her fern was dry and took pictures to show you. It is also in the wrong window. But that’s another post. (Excuse my picture as it is from a long time ago with an old phone camera.)

houseplant dying
You can see the color of this fern is a bit light in color
ladybug on fern
I had to show you the ladybug that was on the fern

Don’t let it get to this point

When I look at my fern at home and see this dull color, I know it needs water. I try not to let my plant get to this point. Ferns especially, do not want to dry out.

I took mom’s fern to the sink to give it a good drink. Remember, always let the water run through your plant when watering. But never let it stand in water for more than 30 minutes. If it hasn’t taken up all the water at that point, it probably isn’t going to. If left to stand in water, the plant’s roots will rot and the plant will die.

My houseplant isn’t dying

Below is a picture of the color of the plant after watering. Notice how bright green it is. It has lost that dull, silvery-green color.

houseplant not dying
Now the color is bright green as it is full of water

Can you tell when your plant needs water by looking at the leaves? Does this make sense to you?

The next time you think your plant doesn’t look quite right, check it for water. You might be surprised that you can “see” dry plants, too.

Mom's well-watered fern
Here is a picture of mom’s fern this week here in my house August 2021

Have a great week, plant friends!

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  1. Beth

    Thanks, Lisa — this was a really helpful post. I think I’m starting to sometimes be able to notice when plants need more water (or have gotten too much water), mostly because of touching the soil and noticing whether the pot seems lightweight. But I hadn’t thought about color change as a gauge of needing water. Very interesting and informative! Best Regards, -Beth

  2. Karen

    A friend gave me a tiny little cactus in dry peat in a little container. There is no ID on it nor any instructions. I have no idea how to care for it.
    By the way, I have had a terrible time following your website. I’ve spent at least 15 minutes just getting to this place.
    The bottom of my plant container gave me an address, but I had to wander all over before I ever got here. I have no confidence
    that I will be able to find this page again.


      Hi Karen, I don’t understand what you mean that the plant container gave you an address. Surely not my address? Okay, you could show me a picture of your plant on my Facebook page so I can see it. I would use an appropriate well drained cactus and succulent soil to repot your cactus. Water it in well when you replant it and then don’t water it again until the soil is almost completely dry. Put your plant in the sunniest place you have in your house. Also, only pot up to the next size container, so if it is in a 2-3″ pot, only repot in a 4-5″ pot.


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