How to Revive a Completely Dry Plant

by | Mar 11, 2019 | 2 comments

Have you let a plant get a bit too dry and the leaves have curled up or it has wilted over the edge of the pot? The potting medium shrinks away from the sides of the pot and the water runs down the sides of the root ball instead of soaking in. This happened to me this week and the following is what I did to revive my completely dry plant.

Calathea that has dried out too much

The dry leaves have curled up

Shrunken potting medium

You can see below how there is room between the pot side and the potting medium because it is so dry the medium has shrunk away from the pot. When you water a plant this dry, the water doesn’t properly soak into the potting medium but instead runs down between the pot and medium and out the bottom without wetting the root ball at all.

Potting medium has drawn away from the side of the pot

Bottom water the plant

So what to do? I filled a bowl with water and set my plant in the water, which is known as bottom watering. It stayed there all day until the leaves uncurled and the top of the potting medium was rehydrated. When the water had reached the top of the potting medium it turned a darker color, letting me know the water had rehydrated the entire root ball.

I set the plant in water to let it soak up as much as it needed

Drainage holes under water soaking it up

A good drink of water

The drainage holes were underwater and the water was pulled up into the potting medium which soaked up enough water to expand back to the edge of the pot. Now when I water again from the top, it will soak into the medium instead of running off. That is if I don’t let it dry out too much again.

Potting medium is rehydrated and back to the edges of pot

Top of plant when leaves were rehydrated

Plant recovered and is well hydrated

New potting medium

The next thing I plan on doing is repotting the plant with fresh potting medium. Often, the plants are grown in a potting medium that is made up of mostly peat moss. When it gets dry it hardens and shrinks. This medium, in my opinion, is not the best for this plant. Or maybe I should say it isn’t the best medium for this plant in MY care. I have a lot of plants, so often my plants get quite dry because I am not consistent with my watering practices. It’s true. The Houseplant Guru isn’t the best at keeping her plants watered well all the time. I am trying to be better, but keep getting busier.

Anyway, I will crumble off as much of the medium as I can without damaging the roots, and then repot it with a more porous medium that will allow the plant to drain better and not shrink away from the edges of the pot so badly if it becomes overly dry again. Of course, not letting the plant dry out too much is the biggest key to success. I’m going to try to be nicer to my plants and more consistent with the water. I’m sure glad I could save this plant. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out as well.

Have you allowed a plant to get this dry? And did it come back after you watered? Tell me about your experience in the comments.

Love the colors on this leave

Have a great week!


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  1. Juliet Murphy

    All the time. It’s over 45° today and sunny so I’m talking my hanging basket wandering jews outside to give them a much needed soaking. When it gets too cold, I put them in the shower. I’ve been able to revive them many times, along with Oxalis, pothos, snake plants, dracaena, diffenbachea, philodendrons, spider plants, aloe, prayer plant, and overwintered geraniums. Not so much luck with Christmas Cactus, begonias, and palms.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      It is hard to get some of them revived after drying out all the way. It happens. I lead a lot of begonias to their deaths, as well!


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