Is your houseplant at the permanent wilting point or can it be saved?
First, what is the permanent wilting point or PWP? And is your houseplant at that point?
Definition of Permanent Wilting Point
The permanent wilting point is the point at which your plant has wilted. And it is staying that way forever.
Okay, that is my definition, but the scientific definition is almost the same. At the permanent wilting point, your plant does not have enough moisture in its potting medium to sustain it and its roots have died. Now it can no longer live.
As you can see in the pictures below, my fittonia has wilted. If you have ever owned a fittonia, you know they are quite dramatic and wilt often.
Fittonias prefer to have a moist potting medium at all times. The good thing is, they do bounce back. Unless…….they are at the permanent wilting point, in which case they will not recover. Thankfully, I caught it in time and gave it water.
Time-Lapse of a wilted plant
Below is a time-lapse I did of my ‘Jurassic Pink Shades’ Rex begonia reviving from wilting. I went away for the weekend and it was hot. With the air turned up, the heat, and lack of enough water, it wilted. It is also on the second floor of my home and I talk about how second-floor plants may need different treatment here.
Indicators of permanent wilting point
How will you know if your plant is at that point? If your plant wilts, you water it, and the leaves don’t rise back up, you know your plant is done.
The roots were too dry to recover and take up water for the plant. Your plant will remain wilted and the potting medium will stay wet as the plant can no longer take up the water.
Some may assume they didn’t give it enough water if it stays wilted and give it more. That won’t work as the roots are dead.
Consequences of wilting
The consequence of the above video is yellowing leaves and I will remove them. But, I am glad that this plant wasn’t at the PWP, or it would be dead instead of having a few yellow leaves.
Peace lily at the permanent wilting point
Another plant we have all watched wilt is the peace lily or Spathiphyllum lily. Some people actually use that indicator as their cue to water the plant.
Not the best practice, by any means. I take care of a peace lily at our church that wilted during the covid shutdown more than once. It did recover but there were a lot of yellow leaves. These were removed, but it was close to the PWP many times.
How to revive a wilted plant
This calathea/goeppertia dried out and the potting medium pulled away from the side of the container. If it happens, place them in a container of water and let the plant draw water up.
This will rehydrate the plant. If you click here, you can see the results of this method of reviving this dry plant. You might repot your plant in fresh potting medium.
The exception to the rule
The exception to the rule of “all leaves dead so the plant must be dead”, is the oxalis or shamrock plant. It can dry out completely and the leaves collapse and it will come back as you can see in the pictures.
In nature, they go dormant and come back. When I forget to water it, it goes into dormancy, (poor plant) and then reappears when I water it. That is not the best thing for the plant if it happens often, but it will come back.
I hope you catch your dry plant and water it before it reaches that permanent wilting point, or PWP. If you don’t, its okay. Sometimes these things happen, especially when you have a lot of plants, go on vacation, or it is hotter than usual.
Have a great week, plant friends and go check your plants!
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Thank you so much for sharing these tips! I thought my wilting spider plant was a goner for sure. It was bumming me out because of how many compliments on it. I even had a carpet cleaner comment on how beautiful it was. Your tips have helped me bring my plant back from the dead! Seriously can’t thank you enough.
Thanks, Alicia! You know they look good when others notice them. lol
Something I’ve also done when encountering a wilted plant (either just ‘some’ or ‘oh horrors’ wilting) is to mist it heavily with plain water, and then stick the whole plant in a clear plastic bag and tie it shut. (This is in addition to an immediate, heavy watering.)
And then I wait. It could take 24 hours, but I’ve left plants for up to a week before I was convinced they’d recovered enough to open the bag.
Sometimes I’ve hardened them off gradually, and other times just taken ’em out, trimmed the dead leaves, and carried on.
I find the intense humidity helps them recover more reliably. But as Lisa says, if the roots have truly died, that’s it then.
Thanks for your comments! I will have to try that. It’s like putting it in a small greenhouse to recover.
Your tips saved my plants! Thank you. Ive always assumed I was bad with plants since I have such a hard time keeping them alive, but now things are different! My husband and I recently moved into our first home and had a cabinet refinishing done and all of our friends have been bringing over potted plants as house warming gifts and they have all been on the verge of dying but thanks to you, they have some hope! ha Thanks again
Thanks so much. I am so glad I could be helpful. Knowledge and care are all that is needed to keep your plants thriving. Have a great day!