What Plant Leaves Are Telling You About How To Care for The Plant

by | Apr 5, 2023 | 1 comment

Did you know your plant leaves are telling you how to care for the plant they are attached to? How?

Nematanthus plant leaves
The nematanthus (in the gesneriad family) has thick, shiny leaves

Thickness of Plant Leaves

Plant leaves indicate how to care for the plant by the thickness and texture of the leaf. The leaves above are Nematanthus ‘Tropicana’ leaves and they are thick and shiny.

Those characteristics let you know the leaf can hold water. It won’t need watering as often as a thinner-leaved plant, such as the ‘Cotton Candy’ fern below.

'Cotton Candy' fern leaves
The leaves of the ‘Cotton Candy’ fern are thin and tiny

Fern leaves

Most ferns have thin leaves that do not want to dry out. They don’ t have a lot of water-holding capacity. This means you must keep the plant well-watered, not allowing it dry out.

Ferns will need water more often than most plants, yet there are ferns that are more forgiving of drying out a bit.

The bear’s paw fern below (left and middle pics) has large, fairly thick leaves. This allows it to hold more water than other ferns. In addition, it has large furry rhizomes that can also hold water. Consider the whole plant when it comes to watering the plant.

The Austral Gem fern (Asplenium dimorphum x difforme) on the right below, has a thick, waxy frond that feels fake. It feels like plastic to me. I have let this fern dry out significantly and it comes right back. That is not to say that there aren’t yellow leaves involved, but other ferns would not have made it.

Other thin leaves

Though philodendrons are forgiving of drying out, they would rather not. Their thin leaves are an indication that they need water more often than other plants.

Oxalis leaves are also thin. They dry out quickly, so keep an eye on them.

Grape ivy plant leaves
These grape ivy leaves, (Cissus rhombofolia) are thin and so need more consistent water

Thick Plant Leaves

Succulents have thick plant leaves. This sansevieria/dracaena below has thick, rubbery leaves that can withstand long stretches without water.

Dracaena trifasciata plant leaves
This snake plant is a succulent and has thick plant leaves
Peperomia puteolata plant leaves
Peperomia puteolata leaves are thick

If your plant has thick leaves, like many succulents, it will need water less often than other plants.. Those leaves store water for when little is available to their roots. They would rather not dry out completely but can dry out a lot.

Tillandsia xerographica
Tillandsia xerographica have silvery, thick leaves

The Tillandsia xerographica above has thick, leathery leaves. It also has silver leaves that act as sunscreen, so you know this plant needs high light levels.

Because it is a tillandsia, the leaves are covered with trichomes that store water. The more silver color or trichomes a tillandsia has, the more drought tolerant it is. These plants prefer high light and can tolerate dry conditions.

Medium thickness leaves

The aglaonema and pothos (Epipremnum) above have medium-thick leaves. They won’t be on the same watering schedule as the plants discussed previously. Their leaves can store some water, but not as much as a succulent, yet more than a fern or oxalis.

The key is to check the potting mix with your finger before watering any plant. And know your plant. Plants don’t want to be bone dry or standing in water.

This dragon tree below has medium-thick, strappy leaves. It doesn’t want to dry out, but it also doesn’t want to be kept too wet. The woody trunk of the plant will rot if kept too wet. Trust me.

Dracaena marginata or Dragon tree
Dracaena marginata or dragon tree leaves

So what have you learned? Plants tell you about their care requirements by the thickness of their leaves. Thin-leaved plants will need water more often than medium and thick-leaved plants. This is one way a plant talks to you, but there are others.

The key is to test the potting medium to see how wet or dry it is and determine from that if you should water or not. Your plant will let you know if it isn’t happy with your care of them.

Have a great week, plant friends!


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1 Comment

  1. Houseplantjoy

    Thanks for the tips. Very informative and helpful especially for plant lovers like me. By the way, if you want other insights and tips, you may also visit my blog https://houseplantjoy.com/ Thanks, and have a good day! 🙂


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