Underwatered Philodendron – Signs and How To Revive

Underwatered Philodendron - Signs and How To Revive

Philodendrons, which belong to the Araceae family, are easy to grow and care for. They are popular indoor plants that adapt easily to indoor conditions, but also enjoy shady spots outdoors. However, despite being low-maintenance, philodendrons can still succumb to the effects of underwatering if neglected for long periods. 

Underwatered philodendron – Signs and how to revive 

Signs of an underwatered philodendron 

  1. Wilting and crisp leaves

An underwatered plant will start to go limp and the leaves may become crisp. This indicates that not enough water remains in the plant’s cells. Plants have stoma, or pores, on the surface of their leaves, which allow air to enter the plant tissue. When there is a lack of water, the plants close these pores to halt evaporation, and this results in wilting. If the dehydration continues for some time, the total lack of moisture will cause the leaves to dry out and become crisp.

Plants may also wilt due to overwatering, too much sunlight, too much fertilizer, being rootbound, or due to diseases. 

  1. Dry soil

The soil around an underwatered plant will be very dry. You can test the soil moisture by pushing a screwdriver into the ground. Wet soil is more easily penetrated than dry soil, so the harder it is to insert the screwdriver, the dryer the soil. The depth of penetration will also depend on the soil type, size of the screwdriver and your own strength.  

  1. Slow growth

Plants that are underwatered are likely to have slowed or stunted growth due to the lack of not only water, but nutrients. A plant uses water to transport nutrients to its cells, so any drought conditions will also entail nutrient deficiencies. This condition could be temporary or permanent. If the plant is merely experiencing a low water supply, the growth may just be slowed for a short time. If the slowed growth is more permanent, you will notice that the new leaf growth is smaller than the usual leaves.

  1. Discolored leaves

Underwatered philodendrons will develop yellowed and curled leaves. These leaves may also have dry edges. 

How to revive an underwatered philodendron 

  • Check the topsoil and soak the plant.

Check whether the topsoil is dry to the touch, as this is a clear indication that the plant needs to be watered. The topsoil is the top two inches of soil around the plant. To give an underwatered plant a proper watering, you can water it from the bottom by putting it in a basin of water for about 30-45 minutes. The soil will absorb water through the holes at the bottom of the pot, and when you see that the topsoil has also become moist, you will know that the water has penetrated all of the soil. This means that all of the roots have had access to water.

  • Move the plant to a shady spot.

Underwatered philodendrons should be moved away from bright windows to partially shaded areas. These plants do not do well when placed in direct sunlight for long periods, and even less so if they are underwatered. To allow your plant to bounce back to health as soon as possible, support it by providing it with indirect light so that it does not have to deal with further dehydration from sun exposure. 

  • Amend your watering techniques.

When watering your philodendron, pour water directly over the soil so that all the roots are drenched and the soil becomes slightly moist. Water your plant in the morning rather than at night: this allows any excess water to drain out and the soil to dry from the sun’s warmth before nightfall. Water the plant less during winter, because this is when its growth is slower. To avoid overwatering, which is worse than underwatering, ensure that the top inch of potting soil is dry before watering the plant again. If you tend to underwater the plant despite your best intentions, keep track of your schedule by writing it down.

Philodendron plant care

Philodendrons thrive in areas with bright, indirect sunlight. Place them near windows where the sun’s rays cannot directly reach their foliage. If you notice the older leaves all turning yellow simultaneously, they could be getting too much light. Inversely, if the stems become leggy with several inches between the leaves, the plants may not be receiving enough light.

Make sure that the top inch of soil dries out between waterings. Check the soil by inserting your finger into it to assess the level of moisture. The plants may be getting either too much or not enough water if their leaves become droopy. Ideally, philodendrons should be watered every one to two weeks, but the rule of thumb remains: Before watering again, make sure that the top of the soil has dried out. 

Give your philodendrons a balanced liquid foliar fertilizer that contains macronutrients. Slow growth and a small leaf size are indications that your plants are not getting enough nutrients. Water your fertilized plants at least monthly during spring and summer and at least every eight weeks during fall and winter. A lack of nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium, could result in the younger leaves becoming unnaturally pale. 


Philodendrons are popular indoor plants that are easy to grow and maintain. There are vining as well as non-climbing varieties, both of which, like most plants, are prone to underwatering. Common signs of underwatered philodendrons include wilted and discolored leaves, as well as slowed growth. To revive your underwatered plants, water them thoroughly to drench all of the soil, allow any excess water to drain away, and move the plants to a shady spot. To avoid underwatering in the future, you will need to revise your techniques and commit to a more regular watering schedule. 

Image: istockphoto.com / naramit