How Long Can Plants Go Without Water?

For a pop of color and fresh oxygen, you can’t go wrong with incorporating a plant into the landscape of your home. Although generally simple to take care of, plants are more than just home decor and require varying levels of care and attention.

There are certain things that every plant needs and water is one of them. Plants can go 1 week to a few months without water depending on the variety and their location. Indoor plants can last 3 weeks to a few months, outdoor plants can last 1 week, and garden plants can last up to 2 weeks without water.

Keep reading to learn how long plants can survive without water, what determines how often they need it, and other elements plants need to survive.

How Often Do Plants Need Water?

Watring indoor plantThere is a lot of variation between plants and many factors that can affect how often plants need watering. In general, though, you can get a rough idea of how long a plant will survive without water based on its location: indoor, outdoor, and garden plants all need differing amounts of water.

It is worth noting that the averages noted here indicate how long plants will generally survive without water. However, if you want them to grow and thrive, it is usually better to water them more frequently.


Indoor plants can last the longest without water, usually. This is especially true if they are a species that doesn’t need a lot of watering. Usually, they can go easily a week or two without water without having too many negative consequences.

Many indoor plants can even handle 3 weeks with only a few signs of minimal stress. Some of the more hardy plants can last a few months, though they will show signs of stress such as wilting leaves and lack of growth.


Depending on the type of plant and the weather outdoors, your plants may need to be watered a minimum of once a week just to survive.

Even if you don’t have flowering plants, if they are in pots, the plants are unable to stretch out their roots to gather more water, and so they need to have their soil soaked more frequently.

Though root containment challenges are shared by both indoor and outdoor plants in pots, outdoor potted plants also face more extreme temperature changes, access to more sunlight, and often a non-humid environment. For this reason, they generally need a lot more water than their indoor counterparts, even if they are the same species of plant.


Sprinkler watering grassGenerally, going over 2 weeks without watering is considered a bad idea. Since most plants in a garden are flowering and may produce fruits, they need a lot more water than other varieties. Without enough water, the fruits and flowers are usually the first to go.

Most people recommend watering your garden enough to soak the soil 1-2 in (2-5 cm) deep per week. However this soaking shouldn’t be done all at once, or too spread out with a little done every day, as both can be harmful to the plants.

Breaking up the watering across two or three days over the week is considered the most beneficial.

What Happens if My Plant Is Not Watered for a Few Days?

When plants aren’t watered for a few days past their peak need, it isn’t usually an immediate issue. The plant is still more than able to bounce back. However, they will show signs of needing water in a few different ways.

  1. Brown leaf edges: when a plant is first showing signs of dehydration, the first thing to change is usually the leaves. The leaves will start turning brown and brittle around the edges.
  2. Wilting: your plant will start to lose rigidity in its stems. The plant will begin to wilt and bend over more than it would normally, especially the stems holding the leaves.
  3. Dead leaves: when the underwatering continues, the leaves will eventually completely dry and turn brown, before starting to fall off.

While plants can recover from this, it can severely impact their stress levels and future growth. It may take a long time to again look healthy.

How Can I Tell if My Plants Don’t Have Enough Water?

wilted pot plantPlants will start to show signs of slow growth, wilting, and dying leaves when they first start to dry out. However, if you aren’t experienced with plants, it can be hard to tell if they need more water, less water, or are suffering from some sort of infection or disease.

Thankfully, there is an easy way to tell if your plants are dry.

By checking the soil surrounding your plant, you should easily be able to tell if your plant needs more water or not. The easiest way to do it is to stick your finger deep into the soil. If it feels moist, your plant likely has enough water.

However, if the soil feels dry, your plant needs some water.

Once you start to learn more about your plants, you can also lift the pot to determine its weight. It will of course feel much lighter when it is low on water and heavier when it has enough moisture. It will be difficult to tell at first, but you can eventually start to get the hang of it once you are familiar with the plant’s “base” settings.

Another, more professional and accurate, way to test the moisture in your soil is with a moisture sensor. Some cheap ones simply light up to tell you the amount of moisture via a color-changing light that simply tells you if it is good, low, or very dry. Some, however, will give you specific measurements and percentages.

The most important thing, however, is to research the characteristics of your specific plant. Each species and type has drastically different water, light, and soil requirements. Make sure you understand the requirements of your plant so that you don’t over or underwater.

What Factors Influence How Often My Plant Needs Water?

FactorsThere are four main factors that affect how much and how often your plants need water.

  • Light: specifically light from the sun, evaporates the water in the soil. If you live in an area with more light, or your plants are getting full sun, you will need more water than plants that are primarily in the shade.
  • Temperature: think about when you are warm. If you are in a hotter environment, you sweat off more water and have to drink more. While plants don’t necessarily sweat, they do release moisture when it is warmer, and so need more water in the soil to combat the amount of moisture they have lost.
  • Humidity: if you live in a drier environment, you will need a lot more water than if you live in a more humid environment. This is because the soil in more humid environments will likely already contain some level of moisture, and your plants won’t lose as much water to the air as part of the gaseous exchange present during photosynthesis and respiration.
  • Season: winter tends to be darker and more humid than summer, so plants can use a little less water in the winter. However, this only applies if the area they are in isn’t changed artificially, such as with heaters and artificial lights.

Do All Plants Need Water?

Yes. All plants need water. While some plants can do with a lot more or less than others, it is one of the 4 necessities that all plants require.

What Are the 4 Things All Plants Need to Survive?

It is fairly easy to remember what plants need to survive. It is very similar to what most humans and animals need as well. However, there is also a handy little acronym. LAWN stands for the 4 things your plants need the most: Light, Air, Water, and Nutrients.

  • Light: all plants need at least a little light. Some do best in full sunlight while others might do best with mostly shade. However, all plants need some light to photosynthesize.
  • Air: plants produce oxygen, which is required for other animals to survive. However, to produce oxygen, they need proper aeration. Both their roots and their leaves need good air circulation to be able to take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
  • Water: water is an essential compound for all life, however, for plants, it is especially important. Not only do they need it to survive as animals do, but water in the cell walls provides rigidity that allows them to stand up and grow as they should.
  • Nutrients: there are certain basic nutrients that plants need to help with anything from root strength to chlorophyll production. These “super” nutrients are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. When you purchase soil, it usually contains an ideal mix of these three nutrients based on the need they are targeting. Magnesium, calcium, and sulfur are also important in smaller amounts.

On top of these four main components, there are certain other factors that plants need to grow at their best. These are space, time, and the correct temperature.

While these aren’t required, plants can’t expand without the proper space to do so. Also, the colder it is, the slower plants will generally grow.

Finally, time. Garden plants need the time and patience of gardeners to allow them to grow as they should. Moving them too much, changing their access to nutrients, or changing their watering situation too quickly can cause them to have trouble growing as they should.

What Are Some Plants That Can Live a Long Time Without Water?

Array of succulentsFinding drought-tolerant plants is the best option if you’re looking for plants that can go a long time without water. These are usually plants sourced from a desert location as they have adapted to survive with just a little water at a time.

Some (of many) examples are:

  • Agave
  • Lithops
  • Sedum
  • Bougainvillea
  • Lantana
  • Oleander
  • Cactus

These are great plants if you live in a drier location, or if you know you won’t water them as often as other plants (those native to wetter climates) need. Some of them even look quite beautiful when they bloom, so rest assured that your plants won’t look like dead twigs or spiky bushes.

How Do I Water My Plant When I Go on Vacation?

Plants need water and a lot of it. It is one of their four major requirements. However, it is also one of the hardest to regulate if you have to leave on a business trip or vacation.

Watering outdoor plants can be easy if you set up an automatic sprinkler system. There are very expensive systems that involve digging down to set up sprinkler heads. However, you can also buy tools that will turn your water on using a timer and connect to sprinklers above ground. It isn’t the prettiest, but it does the job during a short vacation.

This method is great for both a garden and outdoor potted plants. However, when you start to look at indoor plants, it gets a little more complicated.

The easiest way would be to hire someone to come and water them. But that can be pricey and involves the work of finding someone you can trust. This is often easier said than done and can leave additional worries such as the safety of your personal belongings.

Another option is to use bottles or watering globes to water your plants. These can be set up to last for different amounts of time depending on the amount of water the bottle or globe can hold, but it will extend the length you can be gone.

The neat thing about these is that once you’ve filled up the bottle and stuck it upside down into the soil, the water won’t flow into the soil unless it is dry enough to need more. So it is a sort of time-released watering system. Plus, using empty water or wine bottles doesn’t cost any extra money and is a great way to upcycle your waste.

If you are a little handier, there are plenty of ways that you can create timed drip systems as well, for both your indoor and outdoor plants.


Every plant is different when it comes to its watering requirements. There are a lot of factors involved, such as the humidity, type of plant, soil drainage, amount of sunlight, and more.

Generally, outdoor plants, whether in the ground or a pot, will need a lot more water than those kept inside, as they experience a lot more sunlight in a less controlled environment.

Most outdoor plants can only last 1 week, garden plants can last up to 2 weeks, and indoor plants can last 3 weeks to a few months without water. You can tell your plants need water if the leaves turn brown or start to fall off, or it starts wilting.

Investing in an automatic sprinkler system or using a watering globe for your potted plants, can ensure that your plants always receive adequate watering.