Underwatered ZZ Plant: Signs & How to Revive It

The ZZ plant is renowned for its capacity to withstand harsh conditions, but it may eventually struggle if you don’t give it any water for several months. But you’ll be relieved to learn that ZZ plants recover from dehydration and drowning very rapidly.

So, if you’re busy or forget to water your plants as I do, you should choose the ZZ plant. However, as it might potentially harm the roots, you don’t want to encourage this pattern to continue.

I can understand that you are going through the same problem as mine, but do not worry, because from my personal experience I will guide you on how you can save your underwater ZZ plant. First of all, let me start with how I can tell if my ZZ plant needs more water or not!

How can I tell if my ZZ plant needs more water?

In ZZ plants, discolored, curled, and wrinkled leaves are all signs of underwatering. The plant will wilt and droop, and the soil will also be quite dry. Its roots may also get dry and brittle. Therefore, even if the ZZ plant can withstand brief periods of dryness, you shouldn’t go overboard. You should water it every two weeks.

What Leads to a ZZ Plant’s Dehydration?

Sunlight interacts with oxygen and water during photosynthesis to create carbohydrates. Later, after using those sugars to fuel growth, it transpires again, losing additional water as vapor and other gases. Your ZZ is probably dehydrated if the water entering its pot doesn’t correspond to what it requires to support the process.

Since the typical ZZ is a hardy plant, it takes some time for it to start exhibiting signs of water stress, making it simple to miss them until your plant is beginning to suffer. It will slow down and eventually perish if you don’t water it.

Nevertheless, there are more variables at play. Dehydration in your ZZ plant can be caused by a variety of factors, including the season and the plant’s location in your house.

Let’s look at how to recognize dehydration symptoms and how to treat your ZZ plant that needs more water.

Symptoms of a ZZ Plant that Needs Watering

You should always check out the symptoms if your ZZ plant needs watering or not. We have mentioned some symptoms that you should check out before watering your ZZ plant!

1. If you see Yellow leaves

When your ZZ plant needs a healthy drink, its leaves become yellow. Yellow leaves can be sacrificed so that the rest of the plant can survive as your plant gathers its resources.

2. Slower growth in ZZ Plant

Your ZZ plant droops when it gets thirsty. I’ve sometimes compared it to hydraulics, where the water in your plant’s vascular system helps to keep it upright. Your plant will sag if that extra support isn’t provided.

3. When you see that the ZZ Plant’s Leaf Tips Are Brown

Your plant is in trouble if it starts to brown. Since the leaf’s tip is most susceptible to environmental changes, any neglect to keep your ZZ well-watered will become apparent here. The resources can’t get to the leaf tips when there is a water shortage, therefore soon the leaf tips will turn brown.

4. Changing Seasons can affect

Your ZZ plant is seriously under-watered if it loses its brown-edged leaves. Your indoor ZZ plant will also employ this strategy when thirsty. Wild ZZ plants lower their leaves to preserve water during droughts. So be careful about this season and the place you’re keeping your ZZ plant.

5. Brown, dry splotches on leaves

Similar to dry brown margins, dry brown patches that emerge in the core of your leaves indicate that the leaf is withering away from lack of water. Those brown, dry spots are dead and dried out.

6. Edges of Brown or Dry Leaves

If there is not enough water for everyone, even a healthy, green leaf will begin to show indications of damage. Despite being lush and robust, the leaves on your ZZ plant start to appear crispy and brown, as if they have been burned around the edges.

7. ZZ Plant Curling or Wrinkling Leaves

Water in the cells of the ZZ plant plumps out the leaves and gives them their form. The leaf begins to twist and curl as the water level drops.

8. Dry Potting Soil

If your soil is dusty and loose, it’s a sign that your magnificent ZZ needs water. When the soil’s moisture is gone, the potting medium loses its structure and becomes flaky and powdery.

9. Broken Roots as a sign

Brittle roots or dried roots are a reminder of the crucial role water plays in maintaining a plant’s physical structure, even though they are out of sight and frequently out of memory.

Understanding What Leads to Under-Watering Step by Step

Do you want to know what leads to underwatering of your ZZ plants?
Of course, that’s why you are here. Let us now discuss the issues which can lead to the yellowing of your ZZ plants due to underwatering!

1. Unusual Watering

Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s simple to overlook taking care of a polite plant. Even the toughest ZZ plant will suffer after a few weeks of missed waterings, however, they will tolerate a little neglect but not too much.

2. Rapid Vaporization

The water is probably evaporating before your plant can use it, but your soil is still dry. 

A plant in a warm location near a heater or a bright window will struggle to get water to its leaves before the liquid evaporates because wide, flat pots allow water to evaporate easily. The warm weather will also contribute.

3. Soil’s Capacity to Hold Water

Not all potting soil is made equal. If it is too rough or sandy, then a medium will lose moisture rather than holding it, and some inferior mixtures can let the water run out the drainage holes before it has a chance to soak in.

4. Observation of Nitrogen Toxicity

ZZ plants don’t require a lot of nitrogen because they grow slowly. The majority of fertilizers contain this nutrient since it is essential for developing new leaves. However, an excess of nitrogen can result in several issues that closely resemble under-watering in slow-growing plants like your ZZ plant.

How to Save a ZZ Plant from Underwatering?

Fortunately, underwatering your ZZ plant will probably not do any harm and is simple to fix. Your ZZ develops from fleshy rhizomes that store water and nutrients very effectively, making it a specialist in the dry seasons. Let us now know the steps that you must take to save your ZZ plant from underwatering!

1. Eliminate the severely harmed leaves of your plant

With clean, precise shears, gently remove any damaged leaves. Green leaves with a hint of crispness at the tips or edges can be left alone, but anything that has turned yellow must be removed. Simply cut them off. Then, your ZZ plant can now concentrate on renewal.

2. Think about your pot and soil

Examine the condition of your pots and soil thoroughly. Good drainage is advantageous to all indoor plants, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Repotting is an excellent idea if your mix is not retaining water and dries up soon. Terracotta and unglazed ceramic pots are less effective at holding water than plastic pots.

The latter are porous substances that permit evaporation from the soil’s core. If you decide to repot, I advise you to choose a pot that is roughly the same size as the old and only differs by one or two inches.

Make sure your new pot has a drainage hole or holes. Plastic or glazed ceramic are both suitable options. Pick a potting medium that contains a lot of organic matter to help the soil retain water and have structure. It works well to combine equal amounts of soil, peat moss, and perlite.

3. If you are watering from the Top

Watering from the top is easier to do. It’s how most people typically water, but you’ll need to go a little further to treat under-watering. Check out the steps below!

  1. Set your plant in a suitable location, such as a saucer or tray.
  2. Slowly pour distilled, filtered, or rainwater into your watering can or jug before watering your plant. Water can saturate the soil as it enters the container by being added gradually.
  3. Continue pouring until water begins to drip from the pot’s bottom.
  4. After your plant has rested in the saucer or tray for about ten to fifteen minutes, remove it, let any excess drain, and then put it back where it belongs.

4. If you are watering from the bottom

Watering from the bottom is the most efficient way to accomplish this. It stops surface evaporation and delivers water to the roots. Check out the steps below!

  1. Select a tray or basin with adequate space for your plant to move about.
  2. Place your plant in the tray, and then add enough filtered, distilled, or rainwater to fill the pot halfway up the side.
  3. Allow enough time for your plant to absorb the water. Your drainage holes should allow them to be absorbed right into the roots.
  4. As the water level in the tray decreases, add additional water. Wait a few minutes once the level has stabilized before removing the plant.

5. Locate a Good Site for Your ZZ Plant

Your ZZ plant will lose moisture in the heat of the sun, heated air, and air conditioning wind. Bright lights don’t enchant them, so keeping them shaded will not only help keep their soil hydrated for longer, but it will also help keep the plant from becoming stressed.

Keep your ZZ plant away from vents and draughty areas since they will cause the water in the potting mix to evaporate more quickly.

6. Create and adhere to a watering plan

Creating a plan to ensure that you never forget to water is very necessary. Advise people who are busy or easily distracted to schedule a recurring reminder once every two weeks in their phone calendar. You won’t have to do the memorizing this way!

Some people include inspecting their indoor plants in their weekly regimens. Simply by touching the soil, you may physically check the amount of moisture in the pot holding your ZZ plant.

Examine the mixture; it needs to be allowed to dry to the top inch at the very least before you consider watering. I will advise you to wait until it is completely dry between waterings. This plant thrives in low water, yet overwatering has its own set of problems.

How Often Should You Water a ZZ Plant?

ZZ plants benefit from some degree of neglect. Even in the height of the growing season, they don’t use much water because they are slow-growing plants with minimal water requirements. Generally speaking, if you check your plant regularly and try not to overwater, you can water it once or twice a week which is enough.

The warm months of spring and summer are when your ZZ plant grows. During this time, it consumes more water, particularly if it blooms in the late summer or early fall.

Furthermore, any water in its pot will evaporate more quickly because of the hot weather. It might require additional water at this time. In the fall and winter, growth slows and less water is required. Any water in the soil will also be able to stay there longer in cooler conditions. In the cooler months of the year, ZZ plants have been known to go for months without being watered.

Height of the ZZ plant

Your plant’s leaves lose the majority of its water. More water will evaporate from a giant ZZ plant with thick, plentiful foliage than from a delicate beauty with only a few vibrant leaves.

Additionally, larger pots retain more water, necessitating more to achieve the proper levels of hydration.

Thermodynamics and Humidity of ZZ plant

The majority of climate-controlled homes and workplaces are kept warm and dry all year long. Due to this, both the potting soil and the ZZ plant itself lose water. A plant will lose less water in a humid environment (like a bathroom) than it will in a cooler, drier environment (like a home office).


Q1. What should I do if my ZZ plant develops brown stems or black spots? 

Ans. Since ZZ plants require little light, excessive light or even direct sunshine may cause black patches to appear on the stems. These spots are a warning that you should transfer your ZZ plant to a darker location rather than being dangerous. Nothing to worry about as long as those areas feel dry and not squishy. Since these patches are sunburns, they won’t revert to their original hue.

Q2. How should I care for my ZZ plant’s soil? 

Ans. You’re looking for a soil mixture that doesn’t hold onto moisture for too long or one that is succulent. The ZZ plant doesn’t rely on the soil to keep it hydrated; instead, it stores the majority of the moisture it requires in its bulb and stem. The ZZ plant thrives in a soil mixture made for succulents or cacti.

Q3. Suppose the leaves start to yellow then, what should I do?

Ans. Your ZZ plant’s leaves will turn yellow, and the stem will wrinkle and turn brown if you overwater it. Overwatering can kill the weaker stems of the ZZ plant because it is very sensitive to overwatering. It’s ideal to water your ZZ plant no more than once per month. Underwatering is easy to recover from, but excessive watering is bad for the plant.

Final Words

The ZZ plant is very strong and can withstand most of your torture. The good news is that if you follow the above-mentioned recommendations it will be fine, your ZZ plant can easily be revived if you’ve allowed it to dry out. Your ZZ will soon return to its striking, shiny self with a close eye on future water levels. It will bring you years of pleasure if you only make sure you give it some water once every two weeks or so.

I hope you like this article, if you have any doubts in your mind, please feel free to comment down below, and don’t forget to share this article with your friends and family!

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  • Vinni Balyan

    11 years ago when we left NY and started living in the suburbs, I developed the passion for gardening. I'm a mom of two, and a big time gardener here helping you pick you right battle in gardening. 🙂 Stay tuned.

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