Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
56 ratings

Sunday - February 17, 2008

From: Garden City, KS
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany, Watering
Title: Withering plants recover with water
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Why do withering plants stand up when you give them water?

ANSWER:

When a plant begins to wither, it is to protect itself from water loss. Water is absolutely vital to a plant: it takes up nutrients in water, and it transpires (like a person sweating) water to cool itself down. A plant in a pot or in the ground that has begun to dry out and is out in the sun is in danger of losing all its moisture to transpiration and dying. Once the cells in the stem have dried up and died, there is no recovery. The water moving up the stem, by a process called osmosis, swell the cells in the stems and keep the stem rigid. Meanwhile, the leaves are trying to protect the plant by folding in and shading the leaves from the sun and transpiration. As there is less and less water available to move up the stem, the cells in that stem will become less full and the stem will start to droop. Hopefully, someone comes along and notices that the plant is drooping and applies water. The water goes to the root, where it is gathered into the plant by tiny hair-like growths on the root, and begins to be distributed up the stem again. The cells in the stem begin to fill with the fresh moisture, and the stem again becomes rigid and is able to straighten up. Then, the water in the stem goes to the leaves and they are able to uncurl as water comes to their rescue.

For a more complete explanation and some illustrations, go to this BBC website, "Green Plants as Organisms."

 

More Watering Questions

Arizona ash tree with brown leaf tips in Las Vegas NV
August 01, 2010 - We've had an Arizona Ash Tree in our yard for over 7 years it was doing fine until last summer, the tree seems to be struggling with the heat, its leaves look like they are burning up and turning bro...
view the full question and answer

Blackening of top growth of yaupon in Sunrise Beach TX
June 09, 2010 - My question regards a Will Flemming yaupon which I am thinking may be within your scope of expertise. These were recently planted under windy conditions, then hit with a neighbors antiquated jet type ...
view the full question and answer

Difference between soil moisture and water use from Austin
February 20, 2012 - In the native plant data base "growing conditions" can you explain the difference between water use and soil moisture?
view the full question and answer

Problem with Salvia Mystic Spires in Chesterfield VA
May 30, 2009 - Last August, our local Lowes had these beautiful, unusual blue perennials on the discount rack called "Salvia Mystic Spires". For 50 cents each, they looked terrific, so I bought all they had, about...
view the full question and answer

Need help with my Mountain Laurel in Sugarland, TX
June 22, 2011 - Texas Mountain Laurel - My plant's leaves are turning yellow and falling off. I don't know if this is caused from over watering or under watering. I have skipped days of watering to see if it will h...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.