Taking on some of your suggestions, we are reviewing the current plant system:
Plants without water are still withering, but can be revived if provided with water fast enough. The withered state will therefore serve as an easy to recognize optical trigger, telling you that water is urgently needed here.
If the survivors fail to provide water in time to a withered plant however, it will change to “withered dead”, from where it can no longer be revived; it can only be grubbed out and removed.
Speaking of grubbing out: The new bushwhack interaction will allow survivors to hack down and remove any plants from their container; which will yield a small amout of resources, remove the water consumption of the plant (think of a large pot where useless office plants are sucking up the water from your corn) and to make the “plant slot” in the pot available for new plants.
Also, pots should become portable, like any other object of that size, too. Currently, pots cannot be picked up; which was a programming shortcut to deal with the different states of a pot; but actually, there’s no good reason for that.