Am I Overwatering My Plants? A Practical Guide!


Picture of watering indoor plants from below

We all want our plants to grow and thrive, but sometimes we can give a little too much love. One of the first issues that growers experience when a plant’s growth slows down is yellowing leaves, and they assume the plant isn’t getting enough nutrients and water.

This makes matters worse as your plant is already getting too much water. All you need to do is look for obvious signs of overwatering, and we can always do a few simple steps to remedy and revive your overwatered plant.

A sure sign that you are maybe overwatering your plants is when growth stops, leaves turn yellow in color, and the plant starts to wilt. You can see this; what you cannot see is that the root system will start rotting, which prevents the plant from taking up the feed and green mold that grows across the soil surface.

Signs and symptoms of an overwatered plant.

Wilting or sagging plants due to overwatering

The soil may look damp, but strangely the plant itself may look wilted and limp as if it requires watering. The leaves themselves may still be green, but already some real signs of plant struggle are evident.

As the plant takes on more and more water, this causes the Xylem, which is the vascular system that carries water and nutrients, to burst. This is why the edges of leaves turn brown or why your plant’s leaves turn yellow.

Picture of dying and wilting plant

Browning of the leaves of an overwatered plant

Same as if it lacked water, overwatering can also cause browning of the leaves, which is what happens to your plant when it is wilting. First, it occurs from the tip of the leaves, while You can already see some obvious sagging signs all the way down the main stem.

Always check the soil near the base of the plant; if it is damp and the leaves are already brown and soft, it is an indication that you are overwatering your plant.

To see other reasons why your plant’s leaves turn brown, check out this article I wrote, which gives you all the possibilities

Picture of plant with tips of leaves going brown

Blisters are a sign of an overwatered plant

Overwatering your plants can cause blisters to form. Some experts call it edema. It happens when the plant has already absorbed too much water to the point that it tears or ruptures some parts of the plant.

As already mentioned, these parts are called the Xylem, and it is the plant’s vascular system. It can appear as lesions that may also be described as blisters. You can see white or brown wart-like growths on the plant itself. You will also see unusual indentations on top of the leaves.

Overwatering plants can cause rotting roots

Apart from seeing obvious signs of overwatering above the soil, your plant will also be affected at the root level too. Too much water in the soil can cause the roots to suffocate due to a lack of oxygen.

The roots themselves will drown and start to rot. It will show up as a fungal disease that will turn the roots’ color from a pale white or cream color to brown or grey and look slimy too.

Take care to isolate any plant that already has root rot since it could contaminate other healthy plants inside the same pot or plot.

Yellow plant leaves due to overwatering

You may notice that your plant has stopped growing and already has yellow leaves. These leaves may have already fallen, along with new leaves that are falling too, even as fast as it grows. These are all signs that your plant has been overwatered.

Plants’ leaves turn yellow because the Xylem bursts and can no longer pass nutrients such as potassium through to the leaves.

To see other reasons why your plant’s leaves turn yellow, check out this article I wrote, which gives you all the possibilities

Picture of plant with yellow leaves

8 steps to save your overwatered plants

If you see any of the symptoms described above, you will have to confirm that it is indeed overwatering that is causing the problem. Check the soil deeper by pushing your finger about 1-2 inches deep into the surrounding soil. If it feels moist and you are seeing the signs of wilting. Your plant is taking on too much water.

Step 1: Stop watering your plants

Do stop watering your plant, at least for the time being. It may sound counterproductive, but it’s the only way to arrest the decline somehow.

Step 2: Remove dead or yellow leaves

Cut off yellowed, dead, or dying leaves as it may invite pests that could latch on to the healthier parts of the plant and steal whatever nutrients it has left. Clear the surrounding area from debris like dead branches and the like.

Step 3: Check the roots for rot

Look at the roots and see if you can still save them. Dig some ways into the soil and see about it. If you find spoiled, black slimy roots where healthy white roots should have been, remove the entire root ball and manually remove anything dead and dying under the soil.

Remove the portion of that soil that has come in contact with the diseased root and replace it with fresh, dry soil.

Spread the remaining healthy roots onto the freshly packed new soil and spread it appropriately to aerate it. You may also opt to use a fungicide to make sure that your plant doesn’t get reinfected. Be sure to do exactly what it says in the directions on the label.

Step 4: Replant into a better draining soil

picture of blonde lady replanting a house plant

Check and reestablish your pot’s drainage and see if your pot has holes for excess water to exit. No holes mean no exit for excess water that caused the soil to be constantly wet and soggy. This also means that no oxygen has reached the roots. Remove any large debris that may be clogging the holes.

If there are no holes, create two that will be big enough for excess water to pass through. Also, roll the pot sideways and shake gently to loosen up the soil in the process creating much-needed air pockets.

Whenever possible and your plant isn’t too, try to repot your plant if you can. That means removing soggy soil and repacking it with new healthy dry soil.

If you are looking to replace your pots, choose ones made out of clay over plastic ones. Although it may look beautiful (not to say that clay pots are not), they are inert and not breathable.

They can also hold water in. On the other hand, clay pots are porous enough to evaporate water from their sides, making them excellent aerators.

This is why clay pots have always been the favorite plant container throughout the centuries, and it is basically hardened soil that acts as an extension of the soil inside it.

Step 5: Carefully rehydrate the leaves

Whenever necessary spray some mist on the wilting leaves to gently rehydrate them.

Step 6: Put in indirect sunlight

Move your plant to a better spot, possibly near a window with some sun. Please don’t put them directly under sunlight, as you will want to avoid accelerating the wilting process by drying out your plant under the heat. Leave it under the window to recover with some fresh air and partial sunlight.

Step 7: Monitor for proper moisture

For plants that have been repotted with fresh dry soil, give it just a little moisture to work with them. Leave it alone for at least a week for it to be able to recover and regrow. Do not fertilize yet, as this may overwhelm your plant. Do not water until you are sure that the soil is dry.

One way to measure moisture in the soil is by shoving your whole index finger all the way into the soil. If it is already dry at that depth, you may now rewater your plant.

Step 8: Fertilize the plant with a foliar spray

After at least 10 days, if you begin to see some improvement, you can now gradually fertilize your plant to support its recovery further. Water adequately, not excessively. Using a foliar spray can help to get nutrients to the leaves much faster.

How to properly water your plants?

As we have mentioned before, you can only rewater your recovering plant when the soil is dry. Evenly pour water into the soil until some of it trickles out of the drainage holes. Make sure to stop once it does, as we don’t want your plant to be sitting on a puddle of water-soaked to the brim.

Try not to overwater the leaves or avoid them altogether unless foliar feeding. Leaves that are always wet tend to develop molds which could eventually poison the plant. Water directly into the soil or through a channel that water can spread evenly on and below the soil.

Water during the day when the sun is out so that it can evaporate more quickly. Compared to a wet sitting plant at night in the chilly air, we now know that regular stagnant water being present regularly may encourage fungus and rot to happen. Watering during the day keeps the healthy balance of your plant, absorbing just the right amount to survive.

Picture of watering seedling trays from below

Try water-loving plants

If you really are the generous watering kind of plant owner by some chance and you can’t help being excessive when it comes to watering your plants. Why not choose plants that love plenty of water instead?

Plants like Selaginella are low-lying ferns that need to be misted on the leaves and need their soil to be always moist as well. Shade-tolerant plants like the Astilbe are another perfect example of a plant that requires a lot of moisture. Other good examples of water-loving plants are rose mallow, sedge, hibiscus, viburnum, and many others.

Conclusion on am I overwatering my plants

Being a plant expert or maybe having a green thumb has little to do with your potential on how good you can become as a gardener. Mostly, being a good caretaker of your plants is achieved through patience and hard work. Try not to get caught up in being guilty of overwatering your plants; you can always adjust and cut back to give your plant some relief, then move forward with the possible solutions.

Even in the process of reviving your precious plants, some other adverse effects may still occur, so it would be wise to not stress about it too much; instead, observe your plant well while you are applying these remedies and work to set them up for success.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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