Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
We all want our plants to grow and thrive, but sometimes we can give 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, and the plant starts to wilt. You can see this; you cannot see that the root system will start rotting, preventing 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 may still be green, but some signs of plant struggle are already evident.
As the plant takes on more and more water, this causes the Xylem, which is the vascular system that carries water and nutrients, burst. This is why the edges of leaves turn brown or your plant’s leaves turn yellow.
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 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 indicates you are overwatering your plant.
To see other reasons why your plant’s leaves turn brown, check out this article, which gives you all the possibilities.
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 mentioned, these parts are called the Xylem, 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.
Besides seeing obvious signs of overwatering above the soil, your plant will also be affected at the root level. 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 appear as a fungal disease that will turn the roots’ color from a pale white or cream to brown or grey and look slimy.
Take care to isolate any plant with 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.
Eight steps to save your overwatered plants
If you see any symptoms described above, you must confirm that overwatering 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 see 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 know 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 use a fungicide to ensure your plant doesn’t get reinfected. Be sure to do exactly what it says in the directions on the label.
Step 4: Replant into better-draining soil.
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 extra moisture that causes 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, 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 want to replace your pots, choose ones made of clay over plastic ones. Although they may look beautiful (not to say that clay pots are not), they are inert and not breathable.
They can also hold water. On the other hand, clay pots are porous enough to evaporate moisture 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 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 rehydrate them gently.
Step 6: Put in indirect sunlight
Move your plant to a better spot 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 heat. Leave it under the window to recover with some fresh air and partial sunlight.
Step 7: Monitor for proper moisture
For plants 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 into the soil. You may rewater your plant if it is already dry at that depth.
Step 8: Fertilize the plant with a foliar spray
After at least ten days, you can gradually fertilize your plant to support further recovery if you see some improvement. Water adequately, not excessively. A foliar spray can help get nutrients to the leaves much faster.
How to properly water your plants?
As mentioned, you can only rewater your recovering plant when the soil is dry. Evenly pour water into the soil until some trickle out of the drainage holes. Make sure to stop once it does, as we don’t want your plant to sit on a puddle of water-soaked to the brim.
Try not to overwater the leaves or avoid them altogether unless foliar is feeding. Always wet leaves tend to develop molds that could poison the plant—water directly into the soil or through a channel that can spread evenly on and below the soil.
Water during the day when the sun is out 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.
Try water-loving plants
If you are the generous watering kind of plant owner, by some chance, you can’t help being excessive when 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. 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 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. 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 reviving your precious plants, some other adverse effects may still occur, so it would be wise not to stress about it too much; instead, observe your plant well while applying these remedies and work to set them up for success.
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