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Signs of overwatering house plants can sometimes be hard to spot, but the overall condition and appearance of your green friends can tell a lot. Then again, depending on the plant species and the conditions it lives in, different plants need different water amounts, so you need to be very careful when analyzing what has happened.
So, can you overwater plants? What are the signs you’re overwatering plants? If you notice any of the following symptoms, chances are, you are overwatering plants:
- Brown shoots
- Edema or built-up water pressure
- Falling leaves
- Gnats and other parasites
- Leaf browning
- Leaf yellowing
- Root rot
- Slower growth
So, now that you are aware of all the symptoms, let’s elaborate on all the signs of overwatering and see what can be done in each of these scenarios.
Stay with me and enjoy!
What to Do When Shoots Are Brown?
Your plant behaves relatively normal, and it grows in some expected manner- and you can even spot some shoots.
Speaking of, take a good look at them!
If they appear to be somewhat brownish, it is a sign of overwatering.
This one is usually combined with the plant becoming limp and floppy, so it won’t be difficult to guess what’s the reason for such appearance.
The thing is, the soil is probably so waterlogged, that the plant can’t stand upright, so it begins to loosen its entire ‘body’.
EASY FIX TIP: Don’t worry, this is one of those issues which can be fixed, and there’s a chance to save your plant. Just cease watering for a couple of days until the soil gets a bit drier, and your plant should recover. But if there are no signs of improvement, I suggest repotting it.
How to Deal with Edema, Built-up Water Pressure?
The name ‘edema’ may not be too familiar to you, and if you are a newbie, you probably haven’t even heard of it since it is one of the less common overwatering plants signs.
Edema (or oedema) occurs when you provide too much water for the plants.
With all the built-up water, the plant is literally under too much pressure and can’t use the water in a meaningful way.
Thus, with the increased pressure, the leaf’s internal cells explode.
As you’ve guessed, every explosion leaves a disaster behind.
In this case – leaf death.
You will notice edema by the blisters appearing first on the underside of the leaf.
EASY FIX TIP: Good thing about edema is that you can spot it in the early stages, and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the plant- stem and petiole. To eliminate the possibility for edema to appear, make a smart watering schedule, and accommodate your plant to receive a sufficient amount of light per day. This way the excessive amount of water will vaporize.
Falling Leaves as One of the Signs of Over Watering
Although many people define falling leaves as a sign of underwatering plants, that is not completely true.
Of course, underwatering may be the reason for falling leaves, but so can be the excessive amount of this precious liquid.
Falling leaves as a symptom of overwatering plants is usually accompanied by the plants’ slower development.
If you notice that even the new, young leaves, are falling, this is definitely the case of overwatering.
The young ones will start to fall off even before they have the time to fully develop.
Also, they won’t fall out green and fresh, but rather yellow or brown.
EASY FIX TIP: This usually happens with plants that already don’t handle an excessive amount of water well. Be extra careful with your plants which are yet to stabilize and start growing. Don’t pour more water than they need to and check the soil before you do so.
How to Get Rid of Annoying Gnats?
This may be a tough one since it is the only sign plants are being overwatered, where you have to ‘fight the enemy’.
First of all, know thy enemy before you go to war.
Fungus gnats are the most common pests found in house plants.
They are the little black bugs that lay their eggs in overly humid soil.
And yes, they also like mold (logically since it is one of the effects of overwatering).
Don’t mistake them for fruit flies – it is not the same type of pests.
Fruit flies like sweet environments and will fly not only around your plants but around the garbage in your house or anything similar.
Gnats like mold and overwatered soil and will only fly around the plant.
EASY FIX TIP: Okay, running to the nearest store to buy some fungicide is probably the first that comes to your mind, but why don’t you try the luck with cinnamon? Perhaps it’s the aroma or whatever else, but a little bit of this amazing spice over your plants will bid farewell those nasty bugs.
Leaf Browning as the Result of Over Watering Plants
Leaf browning, just like falling, may be another sign of overwatering plants.
Of course, it is not the only cause of browning.
Too much sunlight may also cause it, especially if it is a green plant and not the flowering one.
Lack of humidity may be the reason for browning, as well.
Besides that, leaf browning is another one of the overwatered plant symptoms.
You will notice that the brownish color is different than with underwatered plants.
If underwatered, they become crispy and they dry out.
On the other hand, when there’s too much water, they are soggy and look kinda moldy even though they aren’t.
And they also tend to smell bad, just like when its roots are rotting.
EASY FIX TIP: Aside from making a smart watering schedule, you should pay more attention to humidity. More humidity doesn’t mean more frequent watering- it means more misting. Another way to make your plant has an optimally humid environment is to take a shallow container, fill it with moist pebbles, and put it under the pot.
How to Deal with Leaf Yellowing?
This is not a rare problem with plants, and there are a few causes for the leaf yellowing.
You may be overwatering or underwatering the plant, it can be inadequate light, draft, or something else.
Don’t forget, overwatering may not be seen from above, as the topsoil tends to dry very fast.
It often happened that the top-coat is dry, but the soil inside the pot is waterlogged.
This is the reason why you must feel the soil and see if it is waterlogged.
Of course, there are other reasons for the leaves to turn yellow, such as overfeeding the plant with fertilizers.
It may be the other way around as well, that you are underfeeding them.
It all depends on the conditions you have provided for your plant and its specific demands and requirements.
Another reason for the leaf yellowing is not enough sunlight.
If the plant lives in low-light conditions, the leaves may turn yellow because the plant can’t photosynthesize.
EASY FIX TIP: Having so many reasons for yellowing, it makes you wonder- how to be 100% which one is the case? Pretty simple, actually. All you have to do is put your finger in the soil and see whether it feels damp. If it’s waterlogged, then find someplace with more sunlight (but still not too much) and give the soil a day or two to dry a bit. Then check the soil again before you resume your normal watering schedule.
Mold as One of Overwater Plants Symptoms
Parasites and other bacteria like damp surroundings.
So, if you notice mold appearing on the plant’s topsoil or, even worse, the plant itself, know that you have overwatered it.
Another thing that may cause mold, is that your plant is sick for some other reason.
Still, it is best if you notice mold while it’s still only on the soil, and not the stems and leaves.
Another problem with mold is that by being there, it is creating perfect surroundings for other pests, such as gnats.
EASY FIX TIP: If the mold is only on the surface of the soil, that’s great, because all you have to do is remove all the affected areas. The sooner you do that, the better, as you eliminate the possibility for other annoying pests, such as gnats, to appear. If the mold is already on leaves and stems, then cleaning those and repotting the plant is a much better solution.
The Best Way to Tackle Root Rot
First of all, I want to make clear that overwatering is not always the cause of root rot.
There are so many other causes as well – for example, maybe the plant is unhealthy or the soil is too damp (although, indirectly, it is a consequence of overwatering).
The problem with this issue is that it takes a long before you will notice your plant’s root is rotten.
The other problem is, it spreads very quickly.
For example, you have overwatered the plant, but obviously, you can’t see it, since the roots are buried.
The soil becomes waterlogged and starts suffocating root.
At first, only some of the roots may begin to rot, but very quickly, in a few days, the rot will spread, killing all the healthy roots, as well.
If this is the case, chances are, the plant will die in ten days or so.
EASY FIX TIP: Of all over watering plants signs, this one is perhaps the most difficult one to spot, and once you spot it’s already too late. So, if you already suspect that something is going on, just smell the soil. If the smell is a bit funky, be sure that its roots are rotting, so the best way to save the day is to take your plant out of the soil, remove the rotten parts, and transplant it.
Slower Growth and Overwatering
This one is pretty tricky, and it demands a little bit of gardener’s expertise.
Namely, you would have to get to know the average growth speed of your plant so as to be able to evaluate whether it develops properly or not.
Some of them grow faster than others.
Again, the climate may affect growth as well.
For example, if you live in a subtropical area, it is only logical that cacti, for example, will grow faster than in a continental climate.
Another variable – the season.
Plants growth usually stagnates during autumn and, especially, winter.
So, calculate all of these parameters before you conclude.
Of course, if you notice your little friend growing too slow or not growing at all, and combined with some of the other signs of overwatering from this list, you know the answer.
What you SHOULDN’T do is pour more fertilizer hoping that it will revive the plant and speed up its growth- it won’t, the effect will only be the opposite.
EASY FIX TIP: IHaving in mind the tricky nature of this issue, you need to cease watering for a couple of days, and accommodate your plant closer to some source of light. Once the excessive water vaporizes, the plant will resume its usual speed of development, and the first signs of improvement should be visible after 5 to 6 days. If it still looks the same, then some other issue is present as well, so inspect your plant once again to see what’s going on.
How to Fix Wilting?
Plants, like all living creatures on this planet, are pretty delicate.
Many consider wilting to be one of the signs of underwatering, but the truth is, overwatering may cause the phenomenon as well.
Actually, it is one of the most common symptoms of overwatering plants.
How come, one might ask.
Well, we have already explained by now that too much water prevents the plant from getting all the nutrients from water by strangling it with too much pressure.
I guess now you see the picture – the plant’s not transporting the nutrients to its body parts, therefore, the plant starts to wilt.
Touch the soil and see how much damp it is.
Of course, wilting is connected to other symptoms, such as yellow or brown leaves.
Gently touch the leaves just to examine them under your fingers – if they are soft and limp, it is a sign of overwatering.
If they look too dry and crispy, you have underwatered the plant.
EASY FIX TIP: Aside from rearranging your watering timetable, you can also check the fertilizer you use. If it’s not the adequate one for your plant, and it doesn’t have the necessary nutrients for that specific plant type, then get a new product.
How to Tell If a Plant is Overwatered or Underwatered?
So far, we have listed ten signs plants are being overwatered.
Then again, there are different signs of underwatering plants, as well.
Since many of them can be pretty similar, you will have to conclude.
If you notice any of the symptoms, the first thing to do is check the soil.
Put your finger in it and see whether it is damp or not.
Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you will feel the difference between waterlogged and overdried soil.
The next thing you want to do is check the stems and leaves.
If they feel soggy and limp, the chances are, the plant is overwatered rather than underwatered.
In conclusion, if you notice any of the signs of underwatering, make sure that is the case, and not the opposite (overwatering).
How Do I Fix an Overwatered Plant?
There are a few ways to fix the overwatered plants.
First of all, hope that it is not so overwatered that it can’t be helped (happened to me once, had to just toss the whole plant).
Use container with more drainage holes
There are some things that you should do, no matter which sign of overwatering you have noticed.
First of all – provide your plant with enough drainage holes.
They are essential for good water flow.
So, if needed, re-pot the plant to another container with enough holes on the bottom.
When repotting your plant, it is advised to place some rocks on the bottom of the tray.
Not only will this prevent any objects from getting stuck in the drainage hole, but, most importantly, it will ensure better drainage and enough humidity.
If you ask me, there’s no such thing as too many holes, the more the merrier is better, and just like I told you, pebbles are excellent to balance it well.
Make sure the light is adequate for your type of plant
Since your plant has become wilted, you must place it somewhere shady.
Why, you may ask?
Because it is already damaged and the sunlight may just burn it.
Another reason is, plants use sunlight to grow and make progress.
At this point, we don’t need growth, we need for the plant to survive.
This is just because you want it to get dry more quickly.
Once placed in the right spot, the plant will recover quickly and resume its growth.
What you need to know, of course, is which plant needs more which less sunlight.
Don’t use tap water
If it happens once or twice, no problem, your plant will forgive you, but this shouldn’t become your habit.
It’s much better and safer to use distilled or rainwater.
What causes the problem is the excessive amount of fluoride, which can harm your plant over a longer period of usage.
However, if you pour it and leave it overnight, then you can use it without worrying, as the level of fluoride is significantly smaller.
Mind the pests
If your plant is attacked by gnats, those terrible bugs I’ve already mentioned, there are a few ways to get rid of them.
First of all, control the moisture level of the soil.
Second of all, remove all the infected soil (all the moldy parts, as the gnats love them).
You can use different pesticides, but there are healthier ways to deal with gnats if the cause of them is overwatering.
Make sure you water the plant from below since gnats lay their eggs on top of the soil.
You can also use soil cover (such as sand or perlite) to stop them from reappearing.
If your plant has visitors in the form of gnats, you may need to re-pot the plant and, most importantly, change the soil.
Firstly, examine the roots system.
Some of the roots will probably be moldy.
Prune them (always with sterilized tools, so the ‘infection’ won’t spread).
Do the same with leaves and stems.
Once you are sure your plant is mold-free and nicely dried, the little bugs flying around the pot should be gone pretty quickly since they don’t have anything to feed on.
Aside from gnats, you have other spider mites, aphids, depending on the specific plants you have.
Some of them can be removed with a bit of soapy water, the others require chemicals.
The only important thing is to spot them on time and react as soon as possible.
How Does an Overwatered Plant Look Like?
Of course, the appearance of overwatered plants differs from species to species.
And when you have a couple of things combined, it’s even more difficult to be sure what’s bothering your plant.
In general, the plant is wilted and lifeless when it receives more water than it needs.
Leaves turn yellow and limp.
The plant is growing very very slow if making any progress at all.
Also, the soil will start to smell bad, especially if mold or parasites appear, or if the roots started rotting.
How Long Does It Take for a Plant to Recover from Overwatering?
The answer to this question depends on many different factors than just plant species.
It’s overall conditions that play a vital role as well:
The damage amount and type
If you have been overwatering your plant for a long time, it will need more time to recover.
It all depends on the general condition of the plant and its particular parts as well.
For example, if there is a lot of damage to the leaves, it is not as alarming as badly damaged roots.
Too much VS too little sunlight
You will want to move your plant to a shady place where it won’t be exposed to direct sunlight-unless it thrives on it, of course.
As we have already mentioned, plants use sunlight to photosynthesize, therefore, grow, and expand.
When overwatered, we don’t want them to grow, we want them to heal.
Of course, don’t go to extremes and put the pot in a place where the plant has no natural light at all.
Time of the year
During the growing season, the plants will recover fast.
During spring and summer, the climate is more beneficial, there is enough sunlight and the temperatures are milder.
Another logical conclusion, the built-up water will evaporate faster during hot days.
How fast the plant grows
Depending on the species, some plants tend to grow faster than the other ones.
The fast-growing ones will prosper quicker.
Then again, it all depends on the particular plant and its natural surroundings.
For example, cacti live in harsh conditions in nature (sandy soil, little and rare water, etc.), and this is the reason why they recuperate quickly from overwatering.
Also, if you have overwatered a young plant, the chances are, it will recover more quickly than the old one.
Recognizing Signs of Underwatering
Of course, there is another side of the medal.
Sure, you are being traumatized by overwatering your plants and managed to save it somehow.
Now, you are not watering it too much because you’ve learned your lesson, and boom – pretty much the same damage signs appear.
Your plant is wilted, turning yellow or brown, etc.
First of all, touch the soil.
If the finger imprint stays, the soil is overdried.
Also, if the soil is cracking, the reason is the same.
The leaves or leaf tips may become brown, dry, and crispy.
Still, make no rush!
It is the worst possible scenario to overwater the plant that has been underwatered earlier.
The best way to fix it, as I have already mentioned, is placing the whole pot in a container filled with water and letting the plant itself do the watering.
In my experience, the most important is to know your plants well.
You’d be surprised how fast they react to both positive and negative changes, so you need to give them enough time to get used to whatever it is that you have changed and they will respond.
That usually happens in four to five days, which is still enough for you to realize whether your decision was a good one, or your plants requires something else.
And what’s even more important, this is not a lengthy period, you cannot kill your plant by experimenting with those fixes- you have enough time to save it.
Best Ways to Water
In the end, I would like to make sure you know how to properly water your plants.
First of all, count on the factor of the season.
Plants need less water during autumn and winter since they get less sunlight.
It also depends on the type of plant, so make sure you ask the worker in the flower shop when buying the plant.
Of course, you can also find multiple articles online when it comes to different plant species and their water needs.
The absolute best way is to place the whole pot in a container filled with water and let the plant drink as much as it needs to.
When watering, make sure you do it as low as you can.
You don’t want the upper parts of the plant to get wet.
If leaves and stems need water, mist them, but never pour water over them.
Another advice – try and pour the water around the whole plant base – the rooting system is around it.
It is best to use rainwater.
If you don’t have the conditions to collect it, filtered water is the choice.
Still, if you can’t provide filtered water, there is another alternative, as well.
Fill the bottles with tap water and leave them open outside (or on the balcony, or window shield).
The harmful ingredients found in tap water will evaporate.
When it comes to temperature – always use lukewarm water.
Too cold or too hot water may shock the roots.
The best time of the day is early in the morning or when the sun starts to set.
You want to avoid watering during the night because there isn’t enough sunlight to photosynthesize.
During spring and summer, you want to avoid watering during the day, because hot temperatures may heat the water in the pot.
Generally, you want to recreate the natural conditions for your plants, including the watering process.
Also, try to sustain the humidity by placing moist rock pebbles under the pot.
PRO-TIP: If you don’t have a big enough container for your pot or if you want to save some time by watering a few pots at a time, you can fill the water sink. Once you sink in the pot, the bubbles will appear. Wait for the bubbling to stop before you take out the pot.
There are more than a few causes and signs of over watering house plants.
The most important thing is to notice overwatering symptoms as soon as they appear and try to fix them.
Make sure you have diagnosed the problem correctly – whether the issue appeared due to overwatering or some other reason.
Estimate the damage amount, look for all the abovementioned sign plants are being over watered, and act accordingly.
Most importantly, learn how much is too much water for plants and never give up, but try all these tricks to save your plant.
If it eventually dies, at least you know that you’ve done all you could.
How do you usually fix plants overwatering?
Share your tips and impressions with me, I can’t wait to hear from you.