How do you know if you are overwatering your plants?

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When it comes to plant care, overwatering is one of the top mistakes plant owners make. So how do you know if you are overwatering your plants? Learn what overwatering plants actually means and what are the signs your plant is getting more water than it needs.

How do you know if you are overwatering your plants?

What exactly does overwaterin a plant mean?

Your plant needs water to grow, and the roots will gladly take up that water. However, roots also require air around them for various reasons. This is why the soil should be moist but not soaking wet, with most plants. This allows the soil to be aerated and not saturated with water.

You might be surprised to learn overwatering isn’t necessary tied to the quantity of water you use when watering.

If you water your plants in a sink (for example), you can use a greater quantity of water as long as you let the pot (with drainage holes) sit in the sink after and let all the excess water drain out. If the same plant is in a decorative pot without drainage holes when being watered, the same amount of water will drown it, as the excess water would have nowhere to go. The plant would sit in that water, the soil would be saturated, and your plant would suffer.

The frequency of watering also plays a part. Different plants have different needs when it comes to watering. Some require the soil to be dry between watering; some require the soil to be moist at all times, and some even require the soil to be wet at all times.

If you water a plant (that needs the soil to dry between waterings) too frequently, not allowing the soil to dry properly, you are overwatering the said plant. Always know what your plant’s watering needs are.

Signs of Overwatering Plants

So, how do you know if you are overwatering your plants? Inconveniently some of the signs of overwatering can be similar to those of underwatering, at least when they first start showing.

1. Limp Leaves

Leaves can become limp both with over and under-watering. However, there is a difference. With overwatering, the leaves will be soft, and as the issue persists, they will develop rotten areas. The growth will be stunted too.

2. Leaves Curling

Again this can be a sign with both too much or too little water. However, when there is too little water, the leaves usually start curling at the bottom.

3. Leaves Yellowing

It’s natural for some leaves to turn yellow and die off as they age; however, if you start noticing this, keep a close watch as this too can be a sign of too much water.

4. Leaf Tips Becoming Brown

Browning of tips is a sign of trouble – big and small. If there isn’t enough water, the tips will become brown and dry (crispy). If there is too much water, they should still be softer to the touch. Browning of tips can have other causes too.

* the damage on the leaf here is due to leaf contact with water (this is specific to some plants), not overwatering, however this is how a leaf of a overwatered plant might look like

5. Leaves Falling Off

If your plant starts losing leaves suddenly, it’s struggling. If you are overwatering your plant, both old and new leaves will start falling off.

6. Roots Mushy and Brown

If you inspect the roots and notice they are soft to the touch and brown, gray, or generally dark, this is usually due to overwatering. If the issue is serious, rot root might have already developed, and you might also notice an unpleasant smell. You should prune the damaged roots.

7. Flowers Getting Mould

If you have a flowering houseplant and you start noticing the flowers are getting moldy, this is another sign of overwatering.

8. Fungus Gnats

While this pest can be present even when the plants are properly cared for, fungus gnats thrive when the soil is wet. If you have trouble with fungus gnats, it might mean some of your plants are overwatered.

Fungus Gnat

9. Water Collecting in Pot

If you see a puddle of water in your decorative pot, and your plant is sitting in that water, you are overwatering your plant. Only a handful of plants require wet soil at all times and would tolerate this.

Can You Save an Overwatered Plant?

There are no guarantees with plants, ever. If your plant is struggling, there are some things you can do to help save the plant, and they all depend on how serious the situation is.

Don’t Water the Plant

This one is obvious, but it’s the most important step. Do not water the plant; let the soil dry out.

Help Dry Out the Soil

If the situation isn’t too bad and the plant is still in good shape, help the soil get rid of excess water. Push feminine tampons in the soil. They do wonders in draining out excess water from the soil. Plug it in, wait for it to do its job, pull it out. Repeat with a new tampon as many times as necessary.

They might just save your plants. We recommend plant owners to have a pack at hand as an emergency aid pack for plants, seriously. They are extremely helpful when you or someone else accidentally overwaters sensitive plants too.

Saving Overwatered Plants

Move the Plant Away From Sunlight

Your plant is struggling and won’t tolerate direct light at this delicate time. Moving it away from sunlight will avoid burn damage.

Inspect and Prune the Roots, Repot

If your plant is already showing signs of overwatering, inspect the roots and prune away any damaged or dead roots. Work your way through the roots by gently removing the soil with your fingers. Rinse the roots and repot in fresh soil.

Preventing Overwatering

The best way to keep your plants happy and growing is to prevent overwatering in the first place.

1. Know your Plant

Learn about plant care for your plant before getting one, the watering needs of a calathea zebrina are vastly different than those of string of hearts. Most store-bought plants come with generic watering instructions that state to water them a set amount of times per week / month. All plants are unique, and their needs will vary, even with the same plant genus / variety. While some are forgiving and won’t fuss if they are being watered strictly every Sunday, most will have a more irregular interval between watering (this interval can change during seasons).

2. Drainage Holes

If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, either make some or repot a plant to a pot that has them.

3. Water the Correct Way

Some plants prefer watering from the top, while others prefer watering from the bottom or even immersion. Learning what is best can help you with preventing the plant to be overwatered.

4. Let the Water Drain

When you are done watering, let the excess water drain from the pot before placing the pot back into a decorative one or on the saucer.

You can also place a layer of stones in the decorative pot and have the pot with the plant sit on that. This way, all the excess water will not be in contact with soil.

5. Moisture Meters

You can purchase a moisture meter. While these aren’t 100% accurate and you shouldn’t solely rely on them, they can help you figure out the best watering routine for your plant. A word of advice – they don’t work well with every soil mix so even if it works for one of your plants it won’t necessarily work with all.

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