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How To Fix Overwatered Calathea? (Possible Cause, Signs & How To Fix)

Overwatering is one of the most predictable problems found in Calathea. Overwatering leads to root rot, which is another nightmare for Calatheas. So constant overwatering can kill your plant.

But what if you already made the mistake? How can we save Overwatered calathea?

To save an overwatered calathea, you can do the following:

  1. First, remove the affected leaves and stop watering your calathea immediately. 
  2. Shift the plant to a well-ventilated and medium bright lighting location where the soil can dry up faster. 
  3. Gently remove the plant from the pot and inspect the roots.
  4. In worse conditions like root rot, you will have to prune damaged roots using sterilized scissors.
  5. Clean the leftover soil from the root.
  6. Repot the plant in a new pot using a fresh soil mix.
  7. Water only when the top 2-3 inches of soil feels dry.

With early signs of overwatering, fixation is easy. But when overwatering progress, reversing the situation becomes complicated. When a Calathea is overwatered, it will show yellow, droopy, or brown leaves.

If you have overwatered your Calathea plant, read this article to know how to save your plant from overwatering. We will also include the causes of overwatering to help you avoid those mistakes and prevent overwatering.


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Overwatering a Calathea

Most Calathea growers think that frequent watering keeps the plant healthy. But that is not true. By constant and frequent watering, you are just stressing the plant and overwatering it.

Moreover, prolonged overwatering can result in yet another serious condition, namely root rot.

Calatheas are tropical plants originating from the tropical regions of South America. It is easy to think that they will need more water to survive. But in reality, they will need water just to remain evenly moist, not soggy or waterlogged.

Solution: The rule is to water the Calathea plant every 1-2 weeks.

Besides, allow at least the top 2 inches of the potting medium to dry out before the next watering. 

Keep checking the soil’s moisture level by poking the finger inside the soil. You can also use a soil meter or moisture meter for this.

There are other reasons too which result in overwatering a Calathea plant which we will discuss next.

Pot material

Plastic and ceramic pots tend to hold water for a long time because they are non-porous pots. So, if you are frequently watering your plant without allowing the soil to dry up, it will cause overwatering in your Calathea plant.

One more point I would like to mention is the drainage holes.

Sometimes, decorative pots like ceramics don’t contain drainage holes. Due to this, the soil remains wet as water doesn’t flow out, causing overwatering.

Solution: Use a porous pot, probably a terracotta which can wick away moisture quickly. Use a pot which is having enough drainage holes so that excess water can flow out easily.

Poor drainage

If the potting soil of your Calathea doesn’t drain excess water, it will hold the water for a long time and cause overwatering. This happens when you use a heavy potting mix.

All houseplants, including Calathea, need a lightweight potting mix for healthy growth. Heavyweight potting mix will hold excess moisture for a long time, resulting in overwatering and root rot.

Solution: Use a potting mix that can drain the excess water and encourage aeration. Ingredients like compost, peat moss, sphagnum moss, coco coir, perlite, and vermiculite will improve soil drainage and aeration.


Looking for a readymade indoor plant soil mix that you can open and pour? Check out rePotme. They offer a wide range of readymade soil premixes for all your indoor plants.


Pot size

When you use a big pot, more soil is required to fill up the pot. If your plant size is small, the soil will take forever to dry out. 

A small plant will take a lot of time to absorb all that water from the soil. On top of that, watering the plant will result in overwatering.

Solution:

  1. Use a pot that relies on the size of your Calathea plant.
  2. Select a pot 1 inch wider in diameter than the diameter of your Calathea plant’s root mass.
  3. For repotting, choose a pot 1-2 inches wider than the current one.

Humidity

As Calathea is a tropical plant, it will need high humidity for thriving. 

When you create a high humid environment for your Calathea, like fixing a humidifier, using pebble trays, or grouping the plants, you should remember that rate of soil drying up decreases. 

Your Calathea is already getting enough moisture from humidifiers, pebble trays, or grouping. You should keep checking the moisture level before watering when you arrange such extra humidity.

Solution: You can decrease the watering if your Calathea remains moist in high humid conditions. 

Watering during winters

Calathea is a tropical plant, and they grow best in warm temperatures.

When the temperature lowers, and winter arrives, Calathea stops its growth and enters dormancy. In such conditions, you should not water your Calathea frequently.

Some growers think that due to less water, the plant stopped growing. But Calathea should not be watered in winters like summers. 

When the plant is dormant, they stop using any energy to absorb water. Thus, the plant will reject too much water. As a result, the excess water remains in the soil and causes overwatering.

Solution: The rule is to cut back the watering frequency relatively lesser than during summers. 

What does an overwatered Calathea look like?

If you are lucky, you might notice the early signs of overwatering in your Calathea. For instance, you will find yellow leaves, droopy leaves, or stunted growth.

If the situation progresses, your Calathea will show signs like rapid yellowing of all leaves, browning of leaves at the tips and edges, black spots, and mushy stems. These are symptoms that your Calathea is starting to suffer from root rot.

When root rot occurs in your Calathea plant, the soil will release a very foul odor.

With overwatering and root rot, Calathea becomes weak and susceptible to different kinds of pests and diseases. If you don’t take action, your plant will perish.

Difference between overwatering and underwatering

Let’s understand the difference between overwatering and underwatering. 

Both the issues have some common signs, and differentiating them is vital to give the correct treatment to your Calathea.

When the stems near the soil of your Calathea feel soft, mushy, and brown, it is an indication of overwatering. In the case of underwatering, the stems will feel dry.

When the soil feels damp, it means you have overwatered your plant. But when you underwater Calathea, the soil will remain dry and compact.

In both overwatering and underwatering, your Calathea will show the same signs:

  • Yellow leaves
  • Browning leaves at the tips and edges
  • Calathea not closing at night

Calathea leaves tend to move the whole day and close at night. Calathea not closing occurs due to excess light. But other than that, watering stress will also cause the same problem.

There are three things by which distinguishing underwatering and overwatering will become easy for you:

  1. The leaves will feel dry and crisp in underwatering, but not in overwatering.
  2. In underwatering, the soil remains dry and compact, whereas in overwatering, the soil feels damp.
  3. Try lifting the pot. In overwatering, the pot weighs heavy, but in underwatering, the pot will weigh light.

Also read: Overwatering vs Underwatering: Signs, Causes & Fix

Signs of overwatering

When you frequently or excessively water your plant, it will lead to overwatering, and in advance conditions, your Calathea will suffer from root rot.

When you overwater your Calathea, it will show signs like:

  • Yellow leaves
  • Browning of leaves at the tips and edges
  • Calathea leaves not moving and not closing at night
  • Damp soil
  • Stunted growth
  • Droopy leaves
  • Soft and mushy leaves and stems

How to save overwatered Calathea?

Here is how you can save your Calathea from overwatering.

  • Once you notice signs of overwatering, consider relocating your Calathea to a place that will receive bright indirect sunlight.
  • Stop watering until the soil dries up.
  • If you find any standing water in your Calathea pot, tilt the pot slightly to allow the excess water to drain off.
  • Ensure that your Calathea is getting good airflow. It will help in drying out the soil faster.
  • Remove all the affected leaves from your plant. It will allow the Calathea to restore energy and use it to grow new leaves.
  • If the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, you can create them by drilling or shifting your Calathea to a new pot with holes at the bottom.
  • Overwatering can invite fungus infections. Using some fungicide in your plant will prevent any growth of fungus.
  • You will need to wait for some days or weeks until your Calathea recovers. Once it starts recovering, you can resume regular watering.
  • If soil is the culprit, add ingredients like compost or perlite to improve the soil drainage and absorb excess moisture.
  • When your plant suffers from overwatering, you should avoid fertilizing. Fertilizing can trigger root rot. So, it is better not to feed your Calathea until its recovery.
  • You can reduce the humidity level a little bit until your plant is back to normal. 

Root rot

Prolonged overwatering and ignoring the signs will cause root rot in your Calathea. Overstaying in the water will make the roots soft and mushy that will eventually start rotting.

Root rot is a disease. When your plant remains overwatered for long, the pathogens and bacteria attack the plant, causing root rot. As a result, the roots lose the ability to function correctly and make your plant unhealthy.

Signs of root rot

  • Rapid yellowing of leaves
  • Soft and mushy stems
  • Black spots all over the stems and leaves.
  • Soil and roots release a foul smell
  • Plant limping
  • Black and mushy roots


How to save Calathea from root rot?

Calathea root rot

If you suspect root rot, act fast to save your Calathea.

  • Stop watering. 
  • Remove all the damaged leaves and stems.
  • Take out your Calathea from its pot and remove all the old soil from the roots.
  • Rinse the roots. Now, the damaged roots will be visible. Remove them all. If half portion of a root has rotten, remove only the rotten part along with a 1-inch overlap.
  • Trim the damaged roots with a sharp and sterilized pruner.
  • The number of leaves and roots should be the same. For instance, if you have removed 1/3rd roots, your plant should have 1/3rd leaves.
  • If the good leaves are more than roots, you will have to trim them too. This is necessary because lesser roots can’t give good support to a big plant with many leaves.
  • For repotting, use a new, sterilized pot 1-2 inches bigger than the existing one. It will also provide room for the Calathea roots to grow flexibly. 
  • Use a porous pot with drainage holes. If you tend to water frequently, a porous pot will save your plant by wicking away excess moisture. 
  • Prepare a potting mix that can drain excess water and also retain moisture. Perlite is a porous ingredient. You can try adding it to the potting medium.
  • Now plant your Calathea back to the new pot with the new potting medium.
  • Water the Calathea to keep the soil moist.
  • Avoid fertilizing for some weeks.
  • Maintain all other care requirements like bright filtered light, ideal temperature, and humidity.

Propagation

Calathea propagation

When it gets impossible to bring back the Calathea as it has significantly few healthy roots, you can propagate your Calathea by dividing the plant. 

Look for healthy roots, stems, and leaves. For propagating, look out for the plant’s root ball having natural divisions. 

Now separate the roots at those natural divisions. Be gentle to avoid breaking the roots. Ensure that each division has a healthy part of the root system and a healthy leaf attached to a healthy stem.

Now place the division in the soil or water. Provide them with all their inadequate requirements – bright filtered sunlight, moist soil, proper fertilization, and ideal temperature and humidity.

Don’t stress the plant by overdoing or underdoing anything. Within a few weeks, you will find new growth in them.

How to avoid overwatering?

For avoiding overwatering in Calathea plants, follow the subsequent preventive measures:

  • Allow the soil of your Calathea to dry out before the next watering. At least the top 2 inches of the potting medium should be dry.
  • Use porous pots that have enough drainage holes to drain the excess moisture.
  • Water your Calathea more during their growing seasons, i.e., in spring and summer. Avoid frequent watering during the winters.
  • Use a well-drained and well-aerated potting medium for your Calathea.
  • Keep your Calathea in a place having bright, filtered sunlight. 
  • Make sure that your plant gets good airflow.
  • Use a moisture meter to frequently check and understand the condition of your soil before watering.
  • Consider other factors – if the light intensity is more, water more, and reduce watering if the light levels are low.
  • Don’t water more if the humidity is high.
  • If your plant is big, water more as bigger plants consume more water for functioning.

Final words

Overwatering is a serious issue and needs to be treated within time. Even experts and experienced growers can make the mistake of overwatering their houseplants. 

If you want to save your Calathea from overwatering, you should try to alter your watering schedule. Observe your plant’s daily reactions.

If you find the early signs of overwatering, consider correcting your watering schedule. If your plant is still strong enough, it will quickly recover from overwatering stress and revive.

Follow the preventive measures to keep overwatering away from your beautiful Calathea. With a healthy Calathea, you will also see different dramatic movements in them from time to time.

FAQs

How much time will Calathea take to recover from overwatering?

Time taken by Calathea to recover from overwatering depends on factors like time of the year and level of damage.

For example, if it is summer or spring, Calathea will revive quickly within a few weeks because it is their growing season, but reviving Calathea can be fussy and time-consuming in winter. 

If you get to notice the early signs of overwatering, your Calathea won’t take much time to be back. But, if your plant’s damage level is high, reviving it won’t be easy.

Whatever it is, taking good care after treatment and not stressing the plant more will bring back your Calathea to health.


Source: NCBI, University of Florida, Wikipedia,  Growing Indoor Plants with SuccessAgriculture, and Natural Resources, University of CaliforniaMissouri Botanical Garden.