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What To Do When You Have Overwatered Your Plant?

Overwatering is a common issue that plant parents make, which hurts their plants. Poor drainage, excess watering, and wrong soil can cause overwatering issues in your plants.

If you have an overwatered plant, stop watering it immediately. Check for standing water and get rid of it. Place the plant in a bright spot to let the soil dry. If you suspect root rot, check the roots by taking the plant out of the pot and repotting it if you notice brown and mushy roots.

In this article, I will share what to do when you have an overwatered plant. So, keep reading.


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Signs of overwatered plants

If your plant undergoes an overwatering issue, it will show signs of stress.

Signs of overwatering and underwatering are quite the same, so you must properly investigate the plant to find the accurate cause.

One of the common signs that can differentiate overwatering and underwatering is examining the soil’s moisture level.

For checking, you can insert your finger or a moisture meter.

Your plant is overwatered if the soil feels wet, soggy, and damp.

Other than that, an overwatered will show signs like:

  • Withered leaves
  • Droopy leaves
  • Yellow leaves
  • Brown leaves or brown spots on leaves
  • Weak stems
  • Falling leaves
  • A foul smell coming from the soil
  • Soft and brown or black roots
  • Edema (A state where roots take up excess water than the plant can transpire)
  • Slow or stunted growth
  • Fungal infections
  • Pests

Also read: Overwatering vs Underwatering Plants

Causes of an overwatered plant

Watering your plant without determining the soil’s moisture is one of the main causes of overwatering.

But, there are other reasons too which can lead to this problem.

Let us discuss all of them in detail. 

1. Watering too often

Spider Plant watering

If you water your plant too often without checking the moisture level of the soil, it can easily lead to overwatering.

Most plants thrive in soil that is neither too soggy nor too arid.

So, reliable overwatering will weaken your plant’s well-being easily.

Remember to check the soil’s moisture level before watering your plant and ensure that the soil is at least 50% dry, depending on the plant type.


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2. Improper drainage system

A pot without any drainage holes can create an overwatering situation.

Without drainage holes, the water will fail to leave the pot, and the roots will remain in the water for too long.

This will limit the oxygen supply inside the soil and suffocate the roots.

Because of this situation, the roots become weak and cause root rot. 

Hence, it is best to choose a pot with drainage holes to keep your plant away from the chances of overwatering.

3. Size of the pot

A large pot has a high possibility of an overwatering situation.

A large pot generally holds more soil than a smaller one.

So, if the pot holds more soil, it will automatically hold more water.

Hence, the soil will take more time to dry out because of the excess water.

Choose a pot that is 1/3 wider or 1-2 inches larger than the plant’s root ball but not bigger than that.

Additionally, don’t choose a very tiny pot as the roots will not get enough space to develop and will lead to root-bound.

Also read: What happens if you put a plant in too big of a pot?

4. Material of the pot

Pots made with organic substances hold more moisture because of their absorbent nature.

A clay pot or terracotta pot retains good soil moisture and provides good airflow among the roots.

But on the other side, cement, plastic, and glass pots are non-absorbent. 

They don’t allow proper airflow among the roots.

Due to its non-porous ability, the plant can frequently experience overwatering.

Plants growing in plastic pots require less water than in terracotta pots.

It is essential to set up a watering strategy according to the type of pot you use for your plant to avoid overwatering.

5. Wrong potting mix

Most plants need soil with good moisture retention and proper drainage capacity.

If the soil is thick, dense, and compact, it will retain more water which causes overwatering regardless of whether you follow the right watering plan.

To fix the dense soil, you can add sand, compost, perlite, peat moss, and other organic substances.

Otherwise, you can change the entire soil with a new one that supports suitable drainage.

6. Watering during the winter season

Watering the plant continuously throughout the winter season can lead to overwatering.

The winter months are a dormancy period for all the plants, so they don’t require as much water as the spring or summer.

Many houseplants stay dormant during winter, so reducing the watering frequency during this time is best to avoid overwatering. 

Also read: How to water indoor plants?

How to fix an overwatered indoor plant?

How To Save An Overwatered Peace Lily

The initial step for saving your overwatered plant is to stop watering and wait until the soil goes dry.

But, make sure not to stop watering completely.

Otherwise, it will make your plant dehydrated. 

Before watering the plant, check the soil’s moisture by inserting your finger a few inches into the soil.

If the soil feels soggy, don’t water the plant until it dries.

You can also use a moisture meter to check the soil’s moisture.

Now, let’s understand how to fix an overwatered plant:

  • First, stop watering the plant to avoid further injury and let it dry naturally.
  • If you notice water on the soil surface, slightly tilt the pot to remove the excess water.
  • Look at the drainage holes carefully and check whether they are blocked or not. If yes, clean them so the extra water can drain out.
  • Move your plant to a place where the humidity is low. Because of low humidity, the soil will dry out faster. If you have a humidifier inside your house, consider turning it off. 
  • If your plant is not getting enough light, move it to a brighter location. This will help your plant dry out quicker. But, avoid too intense light as it can scorch the leaves.
  • Make some holes in the soil with a stick. Proper air circulation will help the soil to dry out fast. The holes also help the roots get adequate oxygen.
  • Don’t fertilize the plant when it is already recovering from overwatering. Fertilizing the damaged plant can hurt the roots further. Once the plant becomes healthy, you can fertilize it without any problem. 
  • Get rid of the damaged leaves as they won’t get healthy again. Prune the brown and yellow colored leaves with sharp, sanitized pruners. Pruning helps the plant concentrate on new and healthy growth rather than wasting time on the old and harmed ones. 
  • If the soil mix is too heavy, change it with the new soil that supports proper drainage and moisture retention. You can also add materials to make the existing soil well-draining such as peat moss, perlite, sand, and compost

Also read: How To Fix Overwatered Indoor Plant?

How to fix a plant that has root rot?

Root rot in ZZ plant
Root rot in ZZ plant

If your plant is suffering from overwatering for too long, then it can lead to root rot disease.

A few common signs of root rot are a foul smell coming from the soil, wilted leaves, stunted growth, and soft, black, or brown roots.

If the plant has root rot, follow the steps given below to fix the plant:

  • First, gently remove your plant from the pot and scan its roots. If the roots are smelly, mushy, and brown, your plant has root rot.
  • To fix this, separate the soil from the roots carefully. 
  • After that, remove the remaining soil by washing it with water. But be aware of not hurting the healthy roots.
  • Take sharp scissors, sanitize with rubbing alcohol, and remove the infected roots and damaged leaves. 
  • Apply a fungicide to the healthy roots.
  • Then wait until the roots to go dry. 
  • Bring a new pot that is 1-2 inches bigger than the root ball. Then fill it with a new soil mix.
  • Plant it gently in the fresh soil mix without giving stress on it.
  • After this process, take good care of your plant by giving it proper water, bright indirect sunlight, and airflow to avoid repotting stress. 

Also read: How to save an indoor plant with root rot?



How to prevent overwatering your plant?

To prevent overwatering in your plant, you can follow these steps:

  • Choose a pot with drainage holes. If the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, you can drill some.
  • Keep a check on the drainage holes frequently to notice whether they are clogged or not. If yes, clean them.
  • You can place some pebbles at the bottom of the pot to avoid clogging the drainage holes.
  • Place your plant in an area where it will receive proper indirect sunlight and good airflow.
  • Don’t keep the plant too close to other plants as it reduces air circulation.
  • Always choose a soil mix with proper drainage and moisture retention. 
  • Don’t fertilize or water too often during the winter months. 
  • If the plant is exhausted with frequent watering, try to keep the plant near a low humid area or turn off the humidifier device, if any. 

How much water does my plant need?

Watering requirements are different for different plants.

Some plants love staying in moist soil, while others need little moisture.

Watering depends on the type of plant you have.

You need to know about your plant’s natural environment.

For example, if you have tropical plants, they will need more water than succulents.

But make sure that no plants love to get overwatered, even if they love frequent watering.

So, you must carefully and frequently check the soil’s moisture level before watering again. 

How long does it take for a plant to recover from overwatering?

zz plant overwater

The time your plant will need to return to its healthy form depends on how much harm it has experienced due to overwatering.

An overwatered plant takes 7-14 days to recover from overwatering.

But it depends on some factors, for example:

  • The strength of the plant: Strong and sturdy plants usually take less time to recover from a distressing period. In comparison, delicate plants take much time to return to normal health.
  • The degree of harm: The amount of harm your plant has undergone from overwatering will determine how long it will take to recover. If you recognize the signs sooner, the plant will become healthy faster. But, if the plant has been overwatered for a long period, you need to prune the harmed roots.
  • Aftercare: After treating the plant, you must give it the proper care to help it recover faster.
  • Type of plant: Recovery rate also varies as per the plant types. The plants that take a lot of time to grow will recover slower than those that grow faster.

Can overwatered plants recover on their own?

An overwatered plant will recover on its own if it hasn’t undergone serious damage and you’ve stopped watering it on time.

The plant will recover within a week if exposed to a bright area.

But, if the plant has undergone considerable damage due to overwatering for a prolonged period, it will not recover on its own and will require your support.

Final words

If you let the plant stay wet and suffocate in water, it will face overwatering. This condition will affect the plant’s well-being and damage the roots.

As soon as you notice your plant is stressed due to overwatering, avoid watering it and give it adequate light and air to let the excess water dry out from the soil.

If your plant experiences a serious overwatering issue, you must remove the damaged roots and repot the plant in a new pot with a fresh potting mix.

Once your plant recovers completely from overwatering, take proper care to avoid this issue in the future.


Source: University of IllinoisGrowing Indoor Plants with SuccessAgriculture, and Natural Resources, University of CaliforniaMissouri Botanical Garden.