Plants require care and attention, and much like us, they are living beings with numerous needs.
Water is their primary source of life, but too much water can also cause them to die.
How can you identify signs of overwatering, and is it dangerous for your plant’s well-being?
In this post, we explore the signs of an overwatered plant and how to prevent it.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Are the Dangers of Overwatering Plants?
- 2 What are the Signs Of an Overwatered Plant?
- 3 How to Prevent Overwatering?
- 4 FAQ
- 5 Conclusion
- 6 References
What Are the Dangers of Overwatering Plants?
More is not always better when it comes to watering plants. Overwatering your plants, on the other hand, can cause more harm than good.
Overwatering can cause the roots to rot, which is one of the dangers of doing so. When the roots stay wet all the time, they can’t get the oxygen they need.
The roots will also start to break down and decompose, which could stop the plant from getting the nutrients it needs.
Overwatering can also wash away important nutrients and minerals that the plant requires. This includes items such as fertilizer, which can be costly to replace.
Overwatering can also leach important nutrients from the soil, making it less fertile in the long run.
Lack of Sufficient Oxygen
Another major reason why overwatering can lead plants to premature death. Waterlogged conditions make it difficult for the roots to supply oxygen throughout the plant.
Plant roots require oxygen to stay alive, much like human beings.
It is also important to note that overwatering prevents photosynthesis and deprives plants of their food.
You see, plant leaves use carbon dioxide in the environment to create food in the form of sugar and starches.
But when deprived of oxygen, plants are unable to regulate their food and air supply.
Soil Erosion & Nutrient Deficit
Overwatering also gives rise to soil erosion and creates a nutrient deficit. Nutrient runoff and soil erosion are hazards that create an unstable and unhealthy environment for plants.
These two dangers prevent healthy plant growth and promote diseases.
It is wise to avoid fertilizing your plants or home garden when there’s a rain forecast.
Overwatering or excessive rainfall will promote soil erosion and fertilizer leaching, which gives rise to pollution.
Lack of Sufficient Water
It may come as a surprise to many that overwatering a plant can actually make it water-deprived.
It’s important to understand how this works so you can give your plant the right amount of water.
Each plant has its own watering requirements to support healthy growth, so no one size fits all.
You must understand the watering needs and quantities for each plant and serve accordingly.
So, how does overwatering deprive a plant of water?
Plants use their root hairs to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. Then, water is transported throughout the various parts of the plant to hydrate it completely.
Overwatering creates a moist and clogged environment that causes the root hairs to wither away and die.
Excessive rainfall and overwatering can deprive plants of essential nutrients provided by fertilizers.
Overwatering will lead to the leaching of fertilizers and pesticides within the soil.
Fertilizers and pesticides get washed out of the soil profile and into the underground water.
This deprives the plants of the nutrients they need to grow and bear fruits. Pesticide leaching can expose your plants to all kinds of damaging pests and disease-spreading insects.
Leading is also damaging as it gives rise to non-point source pollution and pollutes our water resources.
Prolonged exposure to waterlogged environments can cause the plant to lose its water and nutrient-absorbing ability. This is primarily how overwatering causes a plant to die.
What are the Signs Of an Overwatered Plant?
Have you ever noticed plants turning a pale green or even a yellow color?
Are your indoor plans wilting, or experiencing heavy leaf fall during summer or spring? These are all common signs that you are over-watering your plant.
Most people find this hard to believe, but the cause of all the listed symptoms is probably overwatering your plant.
There are many signs, from yellowing and wilting leaves to leaf dropping.
In this section, we will help you to figure out whether you are overwatering by discussing the signs of an overwatered plant.
By far, the most common symptom of an overwatered plant is root rot.
Once the roots start rotting, it eventually leads to the death of the plant because the roots are responsible for regulating the health of a plant by absorbing water, oxygen, and nutrients.
Root rot is effectively caused by a fungus or bacteria that thrive in warm and damp conditions.
Some examples of fungi that can cause plant roots to rot are Pythium and Rhizoctonia. These pathogens thrive in moist soil environments.
Furthermore, root rot does not discriminate between plants. Root rot can and will affect a vast range of plants, including flowering plants, shrubs, vegetables, houseplants, and succulents.
Related post: What is Root Rot and Why It Happens to Your Plants
Gardeners often fail to examine new plants before adding them to the garden.
Root rot is much less likely to happen if you take the time to carefully look at new plants.
The only way to determine if your plant has root rot is to examine the roots by gently pulling the plant out of the pot.
Root rot is very easy to diagnose because the roots will be black, feel soft or soggy, and may even have a rotting smell.
In any case, isolate the affected plant as other plant diseases may be present.
For example, foliar leaf spot is a common problem that can happen at the same time as root rot.
Leaves that turn brown are common signs of overwatering. Now, it is often confusing to identify the exact cause of wilting.
You see, leaves start to wilt and turn brown with a plant is deprived of sufficient water. And this also occurs when plants are overwatered.
So, how can you identify the difference? It’s simple: lack of water causes leaves to become dry and crispy, and overwatering makes leaves soft and limp.
High Water Pressure within the plant
When the roots absorb more water than a plant can use, water pressure starts to build up.
This water pressure builds up in the cells of the leaves. Eventually, these leaf cells begin to burst and die, creating tiny blisters and lesion-like areas.
These blisters are very easy to spot, and they often accompany white, tan, or brown wart-like formations.
Upon close examination of the leaf, you can also spot the indentations emerging on the top of the leaves.
Wilting or Yellowing Leaves
Yellowing or wilting leaves are common symptoms of overwatering.
It is a clear indication that your plant is struggling to survive in waterlogged soil. Keep a watchful eye on yellowing and old leaves.
Falling leaves are also an indication of overwatering.
So, if you notice the leaves wilting or turning yellow, stop adding water immediately.
How to Prevent Overwatering?
Fortunately, many strategies can help you effectively prevent overwatering and regulate the watering needs of your plants.
It is pertinent to note that each plant has its own watering needs, and you must understand them.
If you have multiple plant species, consider setting up a stick-up note to keep track of their watering needs.
Mostly, plant owners water their plants without paying attention to the quantity or moisture level of the soil.
This is a habit that requires changing. If you find it difficult to track watering needs, consider investing in plants with lesser dependence on water.
Regularly Examine The Soil
It’s always a good idea to regularly test your soil. If you’re an avid gardener, you’ll have no trouble getting comfortable and pushing your finger deep into the soil.
It is wise to insert your finger at least two inches into the soil to examine the moisture level.
If the soil is too moist and you’ve also spotted other overwatering symptoms, it’s a sign that you should reduce watering.
You can also check how wet a pot is by lifting it and judging how heavy it is based on how much water is in it. A heavy plant pot is a clear sign of overwatering.
Today, plant lovers have access to numerous tools that make it easier to maintain adequate moisture levels.
We strongly suggest that you buy an indoor-outdoor pH meter that can also measure moisture content.
Protecting The Roots
Roots are the most vulnerable and vital part of a plant, and they require immense care and protection. Overwatering will quickly damage the roots, so it is crucial to adopt a mindful and proactive approach.
It is wise to avoid watering the plant until you can feel the soil drying and is only slightly moist when you touch it.
If you have a potted indoor plant, tilt the pot and remove all the excess water. You can also remove the collection tray if you notice any standing water.
If your plant is buried low in the pot or ground, consider raising it so the roots can dry effectively.
You can also preserve the roots by adding new potting soil. It is instrumental to remove the old soil as it is likely to contain mold, mildew, or fungus.
New potting soil will refresh and rejuvenate the roots and help restore the damage.
Pruning is another effective strategy to eliminate all damaged or rotting roots. It is also wise to prune away all leaves that look pale yellow, green, brown, or wilted.
In the case of indoor plants, you can relocate the pot to an area that receives indirect sunlight.
The heat exposure will soak up the excess moisture. Just be sure to relocate the plant once it starts perking up and rejuvenating.
After you’ve restored the damage, avoid overwatering, and continue examining the roots.
When your plant begins to thrive, consider investing in a high-quality liquid plant fertilizer.
Liquid fertilizers are readily absorbed and will make it easier to restore the plant to its original condition.
You can also reduce the risk of root rot and damage by examining new plants before planting them in the bed. One or two plants with root rot can damage the entire bed.
So, if you suspect any plants, take them out and examine the roots. If the roots are silvery or white, then the plant is healthy and you can plant it back.
But, if the roots are dark and soft, the plant is likely infected with a disease or aggressive pathogen.
Many gardeners make the mistake of introducing diseased or pathogen-carrying plants into their gardens.
Before planting, if you check each plant and look at its roots, you can keep damage from happening to the whole bed or garden.
The strategy of deep watering revolves around watering your plants less frequently but for a longer time.
This method lets water get deep into the soil and helps plants grow in a healthier way.
It creates a cooler and moist environment that encourages the roots to grow deep into the soil, creating a solid grip.
Investing In Water-Conserving Tools
There are several innovative tools that you can buy to regulate your plant’s watering needs.
Most of these tools are cheap and offer immense utility to plant owners who struggle with routine maintenance.
For instance, water-conserving drip emitters work on a timer and allow you to adjust frequency and quantities – essentially making your own automatic watering system.
See below for some recommendations on some self-watering kits, that not only look great but help regulate water to prevent overwatering plants.
What are signs of an overwatered plant?
By far, the primary sign that a plant is overwatered is root rot. In addition, you may also notice yellow or brown limp leaves, sagging or wilting leaves, brown areas or borders encircled by a yellow halo, and fungus or mold can grow on top of the soil, emitting a foul odor or rotting smell.
Can plants recover from overwatering?
Plants can recover from overwatering, but there is no certainty. If you pause watering your plant and it does not have root rot, you should notice results within a week or so. If you see signs that your plant is getting better, move it back to where it was before and get back to your normal schedule.
How often should plants be watered?
In general, water plants once or twice a week. Ensure that you get moisture down below the surface at each watering. In between each watering, it is a good idea to wait until the surface of the soil dries out.
Is it OK to water plants at night?
It is OK to water plants at night, but watering them in the morning is preferred because it allows the soil to dry during the day. When you water plants at night, excess water tends to stand and not get absorbed or evaporate. This extra moisture creates an optimal environment for fungus, bacteria, insects, and other parasites to thrive, leading to root rot and other plant diseases.
Overwatering plants is hazardous and can lead to the death of your plants.
Overwatering will quickly damage the roots and cut off the water, oxygen, and nutrition supply of the plant.
If you have erratic watering habits and find it difficult to keep track, invest in low-maintenance plants like succulents.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She continued her gardening education by working on organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to share gardening tips and tactics. She’s happy to talk about succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs – or just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden.