Plants require care and attention, and much like us, they are living beings with numerous needs. Water is their primary life source, but an excess of water can also cause them to die. How can you identify signs of overwatering, and is it dangerous for your plants’ wellbeing?
Have you ever noticed plants taking a pale green or 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 overwatering is the leading cause of premature plant death.
If you wish to maintain pristine and healthy plants, you must adopt a cautious approach to prevent overwatering. Luckily, many signs can help you identify signs of overwatering, but in some cases, overlapping symptoms make it difficult. In most cases, an underwatered plant features dry soil, brown and brittle leaves, and heavy leaf fall.
On the other hand, an overwatered plan features excessively wet soil, pale green or yellow leaves, and wilting. Drooping, soft and wilting leaves still attached to the stem are some other signs of overwatering.
So, how dangerous is overwatering, and more importantly, how can you identify and stop it? Keep reading to learn about the dangers of overwatering plants?
Table of Contents
The Dangers Of Overwatering Plants
The damages of overwatering start creeping from the roots. You see, roots are an integral part of the plant, and it sustains life. Roots are responsible for regulating the health of a plant by effectively absorbing water, oxygen, food, and soil nutrients. Overwatering can cause a plant to drown, making it difficult for the roots to effectively absorb oxygen.
Root Rot & Other Damages
This restricts the supply of oxygen, making it difficult for the plant to breathe. Root rot, fungus, mold, and mildew are some common hazards associated with overwatering. Most plants fail to survive in saturated soil for prolonged periods.
Have you ever examined an unhealthy or ailing plant? Most disease-ridden plants reveal signs of root rot and excessive damages. Overwatering is a leading cause of root rot diseases. Overwatering is the leading cause of root rot across multiple species. These include roses, verbenas, boxwoods, rhododendrons, turfgrasses, liriope, hollies, marigolds, and azaleas.
How can you identify root rot? Some common symptoms include yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and wilting plants. People are quick to blame root rot on lack of water, which encourages them to overwater the plant. Whenever you spot wilting or yellowing leaves, avoid adding water as it will worsen the problem.
It is pertinent to note that most plant diseases, including Pythium, root rot, and Rhizoctonia, involve volatile pathogens. These deadly pathogens thrive in moist soil environments. Root rot can give rise to many other diseases triggered by prolonged leaf wetness and moist soil. For instance, foliar leaf spot is a common problem that overlaps with root rot and overwatering complications.
Gardeners often fail to examine new plants before adding them to the garden. Taking the time to carefully examine new plants can reduce the possibility of root rot considerably.
Root rot and diseases are not the only damages caused by overwatering. Excessive rainfall and overwatering can deprive plants of essential nutrients provided through fertilizers. You see, overwatering triggers the leaching of fertilizers and pesticides within the soil.
Fertilizers and pesticides get washed out of the soil profile and observed 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.
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 is important to understand this mechanism so you can effectively fulfill your plant’s watering needs. Each plant has its own watering requirements to support healthy growth, so no threshold 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.
Prolonged exposure to waterlogged environments can cause the plant to lose its water and nutrient-absorbing tool. This is primarily how overwatering causes a plant to die.
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.
Signs of an Overwatered Plant
Now that we’ve explored the dangers of overwatering, how can we identify if a plant is overwatered and dying? Several signs indicate overwatering-related damages.
Here, take a look.
Wilting & Browning Leaves
Leaves that are wilting and turning brown are a common sign 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
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.
Slow or Stunted Growth
Yellowing leaves and stunted growth are common symptoms of overwatering. Have you noticed the leaves falling off your plant? This is a clear indication that your plant is struggling to survive in waterlogged soil. Keep a watchful eye on yellowing and old leaves. If new leaves are also falling excessively, overwatering is the culprit to blame.
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.
Here are some tips that will help you prevent overwatering.
Regularly Examine The Soil
It is instrumental to check your soil regularly. 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.
If you’re concerned about your plants, consider investing in a moisture meter. This product is sold by numerous manufacturers and it ensures accuracy when dealing with serious overwatering damages. You just have to insert the meter into the root ball to check the water level in the soil. This is a user-friendly and cheap tool and highly recommended for beginners learning to water their garden.
Also, consider investing in a soil probe and hand trowel, especially if you don’t enjoy soiling your hands with dirt. You can also examine the moisture level of a pot by simply lifting it to assess the water content from its weight. 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 recommend you invest in an indoor-outdoor moisture sensor to make the job easier and simpler.
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. 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 refreshen 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 starts getting healthier, consider investing in a good 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 damages by examining new plants before planting them on 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 diseases, pathogen-carrying plants into their gardens. Checking each plant and examining the roots before planting can prevent damages to the entire bed or garden.
The strategy of deep watering revolves around watering your plants less frequently but for a longer time. This strategy allows water to penetrate deep into the soil, and encourage healthier plant growth. 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.
Glass Auto Watering System
These plant watering spikes are remarkably simple and are beautifully decorative way to add to your indoor garden.
Plant Watering Spikes
Self watering devices with slow release control. Just add an old water bottle and sit back and relax.
Terracotta Plant Waterer
You attach a used wine bottle to these self watering spikes. So convenient and so eco-friendly.
Overwatering plants is hazardous and defies the purpose of watering your plants to boost their health and longevity. It is vital to understand the significance of roots in the life and health of a plant. Roots are the primary source of food, nutrition, water, and oxygen for a plant. Overwatering will quickly damage the roots and cut off the water, oxygen, and nutrition supply of the plant.
In simpler words, excess watering will cause your plant to die from drowning. If you have erratic watering habits and find it difficult to keep track, invest in low-maintenance plants like succulents. Overwatering causes the soil to become unhealthy, and it contributes to water and soil pollution.
If you wish to create a healthy garden, you must put in the effort to maintain the soil and preserve the roots. This resource will help you combat overwatering and identify the signs so you can take preventive measures effectively.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She furthered her gardening education by working on various organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to discuss gardening tips and tactics. Whether it’s succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs, growing and caring for just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden always makes her happy.