Overwatering: Signs & Remedies

From their beautiful leaves to their air-purifying properties, our houseplants are very important to us. So it’s only natural we want to make sure they’re well taken care of. By providing our plants with the appropriate amount of light, air and water, we help ensure they continue to grow and thrive. However, sometimes too much of a good thing can actually harm our plants. Today we will be discussing how overwatering can cause them stress. 

Getting to The Root of It 

The three things our plants need to thrive are light, water and air. The roots are essential in ensuring a happy and healthy plant. They absorb water and minerals and transport them to the stems. They also anchor and support a plant and store food. 

The spaces among soil particles contain air that provides oxygen, which root cells use to break down sugars and release the energy needed to live and grow. These spaces also allow water to move through the soil for the roots to absorb the nutrients. 

If there is too much water or the soil is constantly wet, there are not enough air pockets. This results in a limited oxygen supply and plants are not able to breathe. So when you’ve overwatered your plant, you’re essentially drowning it. 

Spotting The Signs 

Although some plants may share similar needs when it comes to care, there are big variations among different species. That’s why it’s important to understand what your plants need and care for them accordingly. 

Signs that your plant has been overwatered:

  1. Wet and wilting: The plant is wilted and the soil is dark and wet to the touch. 
  2. Brown leaves: The tips of the leaves have turned brown and wilted. 
  3. Fallen yellow and green leaves: It’s natural for plants to drop leaves as they grow, however if yellow and green leaves are dropping then this is a sure sign of overwatering. 
  4. Soggy Stems: You may notice dark spots on your plant’s stems and notice areas are soft and mushy.
  5. Gnats: The most severe and obvious signs of root rot are gnats (little flying bugs around the plant) and an odd odor.


If your plant is experiencing more than one of these signs, then your approach may need to be more aggressive. 

The first step is stop watering your plant immediately and allow it to dry out. Wait until the soil has dried out completely to the bottom of the pot. The best ways to measure this is a moisture meter. Another handy tool is a wooden chopstick. Stick the chopstick to the very bottom of the pot and pull it out, if soil is sticking to it, then it’s still too moist. Continue to wait and let the soil dry out. 

If your plant looks to be in great distress and you suspect root rot has set in, you will need to repot your plant. 

  • Remove the plant from the pot and throw out the old potting soil. Wash the roots under running water, and use clean scissors to cut any mushy or rotting roots off the plant. 
  • Next wash out the pots with 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. This will kill any bacteria or fungus that grows when the soil remains too moist. Repot your plants following our repotting guide. 
  • Isolate the infected plant from your other plants as she recovers. You can also try getting a gnat catching insert from a gardening store and place it in the soil to catch any bugs as your plant recovers. 

Once you’ve worked hard on getting your plant back on track, it’s important to continuously check the moisture levels of the soil before watering your plants. Don’t let it sit in standing water for too long and always tilt out the excess water after you’ve watered it thoroughly. 

Shop plant care essentials at Ansel & Ivy