Signs of Overwatering Your Houseplants

Sometimes new plants parents love their plants so much they want to water them every chance they get, in the hopes that it’ll help the plants grow. However, overwatering is actually the most common way you can accidentally kill your houseplant. Here are some signs and symptoms to watch out for:

Yellow leaves with brown edges

If your plant develops yellow leaves with brown edges, this is a sign of overwatering. If you notice this happening to your plants, let the top inch of soil dry out completely before watering again. Always be sure to check your specific plant’s water requirements. Also be aware of the time of year; during the winter your plant’s roots will not absorb water as quickly, so you will likely need to water less frequently.

Mushy stems

If you find that your stems are soft to the touch, brownish in color, or waterlogged, this is an obvious sign of excessive watering. A stem that snaps easily or appears limp is also a bad sign. You might notice a foul odor coming from your plant if you’re overwatering it. This could be due to root rot (a fungal disease), which causes the roots of your plant to die and then rot away. If this happens, you’ll need to cut off all affected parts of the plant and allow it time to recover before doing anything else.

Fungus gnats

Fungus gnats are small, harmless flies that thrive around moist soil. They lay their eggs in the soil and their larvae feed on fungi in the soil. If you see these little pests buzzing around your plants, it’s a sign that you might need to take it easy when it comes to watering.

Stunt in growth

If you want your plants to grow up big, strong, and healthy, you’ll need to keep them under the right conditions. Most plants have slightly different needs—some thrive in moisture-rich soil, others prefer it dry—but one thing holds true across virtually every plant species: overwatering is very often a death sentence. If your plant isn’t growing as large as it should, or at all, you may be suffocating your little plant baby with too much TLC.

How to treat it 

If you know your plant has been overwatered, the first step is to allow the soil to dry 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. 

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