Overwatered Plant

A Step-by-Step Guide to Saving an Overwatered Plant

If you’re trying to take extra good care of your plants, it’s easy to water them a little too much. This often happens with potted plants because the water cannot drain out of the pot. Unfortunately, too much water can drown and kill your plants. But fortunately, many overwatered plants can still be saved if you act quickly and drain the roots.

Recognize an overwatered plant

Check to see if the leaves look light green or yellow.

If a plant has received too much water, the color of the leaves will change. They then appear to lose their green color and turn pale or yellow. You may also notice yellow spots on the leaves. This happens because the plant is hampered in its normal photosynthesis when it is too wet and cannot absorb nutrients.

Notice if a plant has brown spots or doesn’t seem to be growing.

When the roots drown, they cannot transfer water to the top of the plant, and the plant cannot get nutrients from the soil. Then it begins to wither and die. Observe if your plant is having trouble developing new shoots and leaves or seems to be dying elsewhere. Since plants also die from lack of water, you may be unsure which of the two is the problem. If you can remember watering the plant, but it still dies, it’s probably too wet.

Look for mold or algae at the base of the stem or stem or on the soil’s surface.

If too much water is in the pot, you may see algae or nasty black or white mold growing on the soil or the stem of the plant. This is a sign that the plant is overwatered. It can be just tiny spots or a thick layer spread over the entire surface. Both are cause for concern.

Smell the plant.

If water sits in the pot for too long, the soil and plant will begin to rot. Then at some point, the roots stink pretty badly of rot. Hold your nose close to the earth and smell it. You may not smell anything immediately if the rotting process has just started or your top is very deep.

Check if the pot has holes in the bottom that allow excess water to drain.

If there are no holes, chances are your plant will drown. The water collects in the bottom of the pot. In this case, the best thing to do is remove the plant from the pot and examine the roots for rot. Then make holes in the pot or repot the plant into a pot with holes. You can easily poke holes in a plastic pot with a knife or screwdriver. Be careful not to injure yourself. It’s best not to poke holes in clay or ceramic pots yourself. You would quite likely damage or destroy the pot.

Dry the roots

Stop watering the plant for a while until it dries up.

If you think you’ve overwatered your plant, stop watering it now. Otherwise, you would only make the problem worse. You shouldn’t water again until you’re sure the soil and roots are dry. This can take a few days, so don’t worry if you think the watering break seems like a long time.

Place the plant in the shade to protect the upper leaves.

When a plant is overwatered, it cannot transport water to its upper extremities as easily. This means that the top part of the plant can easily dry out if it gets too much sun. To prevent this, you should make sure that she is in the shade for the next time. When her condition has stabilized, she can go out in the sun again.

Gently tap the sides of the pot to loosen the plant and soil.

Use your hand or a small shovel and tap the pot. Do this several times from different directions to loosen up the soil and roots. This can create small pockets that allow the roots to dry more easily. It will also make it easier for you to get the plant out of the pot.

Pull the plant out of the pot to inspect the roots and allow them to dry faster.

Getting the plant out of the pot isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s recommended. The plant can then dry faster and you can transplant it into a pot that drains water better. To do this, hold the base of the stem just above the ground with one hand, slowly invert the pot and shake it with the other hand until the root ball slides out. You should now be holding the plant upside down.

Use your fingers to remove some soil so you can see the roots.

Gently break up the soil so that it separates from the roots. Be careful not to damage the roots. If the soil looks moldy or green with algae, remove and discard it as much as possible, as it will contaminate the plant if you use it again. You should throw it away even if it smells funny because it’s probably already rotting. On the other hand, if the soil still looks fresh and clean, you can still use it in principle. Fresh potting soil would still be better if you want to be sure.

Use garden shears to cut off any brown and smelly roots.

Healthy roots are white and firm, while rotted roots are brown or black and soft. Using pruning shears or household scissors, cut off as much rotting root as possible to save the healthy roots. If most or even all of the roots look rotten, you may be unable to save the plant. You can try cutting them back to the base of the root system and then transplanting them.

Did you know already? The rotting roots become compost, so they smell of death and decay. If you don’t cut off these roots, your plant will die.

Cut off dead leaves and twigs with pruning shears or scissors.

First, you should cut off all brown and dry areas. If you cut away a lot of the root system, you will also need to remove healthy parts of the plant. Start at the top and remove enough leaves and branches so that the plant is no more than twice the size of its root ball. If you’re unsure how much to cut off, cut off the top about as much as you cut off the bottom of the roots.

Repot the plant

Transfer the plant to a pot with holes in the bottom and set it on a saucer.

Find a pot with small holes in the bottom so excess water can drain. The water cannot then accumulate around the root ball and cause it to rot. Get a trivet to place the pot on if the pot didn’t come with one. The excess water will collect in the coaster. This is important so that it does not run over the table or window sill. Some pots have some kind of built-in saucer. If this is the case with your pot, look inside and look for holes, as you won’t be able to remove the saucer.

Tip: If the pot you previously used also has holes, you can simply put the plant back in that pot. Just wash it thoroughly with mild dish soap first to remove any residue of rot, compost, mold, and algae.

Add about an inch to two inches of mulch to the pot to create a drainage layer.

While this isn’t necessary, it will help you prevent overwatering in the future. Simply fill the pot with about an inch to two inches of mulch first. Don’t press down on the mulch. The mulch will allow water to drain faster and prevent your roots from drowning.

Fill the pot with fresh soil around the roots if necessary.

If you removed soil from the pot contaminated with algae or mold, or your new pot is larger than the previous one, you will need to refill the pot with fresh soil. Scatter them around the roots and fill the pot until you reach the base of the plant’s stem. Gently press down the soil to keep the plant in place. If necessary, add more soil to the pot after pressing it down around the plant. You shouldn’t be able to see any exposed roots.

Water your plant only when the top layer of soil feels dry.

When you repot the plant, pour water over the soil to moisten it. Always check the soil before watering the plant again to ensure the soil is really dry and the plant needs water. Water the plant just above the soil so that the water reaches the roots. It is best to water your plant in the morning when the sun’s light will help dry it out.


About the Author


Eddie Miller

Eddie is an Associate Editor in London, UK. He coordinates client content and sponsored articles. Eddie has two Masters in language and spent half his life in the teaching field. He now owns an Amazon business and runs a wooden DIY workshop.