Problem Identifier / Signs of Overwatering Plants

Your plants require the correct balance of water to grow and thrive. Too much water will cause issues, some of which cannot be treated. It is essential to keep soil moisture levels balanced to keep your plants happy!

Overwatering your plants severely restricts or prevents oxygen from reaching the roots. Without oxygen, the roots of your plant are unable to function correctly. The result is a loss of vigor, yellowing leaves, stunted growth and root death.

Overwatering plants can also result in root rot, leaf burn and leaf scorch. Once the roots start to decay, you will be unable to save your plant.

Signs of Overwatering Plants

Overwatered Plant
Yellowing leaves on an indoor houseplant due to overwatering.
  • Drowned plants
  • Brown and wilting leaves
  • Build-up of water pressure
  • Stunted growth
  • Drowned Plants

Your plants need roots for oxygen, food and water absorption. In addition to water, the roots require air to breathe. Overwatering your plants will cause them to drown because the oxygen between the particles of soil is eliminated. Excess water in your soil does not allow for air pockets. The result is a restriction of oxygen preventing your plant from breathing. Excess water in the roots can also lead to root rot.

Brown and Wilting Leaves

Overwatering your plants causes the leaves to turn brown and begin to wilt. The leaves will feel limp and soft.

Build-Up of Water Pressure

If the roots absorb excess water, water pressure builds up. Blisters similar to lesions will develop and the cells will burst and die. You will see the formation of white, brown or tan growths similar to warts. Indentations will appear on the leaves right above the growths.

Stunted Growth

Yellow leaves, stunted growth and falling leaves are signs of both underwatering your plants and overwatering your plants. If you see all of these symptoms, the roots have excess water.

How to Save an Overwatered Plant

  • Determine the situation
  • Test your plants
  • Do not water at night
  • Move your plant
  • Check drainage

Determine the Situation

Take a close look at the appearance of your plant for yellowing. If the leaves have started to turn yellow but there is no wilting, your plant can be saved. Do not water your plant until the soil has dried out.

Test Your Plants

If the soil is extremely moist and dark, you have overwatered your plants. Since every plant requires a different amount of water, test them all. Do not water until your soil is a light color and feels dry.

Do Not Water at Night

Watering your plants at night allow moisture to settle until morning and often results in disease. Remove any standing water to allow your soil to dry properly.

Move Your Plant

If your plant is overwatered and wilting, remove any dying or dead leaves. Even if your plant requires sun, move it to a shady area until it has recovered from excess water damage.

Check Drainage

Make certain your plants have enough drainage. Creating more space for air around the roots provides them with more oxygen. Remove all of the drying and dead roots so only the healthy ones remain. Start fertilizing your plant until it regains proper health.

There is no guarantee your plant will recover from overwatering. If you follow the tips above, your plant may start to recover from severe overwatering within about a week.

How to Not Overwater Plants

  • Be careful with schedules
  • Drainage
  • Selecting the correct plants
  • Irrigation systems
Overwatered Plant
Yellow leaves seen on a pomegranate plant due to poor soil drainage.

Be Careful with Scheduled Watering

Watering your plants on a set schedule can be a mistake if you just ‘set it and forget it’. You should always pay attention to the amount of water in the soil before watering. Push your finger into the soil about two inches two to three times each week. If the soil feels damp, you may need to adjust your schedule. Schedules can also become a problem if you live in an area that experiences regular rainfall. Best practice is always keep an eye on moisture levels in the soil.


If your plants do not have good drainage, they will drown. This is because when the roots remain in stagnant water, they can easily begin to rot. Overwatered plants have excess water in the soil negatively affecting the flow of air. This means oxygen is unable to get to the roots. If you are unable to install a drainage system for your plants, use a liner containing holes. This enables you to remove your plants for watering.

Selecting the Correct Plants

Do not make the mistake of assuming every plant will grow in every climate. Different types of plants are appropriate for various types of soil, climates and levels of humidity. Purchasing plants through your local nursery is a good option because they are familiar with your environment and can make extremely helpful suggestions. You should understand the individual requirements for all of your plants.

Irrigation Systems

An irrigation system consists of artificial ditches or canals to help ensure your plants receive the correct amount of water. You can install a simple system or have something more sophisticated professionally installed. You can choose from a drip, overhead or surface system depending on your specific budget and needs. You will need some time to become familiar with this type of system. Although a professional system is more expensive, the results are worth the cost.

How Long Does it Take for a Plant to Recover from Overwatering?

Overwatered plants generally require a few weeks to fully recover. You should start to see new growth in around a week. If the roots are badly damaged and your entire plant is wilting, you will not be able to save it. Your best option is purchasing a replacement.

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