How to Rescue an Overwatered Plant

How to Rescue an Overwatered Plant

Last Updated on November 26, 2019 by Kimberly Crawford

Overwatering is the most common cause of plant death. Luckily not only is it preventable, in many cases an overwatered plant can be saved. Keep reading to find out how.

Here are 5 steps to take to help an overwatered houseplant:

underwatering overwatering plants

Step 1

The first thing to do if a plant has been over watered is to get it out of its pot. Chances are the soil will be very wet.

If the roots still look healthy, wrap the root ball in a thick layer of paper towels and let it sit. When the towels become saturated, replace with a dry layer.

Once the second layer becomes wet the entire mass of paper towels can be removed and the plant returned to its pot. Don’t water it until the top inch or so of soil is completely dry.

Step 2

roots of houseplant

If the roots look brown and/or mushy when the plant is taken out of its pot, it will need a little surgery. Start by rinsing all of the soil off the roots and lightly pat dry, then examine them closely.

Healthy roots are firm and generally white in color. There are some exceptions. For example the roots of the Snake Plant are bright orange!

If any of the roots are brown and mushy, take a sharp knife or pair of scissors and carefully cut them away. When complete, repot in fresh soil and water just enough to moisten the soil. Don’t soak it. If a large portion of roots were cut away, prune back the foliage an inch or two to compensate.

Step 3

Check the foliage and remove any that are soft and mushy, moldy, or smell bad.

Don’t worry, most plants can lose quite a few leaves with little ill affect. New ones will eventually come in on most plants.

Step 4

To prevent over watering in the future, get to know the needs of each individual plant. For example, a succulent like Jade has needs that are very different from Baby’s Tears.

Simply watering every plant every couple of days is a recipe for disaster. Avoid buying plants that don’t have a proper tag on them unless their needs are already known.

Too often commercial nurseries cut corners by using generic “Tropical Foliage” tags instead of plant specific ones. Invest in a good houseplant guide such as “The Houseplant Expert” or “The Complete Houseplant Survival Guide”, which provide in depth info about houseplants and their specific needs.

Step 5

Moisture meter

Buy a moisture meter. These devices are available at most nurseries, garden centers and home improvement stores and run between $5 and $7.

Simply insert into the soil and read the dial, which usually reads from 1-10. 1 is bone dry and 10 is saturated. Many of them even come with a list of plants on the back and the ideal moisture level for each.

Soil moisture can also be tested by using a pencil. Insert it into the soil and remove. If the pencil is damp, the plant is adequately watered.

Over watering is common and often fatal, but these easy steps can reduce the chances of plant death and prevent it from happening in the first place!

rescue overwatered plant

How to Rescue an Overwatered Plant
How to rescue overwatered plant