5 Signs You're Overwatering Your Houseplants - Backyard Boss
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5 Signs You’re Overwatering Your Houseplants

Houseplants are not just lovely décor, but they also provide fantastic health benefits to those around them. It is no wonder potted plants are adorning more and more homes!

When it comes to proper care and watering houseplants, there’s no one-size-fits-all method. Understanding how much water your plant needs is essential, as the top reason that houseplants die is due to overwatering. It can be just as hard on your plants as drought, potentially leading to the end of your plant.

Here are five tell-tale signs your plants are suffering and how to remedy them to avoid falling victim to overwatering.

Yellowing Leaves

yellow rotten leaves monstera overwatering
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The first sign of stress in houseplants is often the yellowing of their leaves. While there are numerous reasons why leaves turn yellow, overwatering is at the top of the list for houseplants.

Overwatering can lead to poor drainage and soil compaction, or stagnant water in the soil, causing root injury; Both lead to yellowing leaves. If not remedied, the leaves will turn brown and fall off.

If you notice your once lush green foliage starts to yellow, the next step is to check your soil. It needs to be well-draining and loose. To fix compaction, change the soil or add more organic material to it. Next, ensure that your pot allows proper water flow and drainage.

Pro Tip: While your poking and prodding in your plants soil, give it a quick check for root rot.

Stunted Growth

Dying Zamioculcas plant in a pot
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Reduced growth in houseplants (especially when paired with yellowing leaves) can indicate overwatering. If you notice stunted growth in a houseplant, check the soil, to find the “root” of the problem.

If its soil is too wet, root rot may have occurred. You can remedy the problem by removing any infected roots and as much soil as possible.

Next, repot the plant into a clean container with adequate drainage. Make sure you do not overwater going forward.

Pro Tip: There are many common mistakes that can cause a plants growth to halt. From overwatering to drought and even soil compaction, make sure you inspect your stunted plant before moving forward to fix it.

Wilting Leaves

wilting peace lily in a pot
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Wilting leaves can be another sign of overwatering your houseplant because you run the risk of compacting the soil, basically suffocating your plants.

Soil has pores that provide oxygen to a plant’s root system. If these fill with water, it will suffocate the plant and cause the leaves to wilt. Often, this clogging of pores is due to poor drainage, which causes water to sit stagnant within the soil and not move down and out of the pot.

To ensure this does not occur, choose a pot that will drain excess water and not pool at the bottom. If you have a pot with a drainage hole and a saucer at the bottom, always remove any standing water from the saucer to avoid wet feet.

Fungus Gnats

gnats on a green plants
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If you see tiny black flies rising from your plant after watering, then chances are you are overwatering your plant. These small black flies are adult fungus gnats; although they do not cause damage, their larvae do. Fungus gnat larvae thrive in environments that are high in moisture. Overwatering your plant unknowingly creates a comfy paradise for these little pests!

It is crucial to get rid of fungus gnats, as they can eat and destroy roots; The easiest way to do so is to focus on the larvae. Remove their high moisture environment by letting the soil dry between watering.

Soil Stench

Trowel and Soil
Image credit: Neslihan Gunaydin via Unsplash

A boggy, wet smell indicates overwatering, as soil should have either an earthy smell or little-to-no smell at all. This stench is due to stagnant water within the soil, which means it is not draining out properly. Without proper drainage, plants are susceptible to many ailments, such as root rot and suffocation.

If you notice (unwelcome) marshland vibes from your houseplant, it’s time to replace the soil, and potentially the pot, to improve drainage. Compaction is often a factor in slow drainage but adding organic matter to the soil or replacing it fully will help the drainage. 

How to Determine Watering Needs

Lady watering plant in pot
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For houseplants, a great tip is that plants should get water based on need and not on a strict schedule. Most plants will follow a general rule when it comes to checking dryness/wetness, but plants like succulents and cacti need much less. Know the needs of your individual plants before you start watering!

The first and most common method for determining your plants’ water needs is by checking the soil of your houseplant. To do so, use your fingers and check if the soil in the top 2 inches is dry. The dryness of that layer is a good indicator of whether or not it is time to water the plant. Note that if your finger cannot penetrate down, you’ll need to use a more porous mixture of soil.

A second method to check for dryness is by noting a weight change in your plant, pot, and all. While this is a less common method (especially if you have large houseplants!), it can still work to help determine the state of your smaller plants’ soil. A heavier plant/pot will indicate wet soil, and a lighter plant weight can indicate dryness.

Rain it in!

Overwatering can mean the end of the road for your favorite houseplant. Watching out for some simple signs will help prolong your indoor oasis’s life. Yellowing or wilting leaves, stunted growth, pests, and smelly soil are key indications that you are overwatering your plants.

Now that you know what to look for, don’t let overwatering take your plants down! Leave a comment and let us know if you notice any of these signs in your houseplants!

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