Look, I get it. There’s just this next-level dopamine experience when tending to plants. How they feel, how they look, the joy from a new leaf, the elation from adding a new plant to the collection. Repotting, soil changes, naming them (You name them, too, right?), fertilizer and watering schedules. Ah, bliss. However, even the most well-meant care techniques can result in unhappy plants. One of the biggest challenges as a plant parent is learning to water each plant appropriately.
Confession: in my early twenties, I was convinced that if I needed water every day, so did my plants… RIP plants.
Good thing for you, Plant Proper has the 411. Here are three areas and their tell-tale signs that your precious beauties are suffering due to overwatering and what you can do about it.
- Drenched soil: The soil in your pot should not be wet. Damp, yes, but not soaking wet. If you press your finger gently onto the top of the soil and water pools, there’s way too much water in the soil. Take your plant to a nearby sink, support the plant itself with one hand, and tilt the plant pot to try to drain some of the excess water out. If a lot of water pours out, you’re basically performing plant CPR. Rotate and tilt until no more water drains out.
- Algae/moldy topsoil (sometimes mushrooms): Ever walk by your collection and notice some white stuff on top of the soil? Yeah, that’s not supposed to be there. Excess water can create moldy conditions in your plant. Scrape the mold off and consider applying a thin layer of cinnamon to prevent regrowth. It will smell way better, too!
- Odorous soil: If your soil smells pungent like something crawled up and died in the pot, that something might be the roots of your beloved plant. Sitting for too long in water will cause roots to soften, get mushy, and decay. Check the roots of your plant – if they’re black or not even there at all, call the priest for last rites and say goodbye when you’re ready.
- Squishy/limp shoots/stems: If you have a plant that’s supposed to be standing proud, but it’s laying over or droopy, (me too, plant, me too.) it may be water-saturated. Withhold water for about a week, and she should perk right up.
- Stalled growth or stunted leaves: If during your weekly checkup, you notice your plant isn’t putting out new growth or the leaves aren’t as big as they had been, you could be due to overwatering.
- Yellowing leaves/dropping leaves especially around the bottom: This can be tricky, as this is an indication of overwatering and underwatering. Use the rest of this list to help identify which issue you could be facing. If you are overwatering the plant and the leaves are turning yellow, this little guy is literally drowning. Be sure to check for root rot.
- Brown spots: It’s not nature’s clever way of adding color coordination, my friend. Brown spots appearing on the leaves could indicate a bacteria infection in the roots. (Caused by – you guessed it – overwatering.)
If any of your plants appear to have any of the above-listed conditions, set your watering can down and back away slowly. All is not lost, though. If you identify you’ve overwatered a plant, drain it, shift it to brighter light conditions (not direct sunlight), set an oscillating fan nearby to provide a gentle, soil-drying breeze, or if you’re really nervous you’re about to commit planticide, you can change out the soil, it’s just not overly recommended.
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