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OVERWATERING - HOUSEPLANTS BIGGEST KILLER

OVERWATERING IS THE BIGGEST CAUSE OF DEATH IN HOUSEPLANTS.

 

WE GET IT - YOU WANT TO BE A RESPONSIBLE PLANT PARENT...BUT YOU MIGHT JUST END UP KILLING YOUR PLANTS WITH KINDNESS.

Close up of a silver watering can and a houseplant in a cream plant pot

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TIPS

HERE ARE SOME TOP TIPS TO ON HOW TO SPOT OVERWATERING AND HOW TO STOP DOING IT!

I am a reformed overwaterer - I just wanted them to be happy and so out came the watering can… but actually in most cases plants will thrive on a little neglect or at least they’re much less likely to die of neglect. It’s actually a lot harder than you think to kill a plant by not watering it enough. You’re much more likely to notice a parched plant and give it a drink than realise when your plants are drowning. 

 

So here’s a quick guide on how to spot overwatering and how to avoid it. 

HOW TO SPOT YOU'VE OVERWATERED YOUR HOUSE PLANTS

Firstly, here’s how to spot if your plants have been overwatered: 

 

  1. YELLOWING LEAVES - When a plant has been overwatered the leaves turn yellow and limp 

  2. WET SOIL - Plant soil should feel moist and not soaking wet. 

  3. DROPPING LEAVES - When a plant is feeling stressed by over watering they drop a lot of leaves 

  4. MUSHY GROWTH - Succulents tend to become squishy when overwatered. 

  5. MUSTY SMELLING SOIL - Soaking wet soil has a particular musty smell

Close up of light green house plant leaf in a green ceramic plant pot

Yellowing leaves caused by overwatering.

SO YOU'VE OVERWATERED YOUR HOUSE PLANTS - WHAT NOW?

STOP WATERING AND MOVE TO A SHADY SPOT

 

The first thing to establish is how badly the plant has been affected, if you’ve not chronically overwatered it then it can be quite simple to save the plant. If the plant leaves are yellowing but they are not yet wilting then the best course of action is to give the plant a total break from any watering, pop the plant in a shady spot (even if it’s a sun lover) and let it naturally dry out. It’s important to keep an overwatered plant out of the sun because an overwatered plant has trouble moving the water to the upper leaves and therefore the top of the plant becomes vulnerable to drying out if left in the sun. 

REMOVE DEAD AND DYING LEAVES AND ENSURE POT HAS GOOD DRAINAGE

If your leaves have already started wilting then move the plant to a shady spot, remove any dead, dying and wilting leaves and ensure the your plant pot has proper drainage - plants will die if they sit and fester in water. Once you’ve ensured proper drainage, if possible try to create additional air space around the roots - this will allow the roots to get more oxygen. Tap the sides of the pot to loosen the soil around the roots and create air pockets. 

 

TREAT WITH FUNGICIDE

Treat your plant with fungicide if you have overwatered it. Neem oil makes a great natural fungicide. 

 

LOOK AT THE ROOTS - REMOVE ROTTEN ROOTS AND RE-POT

If you suspect your plant is very overwatered then it is best to remove your plant from the pot to look at the roots. Gently hold the plant in one hand and use your fingers to shake off the old soil and cut away any roots that look rotten with pruning shears or scissors.

It is best to repot the plant in fresh potting soil  as the old soil may contain root rot. You can add a layer of mulch to the bottom of the pot to help with drainage.

TOP TIPS TO AVOID OVERWATERING YOUR HOUSEPLANTS

1. GOOD DRAINAGE - Drainage is key to preventing overwatering. Ensure your plants are potted in pots with drainage holes and regularly keep these clear.

 

2. ONLY WATER WHEN SOIL IS DRY - Only water your plants when the first three inches of soil is dry. Plants generally need a lot less watering in the winter so be aware that your plants will not need watering very much during these months. 

3. SOAK THEM THEN DRAIN THEM - You can also fill the bath or sink with water and pop all your plants (in their plastic inner pots) in the water in one go and allow them to soak for an hour before returning them to their cachepots. 

 

4. TRY PLANTING IN LECA - Some people find that growing their plants in Leca makes it harder to overwater them. Leca are brown clay balls. The idea is that you pot your plant with clean roots in Leca ideally in a pot with drainage holes and then either on a saucer or in a cachepot. The outer pot should be filled with water to just below the roots - the idea is that the clay balls will retain a little bit of water but not a lot. This will allow  the roots to sip on the water. If your plant requires more water it will grow roots towards the water and drink from it directly. 

Once you know how to spot overwatering and avoid it - your plants are more likely to survive and thrive! So give it a go and spread the word! Your plants will thank you for it.

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