Plant lovers love to swing the watering can. However, most plants do not like wet feet. Reconciling the two is a challenge. This is not always mastered: the root system begins to rot in the soil. And the leaves are visibly withering. Where does the salvation lie when the roots have literally fallen into the water? We will tell you what to do in the event of waterlogging and overwatered plants.

When does waterlogging occur?

  • some strains want consistently moist soil
  • other specimens are content with occasional watering
  • easily cope with intermittent dryness
  • the time of year also has an influence on water requirements
  • when it is warm, the plants are thirstier
  • more water is also required during the growing season

The challenge for the owner is to water each individual plant as it demands. If she gets more water than she needs, she won’t be able to fully absorb it with her roots. If the plant thrives in a pot, as is the case with indoor plants, for example, it is not always possible to ensure that excess water drains away. So-called waterlogging occurs, in which the roots of the plant stand in water for a long time.

Consequences of waterlogging

Almost any plant can handle an occasional slip when watering and a few days of wet roots. But if houseplants are generally watered too much and therefore there is constant waterlogging, no plant can take it in the long run. Your health will suffer. At first the roots rot unnoticed in secret, until finally the visible signs become more and more.

  • the leaves are beginning to wither
  • they hang down ugly
  • turning increasingly yellow

Yellow leaves are often prematurely interpreted as the result of an insufficient water supply. A generous helping of water is said to eliminate the problem. However, if waterlogging is the root cause of the yellowing, reaching for the watering can will make the situation even worse.

Tip: If yellow leaves appear, do a finger test first. This will allow you to spot overwatered plants. Also check the planter and saucer to see if they are filled with water.

Save overwatered plants

Both indoor plants and potted plants that are outdoors can easily be watered over. As soon as waterlogging is detected, further watering must be stopped immediately. Accumulated water should also be poured out of the coaster. These two measures can sometimes be enough to save the crop. However, only if the plant still looks vital and the soil is not yet moldy. It should also be expected that the wet soil can dry off soon. After that, precautions must be taken to ensure that waterlogging does not occur again:

  • inform about the water requirements of the plant
  • only water as needed in the future
  • Provide an outlet for excess water
  • or empty coasters and planters regularly
Tip: Also cut off all leaves and shoots that have been irreparably changed by waterlogging. If these continue to wither, it only costs the plant energy.

Badly damaged indoor plants

Constant wetness can damage plants that don’t like wet roots so badly that they eventually die. After recognizing the situation, it is not enough to simply water less in the future. You have to save these plants with suitable measures, because they hardly recover on their own. But first, you should get an idea of ​​the extent of the damage.

  • Take the plant out of the pot
  • examine the soil for visible signs of mold
  • Examine the roots carefully
  • brown, mushy roots are a sign of rot
  • a musty smell is also a bad sign

If almost the entire root system is damaged, you can no longer save the plant. It must be disposed of. Without roots, plants cannot be adequately supplied to draw new strength. If there are still healthy roots, the plant should be repotted.

Repot an overwatered houseplant

A houseplant that has already suffered major damage from waterlogging or whose soil cannot dry out quickly should be
repotted in new substrate as soon as possible. But first part of the root ball has to be removed.

  • cut off any rotting roots
  • use clean, disinfected scissors or knives for this
  • be careful not to damage healthy roots
  • Rinse off soil residue under running, lukewarm water
  • then let the root ball dry briefly

Can the water drain?

In addition to your own watering behavior, the housing of the plant and its soil should also be critically examined. Both should be designed in such a way that excess water can drain off quickly and easily. If both are not ideal, this must be corrected. These two aspects are examined in more detail below.

The ideal substrate

The ideal substrate is related to the nutrient requirements of the plant. In order for the water to drain off, it must also be permeable. This is achieved through coarse proportions. For example by adding sand or coarser gravel. A drainage layer at the bottom of the pot should not be missing either. It consists of gravel, expanded clay, potsherds, etc. and should be several centimeters high. If the overwatered plant does not have such a drainage layer, it should be repotted accordingly.

Suitable plant pots

The water must be able to leave the pot. Therefore, it should ideally have many drainage holes. If this is not the case, the only way to save your plant is to plant it in such a pot. Because even with all caution, it cannot be ruled out that occasionally a little too much water is poured. Outdoor plants can also take a heavy downpour.

coasters and planters

From the drainage holes, the water can get into a saucer, where it can collect. A full coaster is easy to spot and should be emptied shortly after pouring. When a houseplant has a planter, excess water is not readily apparent. As beautiful as these pots are, they need to elevate the plant purposefully. This is the only way to identify excess water and pour it away. With a heavy plant, this can turn into tedious work.

Despite the problem, we would not like to advise you to completely do without cachepots. Especially in living rooms they are an important decorative element, which hides the rather inconspicuous plant pots from view. So a suggestion:

  • Put a few larger stones in the planter first
  • alternatively fill in a few cm of gravel
  • only then put the plant inside
  • the water can collect at the bottom of the pot
  • the higher roots are still not reached

This measure is a small buffer. However, it does not allow you to be careless with the watering can. If too much water accumulates, the roots will still be reached. They begin to rot while the owner feels safe.

Use moisture meter

A plant does not speak. She doesn’t tell you when she’s thirsty for water, nor does she state how much water she needs in milliliters. Then watering would be child’s play and waterlogging in indoor plants would be an unknown problem. The plant owner has to trust his eyes and regularly put his finger in the soil to check how moist it is.

However, there is a helpful device that can more reliably determine the moisture level of the soil: the moisture meter. From it you can see at a glance how moist the earth is.

  • Moisture meters are available from specialist retailers
  • some online shops also offer it
  • inexpensive models are available from as little as 10 euros

From a cost perspective, the moisture meter is not the solution for all plants. But it is definitely recommended for particularly valuable plants. Also for those plants that react very sensitively to moisture fluctuations.

Other solutions

Overwatered indoor plants are weakened in their vitality. In order for them to be able to recover, casting errors must no longer occur. To ensure this, the following considerations are possible:

  • Cultivate plants in clay granules in the future
  • this stores water and releases it evenly when needed
  • use an automatic irrigation system

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