Signs of Overwatering Plants – 8 Tell-tale Signs

Overwatering plants is a common mistake that almost any beginner gardener makes. Most people who are new to gardening think that showering their plants with extra water is the best way to help them grow, but it can actually harm them. In fact, when it comes to plants, overwatering is a lot more harmful than under-watering.

Plants have ways of telling us when they’re receiving more water than they need, so it’s important to know how to recognize the signs.

In this article, we’ll show you 9 tell-tale signs which will help you know whether or not your plants are suffering from overwatering. We’ve also included some tips on how to save an overwatered plant.

Root Rot

Root rot is mainly caused by overwatering, damp soil due to poor drainage, or a root system that doesn’t function properly. When the water does not drain through the soil properly, it results in waterlogging and reduces the aeration of the roots which leads to inadequate oxygen intake and decay. The situation gets worse when the plant is receiving too much water regularly, since the soil will always remain wet or damp.

Root rot is dangerous since it can quickly spread to the healthy and unaffected parts of the plant as well. If the plant has a mushy stem and seems to be wilting, it’s most likely root rot that’s causing the problem. If you take it out and examine the roots, they will be a reddish brown color and the soil will have a slightly strange, rotten smell.

Slow Growth

If your plant doesn’t seem to be growing or sprouting even though you’ve been giving it enough care and attention, the reason could be overwatering. Plants that receive too much water usually have weak leaves and take a lot longer to grow than they should.

Yellowing and Browning of Leaves

If the leaves on your plant start turning yellow, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong. While it could be due to lack of adequate sunlight and nutrients, overwatering is one of the most common reasons, especially if the soil feels damp to the touch. Overwatering causes oxygen to be pushed out of the soil, leaving the roots without enough air to ‘breathe’.

Brown tips on the plant’s leaves occur when the roots are drowning in water. If you notice the leaves of your plant turning brown or yellow, feel the soil to check if it’s damp or dry. If it’s damp, it could most definitely be overwatering.

Falling Leaves

This is usually the next stage after the leaves turn yellow or brown. Overwatering plants can affect their structure. The water floods the entire plant, from the root to the leaves. As a result, the leaves are unable to support their own weight and eventually fall off. This can happen to both new and old leaves.  


Plant oedema (or edema) is often confused for wart disease, because of the small blisters that spread all over the leaves. However, it’s not a disease at all, and is a perfectly natural reaction of most plants when they’re taking up too much water.

When the plant roots are unable to use up all the water they’re receiving, the result is an increase in water pressure within its interior cells. The pressure continues to increases until the cells burst and form blisters on the underside of the leaves.

In some cases they can also be seen on the flower petals and stems. As the blisters get older, they change appearance, looking more like warts with a texture similar to that of a cork.


If your plant is wilting, but looks as though it has lots of water, it could be because it’s drowning in water. There are little spaces between the soil particles which are usually filled with oxygen taken up by the plant. If the soil is always wet, it means that the spaces are filled up with water, cutting off the oxygen supply to the plant. In this case, the soil will remain wet, but you’ll notice that the plant is wilting.

Mold Growth

Moist soil is an excellent breeding ground for the fungus Botrytis cinerea that lie dormant until the plant is overwatered. As soon as this happens a few times, the fungus begin to flourish and attack the plant.  The result is gray mold that blights the leaves, stems and flowers.

A dangerous fungal disease, gray mold causes the infected flowers and buds to turn brown or black and you may also notice brown spots forming on petals. You may see the mold on the soil just under the plant as well.  

Soggy Plant 

When plants receive more water than they require, the roots die and the result is a floppy plant that lacks vigor. It would not be able to stand upright on its own and would be bent over.

How to Save an Overwatered Plant

Most plants can bounce back from the damage caused by overwatering and return to being as healthy as they were before. However, this depends on how resilient the plant is. Some houseplants may recover, but they may never be the same again. Here are some useful tips on how to save an overwatered plant:

  • Place the plant in a shaded area. By doing so, you will relieve it from further stress caused by the rapid loss of water through evaporation and transpiration.
  • Remove all the flowers, fruits as well as the topmost leaves so that the plant won’t need to overstrain itself supporting extra weight.
  • Take your plant carefully out from the container and allow the soil to dry out. The safest way to take it out is by holding the stem at the base. Never hold the plant from the middle or the top or it will break. Tap the container a few times to loosen the soil as this will make it easier to take it out. Set the plant down in a safe place and leave it to dry for a few hours. The roots will dry out and become well aerated.
  • Clean any mold-infested dirt by washing the roots in running water. Gently clean the rootlets without damaging the healthy roots. 
  • With a sharp and sterile pruning tool, cut the decaying root sections. The rotting portions will have a bad smell and they’ll also be slimy and black in appearance, whereas a healthy root will be hard and white.
  • Once the plant is clean and all the rotting parts are cut off, you can re-plant it with new soil in a pot with the required drainage holes.

Taking Care of an Overwatered Plant

  • Water the plant with clean water or cold chamomile tea to keep it hydrated. Chamomile tea acts as a fungicide and prevents dampness of the soil. 
  • Until the plant has recovered, place it in a spot that receives sufficient sunlight and water only when the soil feels dry to touch.
  • Avoid fertilizing the plant if it doesn’t show any signs of new growth. Fertilizing can burn the roots and interfere with its growth. You can fertilize it once you see signs of sprouting. 
  • Once the plant begins to grow, you can continue taking care of it as before. However, this time, be careful with water. Some plants need less water than others, so find out the water requirements of the plants you have before you water them.

The Bottom Line

Initially, you may not realize that your excessive watering is doing a lot of harm to your plants. However, if you notice any of the above mentioned signs of overwatering, take action immediately and save the plants before any further damage is done. Don’t give up on your plants even if they look their worst since plants are natural survivors and can usually be saved.

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