Too Much Of A Good Thing

By Simone Slykhous

February 16, 2019 5 min read

It can take time to realize that you're ready. Maybe you've noticed friends posting about theirs on social media or you have neighbors who have one or two. You start researching all the important questions: What fits in your budget? What size works best for your space? Are there dietary or location restrictions? And after searching high and low for the perfect one, you finally find it: the houseplant you've always wanted.

Once you take your plant home, you want to take good care of it, so you feed it, give it plenty of sun, water it and maybe even sing to it every once in a while. However, after some time, you notice that it's no longer the beautiful green plant it once was. It's starting to look wilted, and a few yellow leaves have fallen off -- despite new growth. There is also evidence of edema, blisters on the plant stems and leaves.

These are all signs of an overwatered plant. So, is all hope lost? Have you killed your new plant with too much love? Maybe not!

Overwatering is a very common gardening issue. The most easily recognizable sign of overwatering is wilted, yellow leaves. Though this is a tell for both underwatering and overwatering, underwatering will cause dry and crispy leaves, whereas a waterlogged plant will feel soggy and soft.

Edema can leave your plants with unsightly brown or white lesions caused by plant cells bursting. Indentations on the top of leaves, near new growth, is an indication of expanded cells.

Another detrimental effect of too much water, root rot, can be hard to identify, especially for novice gardeners. Because the roots are hidden in the soil, it's important to pay careful attention to the leaves of your plants. If they look yellow, or if the plant growth is stunted, then they might be experiencing potentially fatal root rot. Sometimes plants are in soil that is too dense for water to escape. Other times, the pot in which the plant is living does not have adequate -- or any -- drainage holes. When experiencing root rot, the roots look slimy, gray or brown, and they might let off a rotting smell, unsurprisingly. So why are the roots so important to your houseplant? They are the primary source of food, water and air. When overwatered, plants are getting plenty to drink; however, without air, they start to drown.

After identifying that your plants have been overwatered, the next thing to do is to give them foliage CPR.

The first step is to change their location. Reposition them in a shady area, because root systems in shady areas use less water.

Next, check that the pot or planter is draining sufficiently. "If no drainage holes exists add some or repot the plant into a pot with drainage holes," says Kerry Meyer, gardening expert for Proven Winners website.

If possible, putting your plants into a new container with fresh soil could resuscitate them. If the plants are impossible to move, then even a minor shift could help. Leaving space between the walls of the pot and the roots of the plants will allow for faster drying by creating air pockets. If possible, gently shift the root ball of each plant by tilting the container and gently tapping the sides until it is released.

According to the experts at BrightView Landscapes, "Check your soil regularly. Don't be afraid to push your finger about an inch or two down in to the soil to check the moisture." And only water when the soil feels dry. Don't fertilize at this point, because overwatered roots are delicate and can be easily burned by fertilizer.

If you have too much love to give and enjoy keeping your plants well-watered, then it might be time to buy a plant that thrives in a damp environment. Some options include astilbe, sedge, rose mallow, hibiscus, swamp azaleas and viburnum. You can also pull a 180 and find plants that need little to no watering at all. Aloe plants, succulents, deer grass, cacti and others enjoy desert-like environments and can make for great indoor plants. With so much love to give, you will find your perfect plant partner.

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