How to know if you are overwatering your houseplants

Keeping a houseplant alive is an extreme sport. It takes skill, perseverance and, in our experience, a slightly magic touch.

Watering your plants is super important – that’s plant-care 101. But overwatering can be deadly, and it’s a trap so many people fall into because our plants can’t tell us when they’ve had enough water.

For many, watering is their panic response if they notice a plant looks like it is struggling.

Brown leaves? Droopy stalks? Discolouration? It’s natural to want to grab the watering can.

But experts say that watering isn’t always the answer, and dunking your leafy baby in water too often can actually be disastrous.

So how do you know if you’re guilty of overwatering? Your plant may not be able to speak to you, but it will give you signs. Here are some things to look out for:

Signs you might be overwatering your plants

‘When it comes to watering your indoor plants, watering will vary depending on the type of plant you have, though most plants need watering every 2-4 days,’ says Liam Lapping, from FlowerCard. 

‘As a general rule, smaller plants will need more frequent watering than larger plants, and those sat in sunlight will also need watering more frequently – if in doubt, feel the soil.

‘Most indoor plants will thrive in moist compost in spring and summer-time but just be careful not to overwater your plants, as water-logging can be fatal. Pots with drainage holes will allow excess water to drain out, and prevent any wet compost.’

Lynette, from HeyPlants, says that signs of overwatering vary by plant.

‘Some plants are more resilient than others,’ she explains, ‘so we always recommend plant owners research specific care instructions for their plant. As a general rule of thumb, some indicators of overwatering include:

If the soil is wet but the plant is wilting

Soft wilted leaves = overwatering, dry wilted leaves = underwatering.

Rotted roots that appear black or mushy to the touch

Poor drainage or overwatering can create rotten roots and reduce the level of oxygen required for roots to breathe.

Fungus or gnats around the soil

This is definitely not a good sign, as both fungus and gnats thrive in environments that are constantly damp. Which is not what your plant needs.

Brown leaves can be a symptom of either overwatering or underwatering

Stick your finger into the soil near the roots to see if it feels dry or wet. If it’s wet your plant may be overwatered.

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