Feeling guilty that your plant isn’t happy but you don’t know if you over or underwatered it?
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there and I’m here to help you figure it out!
Watering plants can be a tricky business because there are so many variables involved. Plants can’t speak, BUT there are some general signs that you can look for to determine their watering needs and problems.
Overwatering is the number one cause of death in plants.
It happens. Perhaps you left a plant sitting in water for a little too long or you were a little heavy-handed with the watering can… Symptoms of over and underwatering can look quite similar but here’s how to tell if your plant has been overwatered:
General signs of overwatering:
Here are some signs that your plant has been overwatered:
– Yellowing, limp leaves and stems: This is generally the first sign that you have overwatered your plant, especially if the new growth is soft, limp and yellowing.
– Dropping leaves: A plant may be overwatered if it starts dropping both new and old leaves.
– Mould or fungal growth on the soil: This occurs naturally when soil stays wet for too long.
– Browning and wilting edges: This is a tricky one, as this is also a sign for underwatering. However, you can easily determine whether you have overwatered a plant by feeling the soil. If a plant has been overwatered, it will show signs of browning/yellow spots and wilting edges.
– Pests: Fungus gnats can also be a sign that your soil is too wet for too long because they thrive in damp conditions. You’ll know you have fungus gnats if you spot tiny black flies flying around the soil when you poke at it.
Saving an overwatered plant:
The first thing that you can do to confirm if you’ve overwatered your plant is to feel the soil. If it feels very damp and smells a bit funny, it’s a sure sign that you’ve either overwatered the plant or that your soil isn’t draining properly. If this is the case, there are a couple of things you can do:
- Put the watering can down (yes, obvious but important).
- Very carefully take the plant out the pot and examine the roots:
a. If there are signs of root rot (black, mushy roots that you can separate easily), remove them, rinse the roots down and repot your plant in a fresh, aerated potting mix.
b. If there are no signs of root rot, place the plant in a cool, shady spot and leave it to dry out before watering again.
3. If fungus mould is present, remove as much of it and apply an anti-fungal solution like diluted hydrogen peroxide. If it is a bad infestation, repot the plant.
4. Gently poke some holes around the pot to help aerate the soil.
5. Get rid of potential fungus gnats by allowing the soil to dry completely before you water it again. Removing the top layer of soil or applying an organic insecticide can also help by removing any potential eggs.
Does that help? If this isn’t sounding familiar to you, then perhaps your plant is underwatered…
Let’s look at some of the signs of underwatering and how to resolve it.
Your plant is sad and droopy. Is it just throwing a fit or did you forget to water it? The big questions!
General signs of an underwatered plant
Here are some signs of underwatering:
– Wilting and/or curling leaves: Wilting or curling leaves are a sign that your plant may be thirsty.
– Soil pulling away: Often the soil of an underwatered plant will be pulling away from the side of the container slightly. This happens due to a lack of moisture.
– Slow growth and smaller leaves
– Browning/crunchy leaf edges: Brown, crunchy leaves could be a result of low humidity but it’s also a sign of overwatering. You can tell the difference by feeling the soil. If it is dry, your plant desperately needs some water.
Saving your underwatered plant:
Great news, your thirsty plant can be saved!
1. Give the plant a good watering. You may also need to move it to a cooler spot if you notice that the soil dries out quite quickly – this could be an indication that it is getting too much sun.
2. If the soil is VERY dry and you fear that it is beyond help, you can place your plant in its pot into a sink filled with water and let it soak for about 20 minutes.
3. If the soil is extremely compacted, you might need to repot your plant and then water again.
Preventing watering issues:
– Familiarise yourself with your plant’s general care and watering needs. For example, a Begonia will need more water than a Succulent.
– Always use pots that have drainage holes. And remember that bigger pots will take longer to dry out than smaller pots.
– Pot your plants in a well-draining potting mix that contains substrates like perlite and bark.
– Use a moisture meter to monitor how wet the soil is and water accordingly to the plant’s needs (usually when the moisture reading is between ‘dry’ and ‘2’.
– Remember that the different seasons call for different watering regimes. In Winter, you would only need to water approximately once every two weeks (depending on the plant), whereas in Summer you would need to water your plants on a weekly basis.
– A watering schedule can serve as a reminder for you to check your plants on a weekly basis, but don’t just water the plant for the sake of it. Use that moisture meter when you check in on them.
Hope this helps!