How to stop overwatering your plants
We know our plants love water, so the more water the better, right? Wrong. Too much water is harmful, so be a good hydrator.
Overwatering is the most common cause of sickness – and, sorry, death – in houseplants. It’s a common mistake to think that more water will make your plant happier, but too much water will drown them.
There are simple ways to tell if you’ve been overwatering and easy ways to make sure you’re watering properly.
The most common signs you’ve been overwatering are:
- Wet soil. For most plants, soil should feel lightly moist. It shouldn’t leave your finger wet
- Yellow leaves. When plants are too full of water, their leaves will turn yellow and limp
- Mushy growth. Some plants, like aloe vera or other succulents, will turn squishy when overwatered
- Dropping leaves. A stressed, overwatered plant will drop a lot of leaves
- A musty smell. If you sniff the soil it may have an unpleasant damp smell
What causes overwatering?
In short, simply loving your plants too much. Because plants love water, it’s understandable to think that the more water they get, the happier they’ll be. Sadly untrue.
As well as water, plants need air around their roots. Indoor plant potting compost is specifically blended to allow air to circulate. If you give your plant too much water, all that compost gets waterlogged and air can’t circulate.
If they stay underwater, your plants’ roots suffocate and can’t do their job.
How can you prevent overwatering?
The simplest solution is to only ever water your plant when the top two inches of soil feel dry (for cacti and succulents, water when the soil is fully dry). This gives your plants time to drink at a steady pace.
Also make sure excess water can drain off. You can either water your plant in the sink and let excess drain off before putting it back in its decorative pot, or put it in a decorative pot with a saucer, to catch excess.
You might also try poking holes in the soil with a pencil, to help air circulate.
Some people like to repot their plants directly into a decorative pot, but unless you’re a plant expert this makes it very easy to accidentally overwater.
Are there any tools to help prevent overwatering?
There are a couple of simple bits of kit made to keep your plants perfectly moist:
- A moisture meter. This little gizmo shows you how much water is in the soil. They range from inexpensive ones that change colour when the soil’s too wet/dry, to fancy ones with digital displays
- Water dispensers. Fill these bulbs with water and stick them in your plant’s soil and it will only drink what it needs.
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