Winter drama: an overwatered plant is an unhappy plant

In winter, people tend to spend more time indoors because of the constant bad weather. This might result in increased attention to our indoor plants, and although they like being in the spotlight, plant owners might be showering them with a little too much love.

Loving our lush green plants might be the reason we often overwater them. We know our plants need water, but too much water is harmful. According to Richard Cheshire, the plant doctor at Patch Plants, this is especially true in winter.

“Overwatering is one of the most common causes of mouldy plant soil in houseplants. In wintertime, it is essential to change how often we water our plants as most of them stop growing and some even hibernate.“

“We often think that more water equals a happier plant, but houseplants need air as well as water. Waterlogging the soil drowns the roots, and it could end up killing your plant.”

Richard Cheshire gave us some pointers to understand when to water our plants and what we should do if we overwater them.

 The most common signs of an overwatered plant are:

  • Wet soil – The soil should be lightly moist for most plants and shouldn’t leave your finger wet.
  • Yellow or falling leaves – When plants are too full of water, their leaves will turn yellow or might even drop.
  • Mushy growth – Some plants, like aloe vera or other succulents, will turn squishy when overwatered.
  • A musty smell – If you sniff the soil, it may have an unpleasant damp smell.

How to prevent overwatering

  1. Do the finger dip test

Dip your finger up to your second knuckle; if your finger stays dry and clean, then it’s time to water. Ideally, only water your plants when the top two inches of soil feel dry. For cacti and succulents, it is best to water only when the soil is fully dry. 

(design credit: Patch Plants)

  1. Avoid repotting directly in decorative pots

Many decorative pots do not have proper drainage holes at the bottom, making the plant more prone to overwatering. Ideally, the plant is in a pot with drainage holes at the bottom.

  1. Make sure excess water can drain off

For this, put your plants in a decorative pot with a saucer to catch the excess. Alternatively, water your plant in a sink or bathtub and let the excess drain off before putting it back in its decorative pot.

  1. Help air circulation at the roots

For this, simply poke holes in the soil with a pencil or a long stick to help air circulate, but be careful not to damage the roots.

  1. Use a  moisture meter

It can help you monitor the amount of water in the soil. They are also great to remind you when to water if you are a forgetful person. These can range from inexpensive ones that change colour when the soil’s too wet or dry to fancy ones with digital displays.

  1. Use water dispensers

Dispensers remove the problem to the root (pun intended). Just fill the bulbs with water and let your plant drink what it needs.


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