University of Maryland Extension

Excess Water - Houseplants

root rot house plants

Back to Common Problems - Houseplants

Problems with excess water can result from poorly drained soil or over watering. Excess water reduces oxygen in the soil, which damages fine roots and renders the plant unable to take up water. Plants exposed to excess moisture show the same symptoms as plants with root rots, crown rots (crown rot from overwatering) or drought stress. The primary symptom of excess moisture is wilting or yellowing of lower and inner leaves. If excess water continues, plants may show other drought symptoms, such as scorch, leaf drop, and/ or plant death.

Plants should be watered when needed. Factors influencing plant watering include type of potting media, stage of growth, type of pot (i.e. clay or plastic), humidity and temperature.

As plants use water, the potting mix will dry out and become lighter in weight. Periodically lift the pot for changes in weight and compare to when it was watered. On large containers insert a stick or a dowel (long enough to reach the bottom of the pot) into the pot. Moist soil will stick to the dowel or discolor it slightly. Water plants thoroughly so that water comes out of the bottom of the pot. Plants that have dried to the point that the media has pulled away from the sides of the pot may need several applications of water to rehydrate the potting mix. Pour off any water that collects in saucers under the pots to prevent problems with fungus gnats and other insects.

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