How to rescue an overwatered plant

Afraid you may have shown your plant a little too much love with the watering can? 

It’s a very common mistake. It's one of the top issues I see when people bring in their houseplants. 

You think that by constantly watering your plant you're going to help it thrive, but actually the opposite is the case. Too much water pushes out the air from the soil that the plant also needs. 

It actually dies from drowning. 

 "Roots need a mixture of both water and air in the soil to keep healthy. When overwatered for long periods of time, all the air spaces in the growing media become saturated with moisture, depriving the roots of the vital oxygen they need. The low-oxygen environment also fosters the growth of anaerobic bacteria that can cause the plant’s roots to rot and eventually die. This damage paradoxically hampers the plant’s ability to absorb water, leading it to display the symptoms of drought stress." James Wong

If you think you've overwatered, then I've got some tips to help you save your plant and also help with overwatering in the future. 

It is totally possible to save an overwatered plant. Just keep reading.

How to tell whether you’ve overwatered your plant

The first signs of overwatering aren’t actually obvious ones.

If you've overwatered your plant you may see droopy or wilting leaves. You might also notice yellowing or browning leaves, which signify stress and nutrient deficiencies resulting from waterlogged soil.

The most obvious signs of overwatering though is just soggy or waterlogged soil.

You may also see mould growth on the soil’s surface. 

Next time you’re unsure whether your plant has taken on too much water, remember to look out for:

  • Droopy or wilting leaves
  • Yellow or brown leaves
  • Soggy, wet soil
  • Mould on the soil’s surface

Damage control for waterlogged plants

Now that you’ve identified an overwatered plant, it’s time to rescue it. 

Assess your plant for water damage

The first thing you need to do is to just stop watering any more. I'd then take the plant out of its pot and examine roots to see if they're brown, mushy or if there is a a smell. 

If there are any damaged roots, then trim those off with a pair of sharp scissors or shears. 

I would then repot into some new compost in a pot with drainage holes or, at the very least, in a container with perlite to improve soil aeration and drainage. 

Adjusting your plant care routine

All you can do now is wait and see if it survives. 

Now it’s time to learn some healthier plant care habits. 

If you have a watering schedule - get rid of it. 

"There are two ways to spot whether a plant needs a drink. The first is to scratch away the top inch or so of the growing media and stick your finger in to see if you can feel moisture. The second is to take a look at the colour – most conventional potting mixes will be dark and crumbly when moist, and lighter brown and dusty when they need watering." James Wong 

I'd also recommend that when it does come to watering to give your plant a good soak rather than a little drip of water. 

Our advice here is for fleshy leaves water from below, everything else from above.


It can be so tempting to keep watering your plants in a bid to show them a little extra love, but in many cases, you might be doing more harm than good.

Remember to avoid those ever-tempting watering schedules, pay attention to your individual plants’ needs, and with a little time, patience and care, even your most overwatered plants will have a good chance of survival.