Signs Of Plants Affected By Too Much Water


By: Heather Rhoades

While most people know that too little water can kill a plant, they are surprised to find out that too much water for a plant can kill it too.

How Can You Tell Plants Have Too Much Water?

The signs for an overwatered plant are:

  • Lower leaves are yellow
  • Plant looks wilted
  • Roots will be rotting or stunted
  • No new growth
  • Young leaves will turn brown
  • Soil will appear green (which is algae)

The signs of plants affected by too much water are very similar to plants that have too little water.

Why are Plants Affected by Too Much Water?

The reason for plants affected by too much water is that plants need to breathe. They breathe through their roots and when there is too much water, the roots cannot take in gases. It is actually slowly suffocating when there is too much water for a plant.

How Can You Overwater Plants?

How can you overwater plants? Normally this happens when a plant owner is too attentive to their plants or if there is a drainage problem. How can you tell plants have enough water? Feel the top of the soil before you water. If the soil is damp, the plant does not need more water. Water only when the soil surface is dry.

Also, if you find that your plant has a drainage problem that is causing too much water for a plant, then correct this issue as soon as possible.

If You Overwater a Plant, Will It Still Grow?

This may have you asking “If you overwater a plant, will it still grow?” Yes, it can still grow, provided that the issue that caused too much water for the plant is corrected. If you suspect that you have plants affected by too much water, address the problems as quickly as possible so that you can save your plant.

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How to Rescue Overwatered Plants

Often the signs of overwatering look similar to the signs of underwatering, but the remedy is different

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The first step in saving your overwatered plants is to determine how badly they have been affected. If your plants are showing some yellowing but have not yet started to wilt, you can save them by beginning to water them properly. If wilting has started to occur, you will need to work harder in order to save them.


1. Your plant is wilting but it looks like it has plenty of water

The roots of plants take up water and also oxygen to survive and thrive. Overwatering, in simple terms, drowns your plant. There is space between the particles of soil in your garden. Oxygen fills this space. Soil that is constantly wet won’t have enough air pockets and plants will not be able to breathe by taking up oxygen with their roots. When this occurs, your plants will wilt (giving the appearance of too little water) even though the soil is wet. Here is a great video from our friends at Denver Water about the negative side effects of too much water for your plants.


From this article – 6 Signs You Are Overwatering Your Plants we learn the signs for over fertilizing plants are very similar to overwatering plants. However, the signs of over fertilization will occur quickly after your fertilize. You will also recognize over fertilization because you know you were temped to push the limits. Always read and follow the label directions.

Why Do Plants Need Fertilizer
Plants need to be fertilized because most soil does not provide the essential nutrients required for optimum growth. Even if you are lucky enough to start with great garden soil, as your plants grow, they absorb nutrients and leave the soil less fertile.

What Happens To The Plant When You Over Fertilize
When you add too much fertilizer to the soil plants cannot take up water. Plants rely on an osmotic pressure gradient in order to collect water. When the concentration of dissolved solids rises continuously from the soil around the roots to the core of the root, this causes water to flow into the plant. When the pressure around the roots gets too high the flow of water reverses. This is where the term burning your plants comes from. The water is flowing from the leaves out the roots and the leaves burn because they don’t have water to cool them.

Plants adjust to variations in the level of nutrients around their roots but they do best when the level is consistent. This is one of the main benefits of fertigation. Fertigation provides a little bit of fertilizer each time you water so the level around the root stays consistent. This is much better than occasionally shocking your plants with fertilizer. Plants are just like us. We perform better and feel better when we don’t get to full or too hungry. Moderation is the key for our plants and us.

Too much fertilizer can be bad for the environment. If you add too many nutrients excess fertilizers are leached into our ground water, rivers and oceans. This is a concern for people with a few plants because cumulatively in landscapes the amount adds up quickly. Farmers are concerned too because many use large amounts of nitrogen for their crops.

How To Save An Over Fertilized Plant
When you do get carried away with fertilizer or just have a build up of fertilizer in your potted plants there are some steps you can take to save your plants. Leach the fertilizer out of the soil with a long watering taking the fertilizer out of the root zone or out the bottom of the pot. If there is a crust of fertilizer on the surface of the soil remove it carefully. Don’t take more than ¼ of soil with it. Remove the wilted or and burned leaves. Stop fertilizing and rethink the amount you are using. You have a good chance of saving the plant.

You really don’t have to be a chemist to be a good gardener or grower. However, awareness of how fertilizers impact your plants will improve your success rate. If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to the blog or follow me on twitter @H2oTrends


Although technically caused by a fungal infection, root rot occurs almost exclusively in overly wet soils. This is because the fungi require a wet environment to thrive. The upper portion of the plant may begin to die, usually seen first as dropped leaves and blossoms as well as slowed growth. The lower portion of the stem typically feels soft and mushy as root rot progresses. Reduce watering to prevent the rot from becoming worse. In less severe cases, the tomato plant may bounce back.

Tomatoes that crack, either at the blossom or stem end, are a result of improper watering. The condition is called cat facing and results in ugly fruits that may not reach their full size. Generally, high soil moisture and high temperatures during a period of fast growth result in the condition. Reduce watering to eliminate the problem on the next round of fruit set by the plant. Puffy fruits with hollow insides also result from too much soil moisture in conjunction with high nitrogen levels in the soil. Overly hot or cool temperatures can also result in hollow tomatoes.


Dealing with Root Rot

Once root rot is identified, you must determine if the plant can be saved. If the entire root system has already become mushy, it is too late to save the plant. However, if some healthy, white, firm roots exist, try to bring the plant back to good health by replanting in fresh soil with good drainage.

Prepare plants for replanting by cleaning the roots gently under running water and removing all brown, mushy roots with a sharp pair of scissors. Cut the healthy root just above the damaged area. Work quickly to replant within a few hours. After all roots are pruned, sterilize the scissors with a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water 4 to avoid spreading fungal spores to other plants or soil.

While root rot is a serious issue for gardeners, treating the problem as soon as symptoms occur greatly increases the chances of saving affected plants. Don't let fungus thrive in soggy soil instead, provide good drainage and a healthy soil environment in which your plants can thrive.

Alaska is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company. Pennington is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.

  1. "Fungal Root Rots and Chemical Fungicide Use," Penn State Extension
  2. Stephen Nameth, Jim Chatfield, "Root Problems in Plants in the Garden and Landscape," Ohio State University Extension Service
  3. Jill Pokorny, "Root Rot of Houseplants," University of Minnesota Extension, February 2000
  4. Alicia R. Lamborn, "Disinfecting Pruning Tools," University of Florida Extension
  5. Bodie Pennisi, "Gardening in Containers," University of Georgia Extension, February 2015


Watch the video: How to Bring A Plant Back To Life in 12 Hours


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