LANSING, Mich. — Why is overwatering so detrimental to plant health?
Healthy roots are the foundation for healthy plants. Once it has grown a substantial root system the plant starts putting its energy in growing a larger plant and more flowers. Roots are important to a plant because they are its primary source of water and food and are also important for the uptake of oxygen. The roots of the plant take up water but they also need air to breathe.
Over-watering, in simple terms, drowns your plant. Soil that is constantly wet won't have enough air pockets and the roots can't breathe.
CPR for Overwatered Plants
- Move the plant to a shady area, even if it is a full sun plant. Once the roots are healthy move the sun plants back to a sunny location.
- Be sure the pot is draining. If no drainage holes exist add some or re-pot the plant into a pot with drainage holes. Do not allow the pot to sit in water, this will keep the soil too wet.
- If possible, create additional air spaces around the root ball. One way of doing this is to slowly tilt the pot to its side and then gently tap the container, the soil ball should now be loose within the container. Carefully re-stand the pot up when completed there should be small air pockets between the pot wall and around the soil ball. This will allow the soil to dry quicker and at the same time bring oxygen to the root zone.
- If the plant isn't too large, re-pot into a different pot. Be sure to add new soil. This will give the roots nice, clean soil to grow into.
- Begin watering only when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. Do not allow the plant to get extremely dry, this additional shock could be enough to kill the plant. If the plant is wilting badly, you can mist or syringe the plant's foliage with water which will prevent too much leaf scorch. Do not fertilize until the plant returns to its normal condition. Treating with a broad-spectrum fungicide can be helpful.
- Even if you take all of these steps there is no guarantee that your plant will bounce back. It partially depends on how badly the roots have been damaged. If you have a tendency to kill a plant with kindness and are composting more than survive, you might look at changing your soil mix to a lighter, fluffier soil. Make sure you have plenty of drainage holes in your containers. If you tend to keep plants on the wet side you might want to steer clear of plants that are more prone to problems from over-watering.
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