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Overwatering or Underwatering: How to Recognize and Fix Both?

Overwatering and underwatering houseplants are the most common issue that most plant owners face. But how do you recognize that your plant is in trouble?

Aarushi Chadha
If you come to the conclusion that you have been overwatering your plant, then you need to repot the plant as the soil needs to be changed

Being a plant parent requires a lot of patience and dedication. And improper watering is the most common issue that most amateur house plant enthusiasts experience. Keeping the perfect conditions for each plant in your house can be tricky, especially when the symptoms of overwatering and underwatering seem so alike.

Let’s get a better understanding of the symptoms of overwatering and underwatering and how can you fix and prevent both of these issues.

Symptoms of overwatering:

  • Pest infestation- Certain pests tend to thrive in damp soil and under damp leaves.

  • Prematurely yellowing leaves- Along with premature falling of leaves, yellowing of leaves is an indication of overwatering.

  • Brown edges- In some plants, overwatering can manifest in the browning of edges. This happens because the plant usually expels water from the edges and excess water can cause the veins to burst, leading to browning.

  • Foul odor from the soil- Overwatering can lead to root rot which emits a foul smell from the soil.

  • Wilting- Wilting leaves are another symptom of overwatering.

  • Fungal growth- Stagnant water in the case of overwatering can lead to mildew, mold, or fungal growth. It can also lead to fungal-borne diseases.

How to treat and prevent overwatering?

If you come to the conclusion that you have been overwatering your plant, then you need to repot the plant as the soil needs to be changed. In the right conditions, your overwatered plant will become healthy. While transplanting the plant, check for signs of root rot such as mushy roots.

If your plant is suffering from mushy roots, then clean all of the soil from the roots and proceed to cut the affected roots. Gently clean the soil of the remaining roots by placing it under running water. Now, take a new plot that has proper drainage and repot your plant in a more suitable and well-draining fresh soil. Keep the plant in a bright spot and water the plant only when the top layer of the soil seems very dry.

You can prevent overwatering by-

  • Keep the plant in a bright spot.

  • Use well-draining soil. You can add perlite, leca, pumice, or gravel to make your existing soil more aerated and well-draining.

  • Pick a pot that is large enough for further growth of the plant and that has plenty of drainage holes.

  • Do not fit the pot with water to the brim. And try to water when the soil starts to appear dry.

Symptoms of Underwatering:

  • Dry soil- When your plant is underwatered, the soil starts to develop cracks and pulls away from the sides of the pot.

  • Yellow leaves- While yellowing leaves are a sign of both underwatering and overwatering when your leaves start turning yellow and crisp, then that is an indication of underwatering.

  • Brown, crisp, and curling leaves- Curling, crispy, and lightweight brown leaves are a sign of underwatering.

  • Stunted growth- Underwatering usually inhibits the growth and development of the plant as the lack of water will stop nutrients from reaching the plant.

  • Brittle stems- Dry and brittle stems are a symptom of underwatering as not enough water is reaching the stems.

How to treat and prevent underwatering?

The best way to revive an underwatered plant is through a practice known as ‘bottom watering.’ Fill any container that is big enough for your plant with a couple of inches of water. Remove your plant from its pot and transplant it into a plastic nursery pot. Place the plastic nursery pot into the container and let your plant soak in the water for 30 minutes. Remove the plant and allow it to fully drain before returning it to its original pot.

You can prevent underwatering by-

  • Although plants require sun, too much intense heat can harm them. Therefore, either water your plant regularly or place it in a bright yet less intense spot.

  • Sometimes when our soil is not well-draining, the water will run right through the dry soil without being absorbed. Therefore, make sure that you are using the right type of soil and water your plant thoroughly.

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