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Wait, That Plant is Drowning!

Is your plant wilted even though the soil is wet? Is your plant light green and struggling? Well your problem might be over-watering. Read this article for tips on diagnosing an over-watering problem and then fixing it.

Contributors: Kerry Meyer

Did you know that over-watering is usually considered the most common cause of early plant death? In general, we are deathly afraid of under-watering our plants and as a result many of us tend to over-water. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else, although I am getting better. The best thing you can do to keep your plant healthy is to water it correctly.

How do you know if your plant is drowning? First, have you been watering only when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch? If you haven’t, it is possible your plant is staying too wet. For more information on proper watering for plants in pots read “Water Your Way to Happy Plants.” Second, is your plant looking light green and generally unhappy? One possible reason for this is over-watering. While both of these foliage indicators are symptoms of over-watering, the most common way someone figures out their plant is drowning is that the plant has wilted even though the soil is wet.

Why is over-watering so detrimental to plant health? Healthy roots are the foundation for healthy plants. Have you ever noticed that after you transplant a plant it will appear to sit there for a week or more before it starts growing? Well, it isn’t really just sitting there, it is establishing its root system. 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. Roots that can’t breathe are stressed roots. Stressed humans are more prone to disease. Well, stressed plants are more prone to diseases too and one of the common forms of plant stress is unhealthy roots.  Over-watered plants are likely to get root diseases, primarily root rot. You probably won’t know your plant has gotten root rot until you notice that it is wilted, but the soil is still wet.

What exactly is root rot? There are several different fungi that cause root rot. The most common culprits are Pythium, Phytopthera, and Rhizoctonia. Healthy roots should be white and clean looking. Roots with root rot are brown, grey, black, slimy or non-existent. Over-watering also tends to rob your plants of proper nutrition. Either the roots are damaged and can’t absorb the fertilizer in the soil or the excess water has leached the fertilizer from the soil. Either way the plant doesn’t have access to the food it needs.

OK, you’ve gotten this far and you think it is possible that you have been over-watering your plants. Now what? If the plants are showing some yellowing and you know they have been watered too much, but they haven’t started to wilt while wet, simply start following proper watering techniques (Click Here) and your plant should bounce back. Hold off on any application of fertilizer until you see new growth. Then I would fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer the next 2 to 3 times you water (after you see new growth) to increase the fertility level. After this go back to fertilizing every 7 to 10 days.

However, if your plant has jumped into the deep end even though it can’t swim (your plants are wilting even though the soil is still wet), then the plant is in much bigger trouble. If one plant in a combination planter is wilting and the others look fine you might want to consider removing the wilting plant to help keep the disease from spreading further. Begin using proper watering techniques (Click Here). If the whole planter is wilting you will have to be more aggressive.

CPR for Drowning Plants

  1. Move the planter to a shady area, even if it is a full sun plant. The roots of your plant are unable to take up enough water to keep your plant hydrated. Plants in shaded locations will use less water. Once the roots are healthy move sun plants back to a sunny location.
  2. Be sure the pot is draining. If no drainage holes exists add some or repot the plant into a pot with drainage holes. Do not allow the pot to sit in water, this will keep the soil too wet.
  3. If possible, create additional air spaces around the root ball. One way of doing this is 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.
  4. If the plant isn’t too large, repot into a different pot. Be sure to add new soil. This will give the roots nice, clean soil to grow into. If the plant is too large to be easily repotted go on to number 5.
  5. 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. With the roots in a delicate state it can be easy to burn the roots with fertilizer. Once the plant resumes active growth return to normal fertilization.
  6. Treating with a broad-spectrum fungicide can be helpful. Your local garden center should be able to help you choose one.
  7. If the plant is going to make it you should begin to see improvement in a week or so. Once the plant seems to be growing nicely move it into a sunnier location and begin fertilizing again.

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 are surviving 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 all else fails grow plants that like their feet in water. Plants like Cyperus, Alocasia, Colocasia, Acorus, and many others will thrive in containers that drain slowly. 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 than most other plants.

For more information on general watering practices read "Water Your Way to Happy Plants."

For more information on general watering practices read "Watering Container Plants."

727 Readers Rated This: 12345 (2.9)
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 01/17/2019 - 6:35pm

It’s been pouring in SoCal for 3 days. My 3 potted plumerias already lost their leaves when it tuned cold. They are only about 24 inches tall. Now I’m afraid they will rot. Is there anything I can do to preevent the rot? Cover them? bring them indoors? Help

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 02/08/2019 - 2:05pm

Yes, if you want to keep your plumeria dry, moving them out of the rain is best. Covering will also work, but you should not leave it is place very long as it may make the problem worse not better. Best to move them to. Rain free location, like up next to the house, under the eaves.
All the best!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 11/14/2018 - 2:57pm

How do I differentiate between an over fertilised vs over watered plant? I am growing an Arabian jasmine indoors in a pot which I recently fertilised. The soil is also too dark, so I believe it is wet, although I have drainage holes in the pot. The question is whether the wilting is caused by fertiliser or by too much water or both. How do I know who the culprit is?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 11/26/2018 - 12:11pm

Most likely the issue is overwatering (or underwatering) rather than over fertilization.  The best way to check the soil moisture in a container is to touch it.  If the top of the soil is dry to the touch it.  If the top of the soil is wet to the touch, then you certainly don't need to water the plant. However, just because the top of the soil is dry, that doesn't mean it needs to be watered either.  You want to check for moisture an inch deep in the soil.  The easiest way to do this, is to stick a finger into the soil up to your first knuckle.  If the soil is damp at that point, then you don't need to water yet.  If it is dry, then do water. Overwatering is the most common issue with watering, but underwatering can also be problematic. 


If you have been careful about watering and have been checking soil moisture before you water and you feel confident that overwatering isn't an issue, then it is likely worth considering whether you have been underwatering. While it is less common, it is certainly something that can happen.  If you aren't regularly checking your soil moisture and watering when the soil is dry to an inch down into the soil, then underwatering could be your culprit.  Try giving the plant a good soak, where some water drains from the bottom of the pot, then give the plant a good 3 or 4 hours or more to take up the water.  If that takes care of the wilting symptoms and they don't reappear as you water when the soil indicates a need for water, then too little water is the likely culprit.

if your plant is in soil that remains soaking wet for days, then that is an indication that over watering is an issue.

Too much fertilizer is  much more likely to cause your plant to show symptoms like tip burn on the leaves (the tips of the leaves turning brown) rather than causing the plant to wilt.



Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 10/25/2018 - 4:03pm

Now, I’m not positive on what type of plant these are, my husband and I just purchased a new home with them already over watered. They are a few feet tall, very large palm like leaves. They’re yellow, wilted, and one of them is drooped onto the ground. They’re all along the side of the house.. and there’s no gutter in the back.. so when it rains they’re soaked! We’re also located in Idaho, where winters have lots of snow. I don’t know what to do! Help!

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 10/26/2018 - 12:47pm

Can you please email directly at  Sending photos would be really helpful.  I suspect that the plants you have might be herbaceous perennials or annuals that have the foliage dying because it has gotten cold enough for a good hard frost to damage them.  This might just be a natural consequence that is supposed to happen....


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 09/23/2018 - 4:35pm

A week ago, I purchased ten 1 quart Lantana perennials. ( I live in San Diego and see them everywhere and thought they would be an easy plant to take care of for a beginning gardener, like myself.) They are still in their original containers and I have been watering them every other day until they could be planted in the yard a week or so from now. Initially, they looked really wonderful. However, today, I noticed that many, many of the flowers have turned brown and dropped off and a a few of the plants have one brown leaf. I assume that I am over watering them. If I were to stop watering for several days, would this help until I can plant them in the yard or is it too late?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 10/02/2018 - 2:25pm

I doubt that you are overwatering them, athough it is possible.  You don't say what size a pot the plants are in, but if they arein a 4" diameter pot, watering every other day isn't enough.  If the are in a one gallon pot, then watering every other day might be fine.  The best course of action would be to plant them as soon as possible.  To learn more about the best practices for watering plants, click this link:



Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 08/29/2018 - 7:38am

Hello! I have 3 over watered (over loved) limelight hydrangea that were planted in July. They have about 3 foot stems and it's been brutally hot this year so I think I was trying to be sure they would not dry out. Well, the leaves are yellowing and falling off. The flowers are drying out. There is still some green and some blooms but the leaves are ALWAYS flagged down. I think the flagging down is what got me over watering. So I finally went and dug deeper than usual to find very moist soil and black roots. I plant to dig the entire shrub out and rinse the roots off for a good look. Is there any hope if all roots turn out to be dark brown/black?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 08/04/2018 - 4:14am

I recently repotted a Yucca plant using 1 part potting mix and 1 part cactus mix. This was one a week ago. I noticed that when I watered the plant, it wasn’t draining very quickly. I thought perhaps this would improve over time (I’m very new to plant care). But after a week the soil was still very wet. So I panicked and removed the root ball from the soaking soil and allowed it to sit in the shade. The root ball is currently exposed. Is this wrong? I’m very afraid that I have put the plant through some sort of shock. I’m just not sure what to do at this point. Should I put it in new soil? Would it be fine to use only cactus mix? Do I water it after putting it in new soil? The leaves on the plants look great - they’re green and strong. I don’t see any yellow or wilting leaves. But I’m not sure how long that will be the case. Please help. Thank you so much!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 07/03/2018 - 7:21am

I believe I have overwatered my Supertunia hanging baskets. The plant itself is green but the flowers are wilted. The instructions on the tag for the basket said to water every day which I have done. But I think is waterlogged. What should I do to revive it? Should I trim it back? Put it in more sunlight as it only gets the afternoon sun right now? What is the trick to having healthy hanging baskets?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 8:03am

A light trim and then watering only when the soil is dry is the best way to go. Since the foliage still looks good I think it will bounce back once you adjust your water to only do so when the soil is dry to the touch. This watering article might be a helpful review of watering best practices:


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 06/19/2018 - 1:12pm

I have a Padron Pepper plant that thrived for a couple of months until rainy season. It has rained a lot over the past month and i realized a little too late that i didn't open up the pot holes for proper drainage. The plant has lost about 80% of its leaves and the ones still hanging on are green, but wilted. I already opened all the holes for drainage, but still can't see any improvement, but also it hasn't gone any worse. Should I re pot the plant? And set it somewhere where the rain wont keep affecting it? What can i do to save it?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 8:06am

I htink moving it to a location where you can control the water it gets (out of the rain) while you wait for the soil to dry out (watch out that you don't let it get drought stressed, that could push it over the edge since it is already struggling at this point) is the way to go.  It may come back and look great, but that could take weeks and weeks. So be patient as you work to nurse it back to health.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 06/14/2018 - 9:51am

Hello. I have three hanging coleus in a shady area. One of them is less full than the others and when I water it, the water quickly runs out of the drainage holes. This does not happen with the others. I would appreciate any suggestions.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 8:10am

Sometimes if potting soil gets VERY dry the soil will almost repel water. Try watering, then wait 15 minutes and water again and then wait 15 minutes and water again.... and see if that helps the soil absorb water better.  A good way to tell if a hanging basket has absorbed water into the soil is to put a hand under the pot and lift up.  If the plant feels happy, it is chock full of water.  IF it feels light, it isn't holding much water at that point. If you check regularly like this you'll start to get a really good feel for what the pot feels like when it is wet, dry or just moist.  It's a great way to check moisture levels in a basket.

It could also be that the planter with the smaller plant is drying out less quickly and the soil is already moist and thus most of the water drains from the container. If you check each basket and water each one as needed, then that should keep all of the plants happy as clams.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 05/28/2018 - 12:49pm

Hi there,

I got a new aralia chicken gizzard, and I think I overwatered it...the leaves are all turning brown, but are soft...some of the green leaves are just falling of there anything I can do?!

Please help!

Rick Schoellhorn's picture
Rick Schoellhorn Fri, 08/03/2018 - 9:43am

Hi there -
OK so Aralias (Chicken Gizzard or otherwise) are very sensitive to over watering especially when they are moved to a low light situation. They are very sensitive to light level changes as well and frequently drop leaves when moved form one place to another.

In any case the best thing you can do is to make sure the plant is in bright light (not scorching sun) and allow it to dry out, not bone dry, but just mostly dry. Then begin watering it lightly until you see new growth begin. IF you recently repotted the plant so that it is in a big pot, you might consider moving it back down to a smaller pot. Clay pots work well for Aralias since they do not hold as much water.

If the leaf drop continues you might try using a basic garden fungicide and soaking the soil to kill any remaining root rots in the soil.

I hope this helps and happy gardening!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 03/05/2018 - 12:49am

Hello! I have a low-light hanging plant, and recently transplanted it to a slightly larger pot and used Miracle-Gro Moisture control Potting Mix. It's been a few weeks and more than half of the leaves turned yellow and fell off. I can't tell it it has been over watered or under-watered. My questions:

1) Is there anything wrong with the Miracle-Gro Moisture control Potting Mix? Should I replant it with something else?

2) I just ordered a moisture meter. Is there a percentage of moisture that is good so you know when to water?

3) Should I replant this hanging plant anyway and use rest soil in case it has root rot or anything like that?

Thank you!

Rick Schoellhorn's picture
Rick Schoellhorn Thu, 03/15/2018 - 1:40pm

Hi there -
OK so it is hard to know what might have happened but you should check to see that the original root ball of the plant you transplanted is actually wet, the old root mass can dry out while the soil around it is still moist, so if it is dry then your best bet is to soak the entire hanging basket, maybe in the bathtub until all the soil is well watered.
If the plant is too wet, it might be best to un-pot it and try again.

1) There is nothing inherently wrong with the potting soil you used, I doubt that was the problem.
2) there are a lot of moisture meters and they are all different in their readings, you would want a plant to be kept in the mid-range of the moisture settings on your meter.
3) I would say only re-pot the plant it seems to be entirely waterlogged.

In general when repotting houseplants, you want to keep them in a bit more light until they begin to show new growth and appear to have made the transition to the new soil. Low light is a stress to all plants, even houseplants, so a little bit better lighting goes a long way to help them readjust to new conditions.

I hope this helps and best of luck!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 02/17/2018 - 10:21pm

I have a tree like house plant we got when a family member passed they were fine now one is turning brown on the trunk area and it's soft to the touch . Is it saveable????? Help it's extremely important plant I'm panicking

Rick Schoellhorn's picture
Rick Schoellhorn Mon, 02/19/2018 - 3:39pm

Hi there -
I am so sorry to hear about this keepsake plant, and I must admit it doesn't sound good. But maybe there is something we can do.
Can you send me a picture of the plant? If I can identify what kind of plant it is I can do a better job of helping you save it, but the most important thing is that you get it someplace where the pot can drain immediately. If it is a pot inside a decorative pot, lift it out and make sure no water is pooled around the roots, so it can drain as much as possible.
You may be able to uproot the plant and wash off all the soggy soils and check the roots, trim some of the rotted or dying roots off and re pot it, but all that depends on what kind of a plant it is.
So send a picture if at all possible.
Here's to hoping it can be recovered.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 01/10/2018 - 7:02pm

I have in-ground planters on the north side of my yard with hydrangeas planted in them. The neighbor over waters and the water seeps into the planters. Before I realized my hydrangeas were overwatered, leaves turning yellow, I turned off our sprinklers. Two weeks later and the leaves are white and falling off. Is there anything I can do not to lose them?

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Thu, 01/11/2018 - 10:33am

The roots are literally suffocating from lack of oxygen, so to save them, you'll need to help them breathe again. This will mean either lifting up the planters, drilling additional holes (you can get a very long drill bit and go right through the soil, through the bottom of the planters), or carefully removing the plants and letting them dry up a bit. If you'd like to send us a photo for more specific advice, you can do so here:

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 11/28/2017 - 7:36pm

I moved from California to Oregon 2 months ago. I have an outdoor large "palm type" plant that's taller than me. Anyway, before I realized it my plant was soaked due to the daily rain.

It is too late to save? I took it out of the pot and I'm "drying" the root area now. The plant has brown spots on most of the leaves and the the stems have turned white. Do I move the plant inside with me? Or is it too late. I've had her for over 20 years.

What do I do? Heeeeelp!

Rick Schoellhorn's picture
Rick Schoellhorn Wed, 11/29/2017 - 10:39am

Hi there -
OK so you moved your plant, did it also go from an indoor life to an outdoor life? The spots on the leaves could be from the rain water sitting on them, but the white stems sounds like sun bleaching. So if your plant was an indoor plant and suddently got moved outside that would explain a lot of what you are seeing. If it went from outdoor to outdoor, did it suddenly start getting a lot more sun? That would also explain the spots and white stems?

In either case, the thing you want to do is avoid stressing the plant anymore than it already is. So I think it is less important to dry out the roots than it is to make sure the roots don't get totally dried out after being too wet, the swing back and forth can be very hard on the plant.

I suggest you move the plant to an area where it gets indirect sun (nothing burning hot), allow the root ball to dry between waterings, but go back to watering as you did in California as soon as the plant appears to have used up all that excess water. Try as much as possible to match the conditions you had in California, whatever they were.
Do not fertilize or spray the plant with anything for about 2-3 months, just let it try to get its roots back under it and then go back to life as usual.

Plants can be very tough, so hopefully you two can stay together for another 20 years!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 09/10/2017 - 7:56am

Hi, We overwatered a heteropanax chinensis and all it's leaves are falling and look pale. I changed as much of the soul as possible for new soil. The roots don't seem rotten. But I also put some pant food, which now I realize it was a mistake. I do not want to remove the soul again as I'm afraid to "shock" the plant even more given it's fragile state. Besides poking holes in the container, is there anything else I can do at this stage to help it? How long will it take to see if it's gonna bounce back? I'm heartbroken

Rick Schoellhorn's picture
Rick Schoellhorn Wed, 10/04/2017 - 6:04pm

OK so while it can be difficult to avoid over watering a lot of the Aralia family, your Heteropanax should recover if you stop watering and make sure it is not sitting in any water.
Is the plant outdoors on a patio or indoors?

You are correct - when it is suffering from root stress, the last thing it needs is either fertilizer or disturbing the roots even more.

If you can move it into the shade outdoors for its recovery I would suggest it, as the breeze moving through the leaves will help it to shed water as well.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 08/18/2017 - 9:24am

Hello! I bought lavender a few months back. I put my plant in a big clay pot right in a room that gets sunlight almost all day except after 3-4 in the evening. I water is every other day almost but I think I might be over watering it. Sometimes the pot looks like water has seeped into the clay side. The lavender itself has become to brown in certain spots and in others it is sort of doing well. I don't know what to do. It came in one of those degradable pots and I planted the plant still in the pot directly into the soil as directed to, on the pot. I am worried that that might have made it hard for the roots to drain! Please help!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 11/03/2017 - 6:25pm

Lavender requires excellent drainage so depending on the size of the plant ever other day watering is too much. Browning and dropping leaves is a sign of over watering for many plants. If it starts to turn discolored it might be too late. I recommend letting the top two inches of soil dry out and always checking for moisture by sticking your fingers in the soil before assuming the plant is thirsty. Lavender is tricky so don't give yourself a hard time if it dies. It also prefers full sun and is not usually kept as and indoor plant without a grow light.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 08/21/2017 - 2:58pm

Good afternoon,
You may have better luck with your lavender if you move it out doors. They are actually an outdoor plant and would love to be given as much sunlight as possible. As far as watering goes, you want to give it enough water at each watering to have the water run thru the container. Then you don't want to water it again until the top 1 1/2 in of soil has dried out. Or better yet plant it in your garden to enjoy it for many years. It requires full sun and well drained soil.
I hope this helps, thank you for the inquiry and have a great day!
Barb Balgoyen
Walters Gardens, Inc.
Proud Supplier of Proven Winners® Perennials

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 07/30/2017 - 1:46pm

I am just going to say it now I'm not very good at taking care of plants to begin with. I got a big basket of Petunias and I went on vacation last week and my husband and mother and law said I should put the plant in the sink and fill it with water. It might have been my mistake I filled the water in the top of the soil instead of in the sink . It was dark and hot in my apartment. When I came home yesterday and saw it a lot of the leaves were yellowish/brown. Many of the stems that were starting to grow flowers were brown and flowers too were wilted and crispy. Some of the flower stems look whitish delicate and rubbery. I just read this article today. I messed up yesterday I put it back outside in sunlight. I thought putting a little packet of pour and feed fertilizer would help and I watered it with two cups of water cause the top of the soil was dry but water was draining out of the bottom of the basket. I hope I can still save the plant although it does look like it is in very bad condition. Please help asap.

Lisa I.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 07/31/2017 - 11:52am


Growing plants is one of those activitites that you learn by doing.  While, I get the basic idea behind the advice from your Mother in laww and husband - sitting the plant in a sink of water would keep it hydrated for the week you were gone, it also has some problems. 

First, since petunias need sunlight, your planter would have struggled being indoors for a  week, regardless of how it was watered. Petunias need sun to be happy.  So bringing it indoors, while well-intentioned, wasn't the best option.  

Filling the sink up with water to the point that the entire soil ball was in water was also problematic.  Roots need air to breathe and with that much water they weren't getting air.

Think of this as a great learning experience, I know I've killed multiple plants by making mistakes - so you are certainly not alone.

For this particular plant, I wouild trim off all of the dead parts and then if possible transplant whatever remains into a larger container with dry or moist potting soil.  Then water only when the soil in the original container is dry an inch down in the soil (stcking your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle below your fingernail is usually a pretty good stand-in for one inch.  If ths soil is wet in this zone, wait to water.  If it is dry, go ahead and water.  Make sure your container has drainage holes, and water until some drains from the bottom of the pot.  Sincce you just recently fertilized, wait a couple of weeks before fertilizing and give your plant time to root into the new soil.  Your plant is very fragile right now and even if you do everything right is may still not make it.  

For next year, if you are going on vacation, go ahead and leave the plant outside.  If you are able to move it to a location with half a days shade, that would help keep it from drying out as quickly.  Have a freind or neighbor water, if that is feasible.  If it isn't, then get a pan or tub or something and put a 2 to 4 inches of water in it and place your plant in the water.  The soil will wick up the water.  This is only a short term solution and isn't the best choice for when you are home to care for your plant directly, but can work for a relatively short period of time.

Good luck and I hope this helps.

Kerry Meyer

Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 07/09/2017 - 12:31pm

I got a nice full plant from a friend because she moved. During the move it accidently was placed outside and many leaves burnt. I trimmed those off and have it the same sunlight area she did in her home. It continues to wilt and be droopy. I checked out the roots and many were not even completely in the soil. I have taken them out and placed in a clear jar in hopes they will reboot. However it's been a week and they are still droopy. Any suggestions?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Wed, 07/19/2017 - 2:47pm

I gather from your question that the plant was a houseplant that accidentally was out in full sun for a while.  Trimming off the damaged leaves was a good move.  However, I think placing it in water probably isn't the best move. Go ahead and replant it in a nice clean pot with good new potting mix, place it in a place that provides the right amount of light,water as needed - keepiing it evenly moist - not dry or wet - would be helpful.  Don't fertilize until the plant gets established.  Given conditions it likes and careful care I think it will bounce back over time.

Kerry Meyer

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 06/17/2017 - 9:17am

I have just started planting in large pots. I have sufficient drainage holes in each of them, then twigs, pine cones and broken pottery in bottom for filler. I've noticed that when I water them, no matter how much water I add, the water does not come out of the drainage holes at the bottom. Now I've noticed that a couple of the smaller plants (Alyson Mexican Heather and Snow Princess Lobularia) are dying. I'm worried it might be root rot?? I'm trying to only water when soil feels dry (I live in Michigan and it's been sunny, hot and in the 90's since I planted). Any suggestions? Thank you!

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 06/19/2017 - 1:22pm

Hi Becky -
OK in large pots you definitely need to water less and your waiting until the soil looks dry is the right approach. If the pots have drainage holes but you never see the water coming out, I wonder if you are watering deeply enough each time you water. The next time you water, let the hose slowly fill the pot until you see water coming out the drainage holes. How big are these pots? In my larger containers I water until the water overflows the top of the container meaning the whole pot is flooded, then I do not water again until the pot is dry in the top 2-3" of the soil. This means I may water only once or twice a month.

Looking at the picture, the heather flower dying but the plant doesn't look as though the leaves are dying, however I would say it looks a bit dry. Though the soil looks moist, so that could mean you have some sort of root rot if the soil is staying too wet. Again the next time the soil looks dry and you are going to water, I would mix a basic garden fungicide into the water and flood the pot with that as if you do have any root rots, it should help you control them.

When you dig into the pot, do you find soggy soil? sometimes in a large pot you can get, let's call it an inversion layer (especially if you change to a different kind of potting soil halfway through filling the pot) this means you can be either very wet or very dry at the top of the pot, and the opposite on the bottom of the pot. So dig down 6-8" and see what the soil looks like (wet or dry) also see if you find a mass of plant roots, which would tell you that below the soil the plants are happily growing.

You weather should be a factor, but it may mean you need to water more frequently. My guess is that you are not watering enough and that is why the smaller plants are suffering first.

I hope this helps and feel free to contact me if you have more questions!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 06/12/2017 - 9:42pm

A Gardner for many, many years, I have beautiful gardens. But hanging baskets bought early in May or June never last and this year four have succumbed early to a wet, cold Spring. They have size to begin with, so living in Upstate NY, its a short growing season and they never make to seasons end. By early summer, leggy, rotted, and gone.
Perhaps wrong choices, but I feel a basket that is 10 inches and sizeable can't possibly look good until September or October without amendments.
I have tried so many different annuals for every kind of exposure. Petunias leggy, begonias rot, lobelia .
hates heat, fuschia hates heat. I monitor water and fertilizer.
Any suggestions welcome. Thank you

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 06/13/2017 - 1:44pm

I think that mature hanging baskets bought in spring are the toughest challend a gardener can faces when it comes to keeping them looking good all summer.  You have hit the nail on the head for why that is - lots of plant material to not a lot of soil, which makes water management an issue.  Usually they get too dry (because who has time to water two or more times a day when it is hot), but keeping them too wet early in the season can also be a challenge.  I am iin the process of accidentally killing two baskets myself - my probelm is allowing them to get too dry at several points.  I do think they would benefit from me giving them a good trim back...

Plant selection is a key to success as well and I agree that  Lobelia and Fuchsia can be tough to take through the summer.  I think that Supertunia  and Superbells would be two good classes of plants to consider for your baskets, but water management is still going to be an issue.  So how to solve the problems.  Here are few ideas:

-install a drip irrigation system and set it on a timer so the planters stay well hydrated in the summer.  We have a kit called WaterWise that has everything you need to set up a drip system, other than the timer which you would need to buy separately.   Here is a link fo rmore info/to order:  You can find all of the components locally as well, the kit just collects everything togther.

-Since early season wetness has caused you issues, consider buying the plants later in the season when the temperatures are more likely to be on the warm side, so that rotting out is less of an issue.

-I am a big believer in bigger is better when it comes to container size.  Look for 12" or larger baskets instead of 10".  They will cost more but the size difference will make a difference.  More soil volume means they are easier to keep watered.

-Instead of buying a mature basket in spring, buy empty baskets and then plant them yourself.  Starting out smaller in spring keeps the size more managable and watering is easier.  I have 14" deep baskets that I planted every spring for years and I did well with those through the summer.  Then my daughter was born in June and I realized that keeping up with watering on 7 hanging baskets witha  newborn was not going to happen.  Six years later I bought baskets from a plant sale through my daughters school and I find them very challenging.  So look for some large hanging baskets to plant yourself can be a winner of a strategy.

-There are now self irrigating baskets to be found, the challenge can be making sure are checking them often enough to water when necessary.  But they can be a good option especially for summer.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.


Kerry Meyer

Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 06/12/2017 - 4:17pm

I just put up window boxes and planted geraniums, sweet potato vines, lobelia and super bells. I have ho;es in the bottom and have placed wood chips as a draining material at the bottom of boxes. I am using a light potting soil. I feel I have done it all well but after a heavy rain one of my super bell plant wilted and dies. the other 3 are fine and thriving. All 3 super bells are in bright sunlight and doing fine but the one that died was in a partial shade area. I love them and have chosen a lemonade color. They are beautiful! Any other advice? I would hate to lose anymore of them. Thanks :)

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 06/13/2017 - 1:16pm

When it comes to Calibrachoa, which is the genus for Superbells, their biggest challenge is that their roots really hate to stay too weta nd they are quite susceptible to root rot.  I suppose that the shade could have had enough of an impact to cause root rot in that one plant and not the others, but it hard to believe that that is the answer.  I think it is more likely that there is a combination of factors.  Maybe that one plant was compromised and had the beginning of root issues when it came home with you from the garden center and then staying somewhat wetter due to being in a shadier spot just made things worse and ultimately lead to deaht for that one plant.  IF I were you, I would go ahead and pull the dead plant out of the planter and discard it.  If you want to try and plant a replacement, I would remove some of the surrounding soil when you plant the new one in that location.  However, I think it is likely that the rest of the plants in that window box will fill in the space left open by the one Calibrachoa diying.  


I would be careful with watering to make sure your aren't keeping the planter too wet, overwatering is bad for Calibrachoa.  But honestly with the summer heat settling in for most of us, I think over watering becomes less and less a problem based on shear heat...

Kerry Meyer

Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 06/09/2017 - 4:18pm

My wife and I are disabled, we are looking for a cheep easy way to get water out of a container, we have been using rolled up Paper, putting one end in the container and letting the water soak through the paper into a another container lower down, I don't know what this method is called, but is there something we can use instead of the Paper?
We get a lot of rain and it is a problem.

Sarah Geoghegan's picture
Sarah Geoghegan Tue, 06/13/2017 - 10:50am

Perhaps the best way to get around this problem would be to make sure to use containers that have holes in the base for drainage.
Hope this helps!
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 06/08/2017 - 10:02pm

I have a new Japanese Maple which was diagnosed by the tree guy with wet feet. A lightbulb went off in my head as I was watering my daisies since they have been wilting. I thought, am I watering them too much? Looks like it! How can I save them since they are already planted?
Thanks for any help!

Sarah Geoghegan's picture
Sarah Geoghegan Tue, 06/13/2017 - 11:01am

Hello there! This is a great question! If you could go to our Feedback page, and ask it there, we will be able to better help you. There are some questions we need to ask you so we can give the right response. You can find the Feedback page here:
Thank you
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 04/17/2017 - 7:52pm

Hi, so after years of successful vegetable garden we moved and I built three raised beds in the sunny spot of yard which is also built into a steepish hill. I dug through the Virginia red clay and mixed in bags and bags of miracle grow vegetable garden soil. However, out of the three beds ONLY one made it (the sugar snap peas, earlier vegetables). While the other two with squash, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers rotted or didn't grow much. I saw yellow leaves and just terrible growth. My father in, master gardener, says it's impossible for poor drainage in raised beds, but my gut says that could be it. Our red clay here in central va is rough, and I didn't add compost just turned up that clay/soil and added lots of that miracle grow soil. This was last years garden and I fear the same thing as this year when I watered the planted seeds for the first time water seemed to pool and make small puddles quite easily. Does this mean poor drainage? Could it just have been overwatered? What about the fact that I may have put some ripped up cardboard in bottom of those two failed raised beds when starting out? Not sure if I out in all three can't remember. HELP!

Sarah Geoghegan's picture
Sarah Geoghegan Wed, 05/24/2017 - 4:45pm

Hi there!
From what you've told us, it sounds like you've accidentally created the Bathtub effect. This basically means that by digging a hole it the clay and putting soil on top of it, water is sitting below the soil and on top of the clay. This can be fixed by mixing the soil with the clay underneath. If that doesn't fix it, you could also place a layer of rock on top of the soil and below the clay to assist in drainage. Hope this helps!
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 04/02/2017 - 3:20pm

I started these peppers myself because finding the specific plants are so difficult. After sprouting I potted them up, some to peat pots and some to plastic. All new potting soil. At 2" tall, I let them get too wet and cool. When I figured out they were overwatered I saved 10 but the rest still look pale yellow. A tiny bit of new growth is also yellow. I keep trying to figure out how to rescue these. I let them dry out, but it was a windy day and the leaves started curling. They are back inside in warmth in a window. Still not responding... but not wilting either.

Any ideas?

Thanks, Jan

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 04/12/2017 - 11:26am


Give them sun, but protection from the wind and you might consider using a low dose of fertilizer the next time you water, but do NOT overfeed at this young stage. Probably the biggest thing is making sure they get good exposure to sun...

Kerry Meyer

Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 03/22/2017 - 10:14am

After 30 years I have messed up and overwatered my beloved plant ( the only one I didn't kill) and am now beside myself trying to save it. I took the planter outside and drained off alot of water and potting soil I had recently added (along with coffee grounds that I thought would help keep any bugs away even though it is inside. I can't add holes into the bottom and it's raining here for the next few days so I can't move it outside to help dry up. What else can I do? Do I add more potting soil? Remove it just in case there's still some coffee grounds in there and add fresh? Aerate? I will be heartbroken if I lose this (my one and only) plant.

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