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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 than 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."

688 Readers Rated This: 12345 (2.9)
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 01/10/2018 - 6:02pm

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 - 9:33am

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 - 6:36pm

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 - 9:39am

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 - 6:56am

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 - 5:04pm

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 - 8:24am

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 - 5:25pm

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 - 1:58pm

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 - 12:46pm

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 - 10:52am


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 - 11:31am

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 - 1:47pm

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 - 8:17am

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 - 12:22pm

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 - 8:42pm

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 - 12:44pm

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 - 3:17pm

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 - 12:16pm

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 - 3:18pm

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 - 9:50am

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 - 9:02pm

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 - 10:01am

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 - 6:52pm

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 - 3:45pm

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 - 2:20pm

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 - 10:26am


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 - 9:14am

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.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Wed, 03/22/2017 - 2:25pm

This is going to sound really odd, but the best thing to do is to lie the pot on it's side (after placing something under it to catch the dirt, maybe something waterproof to catch the water - a trash bag might be perfect).  Then slide the plant out of the pot, which will expose the soil to air which will allow the soil to dry out more quickly.  Once the soil is no longer too wet, you can ease it back into the container and set the plant back upright.  

Adding drainage holes is a great step to take, which should help limit the ability to completely oversaturate.  Make sure you check the soil before watering each time and you should be doing right by your plant.


Kerry Meyer
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 01/14/2017 - 8:03am

I suspect that I may be overwatering my pothos. These plants are supposed to be easy to take care of, but every time that I water, about 3-4 days later, the leaves on part of the plant turn yellow and have to be taken off the plant. I typically water when the top soil is dry and dry to touch about one knuckle deep in soil. Also, there are holes in my pot, so i usually transfer it to my sink to drain and then place it back on its plate. The plant is in my hallway, away from direct sunlight. It's starting to look bare and I'm loosing hope. Help!!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 05/12/2017 - 4:46am

Hi, I have one of these and only water it when the pot is completely dry, I can tell as it is dry as the leaves become limp and the pot is very light to hold. Mine is 5 years old and does very well with barely any yellowing of the leaves.hope this helps.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:04pm

You are on the right track, more than likely, when you link the potential issue to water.  Unfortunately, too much and too little have the same symptom as do several other things.  Rather than reinvent the wheel - I thought this article covered the potential issues quite nicely:


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 12/18/2016 - 5:41pm

what can i do w/my norfolk plant that is way overwatered?

Stacey Hirvela's picture
Stacey Hirvela Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:23am

First, cut back on watering. If you can move it to a brighter area for the time being, that would be helpful. If it has a saucer, make sure that water is not sitting in the saucer. Do not water anymore until the soil dries out and the pot feels light when you lift it. Hopefully it should make it!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 11/19/2016 - 8:52am

Will my plant die? I left it standing in water all night. I've drained it and dried out the pot and root ball as best I can. I love this plant!!!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 11/21/2016 - 12:50pm

It should be fine as long as it gets a chance to dry out now.
Overnight completely submersed should not kill the plant, but I wouldn't recommend it on a regular basis!
Happy Gardening!.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 09/24/2016 - 2:46pm

HI! My mom transplanted my HEALTHY habanero plant from the garden into a large pot (using the soil it was already in). My peppers are continuing to ripen, but the plant itself is very wilted. She gave it a good watering (grrr) when she transplanted, and I have not watered it since (it's been about 4-5 days). The top is dry, the soil underneath is damp, but not excessively. I should state that the structure of the plant seems firm (yet I do need to add support as it is getting top heavy) and healthy. The leaves, however are shriveld, yet green.


Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 11/11/2016 - 8:47am

If you transplant a large plant this is almost certain to happen.  No matter how you try to get them all, a lot of roots almost certainly got left behind, so the plant is having a hard time keeping the whole plant supplied with water. As far as the plant is concerned the fruit and stems are more important than the leaves so the available water is going to them first.  You do want to make ABSOLUTELY certain that the pot doesn't dry out, so keep the soil constantly moist.  Given time it should recover, but by the time that happens it might be frost is on the way and the season is over.  Just keep it moist and give it time.


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 08/04/2016 - 6:50am

I accidentally let the sprinkler on overnight for the ferns and they seem to have already somewhat yellowed and wilted (but perhaps because of the water). Help what can I do?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Wed, 08/10/2016 - 6:26am

There really isn't much you can do other than hold off from watering until the soil has dried sufficiently to need more water.  You might consider fetilizing the first time you water, as overwatering like this can really wash fertilizer out of the soil, leaving your plants searching for food.


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 07/06/2016 - 11:12pm

Do you know what I should do for the garden plants that are drowning from excessive rainfall?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 11/03/2016 - 7:25pm

The only thing that I have found that helps garden plants being overwatered by mother nature is to get out in the garden, take your shovel and lift the plants up out of the soil a little. This creates a little pocket of air around the roots and allows the soil to dry out some and the roots as well. If your soil is so wet and soggy that everything just sinks back into the muck you need to find a way to get more drainage (raised bed?) or perlite or gravel into your garden bed. We live south of Houston and have a lot of clay in our soil so I have been out in the garden during or after a deluge doing exactly what I suggested with my shovel in hand in 4 to 6 inches of muck and mud lifting my tomatoes and peppers out of the muck. We do have a raised bed but haven't found the right clay/soil mix yet to keep the soil from draining well during downpours yet allowing enough moisture to stay in the soil for 3-4 days during the hot summer months if it drains quickly. I have a 2' raised bed with weed stop sheeting on the bottom ,then a layer of gravel and sand about 3" thick then a mixture of composted leaves and plant matter mixed with regular clay soil. Looks like I either need to go up higher next year or add more sand/gravel to the mix. Hope this helps.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Wed, 08/10/2016 - 6:29am

There really isn't much you can do for them.  While we can somewhat control water in containers, doing so in garden beds isn't really possible.  Excessive rain can be problematic, unfortunately that is just what happens sometimes.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 06/17/2016 - 9:05pm

Thanks for all the tips/advice. I guess l need to repot my flowers & speak life into them. They'll live.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 05/29/2012 - 5:45pm

I really appreciate the helpful information. I am copying it now. Thank you very much! I rate the article a 5 of 5. Easy to understand as well as to apply.

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