Overwatering? Underwatering? How to Tell the Difference

How do you know if a plant is getting the right amount of water? Most people know that underwatering a houseplant can be detrimental to its health, but not many know that overwatering can be just as disastrous. This article explains the signs of improper watering and how to save your plant.

Signs of Underwatering

It's not always easy to tell if our beloved house plants are being overwatered or underwatered because some of the symptoms for these scenarios are the same. With both problems, for example, leaves can turn yellow.

Check the Soil

Take a handful of soil and feel it; it should feel a little moist but not bone-dry and certainly not sopping wet. If it feels a little damp, it's a good time to water the plant. If the soil does feel very dry, lightweight, or crusty and hard, you should water your plant immediately. There are a few other signs that your plant is not getting enough water:

  • Slow growth
  • No growth at all
  • Leaves that are crisp and feel dry
  • Drooping leaves
  • The soil is pulled out away from the edge of the pot
  • Discolored leaves

When there is a lack of water, plants cannot absorb nutrients from the soil. Water is needed to dissolve those nutrients to make them usable by plants.

Signs of Overwatering

Check the soil for signs of overwatering, too. Unfortunately, you've overwatered your plant if the soil is excessively moist or wet. In addition, water collecting in a drip pan below the pot is also a sign of overwatering. Other indications and symptoms plants may exhibit that hint at overwatering can include:

  • The leaves are drooping or have yellowed
  • Pests are hanging around the plant
  • Moss or mold is growing on the topsoil
  • The edges of the leaves are turning brown
  • Stunted plant growth

Overwatering is the #1 cause of root rot, a condition where the roots rot in the soil. The symptoms above are often a direct result of this condition.

How to Treat Overwatered Plants

While the fix for underwatered plants is to water them, treating overwatered plants isn't always that simple. Plants that have been overwatered to a great extent will require a soil change. Severely rotted roots should be pruned and removed. If you've only mildly overwatered your plant, it may dry out if you move it to a bright and warm space. 

Staying Ahead of the Watering Game

Pay attention to the soil and the look of your plants, and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Plants ideally should be watered the same amount each week. 

For plants two to three feet tall, count on giving them about two cups of water per week. Plants three to six feet tall usually do well with about three cups of water per week. However, the specific type of plant will determine optimal adjustments to those amounts. Cacti need less water than lush green foliage, for example. 

For more information about caring for your green friends, visit us at plantsonbroadway.com.