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Four Signs You Are Overwatering Your Plants

Not all signs of too much water are this easy to spot. Not all signs of too much water are this easy to spot.Brown tips but leaf is still soft and limp. Brown tips but leaf is still soft and limp.

Giving your plants too much water is one of the biggest issues I see in landscapes today.  The mistake of overwatering your plants is not easy to diagnose.  In many instances too much water mimics the signs of too little water.  Below are four signs you can easily recognize to determine if you are giving your landscape too much water.

  1. Your plant is wilting but it looks like it has plenty of water

Roots are critical to plant life. They are the primary source for water, food and the intake of oxygen. The roots of the plant take up water but they also need air to breathe. Overwatering, in simple terms, drowns your plant. Oxygen fills the space between the particles of soil.  Soil that is constantly wet won’t have enough air pockets and plants will not be able to breathe by taking up oxygen with their roots.

  1. Leaves turn brown and wilt

Leaves turn brown and wilt when plants have too little and too much water.  The biggest difference is too little water will result in the leaves feeling crispy when you hold them in your hand.  Too much water and the leaves will feel soft and limp in your hand.

  1. Edema

When roots of plants absorb more water than they can use,  water pressure begins to build in the cells of the leaves. The cells will eventually  burst, killing them and forming blisters and these areas will look like lesions. Once the blisters erupt, tan, brown or white warty growths begin to form where the blisters originally were. Plus you will see indentations forming directly above the growths on the top sides of the leaves.

  1. Yellow leaves

Stunted slow growth with yellowing leaves is a symptom of overwatering.  The other sign to observe during this condition is leaf fall.  If you have yellowing leaves and old leaves as well as new leaves are falling at the same accelerated rate you are providing too much water.

Check your soil regularly.  Don’t be afraid to push you finger into the soil and see how moist it is an inch or two down.  If the soil is moist and you have some of the conditions above it’s an excellent sign to reduce your water.  Also, many stores sell inexpensive but accurate moisture meters.  You simply insert them in the root ball and they will tell you how much water is in the soil.  This is a simple and inexpensive tool that will take much of the guess work out of watering your landscape.  I hope these tips are helpful and please share a few of your own in the comments area below.

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Richard Restuccia

Richard Restuccia is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. Richard is a spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. Currently he serves on the Irrigation Association’s Board of Directors. As a board member, Richard serves in a variety of capacities, including government/public affairs. He is the liaison between the board and its marketing committee on the best ways to promote water efficiency and educate industry professionals on new technologies, products and services. Richard is also a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.

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COMMENTS (11)

  1. Wednesday, 4:16 Joseph Chepsoi

    The 4 signs of over watered plants are not difficult to recognize and every plant watering person needs to take note of the signs to save on water and ensure healthy plant growth.

  2. Thursday, 12:26 Lorraine DiBacco

    Now you tell me. All this time I thought the drought tolerant plants I bought were defective when they died within a month. Milkweed survived long enough to attract one monarch butterfly though.

  3. Friday, 3:13 Joseph Chepsoi

    Milkweed is more water loving than drought tolerant and that is more likely what happened. Rice is a typical water loving crop and with excessive watering rice can still survive.

  4. [...] It's not easy to tell if you are giving your plants too much water or too little water. This article gives four easy signs of overwatering.  [...]

  5. [...] Most people overwater, especially when they see a plant wilting. But did you know a plant will “wilt” when overwatered? The difference is the leaf of a plant with insufficient water will be crispy while the leaf of a plant with too much water will be moist when squeezed in your hand. Here are some other ways to find out if you are watering your plants to death. [...]

  6. [...] few weeks ago I wrote an article concerning signs you are overwatering your plants.  It created interest in overwatering, but also sparked interests in the subject of underwatering [...]

  7. Tuesday, 1:03 Martha Golea

    I just got my first house plant in my new place and I managed to kill it within a week! My (green-thumbed) mother came over after reading this post and pointed out that I was over watering it. The shame!!

  8. Wednesday, 9:27 Alan Harris

    Denver Water has a quick video that clearly shows the detrimental results of plants when they have a little too much to drink…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNQM2FvZIoQ

  9. [...] Four Signs You Are Overwatering Your Plants  [...]

  10. Thursday, 12:18 Jennine

    Hi there! What is the remedy for over-watered plants? Can you save them?

  11. [...] to see the horrendous tell-tale signs of overwatering. In a previous post Richard shared the signs plants display when they are overwatered. Here are 3 signs of overwatering not related to plant [...]

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