5 Startling Symptoms of Overwatering
5 Startling Symptoms of Overwatering
One of the most common problems that growers run into is overwatering their plants. You’re not a bad grower if you overwater your plants. Because they are in love with their plants and want to do everything for them, growers often overwater. Unfortunately, there are times when we give them too much good stuff. But don’t worry, today we address your overwatering queries!
The primary sign of overwatering is drooping or wilting. When plants have “wet feet” for too long, they droop.
Yet overwatering can also cause a variety of other symptoms including yellowing, nutrient deficiencies, leaf spots, brown edges, curling, and more.
The droopiness from overwatering is actually the result of a lack of oxygen at the roots, not from too much water. Because of this, hydroponic plants can develop roots that are submerged in water so long as air bubbles are continuously introducing oxygen.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to pump oxygen into a waterlogged grow medium. When the soil or coco is completely saturated, roots begin “drowning” due to a lack of air pockets to provide oxygen. This entirely affects the flow of water and nutrients through the plant, which can produce a startling variety of other symptoms in addition to drooping.
Overwatered plants have a sagging appearance. Although most plants get a bit droopy during their “night” period, leaves perk up at the beginning of the plant’s “day”. After the lights come on, if your plant appears droopy, you know there is a problem.
Besides droopiness, the symptoms from overwatering are often confused for other problems. This can be frustrating because you may be chasing solutions to other issues when the only answer is simply to water plants less often or less at a time.
In addition to droopiness, overwatering signs are sometimes mistaken for those of other issues. This can be irritating since you may be chasing solutions to other difficulties when the sole remedy is simply to water plants less often or less at a time.
Although this overwatered plant is a little drooping, the yellowing of the top leaves is the more obvious indication. The signs resemble bleaching caused by the grow light being too close or a lack of potassium. It may be tempting to ignore the drooping and concentrate on the other symptoms, but in this instance, overwatering in a dense grow medium is the true cause of all the symptoms. The problem was resolved by giving this plant fewer irrigations at a time with less water. After that, the plant started growing normally.
Even though the symptoms may not seem linked, overwatering is by far the most frequent cause of difficulties for growers’ plants. You can use the list below to determine whether your plant might be impacted.
If you see the following warning signs in combination with droopiness, there’s a strong chance you’re dealing with an overwatering problem. If these symptoms always seem to get worse immediately after watering, you can feel almost positive that you’ve uncovered the basis of your problem…
5 Surprising Signs of Overwatering
1.) Brown Leaf Edges
When people first start growing, they are told this symptom was caused by nutrient burn (too many nutrients), but in reality it typically only affects the tips of leaves rather than all the edges. Also that this is a calcium deficiency, but that would appear more as burns or brown patches on the leaves themselves. Spots on the leaf’s serrated edges, are frequently indicative of concerns with the plant’s roots or water flow. Most frequently overwatering.
Brown splotches on leaves’ serrated edges can result from overwatering.
These brown leaf edges appeared after the plant was heavily watered
2.) Yellowing or Bleaching
The typical plant processes can’t take place when plants are overwatered. Herbal plants that have been severely overwatered (especially young ones) may start to appear yellow all over. Even when roots have access to nutrients and the ideal pH, yellowing can still happen.
This seedling’s entire body is yellow because it was overwatered and placed in a large container with a thick grow media.
Overwatering can also induce signs that look similar to light stress since you may see the top leaves close to the light are turning yellow. Although it appears to be light stress (a sign that the grow light is too close), the problem is that the plant can’t move water and nutrients effectively. The hardest-working leaves begin to yellow as the plant struggles to keep up with them. If you know you’re maintaining your grow lights the appropriate distance away and are still seeing yellow top leaves, there’s a great probability you’re actually dealing with a nutrient shortfall or a watering problem.
This seedling turned yellow on top after the roots were too wet for too long
3.) Nutrient Deficiencies
Brown spots (leaf scorch) on leaves seems to be one of the more prevalent indications of overwatering, however this is commonly misinterpreted for a calcium deficit. Other sporadic deficiencies like potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus, etc. are frequently seen in addition to brown spots.
Overwatering can result in leaf scorch, burnt patches, and brown spots. These symptoms are frequently confused with a calcium deficiency, a PH issue, or mild stress.
The following instance showed that watering invariably made the symptoms worse. Another sign that overwatering or root problems may be to blame is the way the leaves are curling at the ends.
These symptoms appeared the day after the plant was heavily watered. In addition to the brown patches in between the veins, notice how the serrated edges of the leaves have brown spots, too (a sign of overwatering we covered already)
The yellowing leaf veins look like a nutrient deficiency, but overwatering is the actual cause (the extreme drooping is a major clue)
This odd symptoms on this seedling also look like deficiencies, but they’re caused by a grow medium that’s too wet and thick
Another example of an overwatered seedling with what appears to be a nutrient deficiency (brown spots, yellowing, etc.)
These brown spots in between the veins kept getting worse every time this plant was watered to runoff. The grower had to start giving less water at a time before they stopped appearing.
4.) Cupping or Curling
The signs can occasionally resemble heat exhaustion (tipped edges, curling up or down, etc.). This can keep you focused on the temperature when you should also be paying attention to watering habits because overwatering is a problem with heat.
This seedling has moisture issues as evidenced by the yellow bottom leaves curling up, the top leaves curled downward, and the stunted size.
Another overwatered seedling showed a different sort of curling and cupping
On this next plant, take note of how the leaf tips are curling. The combination of overwatering and cold is what caused this. Because they don’t drink as much in cold temperatures, plants are more likely to experience the effects of overwatering. Even though it appears similar, the browning on the ends of the leaves is not nutrient burn since it occurs between the veins rather than only on the very tip. Additionally, the problem affected a small area rather than the entire plant. This indicates that you are dealing with a nutritional shortage rather than a nutrient burn. This plant was receiving ideal nutrients and pH levels, which focused the issue to overwatering. The plant’s leaves began to grow green and healthy once it was not being watered so much at once.
5.) Topsoil issues
Looking at the topsoil might help you limit down the range of potential issues when it comes to identifying your ill plant. You can be quite certain that overwatering is your enemy if you observe any of the following problems with your topsoil in addition to any of the plant symptoms listed below.
- Green algae
- Fungus Gnats
- Constantly Wet or Waterlogged Soil
- Solidified Topsoil
- Indents or Divots where Water is Being Heavily Poured
Take note of how the growing media appears to be entirely saturated with a layer of green algae on top. Only when topsoil is left too wet does green algae grow. Without even looking at the symptoms on the plant itself, it lets you know the issue in this case is overwatering.
It’s common for topsoil to look hard and almost solid if it’s staying too wet for too long. If you’re also seeing green algae and permanent deep divots/holes where the water is getting poured, you can feel pretty certain you’re overwatering
Solution: Proper Plant Watering Techniques
These problems are frequently mistaken for other problems. The fact that various symptoms can be brought on by a variety of different causes is one of the things that might make identifying problems challenging. Nutrient shortages, for instance, can result from a lack of nutrients as well as an improper pH, bugs, overwatering, etc. But if you notice droopiness together with unexplained symptoms, particularly with wet topsoil, there’s a good possibility that your watering practises are to blame.
You must pinpoint the precise problem area before you can resolve it. The phrase “overwatering” refers to a condition where there is plenty of water at the roots but little oxygen. There are several options for how to get there.
Common Causes of Overwatering
- Watering too often
- Watering too much at a time
- Poor draining grow medium (dense, thick, muddy, etc.)
- No drainage holes to release runoff water out the bottom
- Letting plant sit in runoff water (always remove runoff after watering for the best results)
- Poor transpiration (plant can’t efficiently evaporate water through the leaves). This prevents plants from “sucking up” water from the roots like a straw, and results in slow water uptake.
Environment: Overwatering is More Likely When…
- Weak grow lights – Plants just don’t drink as much under weaker lights. That means overwatering is more common with small LEDs, CFLs, T5s, and other grow lights that are on the smaller side.
- Small plant, big pot – When plants are small, young, or unhealthy, they just don’t drink as much. When they’re in a container that’s much bigger than the size of their roots, it’s easy for them to drown because they use up all the oxygen and then roots are sitting in stagnant water. The best way to help these plants is give less water at a time until they’re bigger and drinking more.
- Heat (above 85°F / 30°C) – In the heat, oxygen is less available at the roots. Keeping roots from getting too hot helps the plant better deal with heat. That’s part of why plants become more resistant to heat after they get bigger. The big plants help shade the roots from the grow light, and grow lights are typically further away because plants are taller. This combo prevents roots from heating up as much and plants just become more resistant overall.
- Cold (below 70F) – In the cold, plants are evaporating less water from their leaves, which means they drink less, making it more likely for roots to stay too wet, too long. Roots especially hate being cold. Yeah, roots are kind of picky. Plants can thrive in much cooler ambient temperatures as long as you keep the roots relatively warm. For example, don’t let the roots sit directly on a cold basement floor. Keeping plants slightly up off a cold floor will help them handle a wider range of temperatures without slowing down.
- Humid (above 65%) – Just like with cold, high humidity prevents water from evaporating properly from the leaves. That means plants are drinking less overall, which increases the chance of water hanging out too long at the roots.
- Lack of Air Circulation – A slight breeze is good for your plants. Not only does a little airflow prevent hot spots and strengthen stems, but plants are also better able to evaporate water off their leaves. Gentle air movement also helps keep topsoil from staying wet for too long and can even offer some protection against bugs like fungus gnats and spider mites.
A perfect environment helps plants deal with a variety of root moisture levels without issue. In fact, nearly all environmental problems except low humidity (too dry) increase the chance of plants suffering from overwatering. Extremely dry air can cause slow or unhealthy growth, but it does help plants drink more quickly and water evaporate faster. You can still overwater plants when the air is too dry, but it’s a little less common.
- Weak grow lights – Plants simply drink less when exposed to dimmer lights. This indicates that overwatering is more frequent with small LEDs, CFLs, T5s, and other grow lights.
- Small plant, large container – Plants simply don’t drink as much when they are small, young, or unwell. It is simple for them to drown when they are in a container that is considerably larger than the size of their roots because they take up all the oxygen and then the roots are lying in stagnant water. Giving these plants less water at a time until they are larger and consuming more is the greatest method to assist them. Find out how to properly water a seedling in a large pot.
- Heat (over 30°C) – In the heat, the roots have less access to oxygen. The plant can withstand heat better if the roots are kept from being overheated. That’s one of the reasons why plants get more heat-resistant as they grow larger. Growing lights are often placed farther apart since taller plants serve to screen the roots from them. By preventing excessive root heating, this combination makes plants more resilient in general.
- Cold (below 21°F) – In the cold, plants are less likely to drink as a result of evaporating less water from their leaves, which increases the likelihood that roots may remain too wet for an extended period of time. Particularly, roots detest the cold. Yes, roots can be a little finicky. As long as you maintain the roots at a comfortable temperature, plants may live in much lower ambient temperatures. Don’t place the roots, for instance, directly on a chilly cellar floor. Plants will be able to withstand a wider variety of temperatures by being kept slightly off a cold floor.
- Humid (over 65%) – Similar to when it is chilly, high humidity hinders water from the leaves from adequately evaporating. This implies that plants are generally consuming less water, which raises the possibility of water sitting too long at the roots.
- Insufficient Air Circulation – Your plants benefit from a mild wind. In addition to strengthening stems and preventing hot spots, plants are better able to drain water from their leaves when there is some airflow. Additionally, gentle air movement can provide some defence against pests like fungus gnats and spider mites and keeps soils from becoming overly damp.
In an ideal setting, plants can easily adapt to a range of root moisture levels. In fact, almost all environmental issues—with the exception of low humidity (too dry)—increase the likelihood that plants will experience overwatering. Extremely dry air can hinder development or lead to unhealthy growth, although it does speed up water evaporation and increase plant water uptake. Even though it happens less frequently, overwatering plants is still possible when the air is too dry.
How to Water Plants Perfectly
Don’t give more than 2-3 cups (500-750ml) of water at a time until plants are at least 2 weeks old. Normally, seedlings require watering every two to three days. Every grow is a little bit different because the amount of water plants consume depends on their size, the environment (temperature, humidity, and airflow), the grow medium, and the size and type of their pots. However, for the first two weeks, most seedlings will thrive with just 2 cups (500ml) of water every two days. However, this is a very general guideline. Wait an extra day or two before watering if the grow medium’s top appears to be wet. If the grow medium looks totally dry, either water more often or more at a time.
Big pot, small plant
Just a small amount of water at a time should be applied in a circle around the base of the main stem. You can begin completely watering plants if they are larger and are taking in more water. For seedlings in a large container, the 2-2-2 guideline from above should apply (2 cups of water every 2 days for the first 2 weeks following germination). Once you can water plants thoroughly, start adding a little more water at a time. When you find the ideal watering schedule that permits you to water your plants every other day, I’ve discovered that plants frequently develop the fastest.
Not sure whether to water?
Pick up the planters. When a grow media is drenched with water, it feels as heavy as a brick. However, when soil or coco is dry, it becomes almost feather-light. That means if you pick up your plant and it seems shockingly heavy for its size, you should wait a bit longer before watering (and potentially provide less water at a time for now). If you pick up a plant and it seems unexpectedly light, that implies you should water plants today!
If the topsoil looks wet all the time, you probably should be watering less. Especially if you’re seeing fungus gnats, green algae, or the top looks hardened with divots where water is getting poured too often.
What to do with a too-thick grow medium
You have two options if your grow medium is really muddy or thick. Plants can be moved to a better grow medium or you can wait it out and hope for the best. You can probably avoid transplanting if your plant appears to be getting better as it grows or if you discover a new watering regimen that appears to stop the symptoms. You should avoid transplanting if you can avoid it because it can cause plants to become stunted. However, you may need to provide roots a new home if plants aren’t growing well despite you changing the watering schedule; otherwise, the plant won’t ever flourish.
You can either transfer your plants to a different grow medium if your current one is too thick, or you can try to let them adapt. You should think about transplanting more seriously when the grow medium gets worse.
How to Water in Super Soil
Nutrient addition is unnecessary if you are growing in super soil (a composted, organically adjusted growing medium). Although it is quite convenient, you must take care to avoid unintentionally washing away additional nutrients. You strive to preserve every nutrient in a super soil arrangement. Just as in nature, the beneficial microorganisms in the soil collaborate with plant roots to ensure that the plant receives the precise amount of nutrients at the appropriate moment. Therefore, you should hardly ever water plants in super soil until they begin to release water through the bottom. Every time runoff water emerges from the bottom, it takes nutrients with it. Basically, you want to water the plant just enough to completely soak the soil but not enough to seep out the bottom.
Super soil allows you to grow plants from seed to harvest without adding any more nutrients, but you must watch out for overwatering to avoid nutrient deficits in the future.
When to Start Watering to Runoff
You might want to provide enough water to allow runoff to exit the bottom if you are providing plants with additional nutrients in your water. This helps keep the soil from becoming too fertilised. However, one simple technique to trigger the signs of overwatering is to water until discharge when plants are too little. Therefore, when should you begin watering for runoff? This manual is beneficial.
When plants reach this size, they can absorb water to the point of runoff.
- A 12-inch-tall, 7-11l container.
- 24-inch-tall (60-cm) 11-19l container
- 19-26l container that is 36″ (90 cm) tall.
- 22-37l container that is 48′′ (120 cm) tall.
- 30-37+ container that is 60′′ (150 cm) tall.
The ranges overlap because different grow media and plant containers must be used. A well-draining or airy grow medium requires more watering, whereas a thicker one requires less. Regarding plant pots, keep in mind that any container (such as an air pot or a fabric pot) that allows air to enter from the sides will require more water, more frequently. This is due to the fact that water is continuously lost through the sides in addition to being consumed by plant roots. Start watering to runoff when plants are on the smaller side of the range in an air pot or fabric pot. Wait till your plants are a little bit bigger before watering to runoff if they are in a hard-sided pot.
Suppose my plant never grows to be that large? You might never need to water to runoff if you’re growing plants in large pots or in miniature. Watering to runoff might occasionally prolong the effects of overwatering until harvest. You must in this case keep an eye on the plant to make sure that there isn’t a nutrient buildup in the growing medium.
How can you determine whether to raise or lower nutritional levels? Reduce the total amount of fertilisers in the water if plants are turning a dark green colour or exhibiting nutrient burn. Your plants need more nutrients generally if they are a pale/lime green colour or have many bottom leaves that are fading and dropping off. If so, don’t alter the ratio; just raise the total amount of nutrients in the water.
How to water to runoff (Soil)
Once plants have reached a good size for their container (check the above chart), they’re ready to start getting watered with runoff. If you’re growing in soil, most plants have already used up the majority of nutrients by this point. That means if you haven’t been providing nutrients in the water yet, now is a great time to start.
- Wait until topsoil is dry up to first knuckle (alternative: wait until plant pot feels light to pick up)
- Water until you get about 10% extra runoff water out the bottom
- Remove runoff water
Soil that is ready to be watered (topsoil is dry, pot doesn’t feel heavy)
How to water to runoff (Coco)
In coco, you should be watering with nutrients from when plants are seedlings, so you never have to wonder when to start adding nutrients. However, coco-grown plants seem to want things to be just a bit wetter than soil-grown plants. Plants in coco don’t seem to react well to extensively drying out. That means you’ll typically end up watering a bit more often in coco than soil.
- Wait until top of coco appears mostly dry (with a few damp patches left) and pot doesn’t feel heavy
- Water until you get about 10% extra runoff water out the bottom
- Remove runoff water
Coco that is ready to be watered (top of coco is mostly dry and pot doesn’t feel heavy)
You can now consider yourself an expert in overwatering. When diagnosing a sick plant, you are aware of all the bizarre and unexpected signs to watch for. You also understand how to water your plants precisely each time. Congratulations!