First aid for drowning plants

drowning plant

Weren’t we just in a drought? You would never know it now with creeks overflowing, mold growing and plants hoping for a little sunshine. You may have some plants outdoors or inside that are struggling. Are they struggling because they need a little more water or a whole lot less?

According to Kerry Meyer of Proven Winner Plants, there are some great tips for diagnosing an over-watering problem and then fixing it. 

Overwatering is usually thought to be the most common cause of early plant death. Since we’re always afraid that our plants are not getting enough water we tend to overwater. 

The easiest way to diagnose overwatering is when you see wilted plants even though the soil is wet. There is a group of bog-plants or water loving plants that love to be kept wet, but most plants do not like “wet feet.” The reason why too much water is so bad for a plant is simple. Roots of plants are important since they are the main source of water and food and oxygen. 

“The roots of a plant take up water but they also need air to breath,” states Meyer. “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.” 

Just as stressed humans are more likely to get sick, the stressed plant is more likely to feel bad too.

Root rot can be the eventual cause of a plant’s death. Root rot is caused by different fungi. Healthy roots should be white and neat looking while rotting roots are slimy and brown or gray. 

If you think that your plants indoors or outside have gotten too much water, you may not be too late to offer first aid to your drowning plants. Move any potted plants to a shady area, even if it is a plant that loves full sun, until the roots start to get healthy, and then move it back into the sunshine. Be sure that any pots are draining and, if possible, open a way for planting beds to drain well with a French drain or small ditch. Add fresh soil to a planting area and hoe it in. Overwatered pot plants could be re-potted into a fresh, dry container with new potting soil. The roots want oxygen around them. Only water when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch about an inch down.

Your first aid kit should not contain fertilizer. Do not fertilize an over-watered plant until its roots improve. You may consider using a broad-spectrum fungicide. In about a week or two, your plants should show some improvement. Then you can put away your first aid kit and monitor the health of your patients. Also, hope for sunshine and a break in the rain for a while. Good luck.