How to Dry Out Overwatered Soil (in Houseplants)

Overwatering soil is a common problem among gardeners. It occurs when too much water is applied to the soil when watering the plants. This causes poor drainage and deprivation of oxygen in the soil. As a result, the plants get damaged as they are unable to absorb the necessary nutrients and oxygen from the soil.

Excess water in the soil can also lead to the development of mold in the houseplant soil and fungus that cause root rot, which can further harm or kill the plants. Therefore, it’s important to address the problem of overwatering as soon as it is identified in order to save your plants.

There are several factors that can contribute to overwatering your plants.

Poor soil drainage

Soils with poor drainage can hold onto water for a longer period of time, leading to excess moisture around the plant roots. This can be due to a high clay content in the soil, compacted soil, or a lack of organic matter.

Watering too frequently or in large amounts can also cause overwatering, especially if the soil does not have good drainage. Some irrigation systems used for watering plants can deliver more water than the soil can absorb.

Damp weather conditions

Excessive rainfall or high humidity in the air can cause soil to get oversaturated with water due to the slow or no evaporation taking place. Damp weather conditions combined with poor air circulation may encourage the growth of mold which is harmful to both plants and humans.

Container gardening

Plants in containers have limited space for roots and can become overwatered more easily. Additionally, mulching can help retain moisture in the soil, but if too much is used, it can slow the rate of water drainage in the soil or evaporation thus leading to overwatering.

Overwatered cactus soil

How to dry out overwatered soil

When plants are overwatered, leaves tend to turn yellow or wilted. Mushy or squishy stems or roots is also a sign that the plant has been overwatered. The affected plants eventually die when the roots are completely damaged. However, you may save your plant by trying to dry out the soil as follows:

  1. Stop watering the soil for a few days to allow it to dry out naturally. A few hours of sunlight may help the water to evaporate faster but be sure not to overexpose it.
  2. You may also remove excess water from the surface of the soil by gently pouring it off or dabbing it using a paper towel.
  3. Try to increase the airflow around the soil by removing any mulch or leaves that may be trapping moisture.
  4. If the soil is in a container, remove the plant and check the roots for signs of rot. Trim away any rotting roots with a clean, sharp pair of scissors.
  5. Repot the plant in fresh, well-draining soil, making sure to plant it at the same depth as it was previously planted.
  6. Wait a few days and then begin to water the soil again, but be sure to check the soil moisture level before watering to ensure that the soil is dry enough.
  7. Water less frequently than before and keep an eye on the soil moisture level. Resume normal watering only when the soil is dry enough.

Tips on how to prevent overwatering your plants

Saving overwatered plants is usually a difficult thing especially when the roots are badly damaged. In many cases, the affected plants end up dying in a matter of weeks. It’s worth preventing this problem than offering a solution.

The following are helpful tips to prevent overwatering your houseplant’s soil.

  • Always check the soil moisture level before watering. Simply stick your finger into the soil to check if it is dry to the touch or if it still has some moisture. You may use a moisture meter to check the soil moisture level more accurately.
  • Water only when the soil is dry to the touch or when a moisture meter indicates that the soil is dry.
  • Use a well-draining soil mix that contains perlite or coarse sand when growing or repotting your plants.
  • Make sure that the pot or garden bed has proper drainage holes to allow excess water to escape the soil.
  • Place a saucer or tray under the container to collect excess water that drains from the soil after watering the plants. Do not let your plant sit in this water for a longer time.
  • Use a watering can with a long spout or a watering wand to water the soil deeply and avoid watering the plant leaves.
  • Consider the weather and season when watering, as plants will require less water in cooler or rainy conditions.
  • Keep an eye on your plants and watch for signs of over-watering, such as yellowing leaves, wilting, or mushy roots and take quick action to dry the soil or repot the plant in fresh soil.

Final Thoughts

Overwatered soil can lead to a variety of issues for plants, such as root rot, fungal growth, and wilting. To dry out overwatered soil, it’s important to cut back on watering your plants or soak up the excess water using an absorbent material like a paper towel. You may also have to repot the plant in a well-draining soil mix.


  1. Overwatering” the Missouri Botanical Garden

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