How to save an overwatered potted plant

How to save an overwatered potted plant

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Lack of drainage holes can be fatal to your plant, and it’s one of the most common reasons for unhealthy and dying plants. If your plant has been overwatered due to the lack of drainage holes, it's important that you repot your plant as soon as possible.


Saving a plant that’s been overwatered can be hard, and it might not be possible if the damage is too bad. But it’s worth a shot!

  • Carefully dig up your plant from the pot

  • Remove as much old soil from your plant as possible

  • Repot your plant in a pot with holes and use the recommended soil for your plant

  • Register that you repotted your plant in Planta to update the care schedule (Open your plant’s profile and then press on the + button)

And, if possible, take a couple of cuttings from the plant. That way you can restart the plant from scratch if things go bad.

Overwatered plant


To start with the basics: Plants need to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the air to be able to live - like many living things do. Some plants, that are built to live in water (like water lilies) are built to be able to proceed with this process underwater. However, land plants can’t do this and need air to live.

So, this is what happens when you place your plant in a pot without drainage holes:

You water your plant —> The plant drinks the water it needs —> Excess water is left in the pot and soil —> Air pockets in the soil gets closed off by the water —> Your plant, which needs these air pockets to breathe, gets suffocated.

So to sum up:

  • Roots get smothered by water and can’t exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the air

  • If the roots stand in water for too long they can rot, and can’t transport water and nutrition from the soil up to the plant —> and so the plant dies

  • Excess water collects in the bottom of the pot, so even if the top soil feels dry, the roots might be soaking wet. This leads to overwatering - which is the most common issue for plants without drainage holes

  • High moisture levels in the soil can increase the risk of fungal, viral and bacterial infections in your plants.

Prevent salt buildup in the potting soil. Tap water and fertilizers contain salts that can harm plants. As plant roots take in water, they leave some of the salts behind, and salts concentrate in the soil over time. When you water thoroughly and let the water flow out through the drainage holes in the bottom of the container, salts are flushed out of the soil.


HOW CAN I BE SURE MY PLANT IS OVERWATERED? Waterlogged soil can lead to root rot, a serious condition that can easily kill your plants. Signs of root rot include wilted leaves that don’t perk up after watering, yellow leaves, and leaf drop. If you remove the plant from the container, you may see black or brown, slimy or mushy roots.

BUT WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PRETTY POTS WITHOUT HOLES THEN?! Honestly, it’s annoying. But, you can still use them - just place your plant in a plastic container with drainage holes and then place all of that in the outer pot. Every time you need to water, simply remove the smaller container and water it in the sink. When it’s finished draining, replace it in the decorative pot. You can of course also keep it in the outer pot while watering, just remember to check in the outer pot after 20 minutes so that there’s no excess water left.

CAN’T I JUST PLACE A LOT OF PEBBLES IN THE BOTTOM? Yes, you can, but we don’t recommend it! It’s a lot better for the plant than to place it directly in a pot without holes, however, excess water will still be in the pot, which can lead to a higher risk of infections from fungus, bacteria or viruses.