This post was inspired by a video from one of my favourite plant Youtubers, Betsy Begonia! She goes over a different troubleshooting methods for figuring out what is wrong with your plant. If you want to check out her video you can click here!
So you clicked on this because something is wrong with your plant and you don't know what. It could be a lot of things. Today though I will be talking about one specific problem that I have had issues with; overwatering.
I know you must be thinking to yourself, "well just don't water them as often!" This is true, and I have gotten much better. But, as a plant newbie, I thought plants needed more water than they did. It never occurred to me that, apart from cacti, plants would have different watering needs. I assumed all plants needed the same water, and on top of that, could live in the same basic houseplant soil.
Oh boy was I wrong! My first few plants were a croton, a prayer plant, a jade, and an aloe. I was giving all three the same amount of water AND not a single one was in a pot with drainage (the horror!). The croton, and prayer plant did pretty okay. The croton lost one leaf but otherwise it was okay. The jade and aloe though did not fair as well. The aloe I still have to this day although I know now that I also do not get enough light in my apartment for it. It seems at this point, to be slowly dying. The jade wasn't doing terribly until about November when it died within about 3 days.
Do I think my jade dying was due to overwatering? Not really. By the time it died I had learned my lesson and was not overwatering. The issue with the jade was more the lack of sun (cause Canada). However the overwatering set my plants up for failure. Even when there was lots of sun they got new new growth. The aloe, although still alive, had 4 babies when I got it and now only has one which has hung on by a thread.
Another issue with my overwatering was soil selection. I used regular soil from Wal-Mart. I didn't know about perlite, or orchid bark. It was a heavy soil without much to it. It wasn't a bad or especially cheap soil, but a more airy mix would have been better. I still use this same soil as a base, but I mix in perlite, orchid bark, and bone meal. I also have a different cactus soil for my aloe and my snake plant.
Overwatering might possibly be the number one mistake a plant newbie makes. There are some pretty easy ways to avoid it without also under watering. Below are my top tips to avoid overwatering and all the potential issues (root rot, bacterial and fungal infections, yellowing leaves etc.).
1. Know your plant!
When buying a plant, research it! Find out what it needs not just for water but soil, sun, fertilizer, humidity etc. Make sure your home meets these requirements or that you're willing to produce these requirements in other ways (i.e. a grow light for your cacti and succulents).
2. Pots with drainage.
If you know you tend to overwater plants then make sure you have adequate drainage. I have most of my plants in terracotta pots with a hole in the bottom. The terracotta also helps with wicking away excess moisture.
Make sure you use an airy soil mix. As I mentioned before, for most of my plants I use a combination of regular houseplant soil and perlite. I will often add in orchid bark and use bone meal or a simple plant food stick to fertilize. If your plant is a succulent or cactus then go for a cactus/succulent blend.
4. Checking your soil.
Betsy mentions in her video, people will often try to stick to a strict watering schedule, and in some instances this can work. However I find it is best to just to check your plants every couple days and water as needed. Is the soil dry? Then water it. Soils wet? Leave it another few days.
Don't be like I was when I started collecting plants. Don't over water them! Also, make sure to check out Betsy's video for other great troubleshooting tips!