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How To Tell If You’re Overwatering Houseplants

The best way to take care of your plant is not watering it every day, or showering it with fertilizer, or whispering sweet nothings to it…. the best thing you can do is this: check on it once a day.

When you check on it daily, you get a good idea of what it looks like when it is happy, distressed, or otherwise not feeling normal. With this in mind, you can tell that something is not right just by looking at its color and its physical state.

The first sign that you’re watering your plant too much is:

  • brown tips on the leaves, usually with a line of yellow between the brown and green.

This is an early sign, when there is still plenty of time to correct the problem, and the plant can recover. Allow the soil to dry out more, cut off the brown tips, and if the tipping stops, you’re on the money. If the soil remains too wet and the level of soil moisture is not allowed to drop so that air can enter the soil and the roots can breathe, you will start to see:

  • yellow leaves
  • other discolorations
  • droopy leaves

How to avoid watering your plant too much:

  • always test the soil moisture level before you water, and water only when the soil has aerated sufficiently

You can do this in any of several ways:

  • feel the soil with your fingers
  • dig down into the pot with a spoon and pull up some soil
  • for most plants, it should feel soft and cool (very lightly damp)
  • for cacti and other succulents, it should feel dry
  • feeling just the top inch or so doesn’t account for the area deeper in the pot, where the roots are; moisture is not always distributed evenly from top to bottom, and it can dry out more quickly at the top
  • feeling the surface of the soil works after you’re familiar with the soil and habits of your plant
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