Philodendron species are quite popular in the indoor landscape because of their generous foliage.
To maintain those leathery and glossy leaves, philodendron requires a lot of water.
However, you should take caution because excess water may lead to the death of your plant.
Most plant owners find themselves guilty of overwatering a philodendron. While it is important to give an ample amount of water, there are appropriate ways on how to do it without threatening the health of your plant.
If you suspect that your philodendron gets overwatered, here are the simple steps to save the plant:
- Limit water application let the soil dry
- Poke the holes in the pot to drain excess water
- Place the plant under bright light
- treat with fungicide and repot to another container
- Reduce humidity and stop fertilizer application
Underwatered vs Overwatered Philodendron
Underwatering and overwatering are both results of malpractice in the way water is provided to your plant. There is no doubt that water is essential for any plant to live.
However, you must bear in mind that there are varying requirements and considerations to take depending on the species of the plant as well as the prevailing environmental conditions.
While the symptoms of overwatering and underwatering may look similar, the events happening on the physiological level are totally different.
Here are basic explanations to help you understand the difference between the two phenomena.
In an overwatered philodendron, the soil gets overly saturated displacing oxygen from the air packets. Oxygen is an important input to convert sugars to usable energy.
Once the oxygen level in soil declines, the roots will have difficulty performing the respiration process affecting the level of energy produced for plant use.
In the case of underwatering, the soil experiences a drought condition which is a form of abiotic stress.
The lack of water forces the roots to exert more effort in looking for a water source. The result is that the roots become overtaxed and eventually die.
Both overwatering and underwatering can compromise the health of the roots.
It then limits its efficiency in performing important functions such as water uptake and nutrient transport.
Thus, you will see the signs of watering problems manifesting on the upper portions of the plant.
Signs of Overwatered Philodendron
Determining the signs of overwatering requires skill and practice. Here are some of the indicators you may take a close look at.
The signs that you would observe depend on how advanced the damage had been in the root system.
Brown Spots on Leaves
One evident sign of overwatering is the formation of large, brown spots on the surface of your philodendron leaves.
The spots would have a water-soaked appearance. When touched, they would have a squashy feel on your fingers.
You will most likely find brown spots caused by overwatering on the leaves at the lower portions of the philodendron. The leaf tips and margins may also develop browning.
The most obvious sign of overwatering is root rot. You will have difficulty knowing this unless you pull the plant out of its container. Rotting roots would have a very tender feel and have dark brown to black color.
They easily disentangle from the base of the plant because it gets slimy. It has a foul odor as well. Some roots may show sites of pathogen infection.
Molds Growing on the Soil Surface
A consistently wet soil invites the growth of fungi. If you happen to see molds growing on the surface of the soil, that is a sign of overwatering. The moist environment made it favorable for the molds to thrive.
Molds look like white powder scattered on top of the soil. Some of them may look like a thin spread of cotton. Others may exhibit tiny growths.
Wilted and Mushy Appearance
Another sign to observe is the shriveled and mushy appearance of the philodendron plant.
When the overwatering damage gets severe, the whole plant would show wilting and most of its leaves would already turn brown and mushy.
If this is happening, there is a high chance that the majority of the roots are already damaged and rotten. Your philodendron will most likely die if it already reaches this stage.
Yellowing of Leaves
Aside from the brown spots, overwatered philodendron will also show yellowing of leaves symptoms.
The yellow leaves indicate that the plant is suffering from nutrient deficiencies. It is a result of a dysfunctional root system.
The presence of too much water kills the roots. The transport function is affected.
In return, the leaves will no longer receive enough water and nutrients from the soil.
When your plant is suffering from overwatering, it becomes susceptible to diseases.
Specifically, an overwatered philodendron will most likely acquire pathogenic diseases. Pathogens grow and reproduce when the environment is consistently moist.
Pathogens may attack the roots through the soil or the stems and the leaves of the philodendron.
Stem Rot at the Soil Line
Aside from root rot, an overwatered philodendron may also exhibit stem rot at the base.
The part of the stem that is close to the roots may get affected by the rotting since it is close to the soil.
The stem at the soil line will be weak, limp, and slimy. If you try to remove it abruptly, the stem will easily separate from the roots.
How to Fix Overwatered Philodendron
There are various ways to save an overwatered philodendron. Each solution depends on the severity of the damage.
Sometimes, it would require that you combine the solutions to fix the problem of overwatering.
Most of the time, you will be forced to do your own experiments until you see positive results. Don’t be afraid to take risks though.
Limit the Application of Water
Limit the frequency of water application to give enough time for the water to evaporate first. If the soil is still wet and soggy, do not water. Give your plant the time to rest.
Once the soil has lost most of the moisture in the soil, you may resume watering again. But this time, you have to do it in moderation.
Dry the Soil
Wet and soggy soil is never good for your plant. What you can do is turn the soil upside down by digging a fork into it. This will accelerate the evaporation of moisture.
A well-draining potting mix will be easy to dig because it has a loose texture.
However, if the potting mix used has more clay, it will remain moist for a longer time.
Poke the Holes in the Pot
Lack of good drainage is one reason why overwatering happens. To drain any stagnant water, make sure to poke the holes at the bottom of the pot. This will ease the flow of water making the draining more efficient.
You may use sticks to do this. If the drainage still remains inefficient, consider adding more drainage holes by digging new ones.
Place the Philodendron Under Bright Light
Sunlight emits heat that makes evaporation faster. Place an overwatered philodendron under bright light so the soil easily dries out.
You may use artificial light if sunlight is less available by using a combination of fluorescent and incandescent light. (Source: University of Connecticut)
Just be cautious about exposing the philodendron directly under the heat of sunlight.
They’re quite sensitive to strong light intensities. They may develop leaf scorching if you expose them to direct sunlight for long hours.
Trim Off Dead and Damaged Leaves
Trimming off the damaged and dead leaves will help maintain the aesthetics of the plant.
More importantly, it will encourage the growth of new and younger leaves. Make sure to remove the dead portions as well because they’ll no longer serve their function.
In pruning the leaves, always wear gloves to protect your hands. Philodendrons contain toxic properties that may cause irritation on the skin.
Also, always use sterile tools and make clean cuts to prevent the spread of diseases.
Repot the Philodendron
Now the next step to save your overwatered philodendron is by repotting. This will allow you to have the chance to examine the extent of damage to the roots.
Plants that are severely suffering from overwatering must be repotted.
Here are the basic step by step procedures to repotting a philodendron:
- Wait until the soil gets a little dry. It would be difficult and messy to repot a plant if the soil is overly wet and soggy. Expose your plant under bright light to accelerate the process.
- Gently remove the philodendron from its existing pot. You may loosen the soil by pressing the pot on both sides. Be sure to hold the plant gently. Remember that the stems may have already turned weak.
- Remove the old soil surrounding the roots. Do this by gently shaking off the root ball. Use your hands to disentangle the roots from the root ball.
- Check the roots for any sign of decay. Trim off the dead, rotten, and aged roots. You may also wash the roots to be able to see its color clearly.
- Leave the roots to air dry and calloused for a few minutes. Or, you may also pat it dry using a newspaper or tissue. Be careful not to tear the healthy roots.
- If your philodendron has been infected by a fungal disease, apply curative fungicide to prevent further growth of the pathogens. If not, apply a preventive type of fungicide so pathogens won’t have the chance to grow and infect the plant.
- Pot the philodendron to a new container using a previously sterilized soil. Use only the potting mix that has good draining capacity. Sphagnum peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite will make an excellent soilless mix for philodendron.
- Water the soil thoroughly and let it drain well. Place the repotted philodendron somewhere partially shaded. Little by little, transition the philodendron under bright light.
Treat Diseased Plants with Fungicide
Fungicides work against fungi and it helps kill, inhibit, or prevent the spread of diseases.
If your philodendron plant acquired a disease because of overwatering, you need to use a fungicide to prevent further infection.
But before you apply any fungicide on your philodendron, there are important facts you need to know about this chemical. These are the following:
Contact vs. Mobile Fungicides
This refers to the mobility of the fungicide in the plant. The contact fungicides don’t attach to the plant surface.
What it does is to create a protective gear so the fungus won’t infect the plant.
The mobile fungicides are those that penetrate to the systems of the plant. It also moves from one place to the other parts of the plant.
Preventive vs. Curative Fungicides
Preventive fungicides work to prevent the fungus from infecting the plant. It needs to be reapplied to the plant time and time again.
The curative fungicide works only when the infection has already begun.
It is important that your initial diagnosis of the disease is correct. This will aid you in looking for the appropriate fungicide to use.
If unsure, better consult a horticulturist or plant pathologist.
Always follow the instructions indicated in the label. Handle the chemical with extra caution. These chemicals are toxic and can possibly harm your health.
Although philodendron species love high humidity, it is not ideal to maintain such conditions when the plant is overwatered.
High humidity will make the plant retain more moisture. This will lengthen the time by which water is transpired from the philodendron.
It would be better if you place your philodendron in a drier location. This will hasten the transpiration rate.
If you were regularly misting on your plant, then, you better skip it for a while until the philodendron recovers.
Withhold Fertilizer Application
If your plant is overwatered, its roots are surely experiencing damage. It will not be beneficial to keep adding fertilizer when the roots are not functioning well.
The salts will just end up accumulating in the soil and it adds stress to the roots inducing further damage.
It is better not to add fertilizer for the time being. Give your philodendron time to heal its roots.
How to Water Philodendron?
To avoid overwatering, one should know the proper techniques on how to water your philodendron.
The water needs of your philodendron vary depending on the prevailing conditions of humidity, temperature and light.
The following are some important tips on how to properly water a philodendron plant:
There are two ways to water your philodendron. One is the traditional way of watering from the top. However, this method does not mean you are to water the leaves.
If you are watering from above, make sure to water the soil only and not the foliage.
If the leaves get consistently wet, it will invite the growth of unwanted organisms such as pathogens. As a result, the philodendron will become susceptible to diseases.
Another way to water the plant is from down below the pot. You need to put the pot on top of a tray that has water in it.
Let it sit for a few hours until water is pulled out and the soil gets saturated.
This method of watering requires a bit of skill. You may need to add more water on the tray to ensure that the moisture reaches the top.
However, never leave the pot sitting in the pool of water overnight as this will encourage root rot.
Philodendron loves regular watering but you have to also consider the season.
During winter, the weather is cold and the temperature is low. Water evaporation is usually slow during this time.
What you can do is to reduce watering frequency during winter so the soil does not remain wet for too long. Do the opposite during summer when the heat is quite intense.
Consider the temperature and humidity level. High humidity and low temperature will require less watering.
On the other hand, more water is needed when the temperature is high and humidity is low.
In short, you have to observe the condition of the environment before you water your plant. You have to be flexible every time. You cannot stick to just one schedule.
I have written another article on how often to water your philodendron, it will help you understand and determine the watering frequency for your philodendron.
Remember that in watering, it is also critical to consider the quality of the water being used.
Tap water contains chemicals such as chlorine and fluorine that may accumulate in the soil over time. This causes damage to the roots and the leaves of your philodendron.
It is better to filter the tap water before use. If you don’t have a filtration system at home, you may simply leave the water for at least 24 hours. This is enough time for these chemicals to evaporate out of the water.
It is always advisable to use rainwater as much as possible. You may save the water during the rainy season so you have enough stock to use on your houseplants.
Just remember to save the water in the middle of the rainy period to avoid acid rain.
How Much and When to Water
Water the philodendron early in the morning or before 10:00 am. This schedule is recommended because it will give enough time for the water to evaporate during the day.
Avoid watering in the middle of the heat or in the evening. The amount of water depends on how big your plant is.
You just have to ensure that the potting media is saturated and well-drained. The roots must have enough access to moisture.
During the hot season, your philodendron may require more watering in a day. If your philodendron shows signs of wilting you need to water it immediately. It means they are easily dehydrated due to a fast rate of transpiration.
Common Mistakes in Watering Philodendron
Following are the common mistakes one can do in watering philodendron. You may find yourself guilty in one or two of these practices. Nevertheless, this is your chance to make things right.
Included in each row are tips on how to avoid malpractice. It may take time to perfect the skill for watering your plant but you’ll surely get there. Just be a little patient!
|Common Mistakes||How to Avoid|
|Inconsistent Watering||Regularly check the moisture condition of the soil. Stick your finger below the soil and feel it. Water to keep the soil moist but not wet and soggy.|
|Watering too Much||Refrain from watering the plant by schedule. You have to consider certain factors such as temperature, light conditions and humidity to know how much to water your philodendron. Use the same size of watering can. You will mostly likely have a precise estimate of how much water to use if you use the same container over and over again.|
|Wet Soil from Overwatering||Make sure that the pot has good drainage so any excess water can leave the container immediately.Place the plant under a bright, sunny location to hasten evaporation of moisture. Give enough lead time for the soil to dry a little before watering again.|
|Watering the Leaves and Not the Roots||Use a watering can with long snout and pour water directly into the soil.Another option is to water from below to top. However, do not allow excess water to remain stagnant below the pot.|
|Watering During the Heat of the Day||Schedule watering early in the morning or at least before 10am to avoid the heat of the day.|
Watering philodendron is definitely one of the cultural practices that gets very challenging every time.
If you are a newbie, we understand if you get a little frustrated over this. But as a piece of advice, be patient and you’ll surely perfect the skill.
In watering, you have to know what your plant exactly needs. Some plants love more water such as philodendron while others will do even just with a little amount.
But, always remember to take things in moderation to avoid the risks of overwatering.