How to Save Overwatered Hydrangea (Step By Step Guide)


Indoor potted hydrangea plant.

It is common for most indoor plants to have a low affinity for water. But, in the case of hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), water is something that it can tolerate even with greater amounts.

However, despite having such high tolerance, overwatering is still a problem that it commonly has to face.

Admit it or not, we sometimes get too obsessed with our plants that we think giving them more water would help them grow better.

Although water is a top necessity, one should know how to apply it in regulation to avoid the sudden death of your hydrangeas. Overwatering can easily kill a plant.

Learning proper techniques in watering is the key to avoid overdoing it. These approaches are enumerated as follows: water in the morning, water at least three times a week, water when the soil is dry, do not water the leaves and flowers, and water all the way around the pot.  

What Are the Signs of Overwatered Hydrangeas?

There are many ways to know if you have overdone watering your hydrangeas. Your plant will definitely show signs that can be easily detected by the human eye.

By constantly and carefully checking on your hydrangea, you’ll get to know when it is acting normal or not.

So, below are the common indicators of overwatering:

Root Rot

This one is not as noticeable as the other symptoms because roots are hidden under the soil. It would be difficult to know when roots are rotting until you see other symptoms appearing aboveground.

Nevertheless, the first hydrangea part that suffers when you overwater is the roots. Root rot is often a common consequence. Drowning roots are brown in color and slimy when touched. They also have an awful smell.

Browning and Wilting of Leaves

Connected with the root rot problem are the changes in the color of the foliage. Particularly, plants that are overwatered will generally develop brown leaves that are mushy when touched. This is caused by the presence of too much water in the plant cells.

The browning of leaves is noticeable on its edges. Don’t get this mistaken with the browning that is caused by underwatering. Underwatered leaves are dry while overwatered leaves are soft and pulpy.

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Yellowing of Leaves

Another effect of overwatering is hydrangea leaves turning yellowOpens in a new tab.. Chlorotic leaves are developed due to the lack of essential nutrients available for the plant’s consumption.

Many factors may fuel this problem but one of them is because of damaged roots.

We all know that overwatered hydrangeas will develop root rot which is major damage in its root system.

This impedes the transport of nutrients from the soil to the other plant parts including the leaves.

Dropping of Leaves

One sign that shows your hydrangea is overwatered is when you notice the dropping of its leaves.

In this case, you would see that both the old and new leaves are falling off its stems.

Too much water causes the plant cells to burst and die leading the petioles to lose its strength.

As a result, the leaves will start to detach from its stem. When you start noticing your hydrangea’s leaves to appear limp and weak, it’s probably overwatered.

Stunted Growth

A normal indoor hydrangea would grow up to 2 ft (60 cm). If your plant is not reaching close to this height and is not growing healthy foliage, then, overwatering may be a reason.

Too much water leads to root rot and infestation of molds; both hinder the growth and health of your hydrangea.

Presence of Molds

A moist environment is a susceptible place for molds to develop. When you allow your hydrangea to have sustained moisture exposure, it will encourage the growth of spores.

An example of this is the Botrytis cinerea which causes botrytis blight, infecting the precious flowers of your hydrangea.

Damp conditions favor pathogen activities in the soil which then initiates fungal infestation in one part that spreads to the others.

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How to Save Overwatered Hydrangea?

Okay, so you’re probably getting a little worried now that you’ve observed a symptom or two present in your well-loved hydrangea.

While overwatering can result in the death of your plant, better be hopeful because there are ways to save them.

So, here are the step by step procedures to follow:

Repot the Plant

This is the first thing you have to do to assess how damaged the roots are.

  • Carefully take the plant out of its pot. Remember, plants with rotting roots would normally have a soft base so be very careful in handling them.
  • Shake off excess soil in order to expose the roots.
  • Examine the roots and look for the rotten ones. Carefully prune them out of the plant.
  • Allow the roots to dry off a little by setting it aside before potting it again.
  • Use fresh soil with good drainage and a pot that is the right size with enough drainage holes.
  • Replant your hydrangea to the new pot and fill in spaces with just enough soil.
  • Water the newly repotted hydrangea until it’s fully soaked.
  • Properly drain the soil for a few hours before you place it inside.

Relocate the Plant

In order to save the young hydrangea leaves from wilting, you have to avoid direct contact with the sunlight.

So, if your indoor plant is previously located somewhere near your window where there is direct sunlight, place it in a shady area.

  • Locate a place inside your room that has no direct contact with sunlight but is not too dim.
  • Add additional shade to your hydrangea using bigger leafy plants or a curtain.

Remember that overwatered plants have difficulty transporting water because of its damaged roots.

Too much sun exposure means that there is a higher rate of transpiration on the leaves. This phenomenon will lead to the drying off of the plant itself.

Remove Damaged Leaves

In as much as we want to keep the leaves of your hydrangea, you would have to trim them down.

Brown leaves are no longer functional because they are composed of nothing but dead cells.

They will just ruin the overall look of your plant and can possibly transfer disease to the younger leaves.

  • Carefully cut the leaves off using pruning shears or scissors to allow more space for new leaves to flourish.
  • Trim off the leaves above in proportion to the roots you pruned below. This is to sustain the growth of the above parts of the plants.

Treat the Soil with Fungicide

As mentioned earlier, molds develop in a moist environment. Most probably, the soil of your overwatered hydrangea has become a place for fungi to thrive. It’s best to treat them with fungicides to kill the pathogens.

Using new soil complete with amendments rather than the old one is also preferable. Not only will it lessen the chance of pathogen transmission, but also provide a new set of nutrients for the plants.

Source: University of Tennessee ExtensionOpens in a new tab.

How to Water Hydrangea

Since overwatering is really a common mistake, it’s best to give you a comprehensive guide on how to properly water your hydrangea plant.

Always remember that the key here is regulation. Your plant would need less or more water depending on several factors.

Water in the Morning

A schedule plays a big role in establishing a good watering routine. It’s best to water in the morning because the heat will help evaporate excess moisture throughout the day.

It will also help supply water to the plants that are very much needed when the season is hot.

Generally, plants transpire more when the temperature is higher. This means that water is highly utilized by plants during the day than at night.

Water at Least Three Times a Week

Since hydrangea is relatively a big indoor plant, it would need more water. The ideal frequency is at least three times a week.

But, this frequency is not cast in stone. You have to adjust this when the season gets hotter or colder.

You should prefer deep watering. Make sure water reaches down to the bottom of the pot and drains out completely at a faster rate.

Water When the Soil Is Dry

Although we’ve mentioned a watering frequency, always consider the condition of the soil. Is it dry enough to accommodate water again? Go ahead and check it first.

Press your finger down to the soil at least two inches deep. See if it’s already dry. If yes, then you may water it. If it’s still damp, leave it that way and wait until it’s dry.

Do Not Water the Leaves and the Flowers

Just go directly with the roots. It’s the roots’ job to transport these water molecules to various parts of the plant body. Avoid splashing on the leaves and its flowers.

Adding extra moisture to other plant parts will just encourage fungi to set in. We do not want that to happen and cause diseases among our hydrangeas.

Water All the Way Around the Pot

Make sure to saturate the soil by watering all the way around the container. Don’t just concentrate on one place.

This is to properly distribute the moisture unto the soil and hydrate all the roots of the plant.

An even distribution of water helps the roots grow uniformly.

Roots have the tendency to follow where the water is located. If one portion has more water than the other, roots will go to that place.

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When to Water After Transplanting Hydrangea?

Transplanting is already a stressful process for your hydrangea because the roots have been disturbed.

It’s normal for it to experience what we call as transplant shock. Watering is an important factor to make sure it survives after transplanting.

Water Immediately After Transplanting

Thoroughly soak the soil with water using a hose. Remember that newly transplanted hydrangeas have not established its root system yet and therefore have a limited way to access water from the soil. 

Providing an ample amount of water will prevent the roots from exerting much effort in looking for it. Just make sure though that water totally drains off the pot and is not stuck inside.

Water Religiously

Depending on the schedule you set, you have to water newly transplanted hydrangea at a constant interval. Otherwise, your plant will soon wither due to dehydration.

More water is needed at the beginning until the roots are fully established in the new media.

You would notice that the plant has already hardened off when it’s no longer droopy in appearance. It will take days to weeks for it to happen.

Common Mistakes in Watering Hydrangea

In order to avoid committing the same mistakes others did, I have listed here the common errors done when watering the hydrangea indoor plant.

Pay a closer look as some are being normally practiced without realizing that it’s bad for the plant.

Watering During the Night

You might have been busy leaving the house in the morning and you have no time watering the plant.

Evening came and you realize you have to water your hydrangea and you did. Lucky you if the plant is still doing well.

Indoor plants such as hydrangea should be watered in the morning. They need water to consume for an entire day when the weather is generally hotter than in the evenings.

If you water them during the night, the tendency is for the water to just sit in the soil a little longer.

Have you noticed that when you wake up, the soil is still moist? If you continue that practice, your plant will soon experience root rot especially when colder evenings come.

Watering Without Consistent Schedule

Regular watering helps the plant get enough water at the time when it actually needs it. Intervals give time for the soil to dry off completely before receiving water again.

If you do not have a consistent watering schedule, you may water too early or too late.

Both are dangerous to the hydrangea as it may cause over hydration or dehydration resulting in death. You have to know exactly when to water again.

Watering Even During Wet Seasons

Obviously, your plant wouldn’t need more water during wet or cold seasons.

Water molecules will not transpire that easily when the air is humid or saturated. That means, your plant will hold water for a longer period.

If you add more water during this time, it will just be excess to what your plant actually consumes. Waterlogging will then follow.

Watering Without Checking the Soil Moisture

Seeing the soil dry off on the surface can easily tempt us to water the plant immediately.

However, it can be deceiving because most of the time, the soil is still moist when you dip your finger two inches deeper.

If you water when only the topsoil is dry, the roots are in danger of getting root rot because the soil underneath has not totally dried off.

Watering the Leaves and the Flowers

While this may seem like a good practice to refresh your hydrangea plant, doing so is not really going to help.

It will just create a moist environment, favorable for fungi to develop on the leaves and flowers.

This is not good because it will just start the spread of unwanted diseases.

In the case of indoor plants which have less exposure to sunlight, water will take longer to evaporate.

The foliage that’s been wet for too long can also experience rotting.

Watering Without Good Drainage

Even though you’re careful with the volume of water you use in watering your hydrangea but without proper drainage, overwatering can still be a problem. Poor draining soil remains wet enough for roots to drown.

A poor draining container can also do the same harm. This happens when the plant is placed in pots without good drainage holes or a size that’s too large to accommodate more water.

Watering When Water Isn’t What It Needs

It’s easy to conclude that the plant needs more water whenever we see it wilting.

But, you have to consider that there are other factors that influence a plant’s health. Your hydrangea needs other elements like nutrients and sunlight.

Water isn’t always the solution. If you fail to recognize the true reason for your plant’s condition, adding water can rather bring harm more than good.

You have to make a precise judgment on this to avoid giving the wrong treatment.

Source: Oregon State University Extension ServiceOpens in a new tab.

How Long Will Your Hydrangea Last?

Hydrangea can last a long time with proper care and maintenance. Most importantly, if you correctly employ all the watering techniques, there is a high chance of success rate for your hydrangea.

Water plays an integral role in the growth and development of any plant.

Caring for potted hydrangea can be extra challenging compared to when it’s raised outdoors.

Nevertheless, the aesthetic value it brings inside a home will surely compensate for the hard work. Are you ready to take that extra mile to raise a beautiful hydrangea?

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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