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How to Identify and Recover from Overwatering or Over Fertilization

Plants need water and fertilizer to survive. That’s plant care 101, right? But some people take it too far and overwater or fertilize their plants.

Plants, like all living things, need water—and when a plant looks like it’s struggling, many people think this is a sign it needs more water, but that may not be the case! It’s an easy mistake to make, but not always easy to figure out. Plants can drown, rot and suffer in soil that is too wet.

Fertilizing plants helps them to flourish. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium encourage plant growth, root growth and nutrient absorption. But what happens when plants get too much fertilizer? This can lead to problems ranging from salt buildup in the soil to stunted or stalled plant growth. How can you tell when plants are over fertilized?

Signs a plant is too well cared for

Here are four common signs of overwatered plants that you may notice over time as water builds up in the soil:

  • Wilting leaves but wet soil
  • Yellow leaves with stunted growth
  • Both young and old leaves falling
  • Rotting roots

As with overwatered plants, there are several ways to tell when plants are over fertilized. These signs appear quickly after you fertilize. Here are four of the most common symptoms you may notice in over fertilized plants:

  • Fertilizer crusting on the soil’s surface
  • Yellow or brown leaves
  • Wilting leaves
  • Blackened or limp roots

The signs of over fertilizing and overwatering may seem very similar, but remember that over fertilization appears after fertilizer is applied, while the signs of overwatering appear over time.

Fixing the problem

Now that you know what’s caused the root rot and yellow wilted leaves, how do you fix the problem and save the plant? Check the soil often and only water when the top inch or two is dry. When you check the soil, look to see if there is a crust of fertilizer on the surface of the soil. If that’s the case, remove the top layer of soil. For fertilizer stuck around the root zone, apply a series of waterings and take a soil test to determine nutrient issues. Remove any wilted, damaged leaves.

To learn more about proper plant nutrition and other agronomic topics, check out Ewing Education’s lineup of classes and talk to your local Ewing store about classes that interest you.

TAGS: over fertilization, Fertilizer, Turf, turf tips