How to Save a Waterlogged Plant and Other Tips

by | Jul 28, 2020 | 2 comments

Have you ever bought a waterlogged plant? The other day, I bought a small bird’s nest fern Asplenium nidus ‘Campio’. The potting medium was heavy and wet.

Earlier in the year, I bought three African violets at my local grocery store that were sitting in water. The checkout attendant told me they threw a lot of them away because they had died.

I knew they were too wet because they were in pot covers that didn’t allow the excess water to go anywhere. The plant roots had rotted. There were a few left that still had firm leaves so I took a chance and bought them. (I hadn’t seen a plant to buy in a while and I snapped them up!) The same with the fern. The leaves were firm and it didn’t seem to be suffering any damage yet from being too wet.

Drying out a waterlogged plant
Set the plant on a paper towel or newspaper to dry it out

Drying out the waterlogged plant

So as you can see above, I took the plant out of the pot and placed it on dry paper towels. A newspaper would work, too. I did the same thing for the African violets and it worked well for both types of plants.

You may have to use many paper towels or newspapers to allow much of the water to be drawn out of the wet potting medium. Keep changing the towels until the root ball is moist, not heavy and wet.

It drew the excess water out of the root balls and then I was able to plant them into appropriate pots. The African violets stayed in their 4″ pots. I planted the fern into a decorative Campo de Fiori container. (I love those pots!)

Every waterlogged plant may not be saved

This may not always work for every plant. I took a chance and it worked. Both the roots of the fern and African violets are brown and hard to see, unlike many white-rooted plants. It may be hard to tell if they are okay. But I was pretty sure the plants weren’t damaged and they are all doing great.

Newly potted waterlogged plant
Bird’s nest fern in a Campo de fiori pot

Cleaning the leaves of my waterlogged plant

Another problem I noticed with my fern is a common problem with many plants we buy. The leaves have water spots. They come from either the minerals or fertilizer salt residue in the water.

After the plant is watered in a greenhouse or growing facility, these spots remain on the leaves. They are unsightly and not always easy to remove. Elvin McDonald mentioned a quick fix for this problem to me when I was writing my first book.

When Life Gives You Lemons….

So what I used is a lemon slice. Or you can use the juice squeezed on a sponge. Test a leaf first. I used it on another fern not too long ago.

Ferns are quite sensitive to chemicals and products sprayed on their leaves. This bird’s nest fern concerned me, but it is doing just fine and I do rinse the leaves off after using the lemon juice.

I do NOT and will NOT use any kind of leaf shine on my plants. The natural state of the leaves is best for the plant. I don’t want to put anything on them that is going to clog the stomata or be a dust/pet hair magnet.

Lemon to clean leaves
I use lemon juice to clean the leaves

One last tip

Notice I only potted the fern up in a pot a bit bigger than it was already in. I can do that because of the time of year (still actively growing) and the container it was grown in was full of roots.

If it wasn’t well-rooted or seemed overpotted, I would either keep it in the same-sized pot. Or I may down-pot it into a smaller pot.

Never assume you can up-pot a plant without a problem. Check the root system first and see if it needs a bigger pot. When you do up-pot a plant, make sure to only use the next-sized pot unless it is extremely root-bound.

ascending sizes of pots
Only go up one pot size at a time, as a rule

I hope some of these tips are helpful to you today. Have a great week!


The links in this blog post contain affiliate links. If you buy a product through the link, I receive a few cents. Thank you.

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    I have read the blog post “How to Save a Waterlogged Houseplant and Other Tips” on The Houseplant Guru website. The post provides valuable information on how to save a waterlogged houseplant, which can be a common problem for plant owners. The author suggests several tips, including repotting the plant, removing the excess water, and providing proper drainage. These tips are practical and easy to follow, making them useful for both novice and experienced plant owners.

    In addition to the tips on saving waterlogged plants, The Houseplant Guru website offers a wealth of information on how to care for houseplants. The site provides tips on topics such as how to choose the right potting mix, how to fertilize plants, and how to deal with common pests. The Houseplant Guru also offers a blog that covers a wide range of topics related to houseplants, from plant care to plant identification.

    Overall, The Houseplant Guru website is a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their plant care skills. The site offers practical tips and advice that can help plant owners of all levels achieve success in growing beautiful, thriving houseplants. I highly recommend this website to anyone interested in improving their plant care skills.

    Best Regards,


    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Thanks so much for your wonderful endorsement!


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