How Long Should Soil Stay Wet After Watering?


Share this article

Overwatering is one of the most common plant problems faced by plant owners. Once watered the plant-soil should stay wet long enough so that the plant can absorb the water and nutrients it requires.

Soil should stay wet 2 to 4 hours after watering. After that, the soil should have a moist feel which is also indicative of its darker color which usually lasts for more than 24 hours. The amount of moisture in the soil, however, is dependent on the soil type and the amendments within the soil which helps with water drainage.

The length of time a soil should stay wet depends on a number of factors that can affect the overall health and development of the plant. We are going to reveal the causes, solutions, and prevention of why soil stays wet after watering further in this article.

Signs that Soil is Wet for too Long

wet potting soil

The signs that accompany wet soil unfortunately don’t only reside only with the soil properties but are passed on to the plant if left for long periods. 

The roots of plants take up water to carry out various biological functions throughout the plant. This is known as osmotic pressure where water is taken up within the smaller parts of the root hairs through the difference in concentration of water from the soil and the roots.

A plant will only take up water based on its water requirements. Water in plants is used to transport nutrients and minerals from the soil to various parts of the plant where it is needed. This process is called translocation.

Water is also used during transpiration where water evaporates from the surface of the leaves and normally occurs as a result of photosynthesis.

Having the soil wet or overwatered for too long will start affecting the plant’s appearance and growth functions.

To take the guesswork out of determining how wet the soil is every time, you can use this soil moisture meter from amazon.

XLUX Soil Moisture Meter
  • Root Rot

    Root rot is caused either by a plant’s abnormally long exposure to moisture or by fungus within the soil. 

    Root rot is characterized by brown to black roots which are soft to the touch. As a result the plant will show additional signs which includes wilting and yellowing of leaves which left unchecked will lead to the death of the plant. 
  • Weird Smell Coming from the Soil

    Oftentimes a root rot comes with a smell which indicates rotting of the roots. 

    The smell is a result of bacteria growing in anaerobic conditions within the soil and the roots. 
  • Fungus or mold growing on soil, and stems

    Although water conditions may not be suitable for plants within the soil. It can create the perfect breathing grounds for fungus and bacteria to thrive.

    Fungus or mold will make the best of the moist conditions produced by the wet soil and will start growing on the surface of the soil and stems of the plant.

    Fungus affects plants by feeding on the plants cells and causing stress on the plant.
  • Yellowing of leaves

    The yellowing of leaves is caused by the plants inability to take up nutrients through its roots.

    These conditions are a ripple effect caused by the overwatering of the soil which festers bacterial growth which interns feed on the roots of the plant rendering it useless to the plant.
  • Leaf edema

    This occurs when plants take up more water than it loses during transpiration. It is a type of water poisoning whereby plants consume too much water which leads to the abnormal conditions in leaves. 

    The tell tale signs of Edema are yellowing spots and bumps on the underside of leaves. The entire leaf structure may be blotchy in appearance. However not all plants may exhibit the same signs.
Dark Top Soil

Conditions that Affect How Fast Soil Takes to Dry

  • Humidity

    An experiment done by The National Center for Biotechnology Information showed that when the humidity of the surroundings  is high the water absorbing abilities of the plant is primarily done by the leaves which are transported to the soil. 

    As a result it directly increases the moisture content of the soil in which the plants were planted. This is shown in the following table
Soil TypeMoisture Equivalent % moisture after 24 Hours% moisture after 48 Hours
Light Soil12.518.520.2
Medium Soil22.725.027.0
Heavy Soil36.839.547.2

The greater the humidity the longer the soil will stay moist.

The Geniani portable humidifier from amazon provides the ideal environmental humidity for healthy plant growth. You can find it by clicking here.

geniani portable humidifier
  • Time of Day and plant location

    The time of day depending on the plants location, be it within the house or the garden, the soil moisture can be affected. 

    This is primarily due to the effects of sunlight on the soil itself. The more sun that hits the surface of the soil the more water will get evaporated.

    So if you suspect that your plant has been overwatered you can simply relocate the plant in an area where it can receive more sunlight so the water can be removed through evaporation.

    Some consideration has to be made when doing this so that the soil doesn’t lose too much water causing the plant to suffer from dehydration. Periodic monitoring is key to preventing dehydration in this case.

    The more sun the plant and soil receives the less time it will take to dry.
  • Windy conditions

    Wind also plays a role in the rate at which soil loses its moisture. On a more windy day the wind can help with evaporation of moisture from the surface of the soil and also leaves through transpiration.

    Evaporation from the surface of the soil creates a somewhat differential moisture content from the surface to the bottom of the soil causing more moisture to move towards the surface where it will be removed by the wind.

    This same concept occurs during transpiration whereby the plant loses moisture through its leaves and therefore pulls more moisture from the soil relieving the overall moisture content within the soil.

The more wind the plant is subjected to the faster the soil will dry out.

  • Season and weather Conditions

    Moisture in soils is affected by seasonality for obvious reasons. Lets compare the temperature extremes of summer to that of winter. 

    In the summer plants are subjected to higher temperatures than the rest of the seasons which also has an effect on soil moisture.

    Due to the higher temperatures the evaporation rate will be higher and therefore the soil’s moisture content will be lower.
  • Type of Plant potter

    The type of pot that the plant is potted in can have an effect on the moisture of the soil. 

    In this case only terra pots can have a significant difference from other plant potters because of its ability to allow moisture and air to pass through its structure.

    Clay pots tend to be porous because the clay when heated during the production process becomes structured in a way that creates small pores within the clay material. 

    These pores can allow both air and moisture to seep through which can help reduce the prolonged effects of wet soil by letting unwanted moisture out.

    For this reason, Terracotta pots can affect how fast overwatered soil can take to dry.

Can Plants Recover from Overwatering?

Plants can survive from overwatering. As long as the overwatering problem is detected soon enough that the damage does not compromise the overall function of the plant.

There are a few ways in which you can save a plant from overwatering quickly.

  1. Place plant where there is adequate sunlight to dry the soil

    As previously discussed this method can be used to help increase the drying time of the soil. If the health of the plant is being compromised you should seek other methods which can deal with the wet soil more swiftly.
  2. Repot the plant if necessary

    This is one of the more drastic methods where the plant is removed from the potter along with the soil. The soil is removed by gently shaking away after which the roots are washed and cleaned gently to remove any signs of root rot.

    An antifungal spray should be applied to the roots before repotting into a soil that has better aeration and drainage properties which we will discuss next.
  1. Use soil Amendments

    If you go the route of removing the wet soggy soil you may want to apply soil amendment to the next potting mix to ensure the soil has good drainage properties so you won’t end up in the same situation again.

    But what are soil amendments? These are additives which increase the drainage and aeration properties of the soil. These additives are usually perlite and vermiculite.

    The proper ratio of perlite and vermiculite along with the intended soil can create the perfect potting soil in which you can repot the plant.

    You can have a look at a more in-depth article on perlite and vermiculite which we have elaborated in their properties and how they help improve soil structure.
  1. Pull plant and dry out the soil with absorbent 

    Another more drastic method of drying the soil quickly if you don’t have additional soil or soil amendments available is by pulling the plant and soil out from the pot and having it sit on an absorbent pad or newspaper for some time.

    This causes the water from the soil to move out of the soil and into the absorbent pad. This quickly reduces the amount of moisture within the soil.

    Some consideration must be taken when applying this method however, because if you leave the son on the absorbent pad too long you can risk drying out the soil and harming the plant.
  1. Create a watering schedule

    By creating a watering schedule you can have some control in watering the plant and can prevent the overwatering problem all together.

    Most plants do not need to be watered everyday and depending on the soil structure and the plants resilience to dry conditions you may not have to water the plant for a few days even up to week at times.

    Cactus are great when it comes to resilience and little watering because of their nature and the well drained sandy soil they are potted into.

I use this Miracle-Gro Potting Mix from amazon, which ensures my plants stay healthy long after repotting. You can find it by clicking here.

PlantsWatering Schedule
Chinese Evergreen7 – 9 Days
English Ivy7 – 10 Days
Orchids5 – 10 Days
Peace Lily5 – 10 Days
Snake Plant14 – 21 Days
Spider Plant5 – 10 Days
ZZ Plant7 – 14 Days
Pothos7 – 14 Days
Echeveria14 – 21 Days

Reasons Why Soil may Stay Wet After Watering

  • Overwatering

    By not knowing how often to water your respective plant, overwatering can be a mistake that can easily be made. You can reference the above table if you have one of those plants to create a watering schedule for your plant.

    A good sign that a plant doesn’t need watering again is by observing if the saucer has water in it. If it does then the plant will not need watering. 

    Another really helpful and cost effective way to check soil moisture is by using a stake pushed into the soil. If it’s removed and the stake is moist then the plant has enough water and the soil does not need watering.
  • Too many people taking care of the same plant

    In this case, if there are too many people taking care of the same plant, overwatering may be very likely. 

    One person may water in the morning while the other in the evening. This will obviously lead to the soil being overwatered and wet for a long time.

    A simple solution is to designate only one person with a watering schedule to help prevent such occurrences.
reusing plant drainage water 2
  • Bad Soil Mix

    If the potted plant is in a soil mix that doesn’t allow for good drainage the soil will retain more water. 

    Soil that doesn’t incorporate soil amendments such as vermiculite or perlite it may be susceptible to retaining water way longer than it should. The soil type also plays a role in how well water drains from it. 

    Clay and loamy soil retain a lot of water because the soil has very small particulates and spacing making it difficult for water to drain through.

    On the other extreme, Sandy soil will cause water to drain through more readily leaving the soil more dry which will, in the long run, leave the plant dehydrated.

    Therefore having a good soil mix with soil amendments will create a well balanced potting mix for water retention and drainage at the same time. 

    This keeps the soil moist for just enough time so that the plant can utilize the water without having to face the brunt of the negative effects of an overwatered soil
  • The Plant Potter is too small

    In this case where the potter is too small, the roots of a growing plant will fill the planter leaving little space for water to drain.

    This creates a problem when watering as more water is retained within the soil leading to overwatering. 

    If roots are noticed coming out of the drainage holes or at the top of the soil, the plant will need to be repotted as soon as possible.
  • Plant is in sitting water

    IF the plant has a saucer which has water in it, the water will be absorbed into the soil causing it to become wet or moist for too long. This is also dependent on the type of soil that the plant is potted in.

    A simple fix to this is to have the saucer drained to prevent the additional water from being absorbed back into the soil

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

Posts to pique your interest