How To Fix Waterlogged Soil in Pots? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Gardening and growing potted plants is a great hobby to have. Potted plants beautify the surroundings and make for a great ambience.

There are however, several issues that come up in the course of potty gardening and soil waterlogging is one of them. 

Although some recommend replacing waterlogged soil, it can be fixed by drying out the soil.

Some of the measures you can take include ensuring the pot drains out properly and placing the pot in a sunnier location.

Let’s discuss the causes of soil waterlogging, how to fix it, how to improve drainage in potted plants amongst other questions you might have. 

What Causes Soil To Waterlog?

How To Fix Waterlogged Soil in Pots

There are different causes of soil waterlogging in pots and I will attempt to explain some of them in this section.

  • Poor Pot Drainage 

Drainage holes are essential regardless of the type of house plants you grow. A pot with poor drainage is detrimental to the health of the plant.

The most common reason for damp soil is a lack of holes in the pot. 

Wet soil seals off the soil’s air pockets because the roots need to swap oxygen and carbon dioxide with air.

Inadequate drainage also causes salt to build up in the potting soil. Plants in containers with inadequate drainage are more vulnerable to overwatering. 

  • Overwatering

Overwatering is one of the most common causes of waterlogged soil.

When a potted plant is overwatered, it receives less oxygen, which is related to root damage. The decomposing roots are unable to provide enough nutrients to the plant. 

Overwatering causes damp soil and this in turn causes root death, stunted growth, and yellow foliage.

Wet soil might even cause leaf scorching or burning. On stems and leaves, you will notice the appearance of patches and blisters.

The plant’s crown rots as well, and injured roots are vulnerable to microorganisms.

  • Improper or Poor Soil Mixture

If your potting soil lacks a balance of micronutrients and aerators, such as perlite, it will not loosen the soil structure.

A poor soil composition can result in fewer or no air pockets, suffocating the plant roots and impeding the passage of surplus water out of the container.

As a result, the soil gets waterlogged, which can lead to disease outbreaks.

  • Poor Watering Schedule

Most houseplants need to be watered every 1-3 weeks. Failure to watch your indoor plant’s water scheduling will result in soggy soil and, eventually, the plant becomes diseased or dead.

Also having multiple people water the plant can cause waterlogging.

If someone has watered it previously and another person comes along, the water becomes too much for the soil.

Here is an article I wrote on can you use potting soil to grow grass

How To Fix Waterlogged Soil In Pots?

Waterlogged soil can be fixed and then dried out for reuse. Here are some easy ways to fix waterlogged soil problems:

  • Check Pot Drainage: the first thing you should do when fixing waterlogged soil is to check the pots’ drainage. If the pot does not have enough holes, water will drain out slowly and the soil will become overwet. 

If you realize the pot has poor drainage, drill some more holes into the pot or replace the pot entirely. You should also check the base of the pot to ensure there’s’ nothing blocking the free flow of water. 

  • Dry Out The Soil: Remove your plants from the soil while you dry it out. You can expose it to my heat or sunlight and get it done within a day or some hours. If you do not have a large amount of potting soil, you can actually bake the wet soil to dry it out faster. 
  • Refresh the Potting Soil: In the course of being waterlogged, the potting soil would have lost some essential nutrients. Mix in a part of the soil with aeration additives such as peat moss and vermiculite. Once they are properly settled in, return the plants to the pot and watch it. 
  • Replenish the Soil: Add some compost and beneficial microbes into the top layer of your potting soil. Also add some diluted molasses and kelp to serve as food for the microbes. The microbes will in time restore soil health and balance the Ph of the soil. It is often recommended to do this every two weeks till the plant and soil are restored. 

How To Dry Out Soil Quickly

There are times you might have to dry waterlogged soil quickly and wait for the natural time won’t just cut it. There are several ways to quickly dry your pot soil before reuse. They include:

  1. You can use a hairdryer to dry soil. After removing your plant from its pot, place a cool-setting hair dryer near the dirt. You must be careful not to blow the soil off the roots. This will significantly improve the time needed to dry out the soil.  
  1. Another approach is to gently remove some of the soil from the periphery, taking care not to disturb the roots. After that, repot in the same container and backfill with dry soil. This is an easy remedy that helps to fast dry the soil and enhance the state of the plant.
  2. You can also bake your soil dry if you don’t have a large amount to dry out. To do this, place a foil in your oven pan. Pour out the soil into the pan and smoothen all over. Place it in the oven and set the timer. Within minutes your soil will be dry. 

How To Improve Drainage In Potted Plants

Proper drainage is critical in potted plants. Plants require air, water, warmth, and light to survive in their containers.

Too much water will reduce air availability, which is why it is critical to monitor your plants’ water status at all times.

Some ways to improve the drainage of your potted plants include:

  1. Add some compost from time to time. 
  2. Improve the texture of your soil by adding coarse materials such as gravel or sand.
  3. Choose the right pot for your plants in terms of size, height and drainage holes. A pot should have enough holes so the water is able to drain easily. 
  4. Regularly add in aeration additives to help the soil and in the long term the plant. Some of these include perlite, peat moss and vermiculite. 

Will An Overwatered Plant Recover?

Overwatered plants might look like they are going to die soon. However, with some good quick fixes it is possible for your plant to recover back to optimum health.

Droopy leaves, yellowing and brown soft roots are ways by which you can detect that your plant is overwatered. 

The first step to take is to remove the plant from the soil and place it in a dry area. This could be in layers of newspaper or an absorbent towel. 

Remove as much of the waterlogged soil from the plant’s roots as you can. Do this gently without any further damage on the roots.

Leave the plant on the dry material overnight. Ensure the roots are totally on the dry material. You can also place it close to a blowing fan to help with the drying process. 

Trim your plant roots. Remove any roots that are too soft or gone colored. If there are too many mushy or colored roots, it might be too late to save the plant.

However with a good number of healthy roots, your plant might survive.

The next thing is to re-pot the plant. You can either use a fresh potting mix or dry out the waterlogged soil and add in some nutrients. 

Here is an article I wrote on why do bees like potting soil

How Long Does It Take For An Overwatered Plant To Heal?

With the above highlighted steps properly carried out, your overwatered plant will usually recover in 7 – 14 days. This could take nger if there was substantial damage.

However, if there are enough strong and healthy roots, it usually takes about two weeks to see some progress.

Water sparingly after repotting and let the potting soil dry before wetting again. Ensure you do not make the same mistake of giving the plant too much during this period. 


Dealing with waterlogged soil and overwatered plants can be a big headache for home gardeners. Waterlogged soil can be caused by poor drainage and overwatering.

However, because your soil is waterlogged doesn’t mean you cannot reuse it.

The first step is to remove the plant and dry out the soil. Also fixing your overwatered plants is possible as long as they have healthy roots. 

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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