Overwatered Peace Lily – Symptoms and How to Fix It


Is your peace lily drooping with yellow colored leaves? You may have an overwatered peace lily.

Peace lily care (Spathiphyllum wallisii) is relatively easy but they are also sensitive to environmental changes. One of the most common changes that causes problems for owners is overwatering.

In this article we look at the symptoms of overwatering, how to revive your plant and how to prevent problems in future.

What causes an overwatered peace lily?

Everyone knows that all plants need to be watered regularly. But it so easy to overdo it. One of the most common reasons for peace lilies dying is that they are “killed by kindness” by their owners, through overwatering.

Here are some of the common causes:

  • Watering too frequently
  • Using a decorative pot with no drainage holes
  • Allowing water to gather in the pot saucer (or pot cover)
  • Using a pot that’s too big for the plant

How often should you water a peace lily plant?

The peace lily should be watered when the top inch or so of soil is dry. I find that my plants need watering about once a week throughout most of the year.

In wintertime, peace lilies can be watered less frequently. If you are watering once a week, this can be spaced out to once every two weeks. This is sufficient since plants naturally grow more slowly during the winter months.

What happens if you overwater a peace lily?

Watering your peace lily more frequently than necessary creates an excess of water in the plant pot which can drown your plant. There are usually small air pockets between soil particles but when these are filled with water, plant roots are unable to draw in oxygen.

With too little oxygen, your peace lily is unable to carry out the essential process of respiration…it’s similar to the plant being unable to breathe and drowning.

Too much water can also wash out the nutrients in the soil. These are essential to plant health and their loss can lead to poor growth.

What are the symptoms of overwatering a peace lily?

Symptoms of an overwatered peace lily include:

  • Brown tips on the leaves
  • Drooping or wilted leaves
  • Yellow-colored leaves
  • Roots with black tips
  • Lack of growth
  • Black roots
  • Weak roots

It is also common for overwatered plants to experience ‘root rot’ and fungal infections that can decimate the plant.

Signs of overwatering v underwatering

Symptoms of overwatering can easily be confused with symptoms of underwatering since the two share several symptoms. For example, both under-watering and over-watering can cause:

  • Drooping leaves
  • Leaf discoloration
  • Slowed plant growth

You can see when a plant is underwatered by looking at the soil in the pot. Underwatered plants have hard, dry, cracked soil that pulls away from the sides of the plant pot. If you lift the plant, the roots can appear dry and brittle.

Underwatered plants usually respond very quickly to watering, with drooping leaves becoming more turgid. It’s common to see the plant revive within hours.

When you under water your peace lily, you deprive it of the water it needs to carry out photosynthesis. The plant can also respond to water deprivation by closing its stomata (leaf pores). Whilst this reduces water evaporation from the stomata, it means the plant can not take up carbon dioxide, further reducing its capacity to photosynthesize.

Reviving an overwatered peace lily

Can a peace lily recover from overwatering?

A peace lily can recover from overwatering – assuming that the plant is not neglected for too long. If you overwater your plant once or twice it should be OK.

However, if it is overwatered consistently over a long period of time (several months), then this can result in problems that can be difficult to rectify.

How do you revive an overwatered peace lily?

1) Stop watering

The first step in reviving an overwatered peace lily is to stop watering it. Your plant is already drowning, and adding more water is only going to make the situation worse.

2) Check for disease

Once you have stopped watering your peace lily, check your plant for any signs of disease that may have set in due to overwatering.

If your overwatered peace lily has contracted a disease, you must treat the symptoms of this disease before attempting anything else. Treating disease first is imperative because reviving your peace lily will do no good if your plant faces death due to disease.

Remove from the pot and check for root rot – roots that have turned black or slimey. These should be removed with sterilized pruning scissors.

3) Change potting medium

If the soil is waterlogged, remove it and replace with a free draining soil mix. Do not move up to  a bigger sized pot at this time, as this could retain water.

4) Lighting

If your plant is free from disease, move the pot to an area with a good amount of indirect sunlight to promote evaporation and to dry out the plant roots a little more. Note that this plant cannot tolerate too much direct sunlight.

5) Time

Give your peace lily time to dry out before resuming a watering routine. Try not to change anything else during this time, so you do not stress the plant.

How long does it take for an overwatered plant to heal?

The length of time it takes for an overwatered plant to heal depends on several factors, primarily – how long the plant was drowning in water and whether the plant is diseased.

If it was not severely overwatered, your peace lily should be show signs of recovery within two weeks. However it may take longer than this if it has been neglected for longer.

Why is my peace lily drooping even after watering?

If you notice that your peace lily is drooping after watering, you must pay attention to any other symptoms that can tell you what is happening to your plant. Most frequently, however, drooping leaves after watering is an indication that you are overwatering your plant. If this is the case, stop watering immediately and give the roots a chance to dry out.

Another possibility is the plant is rootbound and needs to be repotted into a larger pot. Check this by releasing the rootball from the pot and checking it. If the plant looks rootbound, move it to a pot that is one size bigger.

How to prevent overwatering a peace lily

If you regularly overwater your peace lily, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent overwatering in the future.

Change your watering routine

Make a change to your watering routine. Rather than watering to a schedule, such as every week, water only when the top inch of soil is dry. This can be checked with a finger pushed into the soil.

It is better to be on the side of underwatering rather than overwatering. You can even wait until the leaves start to droop until watering. This will give you a good indication of how long your can wait between waterings for the particular conditions in your home.

Use watering globes or timers

There are a few different watering devices available that can help you to water your plants on a regular schedule. These devices mean that you don’t have to worry about overwatering. These devices are affordable and take all the guesswork out of watering schedules.

Make sure your peace lily pot has a drainage hole!

Check the bottom of your peace lily pot to make sure that there is a drainage hole. If your peace lily does not have a drainage hole, repot your plant, or drill a drainage hole.

A small drainage hole is a simple addition, but it prevents water from building up in the plant pot if you accidentally overwater. Instead of sitting in the soil, any excess water drains out into a drainage saucer below. (Be sure you have a drainage saucer to catch any excess water!). Empty the saucer after watering.

Use a water sensor

One of the easiest ways to avoid overwatering your plants is to invest in a water sensor. A water sensor is a simple device that functions similarly to a thermometer, and it keeps track of the moisture level in your soil. By regularly checking the soil moisture level, you can be sure that you only water your plants when they need watering!!

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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