Potted Plant Soil Stays Wet: Here’s Why and How to fix it

Reasons Why Potting Soil Retains Water

For plants to survive, both indoor and outdoor, they need soil. For a houseplant to grow and develop properly, it needs potting soil, water, and air.

Your indoor plants’ roots and the necessary nutrients for their growth are found in the soil. Additionally, it filters the water discharge and controls it. Organic carbon is stored in soil, which also guards against indoor pollution.

If the soil in a potted plant does not have adequate drainage or is watered excessively, the soil will remain wet after watering, which can lead to yellowing of the leaves, edema, root rot, and wilting. By using the right soil mixture and overwatering prevention techniques, it is possible to avoid overwatered soil.

Microbes battle with plant roots for oxygen in wet soil. It hinders the plant’s growth and restricts oxygen flow to it.

Additionally, wet soil causes the plant’s leaves to wilt and turn yellow. It also gives off a rotting or sour smell, which is a sign of root rot. We will discuss the causes, signs, and preventative measures of damp soil for indoor plants. Read on!

Reasons Why Potting Soil Retains Water

If you don’t have enough understanding about soil maintenance, it can be difficult to diagnose damp soil problems for indoor plants.

The growth of your plants can be substantially hampered and even killed by excessive watering or extremely moist soil. Here are a few reasons why indoor plants have moist soil.


The most frequent cause of issues with indoor plants is overwatering. Poorly drained soil is more likely to experience waterlogging, which causes roots to die because they are unable to properly absorb oxygen.

The damage to the roots is directly correlated with less oxygen. The indoor plant can’t get enough nutrition from the decomposing roots. Overwatering-related damage is sometimes mistaken as bug damage.

Waterlogging can stress plants and make them vulnerable to fungus damage. For instance, in soils that have been saturated with water, Phytophthora spp. can induce root rot.

Overwatered soil depletes soil oxygen, which kills roots and results in stunted growth and yellow leaves in plants.

Even the scorching or burning of leaves can be caused by wet soil. On stems and leaves, patches and blisters will start to emerge. Additionally, the plant’s top rots, and bacteria can grow on weakened roots.

Poor Drainage

No matter what kind of indoor plant you grow, drainage holes are essential. A container or pot with inadequate drainage or no holes is bad for the health of the plant. Wet soil is most frequently caused by pots without any holes in them.

If you are cultivating aquatic plants at home, moist soil is best. The roots of a typical indoor plant, on the other hand, dislike sitting in wet soil.

Wet soil seals off the air pockets in the soil, which is a problem because the roots need to exchange oxygen and CO2 with the air.

The issue of overwatering, as we previously discussed, is more likely to occur in plants in containers with poor drainage or no holes. Sometimes the soil’s surface will look dry, but the bottom of the pot will still be damp.

Salt builds up in the potting soil as a result of inadequate drainage.

Because roots absorb water and deposit some salts in the soil, tap water includes toxic salts that can harm plants.

Salts in the soil can be flushed out by water passing through the container’s openings. With inadequate drainage or no holes in the container, salts are never eliminated from the soil.

Make sure the pot has enough drainage holes if you want to give your indoor plants a healthy atmosphere.

Improper Soil Mix

Both moisture retention and excess water drainage are crucial for indoor plants. It promotes airflow through the roots and shields them from fungus.

It won’t loosen the soil structure if your potting mix doesn’t contain the right proportions of coarse sand, perlite, and crushed rock.

It can consequently result in fewer or no air pockets, suffocating the plant roots and impeding the movement of extra water out of the pot.

Anaerobic bacteria thrive in damp soil, which might be caused by an improper soil mix. Bacteria not only give out a bad smell, but they also harm the plant.

Multiple People Caring for the Same Plant

When multiple people take care of the same plant, the soil can become damp as a result.

For instance, if your partner or son watered the plant in the morning but they were unaware of it, they might water it again.

Most houseplants need watering once every one to three weeks. If you don’t keep an eye on the watering schedule for your houseplant, the soil will become soggy and the plant will finally perish.

Wet soil can hinder a plant’s growth and development even if the frequency of watering varies on the plant’s kind, size, pot type, humidity, temperature, and rate of growth.

There may be severe repercussions if your family members water the plant privately without informing you first.

How Long Should Potting Soil stay Wet?

2 to 4 hours after watering, the soil should still be moist. The soil should then feel damp to the touch and get darker, which typically lasts for more than 24 hours.

However, the kind of soil and any amendments that aid in water drainage will determine how much moisture is in the soil.

See our comprehensive post on this subject and how to save a water-logged plant here.

Symptoms of Wet Soil

Wet soil can cause a variety of damage, including root rot, leaf yellowing or browning, mold and fungal growth, edema, and wilting.

These are all indications of damp soil, which can seriously harm your houseplant. Let’s go over these symptoms in more detail. Continue to read!

The reasonably priced Trazon Soil 3-in-1 Meter can be used to measure the soil’s pH and moisture content. It checks the pH as well as the amount of moisture and light. Clicking here will take you there!

Root Rotting

A potted plant with wet soil may develop root rot, a disease that slowly kills the plant. Your indoor plant typically receives its oxygen, water, and nutrients from the soil.

The root will not be able to take in enough oxygen when the soil is wet and will start to suffocate.

Keep in mind that weak roots are targets for infections and microbes, which kill the plant.

Indoor plants can exhibit a variety of root rotting signs, such as soft stems at the base of the plant and an unpleasant rotting-material smell.

When you take the plant out of the container, the root will also be soft and look brown.

Overwatering-induced damp soil is the primary cause of this disease, as was already indicated.

Fungus can further harm the roots by creating an environment that is too moist or has poor drainage in the pot.

Three fungus species—Rhizoctonia solani, Fusarium, and Pythium—are in charge of root rot in pots.

When water levels are too high, these fungus’ dormant spores in the soil begin to proliferate, harm the plant’s roots, and spread to other sections of the plant.

Yellowing of Leaves

The most frequent reason for yellow leaves in indoor plants is moisture stress. Overwatering or soggy soil frequently cause a problem known as moisture stress.

Check the pot and soil for moisture if you have a potted plant with yellow leaves.

Under-watering can occasionally be the cause of leaf yellowing. In that situation, water the plant more frequently and give the roots more time to absorb moisture.

On the other hand, yellow leaves might also result from damp soil. In this case, you should inspect the pot drainage holes to determine if anything is obstructing the drainage.

Additionally, nitrates from the plant’s roots might be flushed out by wet soil, leading to a nitrogen shortage. Microbes can compete for this nitrogen in the soil thanks to a higher carbon to nitrogen ratio.

Yellowing leaves in potted plants are a sign of nitrogen shortage. On the other hand, if you notice dark green veins in the yellow leaves, this is caused by a deficiency in iron rather than nitrogen.

Fungus or Mold Growth

Indoor plants grow and operate normally with less water than their outside counterparts.

Fungus thrives in moist soil, where it can devour additional water and cause the roots of plants to rot.

Excess moisture, also known as moisture stress, can be caused by inadequate water drainage or a pot without any holes. A few things that encourage the growth of fungus include dense soil, a lack of drainage holes, and the wrong pot size.

There are beautiful pots with no drainage holes in some homes. The extra water washes out of the pot without passing through the soil.

Because there is too much moisture surrounding the roots due to the extra water in the soil, fungus and mold can thrive there.

In order to properly drain excess water, experts advise using pots with several drainage holes that are around 1/5 inch in diameter.

Two varieties of mold, such as white and black mold, can grow in moist soil.

While black mold can lead to disease, white mold is not detrimental to the general health of your indoor plant.

Keep in mind that not only are moldy potted plants poisonous to humans, but they are also damaging to the roots, stems, and leaves of the plants. For example, it may result in a number of respiratory problems, such as the flu, allergies, and even asthma.


When there is more water in the roots than there is being lost by transpiration by the leaves, edema, a disease of plants, develops.

Cell deterioration and rupture are caused by increased water content in the roots. Blisters and lumps on the lower leaf surface are typical edema symptoms.

The lumps or blisters you can see on the lower epidermis may turn brown and corky as a result of cellular rupture. The roots of the indoor plants are typically not significantly harmed by these places.

However, if you are cultivating a flowering plant, it can have a major impact on the higher portions.

Browning of Leaves 

The roots won’t operate normally if the soil is left excessively wet. The bark on roots rots as a result of the deteriorating of the roots.

The plant’s interior tissue eventually separates from the bark and turns brown as a result of ongoing decay.

As a result, the leaves begin to wilt and change color. The risk of leaves turning brown increases as the deterioration of the roots increases. All of this causes serious harm that ultimately results in the death of the entire plant.


Weeding results from roots being suppressed from absorbing additional oxygen by heavy, waterlogged, or poorly drained soil. Lack of oxygen causes the leaves to wilt, yellow, and decay.

In the soil, too much water can promote the growth of fungi. Wilting can be brought on by fungus-related disorders, according to research.

How to Prevent Wet Soil?

Dealing with moist soils can be intimidating for many homeowners. Finding out a plant’s precise water needs is difficult, especially if you don’t know anything about them.

Overwatering can result in nutrition loss, fungus or mold problems, root rotting, and other diseases, as we have already discussed above.

For the plant to grow as efficiently as possible, the soil must be kept moist enough. You’ll find some helpful advice in this section on how to avoid overwatering or soggy soil. Go on reading!

Watering Schedule

The frequency of watering is a crucial component of overall indoor plant care. Making a timetable is mostly done to prevent overwatering and maintain the soil’s equilibrium.

Although the frequency of watering varies depending on the plant’s type, size, needs for moisture, pot size, etc., generally speaking, experts advise watering indoor plants every 1-3 weeks.

Make sure to water your ferns and tropical plants from above. By doing so, you can guarantee that the compost is thoroughly soaked and prevent the issue of water not getting to the roots.

On the other hand, plants that dislike having their leaves or stems wet should be watered from below. For instance, some plants, like African violets, require bottom watering.

Make sure to frequently wet the foliage and roots of any Swiss cheese plants, orchids, or areca palms you may have. These plants use their leaves and aerial roots to absorb rainwater.

Additionally, it is recommended to soak air plants in distilled water for between 30 and 60 minutes each week if you have any. You can also use the misting approach, which calls for misting the plants two to three times per week.

Use a Moisture Meter

You can use a moisture meter to gauge the soil’s relative humidity. You can determine the soil’s level of moisture and dryness by using a high-quality product. In this manner, watering the potted plant would be simple and hassle-free.

On the market, a variety of brands and goods are offered. A reliable moisture meter typically has a 1 to 10 scale. The meter indicates that the soil is the dry when it reads 1.

The soil is also the wettest if the meter reads 10. A balanced soil is one with a moisture meter reading of 5 to 6 on the scale, which is ideal for your houseplant.

Utilizing the moisture meter is simple. To gauge the moisture at the roots, bury the probe in the ground. When removing the probe from the soil, take careful not to leave the meter in the soil for too long.

To ensure future proper operation of the item, clean it.

Insert a Stake Into the soil

To keep your indoor plant upright, you can use a stake. It is straightforward to utilize a stake in the ground for a single-stemmed plant.

For instance, blooming plants quickly develop stems, and you can use a single stake in the ground, like a bamboo rod.

Additionally, by sticking a stake into the ground, you may quickly remove it to check the soil’s moisture level.

For instance, if the stake is taken from the ground and the color is wet or damp, this is a good sign that the soil is sufficiently moist and does not require more watering.

To prevent overwatering, many homeowners also utilize self-watering stakes. When your plant needs moisture, it seeps into the soil and provides it.

Make sure to maintain the reservoir filled when utilizing such a stake. Two to three times per week, check the stake, and add more water as necessary.

Pot Drainage Holes

Although drainage is crucial to prevent problems like root rot and yellow leaves, all plants require water for optimum growth and development.

Without holes in the bottom, your pot won’t be able to release excess moisture or water, which will result in damp soil that could seriously harm your plant. Additionally, holes can be drilled into the sides of the plant container to aid with additional drainage. For further information, see our page on the drainage holes on the sides of plant pots.

To allow the extra water to drain, you must make some holes in the bottom of the pot. The plastic or wood containers are simple to pierce.

For instance, a nail can be used to make tiny holes. Experts advise drilling holes in the pots of at least 1.2 or 1.5 inches. The size of the container determines how many holes there are.

A Proper Soil Mix

The secret to preventing excess moisture in the pot and enabling your plant to grow optimally is a good soil mixture.

Make sure the soil mixture is airy, bright, and provides places for the roots of the plant to breathe. Your plant won’t survive if you don’t.

Although the components of soil mixes differ from plant to plant, an ideal soil mix typically contains organic materials like bark, compost, and peat moss.

To preserve moisture, it also has vermiculite or perlite. To make the soil the appropriate proportion, you should also add sand, limestone, and nutrients.

For a soil mix, experts advise utilizing a ratio of 35% peat moss, 35% perlite or vermiculite, and 30% compost. All of these natural substances guard against waterlogging in potted plants.

The soil mixture also keeps the right amount of moisture in place to support healthy plant growth.

Final Words

Until you are cultivating aquatic plants, overwatering or moist soil will hurt your indoor plants. The roots, stems, and leaves of plants can be harmed by wet soil, which also fosters the growth of fungus and mold.

In moist soil, microbes vying for oxygen, nitrogen, and other nutrients can deplete your plant’s mineral stores.

All of this will rot the roots, turn the leaves yellow or brown, spread infections, and ultimately kill your plant. You may keep soil in good condition and avoid overwatering by using the above-mentioned suggestions and strategies.


How long should indoor soil stay wet?

For how long should moist potting soil remain? 2 to 4 hours after watering, the soil should still be moist.

How do I know if my soil is too dry?

Examine the soil’s topside. You can determine if the dirt on the surface of your pot is dry at a look. Since dry soil is nearly always lighter in color than moist soil, lighter brown soil implies surface dryness.

Should plant soil be moist or wet?

How wet should houseplant soil be?

The root zone should typically have 6 to 12 inches of moist soil (15-30 cm.). However, sandy soil drains quickly, so it should be watered to a depth of 2 to 4 inches when the soil is dry (5-10 cm.). Keep in mind that depending on the plant, water requirements can vary greatly.

Should plant soil be moist?

The right amount of moisture is essential for successful plant growth. Too much water is more harmful to most plants than not enough.