Home » Overwatered fern – [Best watering tips]

Overwatered fern – [Best watering tips]

Overwatered fern - Tips for watering

Ferns are excellent plants that you can grow anywhere with good shade and humidity. There are many species of ferns, and each one has particular characteristics, in any case all are characterized by having beautiful and showy leaves. Also, regardless of the species, you have to be very careful with watering. Although they like humid environments, too much water can harm these plants. For this reason, in this post we will analyze everything related to overwatered fern, and the best tips to water them correctly.


Since a plant grown outdoors is not exposed to the same conditions as a pot grown indoors, we will discuss both situations separately. In addition, in order not to lengthen the post too much, we will not study the irrigation for each variety of fern. We will carry out a generalized analysis that includes most of the varieties, this is because the irrigation requirements are similar in all of them.

Curious facts: when it comes to analyzing ferns, there are many facts that are more than curious. For this reason, for this occasion I have selected two:
  • As I just told you, there are many species of ferns. So many that to date more than 10,000 different species of ferns have been recognized.
  • Ferns are one of the oldest plants in the world. Fossils of these plants have been found dating back approximately 360 million years.

1. What does an overwatered fern look like


Plants need water, that is more than known, but each type of plant needs it to some extent. When ferns are exposed to more water than they need for a long time, they begin to damage. But how can you know that your fern is suffering from excess water? That is precisely what we will see in this section.

There are many symptoms that will let you know that you are overwatering your ferns. Among them we can list the following:

  • First you should notice that the soil where the fern is planted is flooded. It will take several days of good sunshine for the soil to dry out. In some cases, when several days of overwatering have passed, the soil may smell rotten or boggy.
  • One of the most common symptoms that you will notice on the leaves is that they will begin to be a very light green color. Then they will start to turn yellow.
  • After taking a yellowish color you will notice that the leaves will begin to wither.
  • Something very important is the texture of the leaves. When overwatered, the fern leaves begin to have a smooth texture.
  • You will see how little by little the leaves are falling.
  • As the problem progresses, the tips of the leaves may turn brown. If you get to this point, you almost certainly have already developed root fungus.
  • Ferns that are overwatered grow very slowly.
  • If the problem is very advanced, fungi can be found developing in various places on the plant and at the base of the soil.

1.1 Difference between underwatered and overwatered Ferns


If you have ever seen a fern with a lack of water, you will have noticed that several symptoms are similar to those of excess water. Especially the yellowish or brown leaves and their wilting. So how will you know if your fern has too much or too little water? It’s very simple.

There are two factors that will make you answer the question above.

The first thing you should do is observe the soil, if you see it dry it is more than likely that the problem is the lack of irrigation. And obviously, if the ground is very muddy, the problem is too much water.

The second and not least important point to take into account is the texture of the leaves. When a fern lacks water, you will notice that the texture of the leaves is crisp. Whereas when there is excess water, the texture is very smooth.

Advice:If you are reading this post, it is because you have ferns at home. So it is very likely that this post about asparagus fern propagation. will be useful to you.

2. Causes of overwatering in ferns


While the most common reason for overwatering is when we apply too much water, there are other factors that can help cause this problem. Let’s quickly see what those factors are:

2.1 Amount of water applied

The first, as we have already said, is to apply water in quantities greater than necessary. When you water you should not cause waterlogging. It is preferable to increase the frequency of irrigation but to apply few amounts of water.

2.2 Type of soil used

The second point that can cause an excess of irrigation is to use a soil that has little capacity to drain the water. The soil you use on your ferns should have a mix that allows for quick drainage. For this, the soil mix must contain coarse sand, perlite or any material that allows good drainage.

2.3 Pot Features

While the amount of water applied and the type of soil are the most important factors, the pot is also a key factor. You need to consider the material and size when selecting the planter.

A very large pot contains a lot of soil. This large amount of soil will absorb a lot of water and hold it for a long time. If you transplant your ferns and take them to a larger pot, you should change the frequency and / or amount of water you apply. If you keep watering with the same amount of water and with the same frequency you are watering excessively.

On the other hand is the material. Some materials like terra cotta drain better as they allow moisture to escape through evaporation. Other materials such as glass or plastic do not let water escape by evaporation. Therefore, you must be more careful with these materials to avoid overwatering.

The last factor to consider with pots is holes. Make sure the pot has a good number of holes and that they are working properly.

2.4 Climatic characteristics

Applied water, type of soil, characteristics of the pot, we only need to talk about the climatic factor. During spring and summer it should be watered with a certain frequency, while in autumn and winter this frequency should decrease. If you continue to water the same in winter as in summer you will be watering your fern excessively.

Another climatic factor is air currents. When more air circulates in the room, evaporation will be greater, so you will need to water more. If you move a pot from the outside to the inside of your house you should water less. If you keep watering the same, you risk overwatering.

Humidity is also a very important factor. In seasons of high humidity, the evaporation of the water is low and vice versa when the humidity is low. If you always water the same without taking this detail into account, it is possible that you are applying water in excess.

3. How to fix overwatered fern


Knowing how to solve the problems that cause excessive watering in ferns depends on a couple of factors. First of all it is important to take the problem in time, the longer your fern is exposed to this problem, the more difficult it will be to solve it. On the other hand, the methods to solve the problem will depend on whether you have your fern indoors in a pot or if it is planted outdoors.

To better discuss how to fix overwatered ferns, we’ll look at indoor and outdoor ferns separately. This will allow us to see each case separately in greater detail.

3.1 Outdoor fern

Although not as likely, overwatering ferns planted outdoors is possible, especially when the soil in which they are planted has poor drainage capacity. If you plant your helcho in sandy soil, it is very difficult that you normally notice excessive watering outdoors.

Let’s see how to solve two very different cases. One where your fern hasn’t been exposed to excess water for a long time, so you only developed mild symptoms. The second case is more complex to solve and is when there may be root rot.

3.1.1 Fern with slight signs of overwater

If you notice any symptoms of excess water in your fern, the first thing to do is assess the severity of the problem. If you only notice that some leaves have turned somewhat yellow and the soil is very wet, you may have taken the problem in time. In other words, no root fungus has occurred.

Although the plant is suffering some stress from overwatering, it is something that we can easily solve. It will be enough to stop watering for several days. You should not water until the first few inches of soil (3 to 4 cm) are completely dry.

If you are carrying out a fertilization plan, it will be better to stop fertilizing until the plant recovers. It is not good to apply nutrients when the plant is exposed to stress caused by having too much moisture in the soil. Pruning off the yellowing foliage a bit can help the plant recover.

If after several days without watering, and with the soil very dry, you see that the symptoms get worse, the problem may be more serious than we thought. If so, it is likely that we did not take the problem in time and we already have rot in the roots of the fern. If so, the next section will be helpful.

3.1.2 Fern with suspected root rot

Root rot is not very common in ferns planted outdoors. The soil is likely too clayey and won’t allow water to run off. If your fern is large enough, we will proceed to remove a part of the fern from the ground to evaluate its roots. If the fern is small, we will remove the entire plant.

The roots should be light in color and almost woody in texture. If you find very dark, almost black roots with a fairly smooth texture, then these roots are rotten. You need to take a disinfected scissors or knife and remove all these unhealthy looking roots.

Once you’ve cut off all the bad roots, you can place the plant on newspaper or drying paper to allow the roots to dry completely. Before transplanting, it is advisable to prepare a soil mixture with a good proportion of aggregates such as sand, perlite, pumice stone or any material that allows good drainage. Replace the original soil in a depth not less than 50 cm.

With your fern already transplanted you can proceed to prune the damaged foliage. If your fern responds well to this treatment, you will see that in a couple of weeks it will begin to generate new shoots. Try not to over water, only do it when the first few inches are completely dry. If you want to give a boost to development, once you notice that the plant begins to recover, you can apply a little fertilizer.

Advice:Do you have a gardenia at home? If so, it will be more than useful to read this post to know how to act before a problem of excessive watering in gardenias.

3.2 Indoor fern

Overwatering ferns is something that occurs more frequently when planted in pots. Let’s see how to fix it. As in the previous section, we will analyze two cases, slight signs of excessive watering and when the symptoms are such that it is probable that there is root rot.

3.1.1 Fern with slight signs of overwater

When you notice the first symptoms that your fern may be suffering from excess water, you should act in a similar way as you would if the plant were outdoors. The first and most important step to take is to stop watering. The good thing is that having the plant in a pot will allow us some resources so that the soil drying is more efficient. Resources impossible to carry out in outdoor ferns.

  • Take the plant to a place with greater solar exposure. This will allow faster drying of the floor.
  • If possible, place your fern in a place where there is good air circulation. Therefore, the evaporation of the water will accelerate.
  • You can try to remove the root ball from inside the pot. If the number of roots is sufficient, it is very likely that the root ball will come out completely complete. With the root ball out of the pot, place it on absorbent paper and leave it until it dries completely.

As with outdoor ferns, it is best to suspend any fertilization plan until the plant recovers. Also, cutting back damaged foliage can aid in faster recovery.

Do not water again until the root ball is almost completely dry. Then apply not very abundant waterings and make sure that the pot is adequate and has good holes. It is not bad to remember that if the soil does not have good drainage it will be better to replace it.

3.1.2 Fern with suspected root rot

When you suspect that the excess water problem has already caused root rot in your fern, remove the plant from the pot immediately. A quick inspection of the root will allow you to recognize the problem. As we mentioned earlier, dark roots with a smooth texture and a rotten smell are the symptoms of this problem.

Proceed by cutting off all the bad roots. It also totally changes the soil in the pot. Also take the opportunity to disinfect the pot. We do not want remains of fungus in it and that can cause a new appearance of fungus.

With all the bad roots removed, you can let the fern rest on a newspaper to dry, this will remove moisture more quickly. Then you can proceed to transplanting the plant. Remember to use a soil mix that drains very well and won’t overwater again. Also check that the potholes are sufficient to drain the water.

When you notice that the plant begins to react and generate new shoots, you can apply a fertilizer to give the plant a boost. Before that, it is better to stop any fertilization plan. Again I remind you that it is good that you remove the foliage that is in bad condition.

4. Tips for watering fern


We already talked about all the possible causes and solutions for an overwatered fern. But the best way to fix these types of problems is to know how to prevent them from occurring. And to avoid this we must know how, how often to water a fern. Before closing this post we will analyze these three points.

4.1 How often water fern

When it comes to the frequency of watering, people generally want us to tell them how many days should pass between each watering. But if I tell you something like that he waters every 3 days in summer and every 7 days in winter, I’m sure I’m lying to you. There is no exact number of days to wait to water. Many factors such as humidity, temperature, air currents, the size of the pot, the size of the fern, among others, will make that number of days vary.

For this reason, I cannot tell you exactly the interval. But what I can do is give you some tips so that you know how to recognize when your fern needs water. These plants are tropical, so they like to always have the soil with some humidity, but not with puddles.

Check your fern’s soil condition daily or every other day. When you see that the first centimeter of soil is completely dry, and below this centimeter the soil has some moisture, it is time to water. The secret to maintaining a correct watering frequency is to regularly check the soil.

4.2 How to water fern

To water your fern, it is best to start by removing the pot from the place where it is located. Place it in a place where there is no problem for the ground to get wet.

Then apply water slowly, do it until you see that the water begins to come out of the holes in the pot. Leave the pot for a few minutes until the excess water has completely drained. Once that happens, you can take the pot back to its place of origin. Be careful not to wet the foliage when watering.

As with most plants, it is advisable to use water without chlorine to water them. For this you can buy distilled water. Or a cheaper and more natural solution is to have containers to collect rainwater.

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