All plants need moisture to grow, but too much water can do more harm than good. If your plant’s soil remains wet and soggy for an extended period, the plant will suffer and eventually die. Drying out the soil quickly isn’t always easy, but there are several techniques you can use to dry your plant’s soil.
Why is wet soil bad for plants?
Under normal conditions, a plant’s soil contains air pockets that allow the roots easy access to oxygen. But when the soil has too much water, the water fills the pores in the soil, cutting off oxygen to the roots. Without oxygen, the roots cannot absorb nutrients or moisture from the soil. The roots become susceptible to several fungal diseases that lead to root rot. When root rot sets in, the roots become black and mushy and eventually die, killing the entire plant.
What causes wet soil?
Several issues can cause wet soil, from overwatering to poor drainage. Common reasons for wet or soggy soil include improper watering, heavy rainfalls, lack of proper drainage, poor soil, too large a plant pot, or lack of drainage holes. All have the same effect and cut off oxygen to the plant’s roots, often resulting in plant death if not corrected promptly.
- Overwatering: This occurs most frequently in houseplants or plants grown in containers. Failing to let the soil dry out between waterings can lead to soggy soil in pots and containers. Developing a watering routine that allows the soil to dry out before watering again is essential. As a rule, the soil should feel dry 1 to 2 inches below the surface before you water your plant again.
- Heavy Rainfall: Sometimes, outside containers or in-ground gardening areas experience wet, waterlogged soil due to heavy rains. The best way to avoid issues from heavy rains is to make sure containers and gardens have well-draining soil.
- Poor Drainage: Soil high in clay may have issues with adequate drainage. To prevent soggy soil in the garden, amend the soil with organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost to improve drainage. Likewise, soil in containers needs organic matter too. Garden loam or all-purpose potting soil is too dense for plants in containers. Mix equal parts potting mix, peat moss, and perlite to improve drainage in containers.
- Oversized Plant Pots or Containers: Plants’ roots need room to grow, but a large pot may hold more soil than your plant needs. Because the plant’s roots cannot use all the water in the soil, it may take a long time to dry out, leaving your plant sitting in soggy soil.
- Lack of Drainage Holes: Plant pots and containers need drainage holes so excess water can drain from the bottom of the pot. Without drainage holes, water may collect in the bottom of the pot and prevent the roots from getting the oxygen they need to thrive.
Top tips for drying wet soil in containers
If the soil in your plant’s container remains wet for too long, your plant will suffer. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to dry out the soil.
- Stop watering the plant until the soil dries.
- Remove any mulch from the top of the container. Mulch works to hold moisture in and will prevent the soil in your container from drying out.
- Check that there are adequate drainage holes in the bottom of the container and that they are not blocked with soil or roots. Clear any debris from the drainage holes or drill new ones if you suspect the container doesn’t have enough drainage.
- Improve air circulation and decrease the humidity level near your plants. If your plants are grouped closely together, move them further apart to allow air to flow around the plants and help to dry the soil. If the air is humid, try placing a small fan near the plants or use a dehumidifier to help remove moisture from the air and speed up the drying of the soil.
- Remove the plant and soil from the container and replace the soil with a well-draining potting mix. Houseplants and other small plants benefit from this method as it corrects the problem quickly.
- Move the plant pot or container to a sunny location if your plant is a sun-loving plant. The heat from the sun will speed up the drying of the soil. You can also use the wind to dry the soil but beware. Wind can damage sensitive plants, particularly if they have been grown in a sheltered location.
How to dry wet soil in your garden
Drying wet soil in the garden is more challenging than drying the soil in a container because you are at the mercy of the weather.
- Remove any mulch or black plastic from around your plants. Both work to hold in moisture. The soil will dry quicker if it is exposed to the air.
- Make a drainage ditch alongside the garden area and fill it with gravel to allow excess water from the garden to drain away.
- Erect a tarp over the area to prevent rain from falling on the gardening area. Be sure to roll back the tarp when the weather is dry to help speed the drying of the soil.
How long should it take to dry wet soil?
How long it takes soil to dry depends on many factors, such as the amount of soil, how saturated the soil is, the location, and other environmental conditions (like temperature and humidity levels).
Wet soil in containers may dry in a few days, while it may take a week or more for soil in the garden to dry out.
How to dry wet soil fast
Wet soil for containers can be dried quickly by spreading the soil out on a tarp in the sun. Other options include spreading the soil out on a tray (or another flat surface) inside the home and running a fan to speed drying.
How will I know if my plants need water?
As a rule, plants should be grown in soil that dries out slightly before watering them. The top 2 to 3 inches of the soil should feel dry to the touch. Signs that your plant needs watering include dry soil and wilting or drooping leaves.
How much water should I apply when watering plants?
Water your plants thoroughly to moisten the soil to the root level. For container-grown plants, water them until water runs freely through the bottom of the pot and then allow the soil to dry out slightly before watering them again. Potato plants should be watered deeply every few days when their tops are at full size.
Plants need water to flourish, but too much water in the soil can choke out oxygen to the roots leaving your plant struggling to survive. Most will dry out on their own if you stop watering the plant and provide it with good drainage. It is essential to practice good watering techniques in the future to prevent issues with soggy soil from returning.