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How do you quickly dry an over-watered plant?

Posted by September_Jenkins none (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 15, 13 at 0:02

As I have so sorely learned through the years, my most common and effective method of "planticide" is over-watering... Yet I have managed it again, this time while repotting an already sad mini-violet.

Here are the specifics:

-She already looked about on death's door with 2 healthy but TINY new leaves and a few pale, droopy larger leaves (which I trimmed back from 4 to 2).

-She went from a larger pot to a smaller one (bottom-watering didn't seem to be reaching the upper soil/main roots anymore and top-watering didn't help). *See pic--Sharpie for size reference

-I drenched the fresh violet potting soil with very dilute violet fertilizer.

-I poked around in the soil with a toothpick trying to aerate it and I pressed a paper towel on the surface soil around the plant to absorb what it can.

-It's sitting under fluorescent lighting and the room temp is about 67*.


1. Did I do the "right" things with a) the toothpick aeration attempt and b) paper towel absorption (which I plan to periodically try again for the next few hours)?

2. What else can I do?

I really, really want to save this mini... I've had her awhile, very healthy before inexplicably slumping these past few months. I've grown attached. Please help! :/

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: How do you quickly dry an over-watered plant?

Question #3: Any idea what went wrong to begin with?

She was doing well in the larger pot for a good while, I was bottom-watering, nothing I can think of changed but she suddenly went limp. Experimenting with extra lighting, top-watering, fertilizer, and frequency of watering didn't seem to make any difference--this is over a period of several months.

RE: How do you quickly dry an over-watered plant?

She seemed to do well, then outgrow a smaller pot, then did very well in the larger one for awhile before slumping and paling. The roots reached somewhat throughout the larger pot but mainly a large clump that only went about halfway down. I trimmed the roots back and put her in this pot in-between sized from the two she formerly resided in. (The rootball is now close to the size of this pot but with some room left for growth. I know violets like to be rootbound but I'm not sure how much-esp for a mini.)

RE: How do you quickly dry an over-watered plant?

Hello Jenkins,

OK. There are several problems here. The first one is that your soil is to wait too dense. It looks like straight miracle Gro African violet soil or something like that. Even if it's labeled as African violet soil you will need to prepare it for your plant. I would mix the soil with an equal part of perlite.

The second thing I see as a problem is that you grow your African violet in too large a pot. The rule of thumb is that the pot should be 1/3 the diameter of the plant. So if you have a 9 inch violet, you should have a 3 inch pot. Now, you need to get that dense soil out of the root ball. In order not to disturb the roots (and plant) anymore than you have I would suggest that you soak the root ball in a big pot of water where you can gently separate the soil from the root mass. When you have done that you will have a considerably smaller root mass. I would then put the whole thing in a pot about 1/3 of the size of the one you have it in now.

You talked earlier are about repotting your African violet so that there was room to grow. African violets don't like room to grow. There are happiest when they're root bound. In the wild they grow in pockets of volcanic material in East Africa. They like to be confined and grow better and bloom better when they are.

Watering: I've never been a big fan of bottom watering, especially with African violets. I always water my African violets with room temperature water. And I water them from the top. I think the reason the water didn't get from the bottom to the top of the plant was because the soil was too dense. This more porous soil should work much better.

If you have any more questions please don't hesitate to ask. In case you're wondering I've been quite successfully growing African violets since 1979. I've made all of the mistakes you have and more before figuring it out, as it were.

RE: How do you quickly dry an over-watered plant?

Correct to above. I meant for you to put the plant in a pot 2/3 the size of the one you have it in now.


RE: How do you quickly dry an over-watered plant?

this one is a goner - leaves too limp and discolored. give it up.
you should've cut off the crown much sooner and put it in straight perlite, lightly moist and under dome (aka terrarium).

This post was edited by petrushka on Mon, Apr 15, 13 at 12:53

RE: How do you quickly dry an over-watered plant?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 15, 13 at 15:11

See the thread at link below, but click on this link first.


Good soils are very difficult to over-water. You actually have to work at it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dealing with water retention.

RE: How do you quickly dry an over-watered plant?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 15, 13 at 15:13

Oh - to quickly dry out an established plant, you shake it out of the pot and set the root mass on a stack of newspapers or a folded towel. The paper/towel acts as a wick & pulls the excess moisture from the pot - but you'll find other tips too, at the water retention thread.


RE: How do you quickly dry an over-watered plant?

Hi Jenkins,

In some ways Petrushka has a point. This plant is almost dead. It's gonna be awhile before you see any success and there is a chance that the plant will alternately die. This is really a matter of how badly do you want to save the plant. The question you need to ask yourself is whether this a plant has any emotional significance to it. If it's just a plant that you picked up at the grocery store and now it's not doing very well, I would be inclined to agree with Petrushka and suggest you throw it out. Then you can go to the store and get a nice African violet that you can enjoy right now. With the new plant I would be inclined to put it in a better soil though.

On the other hand I've seen plants like this one survive. But you will need to make the changes that I suggested very quickly for it to have any chance at all. Oh, and I forgot one thing. After you re-pot it, put the whole thing in a plastic bag for about three weeks. This will give the root system and plant a chance to recover from the manhandling that it has had and will get when you re-pot it. DO NOT put the bag in direct sunlight! You will cook the plant.

If you do buy a new plant and put the thing in better soil, I would suggest you do the following. Take the plant out of the pot and break off as much of the old soil as you can. Don't worry too much about losing some roots. Then make your soil as I have suggested above and re-pot your violet. Remember to use a pot 1/3 the diameter of the plant . Now the root system has been damaged by the soil change so you need to give it a chance to recover from that. Put the plant and pot in a plastic bag for 10 days. That will give the roots a chance to recover and multiply. When removing the bag do so over a period of three days. First day open the bag a little bit. The second day open it a little bit more and you can take it out of the bag on the third day. Many people don't bother with this step but the plant will like it.


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