When buying houseplants, some people go for plants with huge leaves or a climbing habit, but others prefer plants with tiny leaves and growth habits.
Peperomias are a great example of the latter, with numerous species having solid, patterned, or even variegated leaves.
But while these are generally forgiving plants, overwatering can do a lot of harm and even kill your peperomia plant.
How To Save Overwatered Peperomias?
The good news is peperomias can bounce back from overwatering if you catch it soon enough.
Here’s everything you need to know about diagnosing, treating, and preventing overwatering.
Signs Of Overwatering
Plants can tell you when they’re not feeling well, but their vocabulary is limited.
For this reason, you may need to use the process of elimination or check for multiple signs before diagnosing a problem.
For overwatering, look for the following symptoms:
- Fungal growth on the plant or soil
- Infestations by piercing insect pests (aphids, mealybugs, etc.)
- Moldy soil
- Mushy leaves
- Presence of fungus gnats (a sign of soil fungus)
- Soggy soil or puddles
When you see these symptoms, it’s important to treat the plant quickly.
Salvaging An Overwatered Peperomia
Let’s be clear, accidentally overwatering a peperomia once won’t hurt it as long as you let the soil dry out before watering again.
However, multiple overwatering can lead to root rot and other deadly threats.
The situation has already advanced when you start noticing signs of overwatering on the plant itself.
Follow these steps to save your plant:
Pruning And Uprooting
The first thing you need to do is remove any seriously damaged foliage.
Any leaves turning brown or black cannot be saved, although slightly yellowed leaves might still recover.
By removing the unsalvageable foliage, the plant will be able to reallocate some of its resources toward recovery.
Once you’re finished pruning, do the following:
- Gentle remove the plant from its container.
- Rinse away as much soil as possible.
- Examine the roots closely for any signs of root rot. Rotting roots will be dark brown or black, mushy, and may have a foul smell.
- If you discover a root rot, you will need to address it, but if not, you can proceed to the repotting phase.
Treating Root Rot
Here’s how to properly treat root rot:
- Discard the soil and pot you were using, as these are likely also infected.
- Grab a sharp, sterile knife and remove all of the infected roots one at a time.
- Make sure to sterilize your knife between each cut.
- Once all of the infected roots are gone, you will need to sterilize the remaining roots, as they may also be infected.
- You can use a fungicide, but bacteria can also cause root rot, so it’s better to use a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water.
- Soak the roots for 30 minutes.
Repotting And Aftercare
Regardless of whether you had to treat root rot, you should let the plant air dry for 2 to 3 days.
Give the plant a fresh pot with a new potting medium.
Before planting, add a little water, then do so again after planting.
The goal is not to deeply water the plant, but to help the soil settle and reduce transplant shock, so you don’t need to use a lot.
Avoid giving your peperomia any fertilizer for 1 to 2 months, so the roots have a chance to recover fully.
How To Avoid Overwatering A Peperomia?
One of the reasons people frequently overwater is because they use a set schedule and often feed using a set amount.
However, plants (like people) can get thirsty depending on several factors and don’t always need the same amount of water.
The aptly-named finger trick is all you need to know when it’s time to water, and you can use either the soak and dry method or the bottom method to ensure you never overwater or underwater your plant again.
Testing The Soil For Moisture
The finger method uses your own finger as an accurate testing tool.
Put your index finger beside a ruler. You’ll find that the average-sized adult hand will measure approximately 1″ inch from the fingertip to the first knuckle, between the first and second knuckle, and from the second knuckle to the finger’s base.
If you have smaller hands, you can easily check the appropriate distance using a ruler.
After a few watering sessions, you’ll be able to remember this distance without needing to check.
Stick your finger straight down in the soil and water if it’s dry 1″ inch down.
If you can’t feel the moisture due to nerve damage or some other issue, you can pull your finger out, and any damp soil will stick to your finger.
Alternatively, you can mark the distance on a wooden chopstick or popsicle stick.
Put the stick in vertically and let it sit for 20 minutes.
Any moisture present will have darkened the stick when you pull it out.
Using The Soak-And-Dry Method Of Watering
This is one of the best methods to water most plants, including peperomias.
The trick is to pour slowly so water is absorbed immediately by the soil.
If you start to water and the water doesn’t instantly vanish, just study your angle until it does.
Again, this will become second nature after only a couple of waterings.
Move around the plant, pouring slowly and evenly and ensuring you don’t get the plant itself wet.
You can tell it’s time to stop in two different ways.
The soil surface will no longer be able to absorb at the same rate you pour, indicating it’s saturated.
You may also see moisture beginning to seep from the drainage holes.
Using The Bottom Method Of Watering
Sometimes you can’t water a potted plant without getting the foliage wet because the plant’s too full.
Peperomias often overflow their container so you can use this method as a substitute for the soak-and-dry method.
This method requires you to fill a tray with water and sit the pot on the tray.
Make sure you move any low-hanging limbs, so they don’t end up in the watering tray.
Allow the pot to soak for 20 minutes, add more water to the tray if it goes dry, remove the pot, and put it back in its usual spot.
This method allows the soil to saturate by pulling water upwards, but it isn’t as useful for big or heavy plants.
Also, because the soil is drawing moisture upwards, you may need to use this method a little more often than the soak-and-dry method.