Signs of Overwatered Fern

Last Updated on August 9, 2022 by Stephanie

Ferns are known for being difficult to cultivate, but in reality, theyre very easy to grow if you provide them the conditions that they need.

One of the main reason why people have issues in their indoor plants is because they are overwatering them.

If a fern is overwatered, the leaves become yellow and start to die. It usually starts in those fronds that are lower. Then the tips of the leaves begin to change color, and the soil will release an odor of swampiness. The first step to do in order to save your fern that has been overwatered is to repot it into a more suitable soil.

Signs of an underwatered or overwatered Ferns

From the table of comparisons above It is easy to conclude that some aspects are similar enough that it is possible to mix up underwatering and overwatering.

In reality it is the texture that will help you determine what is the root of the issue.

A fern that has been submerged is dry and hard while the fern that has been overwatered has an incredibly squishy feeling to it.

Another determining factor is the soil. In ferns that have been overwatered the soil is clearly damp to the feel. This is not the case for a plant that is underwater.

Signs of Overwatered Ferns

Most of the time the tragic death of ferns is usually a result from excessive watering. Like most homeowners when I first began cultivating indoor ferns, my first reaction to any sign of trouble was to grab the watering container.

They are native to tropical forests, where they thrive in a medium that is damp, but not too wet. However, the growing medium is never dry completely.

fern leaf up close

Soft Mushy or Squishy Leaves

While they look delicate plants, the majority of ferns grown indoors have very firm, leathery leaves.

When the leaves on your fern start to become soft and flaccid it is likely that excessive watering is most likely the reason for this issue. There are also dark, nearly bruised spots around these areas of squidgy.

Rotting Roots and Smelly Soil

If you dont pay attention to the initial signs, it wont be long before you begin to detect a distinct smell of swamp emanating from the potting soil where your fern grows.

If you feel the ground, you will feel damp and cold. If you squeeze it gently using the tips of your fingers, its likely to notice that water is beginning to build up at the point of pressure.

There is also the accumulation of water in the saucer that is at the bottom of the pot. The reason youre seeing this is usually a sign of root rot, an issue that could become fatal to your fern.

Leaves that are drooping

The leaves that are drooping is an indication the plant may be not happy. The issue is that this symptom can be traced to a variety of reasons, so youll need to dig deeper to ensure that youre seeing indications of excessive watering and not a different problem.

Another common reason for leaves falling down is the effect of water and the patient will need to check for additional signs to confirm the diagnosis.

When you see the leaves beginning to drop Feel the soil and the feel of the leaves themselves.

If the drooping is caused by excessive watering, the leaves will feel limp and soggy, and the soil is likely to become damp.

Root Rot Disease

Healthy roots have a texture that is soft and for ferns, its almost hard and woody. While the outside of the root is likely to be dark, a simple cut using a pair of scissors will reveal white material.

If roots begin to rot and become spongy, they show a noticeable alteration in the texture. They begin to get soggy and develop a dark brown color.

It is also noticeable that the scent that emanated from the soil is more evident as root structures are exposed.

This is a serious issue that has to be dealt with immediately. Well be looking at this in more detail during the next section.

Leaves Falling Off

If the leaves on falling off your plant, it is because the plant has gone into crisis mode. off, its because your plant has gone to crisis and shed excess material in an attempt to stay alive.

There are many other reasons why your fern could drop leaves, however when it is the result of excessive watering the drop of leaves will be followed by yellowing and the watery texture that weve already discussed.

Leaves Turning Yellow

Even healthy plants can shed a few leaves over the course of a growth season. This is an element in the process that is natural to renewal.

If you observe this yellowing on a variety of leaves simultaneously You should be aware of it as it could be an early sign the plant may be in trouble.

If the reason for the yellowing is excessive watering the leaves that have yellowed are soft and mushy. Often, youll notice that they are able to pull off the stem of the plant quickly.

How to Revive an Overwatered Fern

After youve analyzed all the signs and are confident that they are caused by overwatering It is now time to tackle the issue and create a perfect environment that will allow your plant to recover its energy.

The next step is to determine how dire your situation really is. It is likely that you encountered this issue early and simply by permitting your soil time to dry out little and following a proper irrigation schedule the fern will bounce back into health.

There are a few things that may seem like they are obvious, but you must verify.

First, make sure there is a sufficient drainage hole at the bottom of the container that your fern grows in. It must be big enough to poke the tip of your finger through.

Then, ensure that the water can be drained easily and swiftly. Do not leave your plant in a pot of water because this can stop more water from the plants potting mix from being able to drain away.

What To Do If Your Fern’s Roots Are Rotting?

If youre not able to identify the issue in time and youre not able to fix it, youll have to take more decisive steps.

Remove the plant with care from the container that the plant was growing inside, and take a close look at the root ball.

To accomplish this, you need to peel off all of the potting soil that is damp as you can. If you find roots that are spongy and black, youll have to remove the soil that has been damaged with a sterilized pair cutters or secateurs.

The black pieces are no longer useful and have no use. After youve cut them back to a healthy and clean roots, place your fern on a piece of newspaper for 24 hours so it will dry faster. In this point, you will transplant the plant.

Repotting Overwatered Ferns

Select a pot that is slightly bigger than the other root ball, and is able to drain well.

Repot the plant with the potting mix which has lots of organic matter. Remove the old potting mix as well as any root material youve cut off.

If youve used a specific potting material It will most likely be slightly damp, and you should not water the plant right away after you have the potting. Instead, let your plant to settle for a few days before implementing a watering regimen.

How Often to Water Ferns

It is essential to ensure that the issue is not allowed to return and using the right watering regimen is the best way to stop this from occurring.

Keep in mind that these plants tend to thrive in tropical forests, so you must replicate the conditions in those forests.

They thrive in a material that is slightly damp, but never dry out completely. This is the reason for those conditions that are the most difficult. The trick is to be able to feel the soil that you plant every day. When you poke your finger about an inch deep into the soil, you can detect if there is remaining dampness or not.

Ideally, youre looking for a scenario where the soil is slightly damp, but it never gets dry. You are not likely to achieve that by checking the soil on a regular basis.

Do not choose a timetable because plants dry out in different rates based on factors like humidity, the size of the plant, and the temperature of the air. The soils feel is the method to determine the time to water.

For ferns, as soon you notice that the soil is beginning to dry, you must to water them.

The most effective method to accomplish this is to place the plant on a bench, and apply water on top of the potting soil until it starts to flow freely out of the drainage holes at the base of the container.

After that, drain out the excess water, and the other liquid that might be able to drain away afterward.

When all the water has stopped being drained from the bottom in the container, it is possible to restore it to its original place. It is recommended to water your fern with water that is the temperature of room and has not been treated.

In other words, you can use captured rainwater or distilled water is better than municipal water that contains chlorine. Make sure that those fern leaves become wet while watering.

Maintaining Your Fern’s Peak Condition Following Overwatering

These are a few aspects that are important when it comes to the maintenance of the fern. If you keep these factors in mind, youre less likely to experience issues with overwatering.

  • Light conditions: ferns like bright but indirect light. Windowsills facing east or north are the best. They can quickly degrade when exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Humidity The ferns require a high amount of humidity that is usually not present in our homes, particularly when we are using heating in the winter months when temperatures are colder. It is possible to increase the humidity by grouping plants using pebbles filled with water, or misting using the squeeze bottle. It is also possible to go for high-tech and purchase an air humidifier for your plants.
  • Drafts: Ferns dont like constant temperature fluctuations and, in addition to choosing a place that has enough light to meet their requirements, you must be aware of drafts coming from windows or doors nearby.
  • Type of soil: Since you require the soil to remain moist it is recommended to make use of a retentive potting mix. Although these are great at keeping moisture in, they can be prone to becoming waterlogged, and you should make sure you dont overwater them.

Avoiding Overwatering Problems (recap):

  • Overwatering is the most frequent issue with ferns, and also the most hazardous.
  • Check your soil on a regular basis to make sure it is moist but not sloppy.
  • Dont let the soil dry completely.
  • Choose a routine for watering instead of sticking according to a timetable.
  • A regular inspection of your fern can help you spot issues before they escalate to dangerous levels.
  • If you think that overwatering could be damaging your plant, stop watering right away and observe whether it begins to heal.
  • If the recovery process is not as fast, take your fern out of its container and look at the roots.
  • Make the pot a retentive mixing mix, and ensure that the container has adequate drainage capacity.
  • Place your fern in a light to low area in a location in which it wont be subject to the drafts.

Despite their reputation as difficult to keep indoors, ferns can be relatively tolerant if they meet the requirements and ensure they are kept moist but not too wet or too dry.



Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)