Overwatering a Peace Lily (Signs, Causes and Solutions)

Last Updated: March 13, 2023

Peace Lilies are loved for their luscious green leaves and unique white flowers. But it’s not just their appearance that makes them a great houseplant as they are pretty hardy and adaptable too.

However, when it comes to watering, if you have overwatered your Peace Lily it can cause some serious and irreversible issues. In this article, we will go through what to look out for to suggest you may have overwatered your Peace Lily, different causes of an overwatered Peace Lily and how you can treat the issues to bring your plant back to full health. 

Symptoms of an overwatered Peace Lily

Yellow leaves

One of the most common ways to spot that your plant is suffering from overwatering and waterlogged soil is yellow leaves. These will often look quite sickly and feel quite soft to touch. The yellowing can start off as small spots before gradually developing into larger patches. 

Yellow leaves are also a common sign of natural ageing so how do you tell the difference? Well, when a plant naturally sheds a leaf the entire leaf will turn quite a pale yellow. This tends to happen to the lower leaves, one at a time. With overwatering, this can impact leaves across the plant and will often start showing up on several different leaves, rather than just one at a time.

Drooping leaves

Alongside yellow patches forming on the leaves, an overwatered Peace Lily will start to droop down quite a bit. It’s worth noting though that this on its own is what they plant does when it is thirsty, so always check the soil before changing anything about how you water your plant. 

The reason why drooping leaves are a sign of both an underwatered and an overwatered Peace Lily is that once the roots start to rot, they are unable to take up any moisture, which creates a thirsty plant.

Root rot

When the soil becomes waterlogged as a result of overwatering, the roots of your Peace Lily will begin to rot. We recommend inspecting the root system if you’re not sure what is going on because rotten roots will appear very dark in colour and will be soft and mushy to touch. They will also likely smell pretty bad which is another way you can diagnose overwatering. Underwatered roots on the other hand will be crispy to touch and light in colour.

We’ve written an entire guide on how to diagnose, treat and prevent root rot if you want to learn more.

Wilting leaves

If your Peace Lily has begun to wilt, then this suggests the issue is quite advanced. Wilting is a lot more pronounced than drooping and often means the entire leaf has become limp and shrivelled up. Don’t give up on your Peace Lily too quickly though as they can be quite dramatic when it comes to drooping and wilting and can bounce back pretty quickly once given what they need. 

Mold growing on the soil

You might also spot mold or fungal growth on the top of the soil which can also be a sign that you are overwatering your plant. Mold and fungal growth thrives in damp and dark conditions so keep a look out. This will often appear as white fuzzy mold on the top of the soil but you may also see some pink, white or orange fungal growth too. This isn’t often damaging to your plant’s health in the short term but something that you need to remove as soon as you spot it.

Causes of an overwatered Peace Lily

Watering too frequently

If you are watering your Peace Lily so often that there isn’t enough time for the potting mix to dry out, then this will lead to root rot and other consequences of overwatering. Whilst Peace Lilies don’t like super dry soil, they do need it to mostly dry out between waterings. 

Make sure that you are monitoring and checking the moisture levels in the soil before watering. We recommend against using strict watering schedules because they don’t take into account environmental changes such as warmth and light levels that impact how quickly the soil dries out. 

You want to be using either a moisture meter to monitor soil moisture or the chopstick method to know when to water your Peace Lily and avoid overwatering.

Watering too deeply

It might not be the frequency at which you are watering your Peace Lily that is the issue, but how much water you are giving it each time. The best way to avoid watering too deeply is to remove any water from the saucer around 15 minutes after watering. 

This allows your Peace Lily to absorb as much water as it needs, but avoids it sitting in a puddle of water for the next few days. It also helps to prevent the water from stagnating which can often begin to smell pretty bad. So it’s also to your benefit to remove excess water!

Drainage issues can lead to an overwatered Peace Lily

You might be watering your Peace Lily the right amount at the right intervals, but poor drainage in the pot can still lead to an overwatered plant. The first thing to check here is that your pot has drainage holes as without these, excess water can’t escape out of the pot and will just sit around the roots. 

Secondly, you need to check that the drainage holes aren’t blocked and that water can freely flow out of them. 

To increase drainage, adding perlite to the soil is always a good idea and you may want to switch over to terracotta pots if your Peace Lily is in a plastic one. Terracotta pots are permeable which means excess water can escape out of the side and evaporate off. Plastic pots, however, are not permeable so every drop of water will stay in the soil.

Using a pot that is too big for your plant

One often forgotten cause of an overwatered Peace Lily is when your plant is in a pot that is way too big. The reason this is damaging is that the soil vs root ratio is off and the soil will absorb a lot more water than when you’re using a smaller pot. This means the soil takes a lot longer to dry out, increasing the risk of root rot. There are also other issues attached to using a large pot, including a lack of root stability.

How to treat an overwatered Peace Lily

  1. Check how much damage has been done

    The first thing we would do is remove your Peace Lily from its pot to be able to inspect the roots and check the soil moisture. This will help you assess what needs to be done and how extreme you need to be with your measures

  2. Trim off any rotten roots 

    If your plant is suffering from root rot, then we recommend trimming away any rotten roots. Rotten roots appear dark brown or black in colour and will be soft to touch. These roots will not return to normal health so you’ll need to trim them away. By removing them, it allows your plant to focus on growing new healthy roots, rather than wasting its energy trying to revive its dying ones.

  3. Replace waterlogged soil 

    If the soil is still waterlogged or soggy then replace it straight away. Don’t wait for it to naturally dry out as this simply risks more damage being done. You want to be very careful when removing the old potting mix from around the roots to ensure that you don’t damage it further.

How to prevent overwatering your Peace Lily

Now that you’ve trimmed off any rotten roots and replaced any waterlogged potting mix, it’s time to ensure that you’re able to treat the issue long-term and prevent it from happening again.

Adjust your watering schedule

You need to cut back either how frequently you are watering your Peace Lily or how deeply. Adjusting one of these factors will help give the soil enough time to properly dry out between waterings. 

Using a moisture meter will be a real help here as you’ll be able to know exactly how much moisture is in the soil. This will help you assess when and how much to water. 

There are other methods to help you monitor soil moisture (though slightly less reliable). These include the chopstick method and lifting your plant. Note that the lifting method is only really a good idea with small and medium houseplants as you don’t want to hurt your back!

Ensure good drainage

You need to keep an eye on the drainage levels over the next few weeks and months to ensure that the drainage holes aren’t getting blocked and that any excess water can flow out from the pot into a saucer. This will prevent the roots from sitting in pools of water, causing them to rot. 

Downsize your Peace Lily’s pot

Whenever you repot your Peace Lily, you should only be increasing the pot size by a couple of inches. Whilst it can be tempting to upgrade to a much larger pot so that you don’t have to repot for a while, this can be damaging. Peace Lilies don’t have a large and robust root system like a lot of other houseplants so don’t need a really large pot to grow in. 

We recommend taking your Peace Lily out of its pot briefly to see how the soil-to-root ratio feels. If there is an abundance of soil then you might want to think about repotting your plant to a smaller pot. This reduces the water intake and time it takes for it to dry out which significantly reduces the risk of root rot and overwatering your Peace Lily.

Frequently Asked Questions

We hope that our guide to diagnosing, reviving and treating your overwatered Peace Lily has been helpful. Overwatering is one of the biggest killers of houseplants because often it’s too late once the issues start showing up on the leaves. A lot happens beneath the soil first which is why monitoring the soil moisture is so vital to preventing an overwatered Peace Lily (or any other houseplant for that matter). 

Our biggest tip when it comes to avoiding overwatering your Peace Lily is to not stick to a rigid watering schedule. There are so many varying factors that can change how quickly the soil dries out. For example, if temperatures drop for a few days, the soil will stay a lot more moist than if you get a spell of warm weather. Because these factors fluctuate so much, you need to stay quite flexible in how much and how often you water your plants. 

To learn more about how to care for your plant, check out our Peace Lily care guide. 

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