How to Save Overwatered Peperomia (Step by Step)

An overwatered peperomia is something I’ve learned to try to avoid at all costs.

In my early gardening days, I lost a few peperomia believing they needed to be watered like other houseplants.

That’s never a good idea.

These plants don’t need as much water.

They store water in their thick leaves and have small, delicate root systems. Therefore, be very careful not to give them too much water too often.

An overwatered peperomia will have wet, mucky soil. You’ll see them develop yellow, droopy leaves while their stems get soft and mushy.

To save an overwatered peperomia, drain the excess moisture and dry the soil. You can aerate the soil or take the plant out of the soil to allow it to dry faster.

Signs of an Overwatered Peperomia

One of the most important things when dealing with an overwatered peperomia is to know the signs and symptoms.

This will let you identify and diagnose the problem.

In doing so, you’ll be able to confirm that it is in fact overwatering that’s causing all the issues.

From there, you can now fix the problem.

Below are the most common signs of an overwatered peperomia plant to look out for.

 

Wet, Soggy Soil

One of the best ways to check for peperomia overwatering is to feel the soil.

Wet, mucky and soggy soil is a very good indicator of this.

This is especially true if it has been at least a few days since you last watered the plant.

If the soil still feels wet, then something’s up. And it warrants further investigation to your speculation that the plant is overwatered.

 

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves are one of the most common signs of overwatering.

That said, there are several reason for a peperomia plant to develop yellow leaves. So, while yellowing is a common sign of too much water, you need to confirm it with other symptoms.

Peperomia leaves turn yellow from overwatering because the roots get overwhelmed with moisture.

When this happens, the roots are deprived of oxygen.

This prevents them from functioning at 100%. As a result, the are not able to absorb as much moisture and nutrients as they usually do.

This results in yellowing leaves.

If the overwatering persists, the roots can suffocate to death and rot.

This worsens the problem and causes widespread yellowing.

 

Limp and Droopy Leaves

Limp and droopy leaves are usually among the first signs of an overwatered peperomia you’ll notice.

You’ll probably see it happen before the yellow leaves or sometimes notice them occur around the same time.

If you’re able to spot this early, that’s a good thing since you may be able to let the plant dry out before the overwatering gets more serious.

 

Brown Spots on Leaves

Brown spots on peperomia leaves are a sign of disease. And this is usually caused by excess moisture.

Too much moisture prevents your plant from getting enough oxygen. The excess moisture also makes the environment conducive for microorganisms to develop.

As a result, you’ll start seeing brown spots appear on leaves.

Another possibility is edema.

Edema is basically water bloating.

In this case, you’ll see the leaves store more water than they can.

As a result, the edema or bloating look like there are brown spots appearing.

If there is too much water, in the leaves, the membranes can eventually burst as they cannot stretch enough to accommodate the excess moisture.

 

Root Rot

Root rot is the a very serious result of overwatering. At this point, the plant has either been overwatered on a consistent basis or the roots have been left to drown in too much water for very long periods of time.

This causes the roots to die due to lack of oxygen.

Why?

Roots need oxygen as much as they need water to stay healthy. And there is enough oxygen in the air pockets between soil particles to keep them healthy.

This is why you do not want to use compacted soil.

Similarly, overwatering will fill all these gaps with water. In doing so, the water pushes out all the air from the gaps.

As a result, the roots drown in water and are deprived of air.

If this lasts for too long, the roots eventually die from suffocation. Then they will rot.

 

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How to Save an Overwatered Peperomia

Saving and reviving an overwatered peperomia is the most important thing that should be on any plant owner’s mind the moment they suspect the issue.

That’s because it is something that can be fatal for this plant.

Peperomia are more susceptible to overwatering that most houseplants.

Their small size, tiny and delicate root system also makes it easy for excess moisture to overwhelm the plant.

As such, once you confirm overwatering is the problem, it is important to take proper action.

 

Assess How Overwatered the Plant is

Once you’ve made sure that overwatering is the problem, the next step is to assess how bad the waterlogging or overwatering is.

The worse shape the plant is in and the more symptoms you see the more serious it will be.

I also like to check the soil surface and lift the pot.

If you feel any excess moisture, like pooling on the surface of the soil or water moving in the pot, pour it out.

Gently tip the plant over to its side while holding the peperomia in place to allow any excess liquid to drain out.

 

Unpot the Plant If Needed

If the soil feels wet and you’re not sure how bad the damage is, unpot the plant then check the roots.

This is the best way I’ve found to quickly figure out how bad the damage to the root system is.

If there is no root rot, you can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

This means you’ve dodged a bullet. And fixing the problem will be much easier.

The goal here is to drain the pot of excess moisture.

Then let the soil dry.

When drying the soil, you can aerate the soil by poking holes into the soil to let air enter. This will help speed up the soil drying process.

Another option is to remove the peperomia from the soil and let it dry on newspapers. Then after several hours, repot the dry plant into fresh, dry soil.

Keep the plant in bright, indirect light with good ventilation to speed up the drying process as well.

If there is root rot present, then you’ll need to take more aggressive measures to save your overwatered peperomia.

For this follow the steps below.

 

Prune Affected Leaves

Whether you have an overwatered peperomia with or without root rot, you’ll want to remove the damage leaves and stems.

These brown, yellow, wilted, drooping leaves will not recover. Nor with they turn green again.

In the meantime, they are using up the plant’s energy and resources. That’s because your peperomia is still trying to help and heal them.

By pruning them or removing them, you allow your plant to redirect all its energy to recovering from root rot or overwatering.

It also allows it to focus on the healthy leaves and stems to maintain them.

 

Remove All the Soil You Can from the Root System

The next step is to remove all the excess soil from the roots.

Once you take the plant out of its pot, there will be quite a bit of soil sticking to the roots. Some are stubborn so you’ll need to carefully take them off.

I prefer to use water.

You can soak the roots in a sink or wash off the soil using a garden hose or showerhead. The latter works for peperomia because it is small.

Water makes it easy to remove soil without tugging on the roots.

You do not want to damage any of fragile roots of this plant.

Removing the excess soil makes it easy to check all the roots to see whether there is root rot or not.

Rotten roots are black or brown colored. They have a foul smell and feel mushy as well. On the other hand, healthy roots, are white in color, feel firm and very pliable.

If you see even just a few rotten roots, it means there is root rot.

Therefore, you should treat the plant as is. Root rot will spread. And it does so quickly.

Therefore, it needs to be immediately addressed with care.

Also, if there is root rot, carefully collect the soil so you can properly discard them. You do not want to reuse this soil as it can harbor pathogens.

Don’t let the soil touch any other houseplants in your home.

 

Prune All Rotten Roots

To stop root rot from spreading, the best way thing to do is prune the rotten roots.

Rotten roots are dead roots that have since rot.

As such, they don’t function anymore. More importantly, they will never get revived.

So, cut them off using a sterile pair of scissors or pruning shears. You can use a knife as well. Then just collect the rotten roots and throw them in the rash.

Don’t cut any of the healthy roots.

The more healthy roots your peperomia has left, the higher its chances are of surviving and recovering from overwatering and root rot.

If the roots are all healthy, then you won’t need to prune any roots.

 

Treat the Root System

Root rot is almost always caused by overwatering. However, what actually makes the roots die and then rot come down to two things.

The excess water drowns the roots and suffocates them.

This prevents them from getting any oxygen. As a result, the roots suffocate to death. And later on, they will rot.

Another thing that can happen is that the damp and wet environment caused by overwatering promotes the growth of pathogens.

Certain fungi like to eat on plant roots. And if these develop, they will eat away at your peperomia’s roots causing them to die.

Again, this results in root rot.

The thing is, if it is the latter that happens, the pathogens can still be spreading in the remaining roots. It is also still present in the soil and the pot that your peperomia is in.

So, you’ll need to sterilize all of these things to prevent the fungal root rot from resurfacing in your peperomia or the next plant that is put in the pot.

To sterilize or disinfect the remaining healthy roots, you can soak it in a fungicide solution or a hydrogen peroxide solution.

You can likewise use the hydrogen peroxide solution or a light bleach solution to disinfect the pot as well.

I prefer to just throw the soil away.

If you do, be careful not to let it come into contact with other plants.

Some gardeners will disinfect the soil. There are many ways to do so like “cook” it in the oven or microwave. The extreme heat will destroy the pathogens.

There are other methods as well you can use if you rish.

 

Let the Root System Dry

After treating and disinfecting the remaining healthy roots, leaves them to dry. This will take several hours.

So, keep them in a place where there is good air circulation, warm temperature and medium light.

Avoid direct sunlight as well as strong wind or other elements.

I like to leave the plant over a few old newspapers to help absorb the water faster.

 

Repot the Plant

Once the roots dry, you can now repot your peperomia.

You’ll likely need a new pot since the root system is now smaller than it was before. Make sure the pot you select has drainage holes at the bottom.

If you’re not sure about sizing your pot, choose one that is 2 inches wider than your plant’s root system.

This will give it enough space to grow but not too much that it increases the risk of overwatering.

Avoid an overly large or small pot as both will cause problems for your peperomia in the futher.

Also, make sure to have some fresh, dry, well-draining soil on hand. You’ll need enough to fill the pot.

Finally, fill the pot with the soil up to about a third of the way up.

Then put your peperomia on the soil and cover the remaining space in the pot with soil mix.

Don’t over compact the soil.

You want to allow air to easily pass through the soil to get the roots.

Don’t water the plant just yet. I like to wait a few days to about a week or so before I begin watering again.

Remember, your peperomia just came from a severely overwatered state which is why root rot developed.

So, leaving in dry soil for a while will give it some reprieve and time to recover.

Similarly, don’t feed the plant for the next few months. The goal during this time isn’t growth. Instead, it is recovery and trying to save itself from root rot.

Recovery takes quite a while, usually months.

Therefore, don’t expect growth to happen as the plant focuses its energy on saving itself and getting back to good health.

After several months, you’ll start seeing it start growing again.

 

Cut Back on Water and Adjust Your Watering Schedule

The last and final step is to adjust your watering schedule. This is very important to avoid overwatering and waterlogging in the future.

In most cases, overwatering is caused by watering the plant too often.

This is common with peperomia given that many people believe that plants need to be watered daily or every other day.

That’s not the case with peperomia plants.

These plants prefer to stay dry.

Why?

Their thick, fleshy leaves store water which lets them stay longer without watering. Additionally, they have small, fragile root system which don’t need a lot of water.

More importantly, the size of the plant and their root system make it easy to get overwhelmed by excess moisture.

Instead, peperomia only need to be watered once every 1-2 weeks.

Wait until the top 2 inches of soil has completely dried between waterings.

I prefer to wait until the top half of the soil has dried before watering. But that’s because I did lose a few peperomia early on trying to water them like I did my other houseplants.

That’s a no-no.

They need less water.

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