Gardening Houseplants Watering

Give Wilted Plants a Long Soak

This very drought-stressed peace lily (Spathiphyllum) really needs a good soaking! Source:

You return from a trip to find one or two houseplants completely wilted, their stems bent and floppy and their leaves dripping to the ground? Thats because they suffered a serious lack of water during your absence.

When this happens, the potting mix often pulls away from the wall of the pot. So, when you water to try and save the plant, almost all the water flows into the saucer instead of penetrating the rootball and the poor plant actually gets very little.

20181212B LH
Soak the plant for 2 or 3 hours so it can recuperate fully. Source:

In such cases, plain “watering from above” as usual is not enough. Instead, immerse the pot in watercompletely!and let the plant soak for 2 or 3 hours until the soil and the plant are completely rehydrated. You can immerse the rootball in a sink full of water, in a bathtub, in a bucket, even in the toilet bowl (been there, done that!): thats of no importance.

When the plant has recovered, let the rootball drain thoroughly and put it back in its saucer. And if the rootball still remains pulled back from the pot edge, comprising future waterings, fill in the empty space with fresh potting soil.

Of course, if the plant lacked water for too long, your efforts may be in vain and it will die, but in most cases, it will recover very quickly and can go on to live a happy life.

Note that allowing a plant to nearly die from lack of water is not good for it. Try not to repeat this scenario too often!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

1 comment on “Give Wilted Plants a Long Soak

  1. What a coincidence. I just soaked my spath yesterday and gave it a good pruning. It wasn’t nearly as wilted as your example, but I thought it could use a good drenching. Do you know what causes the browning of the leaf tips? Mine is looking pretty sad because of the browning, hence the need for a pruning. I really need to divide and repot it next spring.

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