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.

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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. 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 has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening 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 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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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