Most Common Signs of Overwatered Fern and How to Fix it

If you think ferns are difficult to grow then you need to think again. Because they need less care as compared to other plants.

The most common problem that people face with indoor ferns is overwatering problems.

Wilting and yellow leaves are the 2 common signs of overwatered fern. The soil of the overwatered fern plant becomes waterlogged and releases unpleasant order. The tip of the leaves starts turning dark brown.

To save your plant you should immediately change the potting soil. Use better fast-draining more suitable soil and plant pots with draining holes.

Before moving to the next part, you must know the signs of overwatered and underwatered ferns

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Overwatered fern signs

Yellow leaves and brown leaf tips

The mushy texture of leaves

Unpleasant smell

Weak or no growth

Wet potting soil that does not dry

Underwatered fern signs

Crispy brown leaves

Dry soil or small cracks in the soil surface

Dropping leaves

The entire plant starts wilting and turning brown

Note: I know the signs of overwatered and underwatered ferns seem similar. But overwatered fern has wet soil and a soft-moist texture of leaves.

1. Signs of overwatered ferns

In most cases, people find it difficult to water ferns. This plant is resistant to many common plant diseases and problems. But it cannot handle the extra cups of water.

Fens are native to tropical jungles and grow in moist soil but not in soggy soil. The jungle oil absorbs every drop of water and sends it deep into the earth by living moisture on the top surface of the soil.

This means your fern needs moist soil and less water to grow.

2. Soft textured leaves

Ferns have leathery leaves. They look delicate and in reality, they are strong enough to handle any condition.

But when you see your fern leaves turning soft and lifeless. This means your plant is suffering from overwatering.

You will also observe some tiny black dots near the affected leaves. This is the early sign of overwatering ferns.

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3. Root rot

This is a common disease that is triggered by excessive watering. To identify, you need to check the soil and smell of your plant.

The affected roots release a foul smell that is easily noticeable. Secondly when you pinch the soil or put little pressure on your fingers. The water starts to pool at the point.

In this case, take the plant out of its pot and inspect the roots. If the roots are brown or dark gray. This means your fern roots are infected by fungus.

Immediately cut the infected part of the roots, change the potting soil, wash the pot with soap and dry it.

Then put new potting soil in the pot and plant your fern back in it. Your plant will develop the removed part of the roots in a few weeks.

Note: This technique is safe for plants and is necessary to save their life in case of infected roots.

4. Leaves Falling Off

If the leaves of your fern are falling off this means your plant is in serious condition. Plants have their defense mechanism. They shed their leaves to save their life.


To save their energy to combat the problem. This is the last stage of the overwatered ferns. Only repotting in the new soil and cutting the infected roots can save the life of a plant.

5. Dropping leaves

Dropping leaves indicate that your plant is not comfortable in the pot. There is something wrong with it and it needs your attention.

Actually, dropping leaves is associated with many problems and you need to research more to identify the root cause. Because underwatering also triggers drooping leaves.

To catch the root cause, you should also inspect the soil and texture of the leaves. If the leaves are soft and the soil is soggy and the saucer under the pot has water. Then dropping leaves is a sure sign of overwatered fern.

6. Yellow leaves

Few yellow leaves are common in plants and are not a problem. It is a natural process. Where plant leaves turn yellow and shed. Then new leaves come into the place.

But if the top and side leaves are turning yellow and are soft to the touch. The potting soil also releases a mushy smell. Then this is the sign of an overwatered fern.

How to revive an overwatered fern in easy steps?

Now that you learn the identification of the overwatered ferns. It is time to know about the perfect environment that helps the plant to regain its health.

If you notice the problem at the early stage. Then just let the soil dry and stop watering your plant for a few days. Increase the light exposure for 24 hours. This will speed up the process and the potting soil dries quickly.

In the next step, make sure the plant pot has 1 or more draining holes. Make sure you use the correct type of potting soil.

Once the soil becomes dry then you can adjust the watering routine according to your plant and environmental conditions.

Always check the soil conditions before watering ferns.

What if roots are rooting?

If the roots of your fern are rooting this means the problem is at an advanced stage. In this case, you need to repot your plant. The new potting soil must have well-draining properties. You must add some organic material to the soil to increase its fertility. Below are the complete repotting steps.

First, loose the soil and take out the plant without damaging its leaves and roots.

Then remove the soil from the plant root ball and inspect.

Take the sharp shears and cut the brown and dead parts of the roots.

Then wash your plant pot and fill it with new potting soil

Plant your fern back in the pot and do not give water for 20 hours.

Then follow the fern care guide and adjust your watering routine.

How to water ferns?

Because fern comes from tropical jungles you need to mimic those conditions to grow it indoors. There the soil stays moist all the time but does not become soggy and waterlogged.

Therefore, you need potting soil that drains fast and gives all essential nutrients to the plant.

Also, there must be a draining hole at the base of the pot.

Secondly, you need to learn the best watering technique. Let the soil dry out between watering applications.

Then take the plant to the sink and water it from the top. Once the water starts draining from the base of the pot. Turn off the tap and leaves the plant to drain out the extra water.

It will take 30 minutes to drain the extra water. Then place your plant pot back on its location.

Use fresh drinkable water for watering ferns. The water should be free from chlorine and other heavy minerals.

General tips for maintaining fern health

Give your plant a good amount of bright light. But the light has to be indirect because direct sunlight can damage the plant leaves.

As long as humidity is concerned, in tropical areas, the humidity is on the higher side. But fern plants can grow happily in average home humidity (50% to 65%). On low-humid days, you can spray water on leaves to give them little relief.

The soil must have some organic material and some fluffy material. The organic part gives your fern plant essential nutrients. The fluffy material increases the aeration. There must be some water-absorbing material also like perlite.


Closely check the fern to identify the damage due to excessive watering. Then follow the solution mentioned in this guide.

Repot it in case of root damage. The plant pot must have a drainage hole. Check the condition of the soil before watering. Deep watering is the best watering method.

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