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Overwatered Hibiscus — What To Look For

Overwatered Hibiscus — What To Look For

Hibiscus trees (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) have large, bright, and colorful flowers that have long been a symbol of all things tropical and warm. 

They’re also a porch, patio, deck, and indoor houseplant staple pretty much worldwide. 

Perhaps you’ve even seen hibiscus tea in the grocery store or online, which can have some great health benefits if you drink it regularly.

While hibiscus trees are hardy enough to stand tall through some tough conditions, they still require tender loving care like every other houseplant. 

These gorgeous, vividly colored flowers are usually associated with tropical island beaches, so it should come as no surprise that they thrive in warm soil conditions and climate. 

They have very large leaves that require plenty of watering, especially during summer. 

If you think your hibiscus has been overwatered, there are a couple of signs to look for that can help you determine the problem. 


Overwatered Hibiscus

Hibiscuses are water-loving plants, but they can be overwatered easily. Signs of overwatering include yellow-colored and swollen leaves, and a wilting plant even though the soil is wet. Another sign of overwatering is brown, bad-smelling roots that are decayed and mushy.


Signs and Symptoms of an Overwatered Hibiscus

When you have a healthy and thriving hibiscus, it can be really frustrating to look at it and realize that it’s slowly wilting and the leaves are turning yellow.

Overwatering is a common mistake that many gardeners and plant enthusiasts make, and while it’s not a huge problem, it will kill your plant if it’s left untreated. 


Check for Yellow Leaves

One big sign that your hibiscus has been overwatered is yellow leaves, sometimes brown, too. 

A plant that’s being underwatered will have yellow, brittle leaves or growth that looks curled upwards and shrunken. 

No matter what variety of hibiscus you have, the leaves will also turn yellow if it’s overwatered. However, instead of feeling brittle, thin, and dry, they’ll be the exact opposite. 

Overwatered leaves will have edema, which essentially means that they’ll be swollen with water. 

Look for fat, spongy-feeling leaves that are yellow or sometimes brown, and look wilted. 


Check the Soil for Excess Moisture

Your next step to identifying an overwatered hibiscus tree is to look closely at the soil and feel it. 

An overwatered hibiscus will look yellow and wilted, almost as if it’s dying because it hasn’t been watered enough, but the soil will be wet. 

The correct soil texture should be moist and slightly spongy, not soaking or sopping wet. 

If it’s dripping when you lift it up, or the drip pan is full of standing water, you’re in trouble. 


Check the Root System

The final step to checking whether your hibiscus has been overwatered is by looking at the roots. 

To do this, carefully unpot your hibiscus and gently brush away some dirt from the roots. They should be firm, cream-colored, and healthy-looking. 

If your roots have a foul odor, are brown or black colored, and turn into mush under the pressure of your thumb and forefinger, you’ve got root rot. 

Root rot is one of the most common diseases that plants can get, and the primary cause of this decay is overwatering.


Hibiscus Require Less Water During the Off-Season

Hibiscus trees are tricky because their large leaves require a good amount of water, particularly during the blooming season. If you live in an area with a warm climate, they need even more water than usual. 

However, many hibiscus growers fall into the trap of overwatering, particularly during the overwintering season

This off-season is when the hibiscus isn’t flowering, typically during winter or if the temperature drops dramatically. 

During this “dormancy” season, your hibiscus will require less water than usual. But, it’s still essential that you still give it adequate water during this time.


No to Dried Out Soil

Avoid letting the dirt dry out entirely between watering because this can cause the plant to shut down some of the necessary processes for blooming and growth. 

Try to find the right balance between letting the soil dry out enough to avoid overwatering and not letting it dry out too much to the point it’s underwatered.

If it still isn’t watered adequately, the plant wilts and eventually dies. 

Potted hibiscuses are particularly susceptible to overwatering since they only have a limited amount of dirt.


How to Treat an Overwatered Hibiscus

If you have an overwatered hibiscus, it’s vital to treat it as soon as possible to nurse it back to health. 

You can tell if your hibiscus can be overwatered by taking the time to look closely and identify the signs and symptoms it’s showing. 

This can help you find out for sure if the cause is too much water.


Save Your Hibiscus with These Important Steps

Once you’ve determined that your hibiscus has been receiving too much water, it’s time to put on your invisible super-gardener cape and save it. 

To begin, turn the plant upside down and get a firm grip at the base of its main trunk, as close to the soil level as you can. Gently and firmly wiggle it loose from its pot. 

You’re going to use your hands to brush off and remove as much of the overly wet soil as you can. Take a close look at the roots. 

If the plant hasn’t been dealing with excess water for too long, it will still look relatively healthy, and the roots will be firm and white.

If it’s been a while, the roots may look brown or unhealthy and slightly mushy. 


Gently Prune Away the Damaged Parts

The next thing to do is pruning as many of the damaged roots as you can. 

Once you’ve pruned away the damaged areas of the root ball, you can repot your hibiscus back into a fresh pot with clean, lightly moist soil.

If you don’t have fresh potting soil, use the original soil from the pot but allow it to dry naturally first. 

Now, it’s time to prune the damaged leaves away. Any yellow-colored curled up, or wilting leaves should be gently trimmed away. 


Repot and Water Carefully

When the soil feels like it’s turning drier and less moist, it’s time to start watering again. Remember, don’t let it dry out completely. 

Gradually, your hibiscus will come back to life and look beautiful with its signature large and brightly colored flowers.



Hibiscus are some of the most beautiful indoor flowers to grow. With their big, trumpet-shaped blooms and their gorgeous, velvet-soft coloring, the hibiscus tree is a favorite of many people all over the world. 

These mini-trees require a ton of water, particularly when they’re flowering and when it’s hot out. However, it’s too easy to overwater them. 

This is a common problem in winter or their dormancy season where they’re not blooming. 

Signs of overwatering include fat and spongy leaves that are colored yellow and beginning to droop, brown or black colored roots that smell bad, and wilting leaves despite the soil feeling very wet.

However, by trimming away the damaged parts of the leaves, stems, and roots and repotting the surviving plant in slightly moist soil, you can gently nurse your overwatered hibiscus back to health. 

Before long, it will have beautiful and large colorful blooms again. 

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