Many potted plants need lower maintenance than plants grown directly on the ground. For instance, indoor potted plants require less water than outdoor plants. So if you over-water them, you will need to dry out the plants to prevent root rot and other diseases.
It takes two days to a week for a potted plant to dry out if over-watered. How quickly a potted plant dries out depends on many factors, like the size of the pot, the size of the plant, the moisture retention capacity of the soil, and several environmental factors like humidity and temperature.
This article will look into the factors that affect how long it takes potted plants to dry out and ways to speed up the process to avoid irreparable damage to your plant.
Factors That Affect How Long It Takes a Potted Plant To Dry Out
Natural elements like heavy rains, low temperatures, and high humidity can affect the moisture levels in potted plants. It is also easy to over-water indoor potted plants when you are new to gardening.
However, it is crucial not to leave your potted plants in water-logged conditions because this can damage or kill your plants.
It is impossible to tell precisely how long a potted plant takes to dry out. Even two potted plants of the same species may have different levels of tolerance to lack of water, depending on several factors. Let’s look at these factors below:
Type of Plant
The most important factor that determines how quickly a potted plant dries out is the type of plant. Various kinds of plants have different capacities to retain water in their stems and different abilities in how well they can utilize moisture from the environment.
For instance, drought-resistant plants like succulents tend to take a long time to dry out completely, especially when over-watered. Therefore, leaving your succulents in water-logged soil is detrimental to their health and growth.
Conversely, high moisture-dependent plants may dry out more quickly if left unwatered for several days as they use up the remaining moisture in the soil or their stems.
Moisture Retention Capacity of the Soil
Some types of potting soil have a higher moisture retention capacity than others. For example, clay soil can hold more water than sand. Therefore, soil with a higher percentage of clay is good for plants that require much water.
The amount of organic matter in potting soil can also contribute to the substrate’s ability to retain moisture. Potted plants grown in soil with a higher moisture retention capacity will dry out more slowly than those grown in soil with good drainage.
It’s worth noting that too much water can be detrimental to potted plants as they are prone to root rot. That’s why most home gardeners often use well-draining soil to prevent excess moisture in the substrate in case of over-watering or heavy rainfall.
Size and Quality of the Pot
Plants in smaller pots tend to dry out more quickly than those in larger pots because of the smaller amount of moisture that the soil can hold. They can dry out even faster if the pots have drainage holes at the bottom or sides.
Terra-cotta or clay pots are ideal if you tend to over-water your plants. They are more breathable than plastic pots, allowing aeration that can dry out the soil faster. The clay material also absorbs excess moisture from the soil, keeping your plant’s roots from rotting.
Size of the Plant
Bigger plants can hold more moisture and use it up more quickly than smaller plants. As a result, it may take longer to dry out smaller plants as the water stays in the soil longer.
For instance, if two similar plants of different sizes are planted in same-sized pots, the larger plant will absorb the moisture in the soil faster. This reduces the risk of the roots sitting too long in wet soil.
On the other hand, the plant in the smaller pot is more prone to root rot as it cannot use up the moisture quickly enough. That’s why it’s best to provide small, frequent waterings to smaller plants.
The humidity of the area where the potted plant is located can also affect the time it takes for it to dry out. The potted plant will take longer to dry out in a place with high humidity, like the kitchen or bathroom.
If there are plenty of other potted plants in the area, this can also contribute to the overall humidity in the room, thereby delaying the drying out of the soil.
Moisture tends to evaporate quickly in hot areas. Therefore, outdoor potted plants will most likely dry out faster than indoor potted plants during hot weather. Similarly, potted plants will dry out faster in the summer than in other seasons.
Nonetheless, you shouldn’t water potted plants as soon as you see the top layer of the soil drying up. Chances are, the lower layer of the soil is still moist. If you keep watering the soil immediately, it may cause steadily wet soil underneath and eventually result in soil compaction.
Too much water in the soil makes the substrate more compact, blocking air spaces and encouraging the growth of fungi that cause root rot.
The Intensity of the Sun
It doesn’t take an experienced gardener to notice how quickly the soil and plants dry up when exposed to hot and bright sunlight. Therefore, putting your potted plant directly under the midday sun can dry it out faster. In contrast, plants kept in the shade will sit in moist soil longer.
How To Dry Out Potted Plants More Quickly
Accidentally over-watering your potted plants will not instantly kill them. Luckily, you can find several ways to help them dry out more quickly. Here are some of them:
Expose the Pot to More Sunlight
Pour out the visible excess water at the top of the soil. Be careful not to pour the soil out along with the water. Afterward, move your pot to a brighter area since exposure to more intense sunlight can dry potted plants more quickly.
However, you have to consider your plant’s sun requirements. If you have a shade-loving plant, exposing it to bright sunlight for a long time may cause more harm than good. Instead, try to go only one step higher than the plant’s regular sunlight needs.
Below is the order of plants’ sun requirements in increasing intensity:
- Full shade – less than one hour of sunlight per day
- Partial shade – 2-4 hours of sunlight (ideally filtered by curtains)
- Dappled sun – 4-6 hours of dappled sunlight underneath tree canopies
- Partial sun – 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day
- Full sun – 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day
For sun-loving plants that benefit from up to eight hours of direct sunlight daily, you can extend the exposure for up to two hours to speed up the drying out process.
Move Your Potted Plant to an Area With Low Humidity
After exposing your plant to more than its regular sun requirement, the next thing to do is keep it in an area with lower humidity. This can be somewhere like your balcony or roofed patio. It would also help if the site is a little windy as this will encourage aeration in your potted plant’s soil.
Remove Your Plant From Wet Soil and Re-Pot
Depending on how much excess water your soil has and its ability to drain it, you may need to re-pot your plant entirely. Below are the steps to follow:
- Carefully remove the plant from the pot of wet soil.
- Gently remove as much soil from the roots as possible.
- Lay the plant down on dry towels that can absorb the excess moisture.
- Check the roots for signs of root rot.
- If the roots look healthy, move your pot to a clay pot with fresh and dry soil.
- Gradually add just enough water to moisten the soil.
- Place your potted plant in an area with a level higher than its standard sun requirement.
- Observe how quickly the soil dries up (ideally 2-4 hours) and water your plant as needed.
Have you overwatered your potted plants or exposed them to heavy rainfall and are worried about how long it will take them to dry out? Understanding the basic components of your garden can be helpful here. This includes the type of soil, type of plant, and your environment.
Most plants can thrive with a bit of dry soil and recover even if there are signs of drying in the leaves. That’s why it’s best to avoid over-watering them.
Fortunately, there are ways to help dry out your potted plant more quickly, like re-potting or exposing it to sunlight for longer.