How To Fix Waterlogged Soil in Planters?

waterlogged plant on planter bed

Problem with Soil in Planter

Waterlogged or badly drained soil

Waterlogging or flooding can be detrimental to the survival of most garden plants. Extended durations of sedentary behavior in soil that is excessively saturated with water lead to a reduction in the availability of oxygen to the roots, resulting in the manifestation of yellow leaves, root decay, and ultimately, mortality. Nevertheless, there are some measures available to enhance conditions by facilitating drainage and mitigating potential harm.

Outline and Facts

  • Common name. Waterlogged or poorly drained soil 
  • Plant Survival Rate: With the exception of a few tolerant species, most plants are susceptible to these unfavorable soil conditions.
  • Causes: Heavy rain in conjunction with challenging soil conditions
  • Symptoms: The presence of yellow leaves, decaying roots, and inhibited plant growth

What is waterlogging?

Waterlogging occurs when the drainage capacity of soils is insufficient to allow water to effectively flow away. This phenomenon results in the absence of any air pockets inside the soil that is fully saturated, leading to a situation where plant roots are effectively submerged and deprived of oxygen. Waterlogging is a prevalent occurrence in naturally inadequately drained soils or when there is compaction in heavy soils.
Brief episodes of flash floods following heavy rainfall often have no impact on the majority of plant species. The primary cause of damage is attributed to the presence of prolonged, saturated soil conditions, which result in the depletion of oxygen due to the utilization by plant roots and soil microorganisms.
The issue of flooding caused by drain overflow might introduce the additional challenge of sewage and wastewater, particularly when cultivating consumable crops.


Identifying symptoms of waterlogging can be challenging due to their similarity to other conditions. However, the following indicators can be observed:


  • The initial signs manifest on the foliage. This phenomenon encompasses the occurrence of discoloration or deterioration in the interveinal regions, leading to the development of tender regions in the basal or central portion of the leaf. Dark pigmentation can be observed throughout the midrib, and the internal regions of the leaf may exhibit a brown discoloration, particularly on leaves that retain their green color throughout the year.


  • Additionally, the plant may exhibit signs of water deficiency, such as withering.


  • A root sample will exhibit blue-black roots, which is a characteristic indication of waterlogging, sometimes accompanied by a malodorous scent of decay. entire decay of roots can result in their entire disappearance, leaving only a small number left. When roots are damaged, they exhibit a darkened appearance and the bark may undergo peeling.


  • Shoots may experience mortality as a result of insufficient moisture, leading to an inability of the roots to adequately feed water to the leaves. Additionally, the shoots have a propensity for easy bark detachment.


  • Herbaceous plants have the potential to have a lack of sprouting during the spring season, or alternatively, their leaves may initiate growth but afterwards perish.


  • Plants have the potential to experience stunted growth or mortality.


  • Certain plant species may have a physiological disorder known as oedema.

Certain symptoms can be mistakenly attributed to water stress, specifically inadequate water supply. This phenomenon occurs due to the fact that a plant that is soggy is, in fact, under water stress. The roots experience oxygen deprivation, resulting in hindered uptake of water and nutrients necessary for plant mobility.



The presence of an excessive amount of water can lead to many detrimental effects on plants.


  • Waterlogging restricts the availability of oxygen to the roots and hinders the diffusion of carbon dioxide. The primary function of the roots is diminished or halted, leading to the subsequent demise of the roots, hence facilitating the infiltration of rot-inducing microorganisms and decay-causing agents. The aforementioned phenomenon exerts a consequential impact on the observable components of the botanical organism, whereby the foliage and stalks are rendered incapable of acquiring sufficient quantities of water and essential nutrients.


  • Waterlogged soils might experience compaction or possess an inherently thick texture that lacks enough drainage pathways. This implies that the soil retains moisture subsequent to precipitation.


  • The presence of hard landscaping impedes the infiltration of rainfall into the underlying soil. The use of hard landscaping in a garden necessitates the absorption of a greater amount of surface runoff by a reduced expanse of soil, hence increasing the likelihood of waterlogging.


Immediate Control

  • From where did the surplus water originate? Is the cause of the flooding due to heavy rainfall, groundwater infiltration, or drainage system overflow? If you suspect that the water in question has originated from overflowing drains located beyond the boundaries of your yard, it is advisable to establish communication with your local water utility company.


  • In the aftermath of a flood event, it is advisable to thoroughly cleanse solid surfaces and gather any debris present in order to mitigate the risk of drain blockages, soil coverage, and the persistence of pollutants or toxins inside the garden area. To minimize exposure to contaminants, it is advisable to utilize protective gear such as gloves and overalls.


  • It is advisable to refrain from walking on the soil until it reaches a state of workability, since doing so may result in compaction and exacerbate the existing circumstances.


  • Damaged shoots should be removed from plants that have been harmed.


  • Following a flooding event, it is advisable to refrain from consuming edible crops that are close to reaching maturity. Due to the lack of guarantees on the safety of root crops, it is recommended to discard them rather than consuming them. It is advisable to also remove plants intended for raw consumption, and it is recommended to refrain from cultivating uncooked foods, such as salads, for a duration of two years as a precautionary measure against potential lingering disease spores in the soil. Nevertheless, in the subsequent year following a flood event, it is expected that cultivating crops intended for culinary purposes would be deemed safe.


  • In order to enhance the soil structure, it is advisable to use organic matter or a well-balanced fertilizer during the spring season. Following the application, it is recommended to mulch over the root region.


  • During the period of plant growth, the application of foliar feeds has the potential to enhance the pigmentation of leaves and stimulate the development of new roots.


  • During periods of drought stress, it is advisable to water plants extensively following a waterlogged time, as this can increase their vulnerability to drought-induced stress.


The Long Term Solution

  • One potential approach to enhance soil structure and drainage is through the implementation of cultivation techniques.


  • It is advisable to refrain from smearing the sides of planting holes in thick soils. Alternatively, one may opt to puncture the sides of the hole with a fork prior to planting.


  • One should contemplate the act of planting trees on a gentle elevation.


  • One effective gardening technique involves cultivating plants in elevated garden beds.


  • When constructing driveways, pathways, and patios, it is advisable to go for permeable surfaces in order to facilitate the infiltration of rainwater.


  • Living green roofs are capable of absorbing stormwater and subsequently facilitating its gradual discharge.


  • Drainage installation might be facilitated if there exists a suitable outlet for water discharge. Alternatively, in suitable circumstances, it may be advantageous to excavate a trench or construct a temporary reservoir in the lowest section of the garden in order to capture excess water and facilitate gradual infiltration.


  • Select tree and plant species that are highly adapted to moist soil conditions.


  • One potential solution is to implement the installation of water butts. The mitigation of runoff into drains will be contingent upon the availability of adequate space for water collection. Utilize water sourced from water butts for the purpose of cleansing automobiles and pathways during the winter season, while concurrently using said water for irrigating one’s garden during the summer months.


  • It is advisable to contemplate the establishment of a designated area to accommodate excess water in the event of recurrent flooding, such as a rain garden or bioswale.
waterlogging plant in pots

Waterlogged Control Measures

Soils become waterlogged when water is unable to drain away