Overwatered Agave: How To Save Overwatered Agave Plants (if Possible)

Agave plants have gained a lot of attention in recent years.

Not only are these plants a wonderful choice for those looking to buy a succulent for their home or garden, but some species are used as a natural sweetener or in making tequila.

Variegated Agave plantPin

There are more than 250 types and species of agave, although the ones you’ll most likely find for sale are those with succulent leaves.

Unfortunately, the very process that protects an agave in nature from dehydration can lead to overwatering in a home.

Here’s what you need to know to avoid overwatering your agave and hopefully save one that already has been.

Overwatered Agave: How To Save Overwatered Agave Plants (If Possible)?

Agave plants need to be watered when the soil is dry 2” inches down, and doing so more often can easily lead to overwatering.

The sooner you catch an overwatering issue, the better the chance of saving your plant.

Signs Of Overwatering

It can be difficult to spot an overwatered agave if you’re not paying attention to the soil when you water it.

However, the leaves will go through a progression of symptoms which can warn you the plant is suffering and how bad the damage is.

The first sign is usually light spotting on the leaves where it’s losing bits of color.

At this point, the leaves may also appear swollen.

As the overwatering progress, the leaves turn yellow or somewhat translucent and feel mushy.

From here, we have two possible progressions, such as:

  • The first possibility is that the leaves will literally burst due to the swelling or may develop edema.
  • The other possibility is that the leaves will begin turning brown, then black as necrosis sets in.

Treating A Single Overwatering

The good news is that overwatering your plant once or twice likely won’t do any serious damage.

All you need to do is let it dry out until the soil feels dry to the touch 2” inches deep before watering again.

If you overwatered and there’s a puddle, you can take an eyedropper and use that to remove most of the excess liquid.

Treating Severe Overwatering

Once those leaves turn different colors, you know the problem is severe and needs to be addressed immediately.

Note that ⅓ discoloration of a plant is usually salvageable, but once more than ⅔ of the foliage is severely damaged, it’s often impossible for the plant to recover.

Here’s how you can remedy it:

  • Start by pruning away any severely damaged leaves. Those with some light spotting or slight discoloration will usually recover, but brown, black, and burst leaves need to go.
  • Uproot your agave or remove it from the container it’s in and gently rinse off as much of the soil from the roots as possible.
  • Begin examining the roots for any signs of root rot, including dark brown to black coloration, mushiness, or a foul odor.
  • You will need to cut these diseased roots with a sharp, sterile knife.
  • Don’t forget to resterilize between each cut.
  • Next, dip the remaining roots in a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water for 30 minutes. This will kill the source of the root rot, which may be caused by several different strains of fungi or bacteria.
  • After soaking, let the plant sit in a warm, dry place for 2 to 3 days to dry out.
  • Finally, repot in a fresh container with a new potting medium or a different portion of your garden.
  • Avoid using any fertilizer for 1 to 2 months, so the roots have a chance to heal and begin regrowing.

How To Prevent Future Overwatering?

There are two methods that will work well for an agave plant, with the soak and dry method being useful for both potted and garden plants, while the bottom method is purely for potted plants.

You can use the finger trick for both methods.

The Finger Trick

This is a simple way to check how much moisture is in the soil without the need for any fancy equipment.

Here are the following tips to do:

  • Just stick your finger straight down in the soil and water if it feels dry 2” inches down
  • This is roughly the second knuckle on an average-sized adult hand, but if you have small hands or aren’t sure, it’s as easy as putting your finger beside a ruler to find the exact distance.
  • If you can’t tell from just feeling if the soil’s damp, pull your finger straight back out and look at it.
  • Damp soil will stick to your finger and have a slightly darker hue, whereas dry soil won’t stick and is slightly lighter.
  • If you’re still having trouble, use a popsicle stick or bamboo chopstick instead, and let it sit in the soil for 20 minutes before examining it.

The Soak And Dry Method

This method works on most plants but may not be an option if your agave leaves obscure the potting medium entirely.

Whether indoors or outdoors, the method is the same.

Use room temperature distilled water or natural rainwater and pour slowly and evenly.

Getting a good pouring rate is the only trick to learn with this method, and it usually only takes a few tries to get it down.

If the ground isn’t absorbing as quickly as you pour when you start, you’re pouring too hard and need to ease up a little.

Work your way around the plant, making sure not to get the leaves wet.

Stop when the soil is no longer absorbing at the same rate as you pour or (if watering a container plant) you see moisture seep from the drainage holes.

The Bottom Method

But what about an agave plant that’s completely hiding the potting soil?

This is where the bottom method comes in.

The bottom method can be a little trickier, but it’s the best alternative when you can’t water at the soil level.

Get a flat container, such as a glass baking dish or shallow bowl, and set the pot inside.

Pour some water into this basin (1″ to 2″ inches is usually enough) and let the plant sit for 20 minutes.

If you need to add a little more water during this time, go ahead.

At 20 minutes, remove the pot from the water and return the plant to its spot.

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