Overwatered ZZ Plant: Signs & How to Save the Plant

The popularity of ZZ plants is rapidly growing, and why not? They add bright foliage to dark rooms and need very little maintenance. It takes just a little bit of water and a little bit of light to keep ZZ happy. 

Yet, some people get overexcited and overwater the ZZ plant. So, if you are in that boat, what should you do? 

Don’t worry, this article has got your back! You can save your ZZ plant if you read to the end. 

No doubt, ZZ plants are tough and can tolerate several conditions. However, overwatering is the only thing they don’t appreciate. Like all plants, these tough champions will die if overwatered.

Whenever the ZZ plant is overwatered, it develops mushy stems, yellow leaves, and soft roots. If you notice this sign on your ZZ plant, it is time for you to take action. So, now that you have overwatered your ZZ plant, let’s fix it! 

If you are going through the same problem, no need to worry as today, I am going to discuss how you can save your overwatered and underwatered ZZ plant. But first, let us know the factors contributing to overwatering ZZ plants!

Factors contributing to overwatering ZZ plants!

Let’s look at the contributing factor first before we fix your overwatered ZZ plant. If you fix these factors, your ZZ plant will be less likely to overwater in the future.

1. Type of pot affecting your ZZ plants

Overwatering is more likely to occur in ZZ plants in nonporous pots without drainage holes, such as plastic pots. These pots don’t encourage prompt drainage. It’s more likely that the roots will get saturated with water and drown. Thus, having difficulty drawing in oxygen and nutrients. 

Poke holes in the base of the container, or pot them in porous containers like clay or terracotta to avoid overwatering.

2. The soil mix affecting your ZZ plants

Poorly drained soil also causes overwatering. ZZ plants tolerate most soil types, but they can’t survive in poorly drained soil. In such soils, ZZ plants cannot breathe as they become saturated with water. 

Here are the signs that you have planted your ZZ plant in unsuitable soil:

  • Yellow leaves turn brown on the ZZ plant
  • Curled leaves
  • Rhizomes develop root rot
  • Stems shrivel or wilt

For a ZZ plant, use sand or perlite, as well as a premixed blend of the cactus potting mixture. Additionally, the pH of the mix should be between 6.0 and 7.0.

3. Watering schedule affecting your ZZ plants

Having a tight watering schedule for your plant can lead to disappointments if you don’t consider its condition. You might think that these plants need excessive watering to maintain their greenness and health, but ZZ plants grow differently.

ZZ’s rhizomes have an efficient water storage system that releases water and food as needed. Normally, these tubular structures are sturdy and white, like little Irish potatoes. However, when overwatered, they can become soft and brown.

Generally, ZZ plants need water when the top couple of inches of soil are completely dry. Observe the plant’s natural habitat, Eastern Africa, when determining how much water it needs. If the soil seems dry, poke it with your fingers or use a soil moisture meter.

Alternatively, lift the pot and poke drainage holes at the bottom. Also, put some water in the dry soil on the bottom.

Signs of an overwatered ZZ plant!

Overwatered ZZ plants may show similar signs to those infected by diseases or exposed to too much sunlight. You can identify overwatering or any other issue causing your plants to revolt by observing these symptoms. 

Here are some ways to identify and treat overwatered ZZ plants.

1. Leaves Turning Yellow

Leaves Turning Yellow

Yellowing of leaves is the first and most obvious sign of an overwatered ZZ plant. As the ZZ plant is known for its bright, glossy foliage, it’s easy to spot the change in appearance.

To thrive, ZZ Plants need pockets of air in their soil. Sadly, water seeps into the pockets and the roots eventually rot due to suffocation.

Having constant wet conditions promotes the growth of fungus, which infects the roots and causes root rot.

Since they have died out, the soil can no longer provide leaves with water or nutrients. As a result, the leaves turn yellow.

2. Mushy Brown Stalks

A healthy plant usually has springy, strong stalks, not brown, soft ones.

Rhizomes serve as a reservoir of water and nutrients, so the stems are formed from them. A healthy rhizome will produce healthy and solid branches.

When ZZ Plants receive too much water, their stems become soft and corky. Too much water causes the decay of roots, which allows pathogens in the soil to thrive.

As a result, they will begin by moving the roots of the ZZ Plant from its rhizome to its stem. As the stems rot, they turn brown and soft.

3. Rotting Roots and Smelly Soil

Rotting Roots and Smelly Soil

Beware of stagnant water and smelly soil. Whenever you smell fishy or strongly reminiscent of rotten eggs, your roots have rotted.

There is a myth that root rot is caused by too much watering. However, fungal pathogens in the soil are the true culprits.

Various species of fungi consume decomposing roots, and many of them are widespread.

No matter what species are involved, rotting roots and smelly soil are always the results.

4. Drooping Leaves

No water will be drained from the soil if the solid’s roots are not present in the pot.

In this case, stems lose their turgor, which contributes to keeping the branch upright and active by generating water pressure.

As soon as they lose their vigor, they become sad and wilted.

5. Soft leaves

Alternatively, if the roots are working, the extra water will make its way to the leaves. As they swell, they get soggy and mushy.

In the soil, some fungi love to colonize rotting tissue because it’s so moist. Whenever the leaves get too wet and soggy, they will turn brown and yellow.

In some cases, the outer layer of the leaf may flake off, revealing the diseased and wet insides.

6. The ZZ Plant Falling Over


There is much more to the rhizome of the ZZ Plant than just a reservoir.

Also, it serves as the main support for the plant. Due to its robust rhizome, the ZZ Plant remains stable in the ground. If you overwater the rhizome, it suffers and rots.

Furthermore, the ZZ Plant loses its footing in its container and becomes unbalanced and unsteady.

In particular, the rhizome will be damaged if the plant has been overwatered for a long time.

7. Analyze the damage to determine the next steps

Examine your ZZ Plant closely to determine how bad things are.

There are many ways to treat a plant, from moving it to repotting.

The soil must be in good condition. There is no harm in drying out your ZZ Plant if it smells like compost or dirt.

However, if your growing medium smells horrible, you will need to take drastic measures.

Also, beware of mold or mildew on the surface of the soil.

How to save an overwatered ZZ plant?


Now you know the factors and the signs of overwatering, let us explore the solutions to fix an overwater ZZ plant!

1. Place the ZZ plant in a sunny location

The first thing you can do if your ZZ plant is mildly overwatered is to move it to a lighter spot.

They can tolerate quite a bit of light, and the more light you give them, the faster they will dry.

Intensive light stimulates ZZ Plant photosynthetic activity. Sunlight, water, and oxygen from the air are converted into simple sugars by this process. It will draw more water from the growing medium as it becomes more capable of photosynthesizing. 

Furthermore, the extra bit of light will allow it to repair any damage caused by overwatering.

This is a good tactic for plants that are just a little overwatered.

2. Place the ZZ Plant Near a Window

When you place the ZZ Plant closer to a window, the soil will dry faster.

Additionally, as I have previously explained, the additional light will assist the plant in drawing moisture from the soil.

However, opening windows and letting in lots of fresh air will also help dry the area. Good airflow will speed up the drying process, just as it would when you dry socks in the wind.

Place the ZZ Plant Near a Window

3. Change To A Fast-Draining Soil After Drying Out The Plant

Observe the growing medium once it has dried.

Even a tiny amount of water can build up if the medium is not well mixed.

Does the soil have a heavy, loamy texture? Is it taking long for water to drain to the bottom?

In this case, you should probably replace it with something more appropriate.

If the medium smells bad or is moldy, it should also be thrown out.

In soil mix, combine potting soil with orchid bark, perlite, peat moss, or coco coir along with coarse sand to create a rich soil mix. The blend has a good flow and a lot of texture to keep the air pockets in place.

In addition to retaining moisture, peat and coco coir release nutrients that stimulate fertility. It’s a great choice for your ZZ Plant.

4. Choose a Pot with Good Drainage

Changing the medium can also improve pot quality. When water cannot escape from the container, free-draining soils are useless!

Ensure your container has at least three drainage holes and that they are evenly spaced around the bottom.

My recommendation would be terracotta, unglazed ceramic, or concrete if you prefer a porous material. When a medium is moist, porous materials are better at wicking it away and assisting it to dry.

There is a potential game-changer here if you tend to overwater your plants with the watering can.

5. Prune Dead and Diseased Roots and Leaves

When repotting, check the roots for damage and remove any dying ones.

The roots of healthy plants are light in color, ranging from white to cream. You can expect them to be tough, and fibrous, but not brittle.

A dying or dead root may appear dark brown, black, or even orange.

It is the decay that is causing the color change, and it will need to be removed. You can remove them with sterile shears or scissors.

Ensure that any dead or dying leaves are removed. As they don’t contribute to the plant’s recovery, they can be removed.


6. Treat The Roots with A Fungicide 

Adding a fungicide to ailing ZZ Plant roots can revive them and help them recover more quickly.

You can sprinkle cinnamon powder on the roots if the condition is mild.

Due to its antifungal properties and root growth stimulation, cinnamon powder is a powerful antifungal remedy. The best part is that it is an all-natural alternative.

It may be best to apply a copper-based fungicide if the infection is severe. Using these chemicals can be dangerous, so make sure you read all instructions and wear safety gear.

7. Adjust The Watering Schedule

When you let a ZZ Plant dry out from too much water, it’s important to only water it when it’s thirsty.

Water more in summer and less in winter, but let it dry out between waterings. In addition, larger plants need more water than smaller plants. If the plant is in a bright area, it will need more moisture than if it is in a shady location.

It may seem that ZZ Plants don’t require much water, but they do. Despite dry conditions, resilient rhizomes ensure the plants’ survival. Before rewatering completely, let the medium dry.

Furthermore, it may seem extreme, but the ZZ Plant is unable to survive in wet conditions due to the arid environment it has evolved in.

Ways to Prevent Over-watering ZZ Plants!

Ways to Prevent Over-watering ZZ Plants!

ZZ plants have evolved to thrive in dry, hot conditions. In our opinion, dry soil is the most difficult for plants to tolerate. Due to our dislike of heat and dry weather, we tend to overlook desert specialists like the ZZ Plant.

Let us now check the steps that you need to follow to prevent overwatering of the ZZ:

  • Check the growing medium with a chopstick or a moisture meter before watering.
  • Make sure the medium is free-draining.
  • Ensure that the pot has at least three drainage holes.
  • Consider the season and the growing conditions before watering.


Q1. Can the ZZ plant recover from overwatering?

Ans. Yes. Overwatered ZZ plants can be recovered by improving drainage in the pot and reducing watering frequency. The green, healthy foliage of your plant will return once you address the issues in your ZZ care program.

Q2. How do you tell if the ZZ plant is over or under-watered?

Ans. Take a look at the foliage. An underwatered plant will have drooping leaves with dry, brown edges, or widespread leaf drops. Overwatered ZZ plants are indicated by yellowing leaves on a large scale.

Q3. How long does it take for an overwatered ZZ plant to recover?

Ans. If you follow the steps above, you should be able to recover your overwatered ZZ plant within 7 – 14 days. It may take longer if there is extensive damage. However, if enough healthy roots are present, it usually only takes two weeks for the condition to improve.

Q4. What does a ZZ plant look like when it needs water?

Ans. When a ZZ plant needs water, its leaves may become brown, crispy, or dry. Another sign of underwatering is shriveled foliage and stems, as well as one leaf dropping at a time

Q5. Should I re-pot an overwatered plant?

Ans. To resolve your waterlogged plant, you may need to repot your plant. Firstly, remove all the waterlogged soil from your plant’s roots. If any roots are brown or mushy, remove or cut them off. Ensure that you use sterilized pruners and scissors to prevent disease spread.

Q6. How often should a ZZ plant be watered?

Ans. Your ZZ Plant needs to be watered every 2-3 weeks after it has dried out in between waterings. In brighter light, water more often, and in lower light, less often. Symptoms of thirst include wilting, wrinkled leaves, and dry potting mix, while yellowing and mushy leaves indicate overwatering.


The first step in saving ZZs is to allow the plant to completely dry out. When it’s dry, cut back dying leaves and stems, and repot them in new soil into a pot with a drainage hole.

There are additional steps to follow if roots or rhizomes have started to rot. You can refer to the steps mentioned in the article.

In most cases, overwatering your ZZ will result in yellowing stems and leaves, or droopy stalks. In some cases, you may be able to save your plant and restore it to its former glory. However, this will depend on the extent of the damage to its roots. 

Be warned, though, that your plant may not recover. If a ZZ plant is overwatered regularly, it can rot from the roots up. If that happens, it may be too late to save your usually indestructible ZZ. Please follow the factors and prevention mentioned in the article before it is too late. Feel free to ask any questions you have about the overwatered ZZ plant in the comments. Also, don’t forget to share this article on social media and with your friends and family!

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  • Prachi Parate

    Prachi Parate is an enthusiast writer. She is a native of a science background, where botanical science was one of her favorite subjects. It was always Prachi's dream to combine her passion with a career. Hence, her fascination with plants led to a career as a writer. Also, she believes that taking good care of yourself is key to happiness. Time spent in nature is one of her favorite self-care practices. It is her goal to transform her learning into content that helps readers.

  • Vinni Balyan

    11 years ago when we left NY and started living in the suburbs, I developed the passion for gardening. I'm a mom of two, and a big time gardener here helping you pick you right battle in gardening. 🙂 Stay tuned.

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