I like growing rosemary in my herb garden but found that the leaves were turning yellow. I checked the roots which had turned black showing signs of overwatering.
Overwatered rosemary can be saved if you trim the diseased roots and transplant the plant to another location where the soil is dry. You need to dig up the plant and inspect the roots for root rot. If there are some healthy roots, the rosemary can still be saved.
If your rosemary plant is suffering from overwatering, you may be able to restore it. But this depends on the extent of damage to the plant.
How to revive overwatered rosemary
The first thing to do is take the rosemary plant out of the soil. You need to dig around the soil near the base of the plant till the roots are exposed. You can then lift the plant out of the soil.
Check the roots of the rosemary plant for signs of damage. The most common problem of overwatering is root rot. The roots will have turned black, soggy, and may even smell rotten.
If all the roots of the rosemary plant have turned black and soggy, you can’t save the plant. Dispose of it in the garbage. Don’t put it in the compost pile if you have one. It will just cause the fungus to spread into the organic material in the pile.
If there are just a few roots suffering from root rot, you can save the rosemary plant. Trim the black, dead roots.
You should also trim any dead or yellowing leaves and branches on the plant. This will help the plant focus its energy on recovering and growing new foliage.
Reviving rosemary growing in the ground
The rosemary plant suffered from overwatering because the drainage was not good enough in the soil. If you had planted it in the ground, you need to move it to another location of your garden.
Pick a location that will have good drainage. You can figure out such a location by digging up the soil and watering it well. The water should drain into the ground within an hour. This will indicate it’s a good area for planting rosemary.
You can transplant the rosemary plant to this new location once the soil has dried. Dig a hole and place the roots inside. Cover the roots with soil and firm the base to give support to the plant.
You can water the soil well so the rosemary plant can start recovering from the stress of trimming the roots and the transplant.
Reviving rosemary growing in a pot
If you had planted the rosemary in a pot and it suffered overwatering, it means the drainage holes are not working. Or the potting soil contains too much clay and is not draining well.
You need to remove the potting soil from the pot and throw it away. Inspect the drainage holes for any blockage and clean them up.
I recommend adding good potting soil that is made for growing potted plants. Avoid using garden soil in the pot that may contain a lot of clay and cause drainage problems.
Dig a hole in the potting soil and place the rosemary roots in it. Cover the roots with more potting soil and ensure the plant is standing straight.
Water the potting soil well till the water drains out from the drainage holes at the bottom.
How fast can the overwatered rosemary plant heal?
Once you have trimmed the affected roots and transplanted the rosemary, it should start recovering and improving every day.
The speed at which the plant will recover depends on the condition of the rosemary. If the plant was strong before the overwatering problem, it should recover in 4 to 7 days.
But if the plant was weak to begin with, the overwatering will have caused a lot of stress. If the rosemary plant does not show signs of recovery after a week, it will slowly die.
What are the signs of overwatering rosemary?
The main problem with overwatering is that it will drown the roots and cause problems like fungal root rot. Since the roots can’t function they won’t be able to send nutrients and moisture to the foliage.
So the most common sign of overwatering is the leaves will start turning yellow and even wilting. This could also be a sign of underwatering. But the difference is that with overwatering the leaves will be soft to touch. With underwatering, the leaves will turn dry.
You can dig into the soil and check the roots for signs of overwatering. They will have turned dark, soggy, and smell due to infection with root rot.
You will also find that the soil near the roots is soggy and retaining a lot of moisture than it should. The stem and branches will turn brittle and break with ease.
How to prevent overwatering the rosemary plant?
The best way to protect your rosemary plant is to prevent the overwatering problem in the first place.
Ensure good soil drainage
The most common problem causing overwatering is the lack of good drainage in the soil. If you are growing the rosemary plant in the ground, the garden soil may contain a lot of clay.
The clay sticks together when you water the soil and does not allow the water to drain out. This will drown the roots and cause problems like root rot.
It’s best to check the soil before you plant rosemary. You can get a soil test done by sending in some samples to your Local Extension Service.
They will give you a detailed analysis of the soil content as well as what amendments you can make to improve it.
The best amendment is to mix a few inches of organic compost into the garden soil. This organic material and the beneficial organisms that come with it will gradually improve the texture of the soil.
If you’re growing the rosemary plant in a pot, you need to use potting soil that has good drainage. Avoid using garden soil in the pot as it compacts easily and may contain clay that has bad drainage.
You also want to ensure that the potting soil has sufficient drainage holes at the bottom. So the excess water will drain out from the bottom.
Water the soil only when required
If you keep watering the soil without a schedule, there’s a good chance you may end up overwatering it. I suggest checking the moisture in the soil before you water it.
The easiest way to do this is to use a moisture meter in the soil that will give you exact readings. You can also stick your finger 1-2 inches in the soil.
You can water the soil if the tip of your finger feels dry when you take it out of the soil. Give the soil good watering which ensures that the roots grow deep into the soil.
This is especially important if you’re growing the rosemary plant in a pot. If the roots stay shallow, they won’t be able to absorb all the moisture after watering.
This will make the water stay in the soil longer in the lower end of the pot and risk overwatering.
If you have several plants in your garden, it would get good to use drip-irrigation or a soaker hose to water the plants.
You can set the watering system with a timer that will drip water slowly into the soil for the plants. This ensures that the rosemary plant gets the required moisture without the risk of overwatering.