6 Signs You Overwater Tomato Plants – Advanced Tips to Save Them

With all of the different types of tomato seeds and plants on the market, no matter where you live, you can find some tomatoes to grow that are perfect for your location.

What happens, though, when things go wrong? For example, when you overwater tomato plants? Thankfully, there are things you can do to save your precious plants and have a bountiful harvest at the end of the season.

First, however, let’s take a look at some of the signs of over watering tomato plants.

Sign #1: Yellowing Leaves

By far, the most common sign of overwatering for most plants, including tomato plants, is yellow leaves.

Many people mistakenly believe that yellow leaves mean that the plant doesn’t have enough water, and they are starting to turn brown or die, but actually the opposite is true – the reality of the situation is that there is so much water that the plants can’t get enough oxygen, and they are suffocating.

tomato with yellow leaves

Keep in mind that you may be overwatering, but there is also another reason for this – the water you are giving the plants is the right amount, but your soil is wrong.

Either way, yellow leaves are not normal for a tomato plant, and it almost always means that they are getting too much water and the oxygen the plant desperately needs is not getting through to the roots.

Even though the roots are underground, oxygen is still present in the soil and in the water, and it gets to the plant through the roots.

Note: Yellow leaves can also be a sign of a viral infection. Make sure your tomatoes don’t show the rest of the symptoms of the mosaic or yellow curly leaves curl virus.

Sign #2: Wilting Leaves

Next to yellowing leaves, the next most common sign of overwatering tomato plants is leaves that are wiling. In addition to this being a common sign, it is also usually the first sign that people notice when they believe something is wrong with their plants.

As with the yellow leaves, many gardeners see wilting plants and believe that they aren’t watering enough. Though this could be true, in order to check, you will want to also look at the soil.

If the leaves are wilted and your soil is wet – you are overwatering. You should stop watering it immediately, and then look for our tips on saving your plant, below.

Sign #3: Smelly Plants and Rotten Roots

If you don’t stop the issue of overwatering when you see yellow leaves or wilting leaves, your plants could get into the danger zone with root rot. This is a serious condition where the roots of the plant become too wet, and it can kill your plant.

As plants sit in soil with a lot of moisture, they will keep absorbing that water into the plant through the roots. However, the plant can only use so much water, and when it takes what it can, the rest of the moisture just sits there.

The roots have nowhere to go and must sit in the stagnate water…eventually, they will become weak, and you might notice that your plants are starting to smell because the roots are literally rotting away.

Other signs of root rot include plants that are falling over from the base, dropping leaves, and fleshy stems. Once you get root rot, it’s difficult to counteract, but we will have some ideas if you keep reading.

Sign #4: Rolling Leaves

Leaves that roll up may also be a sign of overwatering, but it’s not as common as the other signs we have introduced. Though it sounds a bit weird, it’s really not that harmful; though you still should watch for it.

tomato leaves curling physiological cause

You will typically notice rolling leaves when the plants begin to produce fruit, and it often occurs during the overnight hours.

One day you might notice beautiful plants with wide leaves, and then the next, you are shocked to see all of your plants have rolled up leaves.

Don’t panic – just stop watering as much and let the soil dry out for a few days.

Sign #5: A Lot of Extra Foliage

You also may notice that your tomato plants look lush and full, but they are not producing a lot of fruit. This, too, could be a sign of overwatering.

Essentially, all of the water you are giving your plant causes it to produce more leaves to counteract the water it’s getting. However, all of the energy of the plant is used for leaf growth, and not fruit growth.

Sign #6: Cracked Tomatoes

Finally, as your tomato plants begin to produce fruit, you may start to notice cracks on the surface of the tomatoes.

tomato cracks

This is because the fruit is getting so much water that it has nowhere to go, and it’s literally breaking the skin. This is a sure sign of overwatering in an older tomato plant.

You Can Save Your Plants if You Have Overwatered Them!

There is good news – you can definitely save most, if not all, of your tomato plants if you have overwatered, but you may need to act quickly. Also, keep in mind that if you leave the plants in an overwatered state for too long, they might not recover well, or at all. Here are some advanced tips:

Advanced Tip #1 – Remove Standing Water

If you see a lot of water around your plants or if the water you are putting on your plants isn’t absorbing fairly quickly, you need to stop watering and remove as much of the water that is there.

If you have standing or stagnant water in your pot or drip tray of an indoor tomato plant, simple pour the water out. If the plant is outside, you might have to get a bit more creative.

You can try to mop up the water with a towel or blanket, or you can gently use a tool like a Shop-Vac, which can pull up the water around the plant – just make sure you aren’t taking the plant with the water!

Advanced Tip #2 – Dry it Thoroughly

The next tip we have is to let the soil dry thoroughly. Do NOT put any more water on the plants until you can stick your fingers into the soil about 1-2 inches and only feel dry dirt.

You can do with both indoor and outdoor tomato plants. In the case of outdoor plants, you can also try putting a tarp or plastic sheet around the soil if it’s going to rain in order to keep things drier.

Tip #3 – Dig Up the Plant and Repot/Replant It

If things are really bad, and the soil is just soaked and you don’t think it will dry out soon, you need to remove your plants from the wet area.

This is much easier to do with indoor tomato plants, as you can simply pull them out of the pot, and then gently remove all of the wet soil from the roots. With outdoor plants, you will need to gently remove them from your garden bed.

Remember, the roots may be weak or rotted, so this is a good time to remove any that look black or those that smell. Tomato roots should be white or light brown in color; if they are black, they are rotting, and you should remove them.

Be careful, though…you can contaminate other plants with disease when you use clippers or scissors from an infected plant to one that is unaffected, so always disinfect these garden tools.

pruning shear

When you replant the tomatoes, it’s best to put them in a place where they will get good drainage. Consider putting them in a pot with holes or add gravel to the bottom of the pot before you put the plant in. Also, make sure to use good quality soil made for tomatoes, or compost.

If you are replanting the tomatoes in a bed, you can add perlite, vermiculite, compost, or even add earthworms, which are a gardener’s best friend! They will keep the soil loose and allow water to drain.

How to Correctly Water Tomato Plants?

Now that you know what not to do, you may want to know what you should do in order to make sure your tomato plants are watered correctly. This isn’t difficult, and with a little bit of knowledge, you can have beautiful, bountiful tomato plants inside or out.

The most important thing that you have to remember is that a healthy plant is supported by healthy roots – so that’s where your thoughts should go – how to support the roots and keep them healthy.

watering tomato plant

First, it’s always best to water your tomato plants in the morning. This ensures that they have water and moist soil when the day gets hot.

Another thing that you want to do is make sure that you are not watering the leaves; instead, water at the base. Watering the leaves can lead to diseases like blight and it can also stress out the plant.

If you have tomato plants in pots, you might need to water them more often than you would water tomatoes in a garden or bed as they dry out more quickly.

Another good tip is to be consistent with your watering. We have already mentioned that you can crack the skin of the tomatoes if you overwater, but if you water inconsistently, the skin may also crack.

You also may find that the fruit develops a condition called “blossom end rot,” which causes the fruit to rot while still on the plant.

Finally, keep in mind that tomatoes require about 1-2 inches of water a week, but some of that will come from rain depending on where you live and where your tomatoes are planted.

A rainwater gauge is a great way to determine how much rain is falling.

But Wait! There’s More!

You may think that you know everything there is to know about watering tomato plants, but that’s not quite the case. There is also something to be said about the water needs of a tomato plant based on the life stage of the plant.

If you are growing tomatoes from seed, for example, you need to make sure that you give the seedlings enough water to grow into a full-grown tomato plant. The best way to water seeds and seedlings is with a spray bottle.

watering tomato seeds with spray bottle

You only want to give each plant about four to five sprays, and make sure that the water gets deep into the soil. Remember, the stronger your roots are, the better your plant will produce, and it all starts with seedlings.

Once the seedings are ready to be transplanted into the garden, you should soak them, and then monitor them and water using the information we discussed above. Remember – be consistent with your watering to avoid cracks.

You should see your plants grow fairly quickly throughout the season if you are taking care of them correctly. It’s important to check on them every couple of days to ensure that they are not overwatered…or underwatered for that matter.

Both of these will affect the fruit that is grown. A good rule of thumb in average conditions is to water once a week, but there are a lot of factors that can affect this, including temperature, location, and weather conditions.

Overwater Tomato Plants – Bottom Line

Though it is common for people to overwater their tomato plants, most gardeners, especially those new to gardening, don’t recognize these signs. If you ignore things like yellow and wilted leaves or odd odors, you could end up losing your plants and all of the hard work that you have put into them.

Knowing if your plants are getting overwatered, and how to fix it, is a wonderful skill to have, and it can make all the difference between a poor harvest and one with tons of delicious tomatoes.