10 Common Plant Problems and How to Fix Them
Don’t get fooled: The green thumb is a myth. There is no inherent talent or divine gift that you either have or do not have. With the right conditions, anyone can grow happy and healthy plants, even self-professed plant killers. The secret is in paying attention and looking closely: if there’s something wrong, your plant will let you know by showing you. The trick is to be attentive enough to take notice, research, and adjust!
To help you out, we’ve rounded up a list of 10 common indoor plant problems and how to address them. Read on and bookmark this page, because this guide will come in handy for both seasoned and newbie plant parents.
THE PROBLEM: YELLOW LEAVES
The Symptoms: Yellowing on new growth or on more leaves than normal.
The Solution: Yellowing on ageing leaves is a natural occurrence. However, when new growth starts turning yellow, it’s a sign that your plant isn’t getting enough sun or too much sun . To combat the former, find a spot in your house that gets enough morning sun. A South-facing window would be best. If space indoors isn’t available, take time to bring your plants outdoors several times a week or invest in a grow light for indoor plants.
If adequate sunlight isn’t the culprit, then the problem might be related to overwatering and poor drainage. This can eventually lead to root rot, if not addressed properly (more on that later!). Set up a watering schedule that allows enough time for the top two inches of soil dry out before watering thoroughly. It would help to also keep your plant in a pot with drainage holes, to allow for the water to drip out of the pot and not sit at the bottom to soak the roots too long. Don’t forget to throw the water from the catch plate!
THE PROBLEM: BROWNING LEAVES
The Symptoms: Browning leaves, dry soil
The Solution: Browning leaves can be a sign that your plant is drying out too much in between watering, summer heat stress a sign of dry air. Most indoor and tropical plants prefer humid temperatures, which aren’t always conducive to the inside of our homes. A regular spritzing schedule can solve both problems, but if you aren’t too keen on misting around your house often.
There are two tricks that may help: First, group tropical plants together as these plants help improve humidity around each other. Second, place your pot with a drainage hole on top of a pebble tray with water. The water will eventually evaporate and will help make the air around your plant more humid.
THE PROBLEM: ROOT ROT
The Symptoms: Yellowing, brown, or discolored leaves even after troubleshooting with the above suggestions can be a sign that your plant is suffering from root rot. Other symptoms include a soft, mushy and brown stems or plant wilting.
The Solution: Root rot is caused by overwatering, poor drainage, or both. Prevention is better than the cure, so to avoid root rot, make sure you adhere to a watering schedule that allows your plant to dry out just enough. Another preventive measure is to choose a pot with drainage holes, so the water doesn’t sit at the bottom of the pot for too long.
Carefully check the roots by tilting the pot over. Your plant should slide right out just enough to get a good look at the roots. If the roots are indeed mushy and rotting, carefully remove your plant from the pot and wash off the old soil. Trim any rotten roots. If you remove a significant amount of roots, you might also need to prune some leaves of the plant to encourage new root growth. Re-pot the plant in a clean and dry pot with fresh soil.
THE PROBLEM: LEAVES DROPPING
The Symptoms: Leaves shedding occasional is a natural process as the plant ages, especially if the plant is moved around often. However, if new foliage drops frequently, that’s when you should take notice.
The Solution: Dropping leaves is a tricky plant problem caused by several factors, including low humidity, over watering, or under watering. This can also be caused by an overgrown plant living in a small pot (in which case, repotting to a larger pot would fix the problem), or even extremely hot or cold temperatures (or a sudden change in temperature surrounding the plant).
Create a watering schedule that allows enough time between each watering for two inches of soil to dry out. If humidity is an issue, it’s nothing misting or a pebble tray can’t fix. Lastly, you might want to reconsider the plant’s placement in the home. Is it placed in an air-conditioned room, or maybe it was placed near an appliance that overheats? Place the plant in a neutral space with enough direct or indirect sunlight, whichever is more conducive to its plant type.
THE PROBLEM: LEGGY PLANTS
The Symptoms: Leggy plants are characterized by long stems with sparse foliage and little to no flowers, often seen with seedlings.
The Solution: Light, and adequate amounts of it! Your plant generates energy from light through photosynthesis to create bigger foliage or grow flowers. Research your plant to find out just how much light it needs, then move it towards a well-lit spot with enough sunlight, or invest in a grow light. Learn more about grow lights here with a guide on how to choose the best grow light for your space and plant needs.
Pruning leggy plants with heavy leaves on top, especially on herbs like basil, can cultivate growth and redistribute the plant’s energy. Eventually, the plant will grow a sturdier stalk and stunted leaves will grow bigger.
THE PROBLEM: LEANING OR STRETCHING PLANT
The Symptoms: Is your plant leaning towards a light source, maybe a window, or is it lopsided because of how it’s growing in the pot?
The Solution: If you answered yes to the former, your plant is stretching towards a light source because it isn’t getting enough sun. Find a spot indoors near a south-facing window to place your plant. If a space isn’t an option indoors, consider bringing your plant outdoors a couple times a week or purchase a grow light.
The latter can be solved by propping up the plant with a rock, tying it to a support beam, or a more attractive solution could be using a stackable plant pole for it to lean on. Consider rotating your plant every few hours to make sure it gets equal amount of light!
THE PROBLEM: DROOPING OR WILTING LEAVES
The Symptoms: The leaves are either drooping, curling, or the entire plant is falling forward and in worse cases, wilting.
The Solution: Drooping leaves is a result of under watering. In most cases, a thorough watering will bring your plant’s leaves right back up in a few minutes. If the plant goes through prolonged droughts or low humidity, your plant’s leaves will eventually turn yellow, leaf edges will curl, or leaves might start falling off. If you have trouble setting up a watering schedule for your plant, a water meter can be useful in monitoring your plant’s moisture and humidity.
THE PROBLEM: DISCOLORED LEAVES
The Symptoms: Both young and mature leaves are a light green, almost yellow shade paired with stunted growth. Some leaves can also curl and accompanying flowers are small, and light-colored.
The Solution: Nutrient deficiency might be the cause of a plant with stunted growth and discolored or yellowing leaves. Three essential nutrients that cause nutrient deficiency in plants are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Look for a fertilizer rich in these nutrients. Follow instructions closely on store-bought fertilizers as too much fertilizer can cause burnet leaf edges. An organic, home remedy is to add used coffee grounds to the soil of your plant to boost nitrogen content. Find organic fertilizer best fit for your plant’s needs at our shop!
THE PROBLEM: LEAF SPOTS
The Symptoms: Leaf spots can manifest in various shapes, sizes, and colors ranging from large brown spots that start in the middle of the plant to small, speckled dots.
The Solution: Spots on plant leaves usually indicate some form of bacterial, fungal, or viral disease and even insects. The quick solution would be to remove dead, dying, or diseased leaves from the plant immediately to prevent the disease from spreading to the rest of the plant.
Next, separate the plant from other plants, and keep it in a well-ventilated and well-lit space. More serious leaf spotting might call for disease specific treatment. Remember to always water at the base of the plant and not on the leaves.
THE PROBLEM: FLOWERS AREN’T BLOOMING
The Symptoms: The plant looks healthy enough, but the flowers just aren’t blooming
The Solution: First, check to see if your plant is meant to bloom at the time of the year you want it to bloom. Next, check that your plant is receiving adequate light, water, humidity, and the soil is rich in organic matter (a good potting mix will come in handy!). A little pruning of leaves and stems can help cultivate growth, but not to be overdone as this can cause stress on the plant, too!
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