It can be disheartening to find the perfect houseplant for you and then see it start to droop or lose leaves. Maybe you’ve already tried a few tactics but nothing seems to revive your pothos or fiddle leaf fig. You’re probably asking yourself, “What’s wrong with my plant?” and can’t seem to figure out what to do to bring it back from the brink of death.
Fortunately, we’ve been there, too, and we’ve gathered our favorite solutions for helping you tackle some of the most common houseplant issues. With these plant care tips, your leafy friends will soon be growing and blooming once again. So don’t panic — you’ve got this!
Drooping or Wilting Leaves
Underwatering: Wilting or drooping is often a sign that your plant is dehydrated and in need of water. Before you water your plant, make sure it’s truly dehydrated by checking the soil. Stick your finger into the soil about one to two inches deep, roughly to the second knuckle. If the soil feels dry, then it’s time to rehydrate. If it feels moist, then another issue is causing the drooping, such as overwatering, improper lighting, pests or disease.
If you need to rehydrate your plant, fill a tray or sink with water. Then set the plant (in its container) in the water. It’s important that your plant’s container has drainage holes at the bottom so the water can soak into the soil during this process. Leave the plant in the water for 30 minutes to an hour, checking the soil for moisture retention.
You may need to repeat this process if the soil still feels dry after the first time. Repeat this process until the soil feels moist and fluffy. You can then use a plant care checklist to keep track of your new watering schedule to ensure the long-term health of your plant.
Overwatering: You may also be watering your plant too much. If it’s been sitting in water for too long, the roots may be rotting, causing improper growth. Make sure your plant is in a well-draining soil and that you’re giving it plenty of time to dry out between waterings. You may need to repot your plant and give it a fresh start in drier soil.
Overwatering: Yellowing leaves can mean a number of things, but check first for overwatering. If the soil is too wet and doesn’t get the chance to dry out, the roots aren’t able to breathe or deliver nutrients to the rest of the plant. If this is the case, you can either repot your plant and begin watering it less frequently, or allow the soil to dry out before watering it less.
Underwatering: If you’ve checked the soil and it isn’t too wet, you can start troubleshooting for other issues. If you see yellowing leaves that are also curling inwards and becoming hard or crisp, you may be underwatering your plant. Check the soil, about one to two inches deep. If it’s dry, give your plant a good watering and water it more frequently.
Nutrition: If the whole plant is yellowing or it’s yellowing in irregular patterns, there is likely an issue with nutrition. Check the fertilizer you’re using to make sure you’re using it properly. Your plant may be lacking nutrients and you may need to give it a boost.
Brown Spots on Leaves
Disease: If you notice brown spots on leaves, this is most likely due to a fungal disease. Check that the soil isn’t too wet or overwatered. Make sure you allow the soil to dry out between waterings to prevent fungal diseases from appearing. You can also use a fungicide to treat these diseases. Don’t worry — your plant can survive a fungal disease and be beautiful again.
Pests: Brown spots may also indicate a pest such as aphids or mealybugs, which feed on the sap of your favorite houseplants. Spots often appear where they’ve fed, but you can get rid of them. First, quarantine the affected plants and thoroughly clean the area where they were sitting. Then, spray down the affected plant with water. The water will wash away many of the pests, but likely not all of them.
You can next use a soap spray to eliminate the pests, but try the spray out on a leaf or two first to make sure it’s safe for your plant. To make a soap spray:
Combine 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon of mild soap
Mix 2 teaspoons of the soap mixture with every 1 cup of warm water
Small Leaves or Small Leaf Growth
Overwatering: Small leaf growth may be due to overwatering your plants. Check to make sure the soil has properly drained and dried out sufficiently before your next watering, since overwatering can damage the roots and stunt new growth.
Lighting: You should also check that your plant has access to proper lighting. If it’s in an area that’s too dark, it won’t be able to photosynthesize and grow properly. If you think your plant does have access to good lighting, try gently dusting the leaves to remove any dust particles that could be blocking sunlight from reaching them.
Scorched Leaves or Brown Tips
Underwatering: Scorched or brown tips can mean that your watering habits aren’t sufficient for your plant. Many houseplants are tropical, and they prefer very humid and moist conditions. First make sure that you’re watering your plant enough, then take a look at what the humidity is like in your home. If it’s too low for your plant, you can raise it by misting your plant with water occasionally or even taking it into the bathroom with you while you shower.
You can also place the plant on a pebble tray. Fill a tray with pebbles, then pour water into the tray, but make sure the water doesn’t submerge the pebbles. Then place your plant on the pebbles, making sure it isn’t sitting in water. This will help raise the humidity immediately around your plant.
Lighting: Scorched leaves may also be the result of suddenly changing the lighting your plant is exposed to. If your plant has been exposed to a lot more direct sunlight than usual, the scorching may be the result of sun damage. Try placing your plant in an area with more moderate lighting, or gradually build up the amount of time your plant sits in direct sunlight.
Nutrition: Lastly, scorched or brown tips may mean that your plant is being overfertilized. Fertilizers contain a lot of salt, which can harm roots and cause the brown edges and leaf tips you see. Try reducing the amount of fertilizer you use and increase your watering frequency for a little while to help flush away some of that salt.
Stretching or Leaning
Lighting: Plants may start growing in odd directions, making them appear to stretch or lean, if they aren’t receiving enough light. This is because the plant is physically trying to reach its light source. To stop your plant from stretching, move it closer to its light source so that it receives proper, even lighting. You should also rotate your plant occasionally so that all sides of it can have access to the most amount of light.
Are you noticing that your favorite indoor or potted plant has stopped growing or is growing very slowly? Don’t worry — you can help.
Overwatering/Underwatering: As with many common houseplant issues, you should first take a look at the water situation. Overwatering can cause root damage that will affect growth. Underwatering can also harm your plant, so be sure to check the soil to see if it feels too wet or too dry. Many plants prefer to let the soil dry out a bit before being watered again, so be diligent with checking the soil.
Lighting: Improper lighting may also cause stunted growth. While all plants need light to photosynthesize and grow, it’s still possible to be providing them with too much. Many plants thrive in moderate to bright indirect light, but others have different needs. You may need to move your plant away from a window or light source that’s too bright, or you may need to supplement it with grow lights. You should also dust the leaves of your plant occasionally, as dust can prevent light from reaching your plant.
Nutrition: You should also consider the possibility of nutrient deficiencies if your plant isn’t growing. It may be time to give it a boost with some fertilizer. Just be careful to follow the directions on the fertilizer label — too much can hurt your plant.
Lighting: If you’re starting to notice that your plant’s leaves are curling, it could be a sign that it’s receiving too much light. Try moving your plant to a spot where there’s less light and see if that helps the issue at all.
Pests: If your plant is already in an area with little direct light, or if moving it doesn’t work, it may mean that your plant has pests. Pests like aphids suck on leaves to get the sap, which can cause leaf curling. You can treat your plant by first spraying it down with water then using a soap spray to kill any remaining pests.
Attacked by Common Houseplant Pests
No plant parent likes to deal with pests, but sometimes they just pop up. Below are some of the most common houseplant pests, as well as some ways to identify and get rid of them.
These are some of the most well-known plant pests, and they can reproduce very quickly. They often look like small green, yellow or white spots on your plant. Aphids suck the sap out of the stems and leaves of plants and can cause serious damage. They can be eliminated by spraying your plant with water and then treating it with a soap spray.
Luckily, fungus gnats don’t cause much damage to your plants, but they can be annoying. These often crop up if you’re overwatering, since the eggs and larvae thrive in wet environments. If you notice these bugs flying around your plant, let the soil completely dry out before watering it next. This will kill any eggs or larvae in the soil.
If you’re noticing wispy webs on your plants, this is likely a sign that it has spider mites. These tiny pests can be very harmful to your plant since they suck nutrients from it, causing it to lose leaves and maybe even eventually die. You can get rid of spider mites by spraying your plant with an insecticide or soap spray.
These look like cotton ball fluff on your plant and can be very damaging. Mealybugs are another pest that suck nutrients from your plant, but you can still save it. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and dab the mealybugs with it. You can then use an insecticide or soap spray to kill any remaining bugs.
Scale insects look like small, dome-shaped bumps on your plant, and they feed on sap. These can be hard to identify because they often resemble fungal or bacterial diseases, but the treatment of scale is different. If you notice these pests on your plant, you can dab them with a cotton swab that’s been dipped in rubbing alcohol. You can also spray your plant with an insecticide or soap spray.
Plagued by Houseplant Diseases
Just as pesky as pests, diseases are no fun for a plant owner to deal with. Below are some of the most common houseplant diseases, as well as tips to identify and treat them.
Root Rot + Stem Rot
Root and stem rot is most often caused by overwatering and often leads to wilting or discolored leaves. If your plant is sitting in water for too long, the roots won’t be able to take in enough oxygen and will rot and die. This is a very common houseplant problem that can be treated by allowing the soil to completely dry out before the next watering. However, if the root rot is too severe, you may need to get rid of your plant and try again with a new one.
Fungal Leaf Spots
Fungi can grow in soil and potting mix that has been wet for too long, leading to fungal leaf spots. These often look like small brown, yellow, tan or black dots on your plant’s leaves. If you notice fungal leaf spots on your plant, remove any infected leaves. If it’s severe, spray your plant with a fungicide. You can prevent fungal leaf spots by decreasing the humidity around your plant and making sure there’s enough air circulation.
Bacterial Leaf Spots
Bacterial leaf spots can be black or brown spots with yellow rings surrounding them. These are often caused by cool, wet conditions or crowding your plants. Remove any infected leaves and make sure there is enough air circulation around your plant. If the bacterial leaf spots are affecting the entire plant, you’ll need to get rid of it and replace it. Prevent bacterial leaf spots by lowering the humidity and removing plant debris from the soil.
Yellowing leaf tips could be a sign of anthracnose, a fungal disease. This can infect your plant if it’s being overwatered, if there’s too much plant debris in the soil or if you’ve placed infected potting mix in the soil. Get rid of any infected leaves then spray your plant with a fungicide for anthracnose. Be sure the soil dries out between waterings and clean out any plant debris in the soil.
Powdery mildew is a fungus that can grow when humidity is high, soil is too wet or if you have plants that are too crowded. It looks like powdery, white circles on your plant and can cause leaves to drop. You can spray your plant with a fungicide for powdery mildew, then make sure the humidity around your plant is lower and you’re allowing the soil to dry between waterings. You should also get rid of any fallen leaves or other plant debris in the soil.
Closing: If your favorite office plant has been drooping lately or your monstera just isn’t perky anymore, there are plenty of ways to troubleshoot whatever issue is ailing your plant and treat it. Whether you’re a first-time plant parent or you have a houseplant in every room of your home, you’ll likely experience at least one of these problems during your plant care journey. But don’t worry — your plant will be back to its full beauty in no time!