Houseplant Help: Why Is My Plant Dying? - Backyard Boss
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Houseplant Help: Why Is My Plant Dying?

Even the hardiest plants have challenges, and no matter how much experience or skill you have, you could end up with a dying plant. Never fear! To help you save an indoor plant that’s wilting by the moment, we’ve rounded up the common causes of plant drooping, yellowing, leaf dropping, browning, burning, spotting, and disease, pest, water and light issues, as well as ways to prevent these and more houseplant concerns.

The Symptoms of a Dying Plant

dry house plant small in pot dead on windowsillPlants don’t usually die overnight. For days or even weeks before, you might notice signs that your plant is near its end. Common signs of plant death include wilting leaves, yellow leaves, or dropping leaves. If you notice that your plant or soil isn’t holding any water, there could also be an issue.

You should also look out for the following:

  • Roots at the surface
  • Roots coming through drainage holes
  • Brown spots on leaves
  • Flower buds dropping before opening
  • Burnt spots on leaves
  • Lighter or darker leaf color

What You Should Do for Your Plant

If you notice any of the signs above, you should act quickly. Your plant may only be a short time away from dying. Before you do anything, think about the cause of a dying plant. You need to be a detective to figure out how you should act. It all starts with identifying what signs your plant has. Then, you need to guess what could be causing those symptoms.

Wilting or Drooping Plant

When a plant’s leaves are looking sad, you should check the soil. If the soil feels dry, your plant may not be getting enough water. You should water it immediately and hope it recovers. However, dry soil isn’t always the cause of wilting or drooping leaves. If you touch the soil and it feels wet, your plant could be a victim of root rot. You need to stop watering your plant and remove it from its pot. Soggy, slimy, and dark brown or black roots are sure signs of root rot.

Wash and trim off the damaged areas with a small sharp knife or box cutter. Then, dip the remaining roots in fungicide. Place the plant in a new pot and give it some water. In the future, avoid overwatering it.

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Plant or Soil Doesn’t Hold Water

If your plant or soil isn’t holding my water, there are two possible causes. The first possibility is that the plant is root bound. Take the plant out of the pot and study the roots. Are they right packed together? Tightly packed roots indicate that you need to move the plant to a larger pot.

If the roots are fine, the soil could be hydrophobic. The potting mix may be repelling water, which leaves water beading up at the top of the soil. Because the water doesn’t soak in, the plant won’t get enough moisture. To fix this issue, place your plant back in the pot and soak it in a seaweed extract solution.

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Yellow Leaves

An old plant loses some leaves over time. They may turn yellow and fall off. But, when a plant’s younger leaves start to turn yellow, there are a few possible culprits. First, your plant could be over or under-watered. Feel the soil and consider watering it more or less frequently, based on the feel of the soil.

It’s also possible that your plant is getting too much sun. Consider the location of your plant and move it to a less sunny area. If there’s a cold draft coming from a nearby window or door, the cold might be causing the yellow leaves. Move the plant away and note whether or not the plant bounces back.

houseplants in pots on windowsill in the rain

Tips of Leaves Turning Brown

More often than not, brown leaf tips on a plant are an indication of too much fertilizer. Fixing this is relatively easy, as you just need to scoop up the extra fertilizer or flush water through the soil to wash away some fertilizer.

If you haven’t fertilized your plant in more than two weeks and it has brown leaf tips, the most likely culprit is lack of humidity. Give your plant a mist with distilled water every day, and set up a humidity tray nearby to assist your wilting plant with recovery.

house plant nidus fern with brown leaf tips and spots too dry

Burnt Spots on the Leaves

If a person spends too much time in the sun, they’ll suffer from sunburn. The same problem can happen to a plant. As soon as you notice brown spots on your plant, move it out of the sunlight.

spider plant sunburn cat in pot in window

How to Revive a Plant That’s Dying

To revive a dying plant, you need to give it exactly what it needs. That means troubleshooting the issue, taking steps to resolve the problem, and providing proper care for the plant.

Sometimes, reviving a plant is as simple as moving it to a better location. At other times, it requires more care and maintenance. Do your research and don’t lose hope. Check out our Indoor Gardening articles—chances are we have a complete care guide for your houseplant. If all else fails, you can ask someone from your local nursery for advice.

Is Your Plant Drooping After Watering?

If your plant is drooping after you water it, there could be a few issues. For instance, you may not have addressed the real problem. Watering will revive a plant that hasn’t been watered frequently enough, but it won’t revive a plant that has hydrophobic soil. After you water your plant, consider what the real problem may be.

On the hand, your plant might always droop after watering. The cause of this is often too much water. When a plant receives too much water, the roots don’t receive enough oxygen. This causes the plant’s leaves to droop. Even a plant that’s easy to maintain could experience symptoms from overwatering. To avoid having a dying plant, you should check the soil regularly and water the plant as directed.

underwatered succulent houseplants in containers dry leaf tips brown

Saving Your Plants

Caring for plants isn’t much different than caring for people or animals. Plants need water, sunlight, and nutrients. When a plant doesn’t get what it needs, it starts to die. The process could be slow, or it could happen overnight. Air plants, succulents, and other common plants could go at any time.

Fortunately, there are usually signs and symptoms of a dying plant. If you look out for those signs, you may be able to fix the issue and restore your plant to its healthy state. In fact, it might be healthier than it ever was.

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