Common Houseplant Problems and How To Fix Them

Common Houseplant Problems and How To Fix Them

Last Updated On: January 28, 2021

Whether you have a few wilting leaves or a plant that refuses to grow, issues with your plants are never fun. In this article we’re looking at some of the most common houseplant problems and then detailing how to fix them. Hopefully, if you’re experiencing issues with your indoor plants then the below tips can help you get it back to growing healthy and happy.

Important to note that while we’re focused on indoor growth in this article many of the issues and solutions are the same for outdoor plants. Keep that in mind and you’ll be able to keep healthy plants year round regardless of where you choose to grow.

Spindly Or Leggy Plant

If a plant is not getting enough light it will often attempt to grow to better “reach” the light. This will lead to what is referred to a spindly or leggy plant. These plants will often have long, weak stems and look on the verge of falling over. They will often not flower or produce fruit, depending on the variety, as the plant is trying to conserve energy to survive.

The fix here is simply to make sure your plant is getting enough light. You can also help support the plant with stakes or wire during this time. These supports can often be removed once the plant has recovered its strength.

Lopsided Growth

More of an aesthetic choice than harmful to your plant, lopsided growth is often a sign that one side of your plant is getting too much light. Plants will naturally grow towards the light, and will eventually start to bend towards it.

The fix is to simply rotate the plant so that it will naturally adjust itself. In extreme cases you can also utilize supports to keep the plant upright.

Yellowing Leaves

While normal in small amounts, if many of your plant’s leaves are beginning to yellow it’s a sure sign that something is wrong. Unfortunately this common issue can be caused by a variety of issues.

These issues can include

  • Under-watering
  • Overwatering
  • Too much sun
  • Lack of nutrients

All of these can lead to yellowing leaves, so it’s important to identify which one is your culprit. Take a hard look at your care habits, and then compare it to your plant’s needs to help narrow it down.

Brown Leaf Tips

If the tips of your plant’s leaves are browning it is often the cause of under-watering or prolonged exposure to dry air. This is especially common in the colder months when dry air from a furnace or heating unit can be uncomfortable for your plant. Try misting briefly once per day to help it maintain moisture. Outside of that, make sure that you’re giving your plant enough water.

Brown leaves can also be a sign of a chemical burn from fertilizer. This is often why you’ll want to dilute fertilizer when growing in containers as the concentration is too much for an enclosed space.

Lastly, brown leaves can also be the result of too much direct sunlight. This is often more prevalent outdoors, but for certain low-light plants (like the peace lily) direct indoor light can be too much.

Wilting Plant

A wilting plant can be caused by a variety of issues, but the most common is too much direct sunlight. This is often the case for low-light plants that can’t stand intense summer sunlight. You see this most often outdoors, but does affect indoor plants as well.

Outside of that it can also be caused by overwatering. A wilting plant is one symptom of root rot (which we’ll discuss a bit down below). Make sure you’re watering your plant the correct amount as too much water is just as dangerous as too little.

Curling Leaves

Curling leaves is almost always the sign that the plant is not getting enough water or the humidity levels are off. In most cases, simply watering the plant will fix the issue and bring it back to it’s normal self.

If you’re watering the plant enough but the leaves are still curling then it’s probably a humidity issue. There are multiple ways to increase the humidity around a plant, but simply misting it every day or so is often the easiest.

Fungal Issues

A common problem with moist soil or with improper circulation can be the growth of fungus. This can quickly kill a plant, and is a serious issue that needs to be addressed quickly in order to save the plant.

The symptoms can vary depending on the exact issue, but some common things to look out for are:

  • Dark red, rust like spots on leaves
  • Powdery mildew like substance on leaves or stems
  • Soft, black roots or dark rings around base of stems
  • Visible mold on the plant (often white or gray)

Any of these signs can point to a fungal problem. Take note that sometimes other symptoms like drooping leaves are caused by fungi, but could have other causes as well.

If you’ve identified a fungal issue the first step is to create an environment that isn’t conducive to fungal growth. Otherwise the problem will continue to return. The biggest culprits are constantly wet soil due to overwatering and poor circulation around the plant. Check that you’re watering the plant an appropriate amount and that enough fresh air gets to the plant.

Once the root cause is fixed you can take measures depending on the severity of the fungal growth. If the fungus is isolated you can simply remove the infected parts of the plant. For larger issues you can use anti-fungal sprays that will help your plant fight it off. Keep in mind that for fungal issues left for too long it may be impossible to save the plant.

Lastly, be aware of root rot which is a common result of overwatering and can quickly kill a plant. We have an article specifically written to address root rot, the causes and how to save a plant that is suffering from it.

Lack Of Production

Lastly, we come to lack of production, an issue that could be any combination of the mentioned issue. If a plant isn’t producing flowers, leaves, fruits, or vegetables as quickly as it should it’s often the sign that there is an issue.

Unfortunately, it could really be anything that’s causing it from too much sun to not enough water. As a gardener it’s your job to sit down and figure out why a plant isn’t growing by comparing its needs to your current care routine. Make sure your plant is getting enough sun and water, but not too much, and that you’re providing it with a properly diluted fertilizer.

If you’re certain that it’s not a care issue look out for environmental issues. A plant too close to a heating duct or drafty window can often be enough to slow its growth. You can also try repotting the plant as old soil will slowly compact and become less useful. This is especially true if it’s been a long time since giving the plant fresh soil.

Lastly, it’s important to call out that poor production isn’t necessarily a cause for concern and can actually be desired in some cases. Many plants can survive in less than ideal conditions, and will simply produce less as a result. If you’re aware of this then keep doing what you’re doing. The above is only relevant for those where the cause is unknown.

Common Houseplant Problems

Hopefully the above has helped you find and fix any issues you’re having growing your plants indoors. Keep in mind that it is only a sample of the most common problems gardeners face, and there are dozens of others out there. Did we miss one that you think we should include? Let us know and we’ll update the article. It’s always our goal to provide the best information possible, and help from our readers is always appreciated!

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