Indoor plants can make any space more inviting and comfortable adding touches of color and subtle fragrance to your home. Unfortunately, sometimes your houseplants might not grow as straight as you expect them to. The fact that there are several causes for indoor plant leaning also makes it tricky to discover why this is happening. To help you solve this problem, we’ve listed the most common reasons why plants lean and the solutions to remedy them.
Not Enough Light
Indoor plants need the same amount of light that they would get if you planted them outside. The issue is that some rooms in your home may not provide your plants with adequate sunlight. In fact, poor lighting is the most common reason for your plants to start leaning, so this is a good place to start investigating. This is because a plant will try to reach the sunlight that it’s missing and do what it can to get more of it.
If there’s not enought light this can cause the plant to become leggy and spindly. This can be the cause by improperly placed grow light, or with natural light if your plant is not getting enough. The plant naturally does what it can to try and get closer to the source of light and hopefully receive more of it. Those thin stems can’t support the plant, so they start to lean.
Another issue is that only one side of the plant is getting the light it needs. Outside, the sun moves across the sky providing more equal illumination, but when it shines in your window, it won’t reach all areas of the plant. When this happens, the plant will lean towards the light, growing in this direction instead of straight up. You may also notice the yellowed leaves on the lighted side and falling leaves on the side without sun.
To solve the inadequate lighting issue, first, place your plant near a window that is giving it the light it needs for the recommended amount of time. Though some plants like minimal light, others require hours of bright light to survive, so a south-facing window will provide a location that receives the maximum amount of light. You can move the plant closer to the window if needed to increase the amount and intensity of light it receives. Future leaning can also be prevented by rotating your plant each time you water it to ensure all sides are getting the right amount of light.
Lastly, consider getting a grow light if you’re frequently having trouble with leggy and leaning growth. Grow lights can help supplement for lack of natural light, and therefore solve many of the above problems.
Plants need specific amounts of water to thrive, so if you’re giving them too much or too little it can cause them to deteriorate and start to lean. Of course, there are different reasons for this depending on how much water you’re adding to the soil.
If the plant isn’t getting enough moisture, it can become dehydrated, which weakens the stems until they can’t support themselves, causing leaning. Too much water is also an issue since the roots can’t absorb it all, soaking in the moisture instead. This causes the roots to drown and rot, making it impossible for them to supply the plant with the moisture and nutrients it needs to survive. At this point, the plant can begin to lean.
If you think your plant is being overwatered or underwateted there are ways to determine this. First, insert your finger an inch or so into the soil. If the soil is dry beneath the surface, then your plant isn’t getting enough water. Add enough to soak it until water is leaking out of the drainage holes. Then test the soil again every few days to be sure it is still moist.
If too much water is the issue, let the soil dry out completely before adding any more. Place the plant in bright indirect sunlight to help dry it out faster. Only then should you add small amounts of moisture until the plant starts looking healthy again. Be sure to test the soil as described above to see if more water is needed.
The Plant is Root-bound
When a plant is grown in a garden or yard, its roots have the room needed to spread out as they see fit. Indoor plants don’t have this luxury, and this means that it’s possible for them to outgrow their containers. If the roots don’t have enough room to spread out they won’t be able to provide the necessary water and nutrients to the rest of the plant, causing it to droop and lean.
The roots can also become tangled and this will also prevent them from absorbing nutrients and moisture. This is what is referred to as root bound, and can lead to serious problems for your plant.
The best way to fix a root-bound plant is to first check the drainage holes. If you see the roots poking out, it’s time for a larger pot to give those roots room to spread out. The best time for this is during the plant’s growing season between spring and fall when the plant is full of energy and the roots can sprout new shoots. We have an entire article on repotting that you can read if this is your plant’s issue. That article will also detail some additional ways to determine if it’s time to repot your plant.
Though they don’t eat as we do, plants need food to provide the proper nutrients to encourage continual growth. There are such nutrients in the soil but eventually, the plant will use these up, requiring the addition of new nutrients in the form of fertilizer. Failing to provide your plants with fertilizer causes stress, which results in a leaning, unhappy plant.
Adding fertilizer can help straighten up those stems. Be sure to use the correct type and ratio since not every plant has the same requirements, though a balanced fertilizer is usually a safe option. Add it only during the growing season, using the amount and frequency recommended for the specific plant you’re feeding.
It’s Too Big
Some plants grow much larger than others, with long stems and heavy foliage. When this happens, the plants may not be able to support themselves due to the extra weight. The pot could also be too small to hold such a heavy plant. This is especially dangerous when they start to lean since they could topple right over, damaging the plant.
There are a few solutions, depending on how the plant is growing. The first option is to place the plant in a larger pot that can support the extra weight, preventing the plant from falling over due to heavy growth. You can also add a stake or trellis to the container, though you need to be careful not to hit any roots as you insert it into the soil. Then tie the plant to the stake to help it stay upright.
If the plant’s foliage is the issue, pruning may be required to lighten the load on the stems. Be sure to prune at the top of the plant. Not only will this relieve the tension, but it will also encourage side growth for a more even weight distribution.
Even if you find the cause of a leaning plant and take measures to solve the problem, a plant won’t straighten overnight. Adding supports will keep the plant upright while the stem corrects itself and prevents the whole plant from toppling.
Stakes or trellis inserted near taller plants provide them with the support they need. These should be tall and thin, yet sturdy, to keep the plant upright and help reduce how it leans. There are several options available, including bamboo, wood, or plastic stakes, as long as they are strong enough to support your plant.
When inserting the stakes into the soil, place them opposite the leaning side of the plant. Avoid the roots if possible to prevent damage. Push the stake deep into the soil to ensure it stays put. Then use garden ties, twine, or string to tie the plant to the stake. You can add a loop every few inches along the plant’s stem, keeping them loose to prevent harm.
It’s a good idea to stake your plants while you’re correcting its leaning problem. This prevents the plant from falling over during its recovery, and prevents further damage.
Indoor Plant Leaning
Plants will leave for all sorts of reasons, most of them bad. That’s why it’s important to fix the issue as soon as you notice it. Leaning is often the symptom of a more serious issue that can cause serious issues if left untreated. Check up on your plants daily, and you’ll be able to fix issues before they become serious.