6 Common Houseplant Problems and How to Fix Them

Do you have a houseplant problem you canít figure out? Itís important to determine exactly whatís going on with your plants so you can take the right action to correct the issue. What follows are some of the most common houseplant problems, as well as what causes them, and what to do about them.

1. Wilting

You might assume a wilting plant needs water, but wilting can also be a sign of overwatering. Excessive moisture for prolonged periods can cause some roots to die from lack of oxygen, and these roots will start to rot. The rot can spread to other roots, and soon your entire plant may be turning yellow and wilting from the root damage.

How to Fix

Make sure your plant dries out enough in between watering. If you can feel moisture on or close to the surface of the potting soil, or if the pot feels quite heavy when you lift it, give your plant a bit more time before watering it again.

Repotting the plant can also help. Remove as much of the old potting soil and the dead roots as possible. Wash the pot thoroughly with soap and hot water to remove any remaining fungus or bacteria, then repot your plant in fresh soil.

2. Weak, Spindly Growth

Poor light exposure can cause a plantís new growth to become long and leggy. Adequate light is essential for photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light into sugars for growth and ongoing survival. When a plant is in an area thatís too dark, it will naturally start to stretch to try and find more light.

How to Fix

Make sure your plant is near a window with good light exposure for most of the day. Try for windows facing east or west. North-facing windows often donít get strong enough light. Whereas, south-facing windows can get too much hot sun. You could also consider buying a grow light to help your plant out. Another option is to grow plants that are well-suited to low-light conditions.

3. Scorched Leaves

Plantsí leaves can get physically burnt from too much direct sun. On thinner leaves, a burn often turns into a dried-out patch somewhere on the leaf. Thicker leaves might develop discolored or dried-out spots on the sun-exposed side of the leaf. The leaves of some plants, such as certain succulents, can also turn red when exposed to too much sun.

How to Fix

Move your plant to a window that doesnít receive as much direct sun. Also keep in mind that afternoon sun is typically more intense than morning sun, so an east-facing window is likely a better choice than a window facing west or south.

Related: 8 Best Plants to Grow Indoors

4. Brown Leaf Tips

Are the tips of your plantís leaves drying up and turning brown? This can be due to a variety of reasons, but the most common is inconsistent watering. If you alternate between watering your plant heavily and then letting it get too dry, the leaf tips will start to die back from the stress. Less common reasons can be low humidity or a buildup of salts from fertilizer or softened water.

How to Fix

You can start by trimming the dry edges off the leaves with clean, sharp scissors. Next, make sure your plant is on a regular watering routine. Once the top of the soil feels dry, or the pot feels light, water the pot thoroughly until water comes out the bottom. Avoid letting it stay too dry or too wet for long periods.

You can mist or wash the leaves of your plant regularly to raise the humidity. And if the issue is salt buildup, take your plant to a sink or bathtub and water it until water runs out of the bottom repeatedly, at least three or four times. This will help flush out the excess salts. In future, use distilled water instead of softened water to water your plants, and be careful to never use more fertilizer than recommended on the package.

5. Yellow or Dropping Leaves

When a plant is under stress, it may start reducing its own leaves as a way of conserving strength. A plant can react this way when itís stressed by inconsistent watering, low light conditions, temperature fluctuations, disease or poor nutrition.

How to Fix

Try to ensure your plant has as little stress as possible. Water your plant evenly and consistently, position it to get adequate light and away from any drafts and sudden temperature changes, and fertilize it regularly with a balanced houseplant fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 formulation. All these measures should prevent the onset of disease, but if your plant continues to yellow and drop leaves, speak to an expert at a garden center to diagnose any potential disease problems.

6. Unusual Curling or Distortion of Leaves

Strange growth patterns are often a sign of insects or disease. Youíll generally see the damage on a plant before any obvious evidence of insects or pathogens. If something looks wrong on your plant, take a closer look. Are there any webs or small bugs on the undersides of the leaves or along the stems? Do the leaves have black spots, white fuzz or other signs of possible pathogens? Take a piece of your plant to a garden center for a final diagnosis.

How to Fix

Ask your local garden center or gardening expert about the best solutions for the pest youíre dealing with. You have many organic options to get rid of insects, such as washing the plant with soapy water, removing infested leaves and stems, and spraying with neem oil. Bacterial or fungal infections can be treated with baking soda, sulfur or copper sprays.

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172 comments

Catherine Z
Catherine Z13 days ago

thank you

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Angela K
Angela K17 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Val P
Val P18 days ago

good article!

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Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley1 months ago

Thank you.

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Louise R
Louise R1 months ago

thanks

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Marge F
Marge F2 months ago

Thank you for posting this informative article.

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Fran F
Fran F2 months ago

This is good information. Thanks.

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Barb Stuckel
Barb S2 months ago

I love plants. Thanks for the watering tips.

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Barbara I
Barbara I2 months ago

I only have hearty plants because my watering is inconsistent. It is important to read up on plants that can survive with its buyers idiosyncrasies. Read first, then buy a plant that can fit your lifestyle!

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Renata B
Renata B2 months ago

I am actually going to save this article. There are a couple of things which I don't know and they are very useful. Thank you.

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