7 Common Houseplant Problems and Solutions

Dr. Soma Patnaik, 31 May 2022

It is heartbreaking for a plant parent to see the plant baby suffering. It is frustrating and saddening to see a normal healthy plant suddenly turning yellow, dropping leaves, and becoming lifeless. You don’t get the reason behind the sudden changes happening. We usually freak out in such conditions and do our best to revive it back. We keep on trying until we successfully catch the nerve and get it back to normal or either see it die and try to articulate what went wrong. These problems can be taken care of with some proper steps and care. We need to understand and decode the signals the plant is trying to communicate and take the right step to resolve it to fix the problem. If meticulously taken care of the suffering plant will be back to normal and will transform into a happy plant in some time!

So here are some of the common house plant problems and the solutions to get rid of those problems:

Leaf Curling

The health of a plant can be easily seen through the healthy growth of its foliage/ leaves. Proper grown shiny leaves with the right texture are not just a sign of good growth; it also means the plant is getting the right and required elements. Unusual growing patterns like distorted curled leaves can be a sign of diseased/ insect infest/ fungal issues of a plant. The appearance of black, red, and white spots is also a sign of infection in a plant. A mild infest in the plant can be taken care of by organic solutions but a plant with a high infection needs to be treated with anti-fungal/ anti-bacterial solutions to get rid of the issue and get the plant back to normal.

Yellowing / Pale Leaves

Yellowing of old leaves as per the normal cycle is pretty much a natural thing to happen. Old leaves get weathered out and new tender leaves replace the old ones. Whereas, the untimely yellowing of more leaves can be a reason to be for worry. This yellowing of leaves can be due to over or under watering of the plant. Most houseplants are not fond of too much water. Hence, overwatering the plants can lead to the rotting of roots due to waterlogging in the soil or absorption of water in the roots themselves. The root rot reduces the strength of the plant and makes it susceptible to various other problems/ diseases. The water need of plants varies with species and also on the weather/ temperature variations. So we need to water the plant by viewing its needs and not by any thumb rule of watering. We need to thoroughly check the soil before further watering. The leaves may turn yellow/ pale due to low or high light conditions too. Try to move the plant to a brighter spot for reducing the yellowing of leaves. Whereas, Pale leaves can happen due to high light exposure. Shifting the plant to a shady spot can be the solution to this problem. Pale or scorch leaves can also be due to the high salt content of the soil which can be reduced by less fertilizing and watering with soft water instead of hard water.

 Browning of leaf tips

Browning of leaf tips can happen due to various problems like under/inconsistent watering regimes, lack of humidity, and salt building upon the surface of the soil. There is no such specific thumb rule for watering the plants but one needs to know when a plant needs water. Even if we are dealing with plants that need less water, we should not let them go without water for weeks. Such irregularity can lead to the drying of roots. We should also take care that when watering the pots gets drained out properly and there should not be any water logging which can further lead to rotting of roots and yellowing of leaves. We should make sure the plants get proper water but don’t sit on the water.

Overtly dry climate can reduce the moisture content in the atmosphere. This affects the houseplants which have a tropical origin. Hence, it is imperative to mist plants every few days to avoid dryness.

Overfertilization or use of supply water can lead to salt accumulation in the soil which curbs the nutrition absorption of plants. Hence, it is better to opt for natural fertilizers to maintain the soil ph balance. It is also advisable to use distilled water instead of direct supply water from taps to avoid salt accumulation in soil.

Stretching

Some house plants grow awkwardly tall and elongate their branches towards the source of light. These plants tend to grow and incline towards the light source. This makes the sunlight. The best way to bring back the plant to shape is to place it near the window with better light exposure. The best corners are the south-facing windows which have the brightest light spaces as compared to the north-facing windows with the least light exposure whereas, the east and the west fall in a moderate light category space. It is advisable to keep rotating the plant occasionally so that all sides get exposed to light and don’t end up becoming lopsided. Plants in terrariums can fetch light from plant lighters too.

Dropping Leaves

Do you find leaves lying beneath your plant whenever you walk past it or is the foliage getting thinner? Some plants are sensitive and resistant to changing temperatures, atmosphere, and location. This resistance is displayed by shedding leaves. There is nothing to panic about in such a situation, the plant needs its own time to settle down in the new space and adjust to it. If in case the plant hasn’t been moved or displaced in a while and still the problem pertains then it is a sign that the needs to be exposed to better light to have a better photosynthesis process.

Wilting of Leaves

Wilting of leaves sounds to be a common problem but it is the most difficult issue to diagnose. There are many reasons for wilting of leaves. It may happen due to overwatering, under watering, moisture less hardbound soil, diseases, insect infest, heat scorch, and lack of humidity in the atmosphere. Due to diverse reasons many a time it’s too late to understand the underlying cause and save the plant. Still, efforts can be made to revive the plant from the brink by taking some quick measures like having a check on watering patterns, checking the soil condition, repotting the plant, and having a check on the lighting and temperature in which the plant sits.

Mildew and Spotting of Leaves

Both of these conditions happen due to fungal infest and are viral. Changing the humid and moisture conditions in which the plant is placed can bring about mild changes in the plant. But giving the plant a fungicide treatment is the best way to stop this condition to spread across other plants. The infested foliage should be handled carefully and disposed of without having further contact with other plants. The accessories used should be thoroughly cleaned before using them further on other plants as a precautionary measure. 

By being vigilant about these common issues faced by houseplants we can have healthy and happy houseplants. Happy plant parenting. 

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