You might think it’s simply bad luck when an otherwise healthy-looking houseplant suddenly starts to look sickly. But usually, there’s a simple explanation for wilting and drooping. Read on to find out where you went wrong — you might even be able to save your plant before it’s too late.
Mistake #1: You’re watering it wrong.
Apparently, merely remembering to water your plant is not enough to keep it alive. Yes, if you forget to water your plant for several days, its roots may dry up. But the opposite is actually more likely — overwatering is one of the most common reasons why houseplants bite the dust.
Root rot occurs when soil doesn’t drain properly. The plant may look healthy — the uppermost layer of soil may even feel dry. But the problem is easy to identify when you expose the roots. Healthy roots are firm and keep their shape; rotted roots have a floppy, soggy appearance.
- Use a potting — not garden — soil mix.
- Never place a plant in a pot that doesn’t have a drainage hole.
- Don’t get too zealous about watering your plant. In general, plants do best when the soil is permitted to dry out between watering.
- When you water, give the plant enough to seep through the drainage holes. Let the plant drain completely before returning it to the saucer. Do not leave the pot standing in water.
- Wait until the soil is dry to the touch to water again. Insert your finger into the soil to make sure the soil is dry under the uppermost layer.
Mistake #2: Your plant isn’t getting the right amount of light.
Most people know that plants need light to live. However, where a lot of us fail is in thinking that artificial light is a good enough substitute for direct sunlight. Turns out, plants are a heck of a lot more sensitive to light than humans are. By trying to grow plants in an area that doesn’t get much natural light, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for failure.
- Make sure your plants are situated near a window. Skylights and south-facing windows provide optimal light. West-facing windows and east-facing windows are okay options, while north-facing windows get the least light.
- Some plants can grow in dark conditions. If you live in a basement or some other gloomily-lit space, opt for plants that don’t need a lot of sunlight.
- If necessary, give your plants a boost with light from a UV lamp.
Mistake #3: The air isn’t humid enough.
Humidity is kind of a big deal for plants. Though you might live in an area that’s dry year-round, the air in your living space is likely driest in the winter months. If you’re not in the habit of measuring the humidity in your home, check your plants for signs of stress such as wilting, flowers that shrivel soon after opening, buds that don’t open or simply drop from the plant, and brown-edged leaves.
- Make the air more humid for your plants. If you have a bathroom that gets enough natural light, consider keeping plants there. If not, getting a humidifier and placing it near your plants might help.
- Choose plants that aren’t affected by humidity, such as succulents, woody-stemmed plants, and bulbs.
- Keep your plants clustered together to maintain humidity.
- Contrary to what you might think, the coolest room in your home is often the most humid.
Mistake #4: Too much fertilizer.
When dead leaves and stems fall to the ground and start to decompose, they act as a natural plant fertilizer. With houseplants, dead leaves and twigs are usually thrown away, and fertilizer is used as a replacement. But most people give their houseplants too much fertilizer, burning the roots. Over-fertilized plants will wilt even when they are receiving adequate water. The leaves may turn soft or start to brown.
- Most potting soils already contain added organic material or fertilizer. You don’t need to add more for a long time.
- Read and follow the instructions on packages of fertilizer. Make sure it’s safe for houseplants and when in doubt, use it sparingly.
- If your plant is generally healthy and shows signs of new growth, you don’t need to use fertilizer.
- Excess fertilizer may accumulate in the saucer beneath a potted plant. Usually, it has a white or beige appearance. Make sure to rinse the saucer every few months.
Mistake #5: Your plant isn’t really dead — it just looks dead.
Many plants can regenerate after experiencing a trauma. Some tropical plants become dormant according to the season, as they would in their natural habitats. Sometimes, a plant that loses its leaves and appears dead isn’t really dead at all.
- If your houseplant looks appears dead, trim its dead leaves and stems. Follow the above instructions regarding water, light, humidity, and fertilizer, then wait and see what happens.