Gardening Tips

9 Clues to Help You Identify and Solve Common Houseplant Problems

Tehrene Firman

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Photo: Getty Images/Guido Mieth

It’s hard if not impossible to keep your plants alive if you can’t figure out exactly what’s wrong with them. There can be several different issues hidden behind a single symptom, but diagnosing common houseplant problems is the first step to reviving them from the brink of death.

To make your life a little easier, use this simple guide to decipher which of the most common houseplant problems could be keeping your plant from thriving. Once you discover which one you’re dealing with, it will be easier to get it back on track.

How to identify the most common houseplant problems

1. The leaves are turning yellow

The most common reason a plant’s leaves turn yellow is simple: You’re overwatering it. To solve the issue, start by giving your plant a haircut and trimming off the yellow parts. That could just be snipping off the tips, or if necessary, entire leaves. Then, make sure you only water your plant when it needs it by sticking your finger an inch into the soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to water. If it’s still wet, hold off.

2. The leaves are turning brown

While yellowing leaves is a sign of overwatering, browning leaves can signal under-watering. Before giving your plant some water, grab a pair of scissors and cut off any brown tips or leaves to keep it healthy and strong.

3. it’s leaning and falling over

If your plant is leaning or falling over, it might not be due to anything other than needing a little support. There are multiple different stakes you can buy on Amazon (like this four-pack for $11) that will give your plant some extra support, allowing it to grow big and tall.

4. The leaves are dropping

If the leaves on your plants suddenly drop or turn yellow, it could be due to your home being too cold. While House Plant Experts says plants can typically tolerate changes in temperature between 5 to 10 degrees, more than that could stress them out. Keep the temperature between 65°F to 80°F to make sure your plants stay happy.

5. The leaves are looking pale

If your plant’s leaves are starting to look pale and loose their green color, it’s likely due to not getting enough sunlight. When your plants aren’t receiving optimal light, the green chlorophyll pigment fades until the leaves turn yellow. Make sure you know how much light your plant requires, because each have different needs. Some thrive in direct sunlight, while others do well in low light situations.

6. The edges of the leaves are turning brown

If the edges of the leaves of your plant are turning brown, it could be due to the temperature in your home being too warm. The same problem may also cause the plant’s lower leaves to fall and wilt. Again, making sure the temperature in your home is between 65°F to 80°F.

7. Your plant is growing extremely slowly

If your plant’s growth has pretty much come to a halt, it could be due to fungus gnats. If you’ve seen any flying around your plant, there’s a good chance there’s larvae in the soil. According to Epic Gardening, once they hatch, they attach to the roots and basically drain the plant of nutrients, which is what causes slow growth and/or yellowing leaves. This problem needs to be treated ASAP, and there are multiple different ways you can save your plant.

8. The leaves are spotty

If your leaves are looking spotty, the University of Maryland says fungi could be the problem. Many species can cause the spotting, which show up as tan, reddish brown, or black spots or lesions that often run together and create bigger shapes. In order to save your plant, removing those leaves is a must, which can increases its chances of recovering.

9. Your plant is getting soft

If your plant is getting soft and the leaves are mushy, root rot may be the problem, which happens when you overwater your plant. While bringing your plant back to life from root rot can be tricky, it’s possible. There are a handful of steps you’ll need to take, from inspecting and removing the roots to letting your plant air dry.

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