How to save a dying plant
Indoor plants are more complicated than we think. They can soothe allergies, listen to music and studies show they might even feel pain.
Choosing the right plant for you and keeping it alive is even more complicated. If your beloved indoor plant looks like it’s on its last legs, don’t give up. Try these six steps to revive your plant.
1. Repot your plant
Use a high-quality indoor plant potting mix to revitalise your plant, and choose a pot that’s wider than the last one. If your plant is dehydrated, add some water-storing crystals.
2. Trim your plant
If there’s damage to the roots, trim back the leaves. This will mean the roots won’t have to work as hard to support a large amount of foliage.
3. Move your plant
Is your plant getting too much sun? Look for dry, brittle leaves and light or dark patches on the leaves. Alternatively, if your plant isn’t getting enough light, the leaves will be small and pale. Move your plant to a new home with better light conditions.
4. Water your plant
If the soil is very dry and the leaves are brittle, the plant is dehydrated and needs water. Don’t flood the soil – water your plant until the soil feels damp. Next, immerse it in a shallow bowl of water for 10 minutes.
However, if your plant is suffering from too much water, the roots will start to rot and mould could grow. Find out how much water your plant needs, and adjust your routine. Most plants need less water throughout the winter months.
5. Feed your plant
Give your plant a nutrient boost with an appropriate fertilizer. Follow the directions carefully, as you don’t want to give it too much.
6. Wipe your plant
If your plant is being invaded with insects, wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth or a mild soap solution.
If your beloved indoor plant looks like it’s on its last legs, don’t give up. Try these seven steps to revive it and enjoy it’s greenery once more.
5 Signs Your Houseplant Is Dying, and How to Reverse Them
There’s still hope, you just need to listen to your plants.
You might not think you have a green thumb, but I promise you: Anyone can be a good plant parent. Yes, even if you have a long, storied track record of killing houseplants. The truth is, our plants actually communicate with us, so caring for them isn’t always as tricky as it might seem. All you have to do is pay attention to your plants’ foliage and soil to make sure your plant is thriving—or to revive it if it’s not doing so hot—and what you see will inform your next steps. I spoke with Joyce Mast, Bloomscape’s resident Plant Mom (yes, that’s her *real* title—in addition to being a plant expert, she also happens to be the founder’s mother), to find out what warning signs you should look for, and how to bring your dying houseplants back to life.
Its leaves are yellowing.
Yellow leaves can be a sign of a few things, but most commonly, Mast tells House Beautiful that this indicates an issue with overwatering, so you should check to make sure there isn’t leftover water in the pot or the saucer underneath. “The roots of an indoor plant should not remain constantly wet or sit in standing water—this will cause the roots to drown and the plant to die.”
Yellow leaves won’t turn green again, Mast notes, so trim any damaged foliage with sharp scissors or pruning shears, wiping the blades with rubbing alcohol between each snip. If just the tips of the leaves are yellow, you can remove just the yellow part instead of the full leaf. Then, cut back on the watering.
Its leaves are turning brown.
Brown leaves, on the other hand, usually mean your plant is thirsty and too dry. “It’s usually a lack of humidity or water quality,” Mast says. Like yellow leaves, you should trim the brown ones, too. If just the tips are brown, snip those using the same steps, and if the whole leaf is brown, cut it off near the base. Then, get a plant mister and start spritzing it a little every day.
If you’re worried it might be the water quality (chlorine, fluoride, and salts can impact your plants), not the quantity, Mast has some tips. “I suggest filling a pitcher with water and allowing it to stand uncovered overnight so the minerals can evaporate, or just use distilled water or rainwater instead of tap water,” she explains.
Its foliage looks a little dull.
Bleached out or dull leaves might actually mean that your plants are getting too much light. Just like people, plants can—and do—get sunburned. “If your plants receive too much light, it will display with dull, lackluster foliage and even bleached-out looking leaves,” Mast says. Light brown edges and spots can also be an indication of this.
If you’re worried your plant isn’t getting enough light, Mast suggests moving it a little at a time—don’t go directly for the sunniest spot in the house. “Expose the plant to higher light gradually to acclimate to a better location,” Mast says.
Its roots are sticking out.
If you see the roots of your plant creeping along the top of the pot or through the drainage holes, it’s time to replant it. “This is a sign that your plant is root-bound and needs more space, meaning it’s time to repot it in a larger pot!” Mast says.
Another thing that will indicate your plant has outgrown its planter? Pay attention when you water it—if the water rushes right through the pot and out the drainage holes, you’ll know the roots are taking up too much room in the current pot, and there’s not enough soil to root ratio for your plant to thrive.
You see spots on its leaves.
“If you see small brown spots trimmed in yellow, your plant might have a Leaf Spot Disease,” Mast says. “The attacking fungus or bacteria causes small brown spots trimmed in yellow to appear where it’s feeding on the leaves.” The spots can vary in size, shape, and color.
So, how do you treat it? “First, immediately remove the affected leaves and isolate the plant from your other plants for the time being,” Mast advises, sharing a homemade remedy for treating the issue: “Put a tablespoon or two of baking soda, and a teaspoon of mineral oil, in a spray bottle of water. Shake it well, then spray all areas of the plant that are infected with spots.” Mast says it may take a few applications until the bacteria is gone.
Don’t worry, these plants will forgive you.
If you’re new to houseplants but want to infuse your home with a little green, Mast recommends these four varieties because they’re particularly vocal about their care needs, and even more forgiving when you fix the problem.
“Although pretty subtle, Pothos will let you know that it’s thirsty by drooping its leaves a bit,” Mast says. “They may also curl inwards, and feel limp to the touch. Water it thoroughly, and it will be back to normal in a few hours with no lasting issues.”
“Fittonia will literally flop over when it’s thirsty, announcing that it needs water,” Mast explains. “When this happens, water thoroughly and it will perk right back in up a few hours. Just don’t let it sit flopped over for too long, or brown edges might form.”
“Hoyas like to dry out completely between waterings, and they will tell you when they need water, making them a great option if you tend to forget to water,” Mast notes. “Their usually waxy, firm leaves will get wrinkled and limp when they need it.”
“Croton leaves with begin to sag and wilt down when they need water, but as soon as it’s watered and misted, you can practically watch the leaves begin to stand upright,” Mast says. It’ll be back to displaying its “gorgeous colored foliage” in no time.
Now, if your plant is healthy.
If your plant doesn’t exhibit any of the signs above, but you’re still concerned that you’re not quite getting this whole plant parent thing right, don’t fret. Here are a few major signs that your plant is thriving—you know, to calm your nerves.
- Your plant is growing. Growth is basically the best sign you can ask for! Mast does have a hot tip for you, though: Turn your plants once a week. “It prevents uneven, lopsided growth, since plants grow toward light,” she explains. Oh, and if your plant isn’t growing much at all during the winter, don’t think anything of it, it’s totally normal and it’s just your plant entering its dormant phase.
- Its roots are hardy. When you look at your plants roots, they should be light in color or almost white, Mast says, and they should be sturdy. These signs mean your plant’s roots are healthy!
- There aren’t any pests in sight. On a healthy houseplant, Mast says, “there won’t be any little critters hanging out on the top or the underside of the plant’s leaves.”
At the end of the day, Mast says you should pick out a plant that speaks to your home’s personality. “But also, make sure you’re choosing a plant that will thrive in the environment you provide,” she adds.
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If your houseplant is on it's last leg, try one of these tricks to revive it back to live, courtesy of plant expert Joyce Mast, the resident Plant Mom at Bloomscape.