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6 Common Houseplant Problems, and What to Do About Them

From root rot to temperature shifts, we get to the bottom of your houseplant woes with some simple troubleshooting.


Despite your best efforts to maintain a little greenery around the house, foliage and florals can have a way of wilting, drooping, and drying out with seemingly little explanation. But before you totally renounce your green thumb, try getting to the bottom of your houseplant troubles with some simple troubleshooting. To help you out, we've rounded up a few of the most common problems when it comes to keeping houseplants healthy and thriving, including everything from how to spot each issue, to how to fix it. 


The Problem: Root Rot


When you find your houseplants starting to look wilted, worn, and discolored, it might be time to check up on your roots. Without proper drainage, houseplants can quickly begin to experience root rot, which is, as the name suggests, the rotting of a plants roots. To see if your plant is experiencing root rot, try gently taking your plant out of the soil and having a look at its roots. While healthy roots will be sturdy and pliable, rotting roots tend to be mushy and fragile. In the case that you’re seeing the latter, you can try to remedy the problem by gently rinsing off roots and trimming away those that are affected. In the case that you find yourself having to trim a significant amount of roots, you might want to prune a few of the plant’s actual leaves, as well, which can help to promote the growth of new roots in the plant. Once you’re finished, repot the plant in fresh soil, and in a container with plenty of drainage.


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The Problem: Overwatering


While it’s important to stay on top of watering your houseplants in order to help your plants stay in good shape, there is such a thing as giving them too much water. When that’s the case, wilting and brown spots popping up on plant leaves may serve as a kind of “red flag” to let you know that you should go a little easier on the watering. Left unchecked, overwatering will eventually contribute to root rot, making it essential to see the warning signs early. The key to getting your watering routine just right is familiarizing yourself with the general water requirements for your plant variety – some plants, like hibiscus, need frequent watering, while others, like salvia, are totally fine without it – and to set your watering schedule from there.


Follow These Tips For Watering Your Houseplants

The Problem: Not Enough Sun


It’s no secret that sunlight, or any light, is essential to healthy plant life. And while, generally speaking, basic shrubs and foliage don’t necessarily need quite as much sun as flowering plants, when it comes to determining how much sunlight your houseplant actually needs, the answer typically comes on a case-by-case basis. When leaves start yellowing and newer leaves are failing to grow to their full size, this could be a sign that your plant is in need of some more direct light and that it’s time to try moving your plant closer to a window for increased exposure to the sun.


Figure Out the Right Light for Your Houseplant

The Problem: Nutrient Deficiency


When leaves start to look slightly discolored, this could be a sign that your houseplant is lacking in nutrients, particularly when it comes to three of the most essential plant nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. In the case of a nutrient deficiency, it’s easy enough to address the problem by adding in some nutrient-rich fertilizer. You can also try different organic solutions, like adding coffee grounds to your houseplants soil to boost nitrogen content.

Here's What You Need to Know About Feeding Houseplants

The Problem: Dry Air


While different plants have different requirements when it comes to things like water and temperature, most are pretty similar in the fact that they don’t really thrive in dry air. Rather, plants prefer moist, slightly humid environments, which isn’t usually the condition of the air indoors. If you notice that plant leaves are browning and slightly drying out, this might be a sign that your houseplant is craving a little bit more moisture in the air. Alleviate the problem by first making sure that your plant isn’t placed near sources of heat, like a radiator or heater. Then, offer your plant an occasional mist of water to keep it from drying out. Another option, if you’re not sure you can keep up with spritzing your houseplant regularly, is to place a tray with pebbles and water under your potted houseplant. That water, which can’t be absorbed by the roots, will eventually evaporate and help make the air directly surrounding the plant just a bit more humid.


Control Humidity in Your Home with These Tips
Photography by: Annie Schlechter

The Problem: Temperature


When plants are exposed to too many different temperature ranges, they’re not likely to have the best reaction to the constant shifts. One way to make sure that you’re not causing too much temperature fluctuation for your indoor foliage is to avoid moving potted plants between different rooms. Each individual room in your home is, in a sense, its own different environment, and even the slightest shifts in temperature between rooms can be bad news for houseplants. One time a shift in temperature may actually work wonders on plant health, though? In the evening. To mimic the conditions plants are used to in nature, it might be a good idea to try cranking down the thermostat just a smidge at night.


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