These Home Remedies Will Revive a Wilting Houseplant
Even your favorite botanicals get a little down sometimes—lift them back up with these simple tips.
A key part of caring for your houseplants is recognizing their earliest signs of stress. For most varietals, this symptom is wilting, which, per the Encyclopedia Brittannica, occurs when plants lose too much water through the small openings in their leaves. Add time without replenishment into the equation, and there you have it—drooping, lifeless stalks and leaves. Interestingly enough, the same can happen if your plant gets too much hydration; overwatering ruptures the walls of their cells, causing a shriveled effect.
"People can easily make the mistake of overwatering," explains Eliza Blank, the founder of The Sill. "They see that their plants are suffering and go to treat them to a little bit of water, and a little more water, and then more." This is a behavior to avoid, she says, since it's much easier to help an under-watered plant bounce back. "If you do water a parched plant, be sure to do so a little at a time, so you don't flood it," she adds. Whatever the cause, if your houseplant is wilting under your care, there are several ways to revive it—you just need the right remedy. Here, our experts explain their best tips, tricks, and solutions for nursing yours back to health.
If you see a plant beginning to sag at certain points of the day though, don't panic. Many varietals naturally wilt as a way to preserve their own nutrients and energy—meaning the best course of action is to do nothing and see if they bounce back on their own. "Although many plants appear wilted in the afternoon, that doesn't always mean they need water," says Paul Pugliese, an agriculture and natural resources agent for the University of Georgia Extension, noting that many plants shrivel during the hottest parts of the day.
Move the plant to an area of indirect light.
Apart from water, plants yield their energy and life sources from sunlight (their soil, too!). Getting the correct level of sunlight, then, is critical—a value that shifts plant by plant. "The number one thing we need to remember is that the sun is food for plants," Blank notes. "For those who live in cities, maybe you have north facing windows or a brick wall of the building next to you. You have to consider the amount of light you have."
Sticking a plant that doesn't like direct sunlight onto a windowsill is a surefire recipe for wilting. "The biggest and most common mistake one can do is to purchase indoor plants before assessing your interior environment," affirms Satoshi Kawamoto, a garden designer and the founder of Green Fingers in New York and Tokyo. "This lack of assessment is the root cause of most problems people face with their plants down the line." The remedy, however, is simple: If there are plants in your home that are wilting in the sun, try moving them to a more indirect spot and give them some time to recuperate.
Change the soil.
It happens—plants sometimes just get sick. To examine yours for any root-borne diseases, "gently slip the plant out of the pot and examine the roots all the way to the bottom," says Pugliese. "A healthy plant will have white, healthy roots throughout the soil. An unhealthy one will often have black or brown roots on the lower third of the root ball. This could indicate the plant was overwatered at the nursery or may already be infected with a root disease." Though plants that are wilting or dropping their leaves due to this particular ailment are more difficult to save, there is hope: Many root-based diseases can be mitigated by changing the soil, Pugliese adds.
Give plants some natural ventilation.
The air quality in your home can also impact your houseplants' health. Houses, and particularly apartments, are filled with artificial central air propelled by air conditioning units, which can spread dust and other particles harmful to plants; this may cause wilting in particularly finicky botanicals. While an air purifier can help, the best fix is some fresh air, which can revive your plant and boost its vitality, notes Kawamoto. "A remedy that is commonly overlooked—or perhaps not considered at all—is exposing houseplants to natural ventilation," he says. "It is as easy as opening some windows to allow for a natural breeze, considering the season outside and if the weather allows for it. Even a few minutes a day would be sufficient to freshen up your plants. This simple remedy can have marvelous effects on the health of your interior greens."