Starting with the definition of what leggy plants are, leggy plants can appear scraggly, weak, floppy, and have a yellow or white colored stem. Leggy indoor plants are struggling to flourish and crave a little more tender love and care to get them growing on a healthier path.
Having leggy indoor plants is a common problem among plant caretakers, but luckily there are easy remedies for the causes.
This article will explain the cause of leggy plants, how to fix the issues at the root of the problem with simple maintenance and preventing it from happening again in the future.
A lot of gardeners have indoor plants that will at some point struggle with looking brittle and unruly. Whether your plants are flowery and add color to your space or growing vegetables indoors, any type of plant can suffer from a dull appearance and need some tender love and care.
Common causes of leggy plants:
- Low Light. Low light and winter season growth are the number one issue for weak appearing stems and leaves. Think about the location of your plant and if you can relocate to a place with better sunlight access.
- Overwatering. Overwatering can cause root rot, become a breeding ground for plant diseases, and form bacteria that destroy plants.
- Underwatering. Too little water will prevent plants from receiving proper nutrients from the soil, which in turn causes brittle, poor growth.
- Overcrowding. Overcrowding can cause some stems to receive more light and nutrients than others. Naturally, bushy flowers like perennials and petunias need regular pruning to prevent overcrowding.
- Overheating. Plants grown indoors from seeds have this problem more frequently than ones purchased as seedlings and repotted. Potted seeds are typically placed on heating pads to encourage sprouting and quicker growth. However, the downfall of rapid growth is weaker stems from not having the proper time to soak in nutrients to become stocky and robust.
Most of the issues causing indoor plants to have a leggy appearance are quickly remedy with proper maintenance.
The first step is learning what causes leggy plants and then discovering how to breathe life back into your weak plants.
Maintenance required to bring plants back to life:
- Provide optimal sunlight. Plants live for sunlight. Plants search for the sun and will grow in the direction of the light source. If you have artificial lighting indoors for your plants, then more than likely, this is not the issue. However, if your plants rely on sunlight from windows and doors, rotating plants every time you water them or on a schedule is required to promote even growth throughout the plant.
- Freshen up soil and repot. Sometimes all your plant needs to feel alive again is fresh soil, nutrients, and watering. Research your particular plant’s soil and nutrition requirements to find the best products. Repotting your plant with new soil and watering it is a simple way to freshen up, making all the difference. Repotting and replacing soil is also a good idea if you feel your plant is too saturated with water. When freshening up and adding new water, be cautious not to add too much.
- Pruning, clipping, and thinning. Bushy flowers need this maintenance more often than others, but you can also do this with any plant having dead or weak areas needing removal. If noticing many yellow stems, browning leaves, or overcrowding in certain areas, find the nodule on the plant stem and clip as close to this node as possible. Clipping these places will encourage healthier, thicker, sturdier growth.
- Remove heat mats. Heat mats are essential for seeds at the beginning of germination since initial growth happens the best between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet, after sprouts have begun, it is best to lower temperatures 65 to 70 degrees during the day and 55 to 65 degrees at night. If temperature settings are an issue in the home requiring continued use of heat mats after seedlings have sprouted, at the very least, remove heat mats at night to prevent overheating.
Sometimes no matter what you do and how much care and maintenance plants get, leggy weak stems are unavoidable. However, knowing the basics and what to do to prevent it as much as possible is a good start. When growing new indoor plants, it is best to prepare and lay the groundwork from the start.
Ways to prepare to prevent leggy plants:
- Create optimal lighting. Search for the best light location and rotate your plant regularly for even growth. If natural sunlight isn’t ideal, try using artificial lighting.
- Monitor temperature conditions. Only use heat pads when necessary. Heat pads are fantastic when assisting germination but can become overused quickly and overheat plants, causing more harm than good.
- Spring and Summer potting. Off-season weather conditions from October through March make it harder for new plants to grow to their fullest potential. If starting new plant growth or adding fresh soil to existing plants, try to do so in Spring or Summer, April through September.
- Pinch off weak stems. When adding a new plant to the family, go through and pinch off more fragile stems at the nodes. Pinching will help thin out crowded leggy areas already harming the plant and doing so will encourage more substantial regrowth.
- Follow directions for individual plants. Every plant requires certain soil types, different amounts of watering, various sunlight hours and thrive in different temperature settings. Do your research to know what your plant needs to flourish.
Starting with a strong beginning is tremendous but continue monitoring sunlight, temperature settings, soil and nutrition, weak stems, and avoid over or under-watering.
Indoor plants, even the leggy indoor plants, need love to survive as much as they need nutrition, light, warmth. Reading about everything necessary to care for and maintain plants can be overwhelming at the very least. Focus on proper care from the time they come indoors, and they will quickly be thriving. Try not to get sucked into everything that needs to be done and remember to cherish the gift of having plants.
FAQs for Leggy Plants
Every plant has different requirements to grow. Sunlight hours needed will vary from 8 to 20 hours per day, and temperatures can vary between 40 to 80 degrees depending on the life cycle and time of day for your plant. To become a caretaker to an indoor plant, research what that plant type requires to survive happy and healthy.
To check if a plant has too much water causing it to become leggy feel beneath the soil’s surface. Is the plant moist or soggy? Is water puddling in the drip tray underneath? Too much water can cause plant rot, leggy plants and become a breeding ground for bacteria and disease that will destroy your plant. If concerned a plant has too much water, find fresh soil and repot it. After changing the potting soil, pay close attention to how much watering your type of plant actually needs. Starting new can be beneficial for plants and their caretakers.
Pruning, also known as trimming or pinching, removes weak, dead, yellow, or overcrowded plant areas. When you prune a plant, the goal is to find the node or nodule closest to the plant’s stem and trim at the node. Pinching, trimming, or pruning, whatever you prefer to call it, will not cause a plant to die. Instead, it encourages more substantial, fuller regrowth.
Leggy indoor plants are commonly caused by poor temperature control, under or over watering, weak lighting conditions, or needing a trim to clean up their appearance. Try artificial lighting, temperature regulation, and trimming to solve most leggy plant issues. However, some plants need a little more, such as replacing potting soil and carefully monitoring watering amounts.
A leggy plant has a scraggly, weak, sometimes yellow appearance in areas. Leggy plants are brittle and have thin stems. When looking at a plant, if you feel it just looks like a mess, more than likely, it is the definition of leggy. Simple maintenance tips and tricks can bring a leggy plant back to life, giving it a luscious, green, thriving look all strive to achieve.