What’s Wrong with My Houseplant? How To Save a Dying Plant?

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Indoor gardeners face a lot of challenges. Simple ones like what size pot do you should upgrade your plant to now that it has doubled in size to more serious ones that take research to figure out why your plant is starting to die? Figuring out how to save a dying plant is not usually a task for the beginner gardener. Still, with our list, we plan to help you break down many of the common issues indoor gardeners face with dying plants and how to attempt breathing life back into them.

Let’s talk about how to save a dying plant.

Bringing Home, A New Plant

When bringing home, a new houseplant, the first mistake most people make is not doing their research before choosing their beloved plant. You need to pick your indoor plants based on their ability to fit them into your lifestyle and the level of care you can provide them. You should never bring a new plant indoors based on “oh, look how pretty” because that is how you set yourself up for failure.

If you live in a basement apartment, you obviously cannot provide ample amounts of bright sunlight, and if you live on the top floor of a penthouse, you cannot cater to low light conditions.

Choosing a plant that fits into your life is the first step; assuming you have done that, and your plant is still for some reason dying, then what is next? 

How To Save a Dying Houseplant

Let’s discuss some typical symptoms and their resolutions. Many plant issues can have overlapping causes. The goal is to fit together your plant needs with the few possibilities as if you are playing an intricate game of Tetris.

Dried Out and Needs More Water

Dried Out and Needs More Water

Symptom

Your plant appears limp, and the leaves are falling off.

Solution

Most indoor plants are tropical, and most indoor plants do well with the same basis of watering.

The soak and dry method are a good baseline to get started and determine your plant’s preferences. Get your water to room temperature; your plants will not like being frozen with water, so room temperature is ideal. After achieving the water temperature, the goal is to place your plant in your shower or sink and thoroughly soak it with water. After soaked, allow it to drain all excess water and then move it back to its location. Check-in on your plant every couple of days by inserting your finger two to three inches beneath the soil. When your plant feels dry deep beneath the surface, it is time to water again, repeating the same method.

Prevention

Never just dump water on a plant and assume it is “watered”. Your plant has not been watered correctly unless the soil is saturated all around the roots.

Yellow Leaves and Moist Soil

Yellow Leaves
Moist Soil

Symptom

If your plant is starting to turn yellow, fungus is growing around the base, and the soil is retaining more water than it should be, it is a good indication that you are overwatering your plants.

Solution

The soak and dry method is an excellent remedy to overwatering, just as it is to underwatering. However, before watering your dying plant again, it may be best to throw out the old soil and start fresh if it is suffering from overwatering. Repot your plant in fresh new soil and allow it a few days to dry out before picking up with the soak and dry method.


Succulents and cacti are drought-tolerant; giving them time to soak in the sun and a bit less water is ideal. Ferns, on the other hand, are a bit more tolerant of extra water. Even so, they never need to stay saturated continuously.

Prevention

Finding a pot for your plant with proper drainage holes and suitable soil is a good start. Secondly, consider adding a rock layer beneath the bottom of the soil to help keep your plant from sitting in water as it drains. Lava rock is an excellent option since they are porous, absorbing excess moisture.

Too Much Sunlight

Too Much Sunlight

Symptom

A sign of too much or too direct sun is red or browning leaves.

Solution

Most plants like medium to bright filtered, indirect sunlight. If your plant is placed in a highly sunny location in your home, try moving it to a bit less lighting.

Prevention

If a bright window is the only option for your plant, add a sheer curtain to filter most of the direct rays.

Low Light

Low Light

Symptom

Ferns are one of the few plants that can adapt to low light conditions. If your plant is not receiving enough light, your plant will start dropping leaves or becoming patchy with attempts of stretching to reach the light.

Solution

Plants are going to thrive with light; it is essential for them to grow indoors. Most indoor plants do not love bright direct light but cannot live in low light conditions. Adding artificial grow lights will make up any indoor deficits.

Prevention

When bringing a plant indoors, do your research on the lighting conditions that individual plant needs. A baseline is to find bright indirect sunlight; if bright natural sunlight is not possible in your basement apartment, adding a grow light will provide it the light it needs.

Plant Stops Growing

Plant Stops Growing

Symptom

Your plant grew tremendously and still seems alive but isn’t getting any larger now, with no new blooms.

Solution

If you are trying to jam your head into your shirt sleeve, it will not fit. No matter how hard you try. If your plant is excessively more prominent than your pot, it will not provide the room it needs to continue growing. A rule of thumb is that your plant should be two-thirds above ground and one-third below ground. If your plant appears larger than two-thirds the size of the pot, it is time to level up.

Prevention

If your plant comes home in a plastic pot, repot it right away. You do not have to opt for an expensive pot, it can be another plastic one, but usually, a pot that a plant is sold in is not going to be proportionate to what it needs. Repot your plant with fresh soil every year at a minimum; this can help you evaluate your plant size.

Crispy Leaves

Crispy Leaves

Symptom

Most indoor plants need humidity in the air due to their tropical nature. If your plant is suffering from crispy fragile leaves, it can be due to a lack of moisture in the air.

Solution

Keep plants away from entryways, air vents, radiators, and heaters. The warmer the air, the lower the humidity level, usually. To remedy your crispy air leaves, add a humidifier to the air, a humidity tray under your plants, or mist your plant leaves regularly.

Prevention

When first bringing a plant home, you need to research your plant humidity needs. Add a humidity tray beneath your plant from the start or regularly mist your leaves to try to keep them happy.

Bugs!

Bugs

Symptom

Bugs look like bugs, hard to miss for the most part. Mealy bugs resemble tiny cotton balls, and thrips will appear like your leaf veins are running away. Bugs are not a fun roadblock to overcome, but it is possible to defeat them.

Solution

At the first sign of an infestation, wash your plant with warm water and wipe it down to remove most pests; ensure you tackle the underside of leaves when cleaning. After cleaning, routinely follow up with insecticidal soaps, neem oil, or insecticidal sprays.

Prevention

Clean your plants regularly. Wipe down leaves and try to keep dust-free. Periodically checking for bugs will allow you to treat before an infestation gets out of hand.

What’s Wrong with My Houseplant – The Wrap-up

Bringing a dying plant back to life can be a challenging task. Don’t jump to throw out your plant because staying adamant will revive your plant quicker than you could have imagined.

FAQ

To determine why my plant is dying, research your plant’s symptoms to help figure out a potential remedy. Plant symptoms are relatively universal, so what works for one could work for another.

If you struggle with a green thumb, opt for cacti or succulent indoor plants. These plants require little to no maintenance and are drought tolerant. However, if you tend to go overboard with watering unintentionally, a fern may be the best option for you.

Creating a humidity tray for your plant is easy to help give it the moisture it needs. To create a humidity tray, grab a plastic drip tray, place pebbles all along the bottom, fill midway with water, and then place your plant on top of the humidity tray.

Root rot is the cause of being overwatered and not having the proper drainage. To remedy this, repot your plant in fresh soil and allow the roots to dry out a bit before attempting to water again. After your plant is nice and dry, start watering again, but be sure to only water when your plant needs it, not just because you assume it is time.

Yes, pests-infested plants can be saved if you have the determination. First, remove the plant from all other plants in the vicinity. Next, determine what type of bug has taken over your plant. Third, rinse and thoroughly clean your entire plant. Lastly, treat with insecticides and continue cleaning until all signs of bugs are gone.

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