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Why Do My Houseplants Keep Dying? (13 Common Problems)

Houseplants are a tender and great way to decorate a space. They do not demand much care, at least most of them. But if you ignore the basic needs of your plants, they might die. They will show you signs of suffering, but if you keep ignoring them, then they are likely to depart. 

Improper watering, inadequate fertilizing, low light, under or over-fertilizing, etc. are the few reasons for your plant’s stress. Although most of these problems will not immediately show any impact, your plants are likely to suffer and wilt in the long run.

We know for any plant parent, it’s painful to see their plant dying. We cannot assure you that your plant will come back to life, but we can help you treat your other plants with proper attention and the right care. 

We will also help you determine possible problems in your plant and provide an appropriate solution for you.



Why are all my indoor plants dying?

There can be a lot of factors that determine the life and death of a plant.

Whether your plants will thrive or they are going to wilt and die back will depend on the appropriate care and environment you provide.

With that out of the way, let us look at some of the crucial factors that most houseplants need to thrive.

Not Enough Light

Light is the primary fuel for any plant’s growth and health. Houseplants being not so demanding, still needs ample light to carry out essential functions and growth evenly.

Most houseplants tend to face a few problems when getting low light for too long. They are likely to stops growing with time and can even lead to wilt. 

Your houseplants need light for photosynthesis, production of enough energy to grow, keep foliage green, and to dry out moist soil. 

Generally, flowering plants require more light than foliage plants. To maintain green leaves, foliage plants need ample light. 

Often hobbyists assume that their plant is getting enough light just by placing them near the window. 

I am not saying that a window or balcony will not provide light to your houseplants; what I mean is you need to check whether the direction of the window, amount, and intensity of light your houseplants are getting are enough or not.



Watering the wrong way

Rubeer plant water requirement

When a new hobbyist cares for their plant too much, they often end up overwatering the houseplants. As a result, the soil gets soggy, which leads to root rot, stunted growth, and wilting of the plant in the long term.

The plant’s soil may be tightly packed due to organic material or sand making it harder for the water to flow and dry.

Soil drowns in too much water suffocate due to too much water and poor airflow making the situation worse with every watering.

Sometimes it’s not that the watering frequency that is wrong, but how much water you pour in could be the reason for your plant’s death. Your plant needs inspection regarding the amount of water they need.

When you underwater your plants for a prolonged duration, they get used to drought and shed their foliage.

Also read: How Long Can House Plants Go Without Water? (With 25 Examples)

The soil has now become bone-dry, and 90% of the water will drench through drainage holes without soaking in the soil.

The plant owners feel the soil is saturated and keeps underwatering, leading to stunted growth.

Also read: Overwatering vs. Underwatering your plants

Too much fertilizer

As we already know, too much of anything is terrible. Fertilizer is a requirement that the potting medium usually cannot fulfill. Fertilizer contains macro and micronutrients essential to a houseplant’s growth and health.

Plant owners often grow their houseplants rapidly and feed them more than required, wondering if their plants will get a boost of nutrients and grow faster.

It works initially as the houseplants may put new growth at first. But soon, the plant will become leggy, and their roots start having trouble. As a result, you may lose your lovely plant.

Over-feeding stresses soil at first, making it harder for them to take up water. As a result, your plants utilize their reserved water.

The concentrated solids in soil rise from the soil to the root’s core.

Thus, your houseplants’ roots get pressurized due to excess fertilizer, and the water flow reverses, which leads to the burning of leaves.

This will stress your plant, and your plant will stop functioning, which means no growth.

Also read: How To Make House Plants Grow Faster?

Dry Air

Hobbyists fulfilling all the requirements of houseplants with full dedication often ignore cultural conditions affecting their plants.

Houseplants usually like moderate temperatures and high humidity levels around them. During winters, both conditions are compromised.

When you keep ignoring the fact that dry air will harm your houseplants to the extent that they might die, the stressed plants come into the scene.

Dry air and heating systems keep adding to the condition snatching away the moisture from the plants.

Due to dry air, households tend to lose their moisture through transpiration more than usual, which their roots and soil cannot fulfill.

Moisture is essential because your plant will lose most of its water reserves and energy without it. It can make the plant suffer as the plant is already at its dormant stage during the winter.

Common problems with house plants

Some of the most common problems in houseplants are:

  1. Droopy leaves
  2. Leggy growth
  3. Yellow leaves
  4. Leaf burn
  5. Brown leaf tips
  6. Small leaves
  7. Leaf spots
  8. Brown, dying leaves
  9. White spots, fungal growth on the plant
  10. Brown and mushy roots
  11. Curly leaves
  12. Salt buildup
  13. Stunted growth

Let us get into further details of each of these problems and see how we can solve them.

ProblemsCausesSolutions
Droopy leaves-Underwatering- when insufficient water is available for uptake from roots and soil due to keeping them dry most of the time.
-Temperature stress-  when the temperature range exceeds the indoor plants normal range.

-Water adequately and check the soil by digging a finger in the topsoil to check if the soil needs water.
-Water when the plant needs and not by following any schedule.
-Adjust temperature level by placing your plant away from direct sun, giving water adequately and moving inside your home.
-During winters, avoid keeping your plants near heating systems and give them enough light for the soil to dry out.
Leggy growth-Low light- Plants not getting enough light especially when the days are short. Plants reach out for light stretching themselves towards all the light available for them.
-Over fertilization- Sometimes extra feeding also leads to leggy growth. Due to excess nutrients the plant has an unnecessary boost of growth making them long with less leaves.
-Try to provide at least half a day of direct sun during winter.
-In case low light is available in your home, use artificial light sources such as grow light, LED, lamps, etc.
-Fertilize only as prescribed according to your houseplants, over fertilization will not help in new growth for long term. 
-Don’t fertilize for a few months and wash the soil thoroughly to drench excess salt build ups.
Yellow leaves-Aging- Natural process of ageing. Only older and lower parts of leaves turn yellow.
-Too much light- Plants getting too much light.
-Watering stress- Your plants are either overwatered or underwatered.
-Aging is natural so should be ignored.
Reposition your plant to a spot with filtered light for the whole day or very little direct sun for a few hours.
-Check whether you are overwatering or underwatering your plant.
-Check the soil condition by digging a few inches down the soil from the top. If the soil is damp then you are over watering. If it is too dry, then you are underwatering your plant.
-To correct the issue water when the soil needs it, by following the digging method or lifting the pot to check the weight of the pot. 
Leaf burn-Direct sun– Leaf burn is potentially due to the direct sun on the plant for long hours.-Simply move your plant to a spot with indirect light and prune damaged leaves. 
-Water adequately as the plant might have dehydrated due to too much heat.
Brown leaf tips-Dry air- Too little moisture in the atmosphere, keeping near heating systems or keeping outdoors during hot weather.
-Under watering-Not providing your plant with enough water will dehydrate them resulting in brown leaf tips. 
-Too much feeding- Over fertilizing leads to salt build in the soil that over time leads to brown leaf tips.
-Group your houseplants together to improve humidity by transpiration process.
-Keep your plants on a pebble tray, add water in the tray so that the water does not touch the roots. 
-Mist regularly when the air is too dry or use a humidifier to manipulate dry air.
-Water more frequently than you’re already doing, but do check the soil before watering them using finger/skewer technique.
-Houseplants need fertilizer once in a while depending upon which one you have.
-Most of the time little goes a long way so you need to fertilize once every 2-3 months.
-If the conditions are severe then consider repotting in fresh soil.
Small leaves-Over watering- Due to over water the plants produce new leaves that are smaller in size and soon wilts. This causes root damage too.
-Nutrients deficiency- plants not getting enough nutrients will not have enough energy to produce healthy and large leaves.
-You need to stop watering for a few days till the soil gets completely dry.
-Next time when you water check whether the soil is dry or not
Feed your plants to fix the issue and fertilize as recommended for your plant.
Leaf spots-Fungus: fungi can cause leaf spots.
-Contaminated pots- contaminated pots can also cause leaf spots as they easily develop bacteria damaging soil quality.
-Poor ventilation- Due to poor around the plants, their soil remains damp for quite long which can result in bacterial and fungal development. This leads to leaf spots.
-Remove infected plant parts.
-Use any organic fungicide to treat your plants.
-Copper soap spray will also help.
-Provide good air circulation.
-Avoid splashing water on the foliage.
Brown, dying leaves-Nitrogen or iron deficiency- Due to lack of nutrients the roots and soil cannot uptake water and nutrients to the upper part of the plant causing brown leaves and eventually dying leaves.
-Watering stress- watering wrong leads to several issues, they also damage the roots, suffocate soil. The soil and roots can’t breathe properly,
-You need to feed your plants with balanced fertilizer as per your plant needs.
-Fertilize once a month or two to provide sufficient nutrients to the plant.
-Watering stress can be fixed by identifying first whether you are overwatering or underwatering.
-Water adequately when your plant is under watered. 
-Let the soil dry completely in overwatered conditions. 
-Always use a finger method to check the soil moistness.
-You can also use a moisture meter to alarm you that your plant needs water.
White spots, fungal growth on plant-Over watering- Houseplants usually like moisture. Overwatering though is not appreciated by them, they make a perfect environment for the bacteria and fungus to attack the soil and roots.
-Poor ventilation- due to poor ventilation fungal growth becomes easier. They already are sitting on the soil waiting for the right atmosphere to grow. 
-Powdery mildew- It is a fungal disease causing white spots. They are contagious.
-It’s crucial to fix watering during fungal growth as soon as possible. The more you over water the more they grow.
-Do not water your plant for a few days.
Move your plant to a better atmosphere with good airflow.
-Let the plant get enough light, this will also help to kill bacteria.
-Apply a spray of 1 tbsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp liquid soap and 1 gallon of water from top to bottom of the leaves to get rid of powdery mildew and fungus.
Brown and mushy roots-Over watering- Over watering is really dangerous. They can suffocate the soil and roots make a perfect environment for root rot. Root rot makes the root weak and unhealthy.-Dispose the soil and wash the roots thoroughly.
-Prune all the mushy brown roots gently.
-Keep the plant in fresh air under the sun for a few hours.
-Now repot using fresh sterilized soil mix.
Curly leaves-Drought- Drought stress is due to extreme under watering. The soil gets bone dry and stops absorbing water after a point of time causing curling of leaves.
-Low Humidity- Due to low humidity in the air the plant loses its moisture as they use up all the moisture in their leaves making them dry and curl.
-Water regularly your plants to take them out of drought stress.
-Provide moisture in the air by regular misting.
-Use a humidifier in too dry air in the atmosphere.
Salt buildup-Over watering- Water has minerals, when you overwater your plants they leave salts after evaporating causing salt buildups.
-Over fertilization- Since you’re feeding your plants way too much the excess nutrients in the form of salt buildup will be seen on and in the soil.
-Gently remove the ¼ part of the soil from the top, if you see it on the surface of the soil. 
-Overflow the soil with warm water and allow all the excess salt and water to drain out of the drainage holes.
Stunted growth-Under watering- Lack of water also means lack of nutrients and energy available for the plant to grow and stay alive. This along with several issues lead to stunted growth.
-Pests attack- pests are irritating tiny sucking insects that suck on plants sap making them weak, sucking all their nutrients. Due to this the plant becomes weak and stops growing.
-Cultural conditions- avoiding cultural conditions affect plant growth. Inappropriate temperature levels, low humidity and dry air can become reasons for your plants stunted growth.
-Water your plants frequently. It is recommended to use filtered water to avoid salt build ups.
-Use neem oil, horticulture oil, insecticidal spray or any other organic insecticides to treat pests. 
-Treat till the problem persists.
-Check what cultural condition is not according to your plant’s need. Manipulate the condition naturally.

Sources: College of agricultural studiesUniversity of Vermont.

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