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Why Are My Indoor Plants Leggy? (Reasons+ How To Fix With Images)

Indoor plants look beautiful as long as they are in the right shape. Plants that have long stems with fewer leaves on them are called leggy. This looks not only bad but also is terrible for the health of your plant. 

But why are your indoor plants leggy?

Lack of good lighting conditions is the primary reason why your indoor plant becomes leggy. If your houseplant is not getting enough light or the light is not evenly distributed around it, you will notice leggy growth. Other reasons include overfertilization and lack of pruning.

If you are here to find out why your indoor plant is growing leggy, keep reading as we unveil all the possible reasons that lead to legginess and how you can fix this problem.

Pothos growing leggy


What causes leggy plants?

Among all the possible reasons, light plays the most crucial part in making a plant leggy. Let’s understand how light affects the growth of your indoor plant before diving into the other reasons.

Low light

Most houseplants prefer a bright environment that provides sufficient light for their growth. However, many plant lovers fail to provide enough light to their plants that ultimately leads to legginess. 

Low light leads to slow photosynthesis in plants. In simple terms, it means that the plant remains low on energy if exposed to low light for an extended period. 

Due to too low energy, the plant fails to grow healthy stems. They grow spindly with fewer leaves as the plant doesn’t have enough energy to grow too many leaves. 

Also read: How much sun do indoor plants need?

Uneven distribution of light 

If you place your indoor plant near a bright window, it will get enough light, but it will get all the light on only one side if you forget to rotate it. 

Therefore, the stems will start stretching towards the light source and thus grow long and spindly. All the weight will shift to one side, and the plant might even fall if you don’t do anything about it. 

Overfertilization

Overfertilization causes various problems, one of them being legginess. Many houseplant owners don’t enjoy the slow growth of their indoor plants and opt for fertilizers that boost the plants’ growth.

Fertilizers with a lot of Nitrogen are responsible for boosting the growth of houseplants. But when used in excess, the houseplants will show excess growth, and the plants will grow leggy.



Underfertilization

Lack of nutrients can also lead to leggy growth in your indoor plants. If you do not feed your indoor plants with a well-balanced fertilizer, especially during their growing season, they will not have proper growth.

Due to a lack of nutrients, the plant will not have enough energy to grow strong stems and ample leaves. So you will notice leggy growth in your houseplants.

Also read: How Often Do You Fertilize Indoor Plants? (When+What To Use)

Lack of pruning

This might not be true for all your houseplants, but many indoor plants can grow leggy if you don’t prune them on time.

Many indoor plants require pruning at the end of their growth cycle, but they will start growing tall and slim and looking unhealthy if you don’t do it.

Overcrowding

If you are growing too many houseplants together, the plants will get overcrowded. Overcrowded plants might not receive even distribution of light or nutrition.

Some plants may receive more light and nutrition, and you might notice a boost in their growth which might not be healthy in the long run. These plants will produce elongated stems with few leaves.

High temperature

High temperatures are suitable for germination in plants, but some houseplants can show excessive growth if you provide too much heat.

The plants that grow too much due to high temperatures concentrate their energy on growing stems rather than leaves. Therefore, you find longer stems but fewer leaves.

Also read: Can Indoor Plants Get Sunburned? (Prevent+Save A Sunburned Plant)

How to fix leggy houseplants?

If your indoor plant has become leggy, you can fix it with proper pruning and caring for the plant.

Consider the following steps if you want to fix your leggy houseplant.

  • Pruning is necessary to keep the plants in shape and prevent leggy growth. So prune your houseplants whenever you notice leggy growth so that the plant can grow healthy stems and leaves again. Use sterilized scissors and make clean cuts while pruning.
  • Consider pruning near the nodes to encourage new and healthy growth.
  • Find a bright spot for your indoor plant where it will get sufficient light. If your houseplant prefers direct sunlight, you can keep it under the full sun, but if it prefers indirect sunlight, you can keep it near a window and use curtains to create a filter for the direct sunlight.
  • If your house lacks a natural light source, you can consider getting artificial lights created to provide light and warmth to your indoor plants. These lights will make up for the lack of natural light. Install artificial or grow lights over your indoor plants and use them regularly to provide light to your plants.
  • If your plant is already sitting in a sunny location but still getting leggy and leaning on one side, it might not be getting enough light on all sides. So, you need to rotate your indoor plant at regular intervals so that it gets light on all sides.
  • Avoid fertilizing your indoor plants more than they need. Fertilizing excessively or giving your plants high doses of Nitrogen can have adverse effects leading to legginess. So, use a well-balanced fertilizer, dilute it to half-strength and feed it to your plants as per their requirement.
  • You should not skip fertilizing your houseplants either. They depend on fertilizers for nutrition as the soil alone cannot provide all their needs for growth. Fertilize your houseplants well, especially during the growing season, so that they don’t go weak.
  • If you are using heat mats to increase the temperature for germination, you should lower the heat after the seeds sprout. Too much heat can make the houseplants leggy, and you wouldn’t want that.
  • Repot your plant if you follow all the above steps and still notice leggy growth. Repotting the indoor plant with a fresh soil mix will give it a new chance.

How to prevent leggy indoor plants?

Pothos growing leggy

After reviving your leggy indoor plant, you need to maintain it to avoid going back to being leggy again.

Take a look at these ways to prevent leggy indoor plants.

  • Research the light requirements of your indoor plant and provide it with the light it needs. Find a bright spot, rotate the plant regularly, and use grow lights if the natural light is not enough.
  • Make sure you go through the individual care routine for your indoor plants and then care for your indoor plants accordingly.
  • Always feed your indoor plants with a diluted dose of a well-balanced fertilizer during the growing season when your plants need it the most.
  • Prune your indoor plants, not only the leggy growth but also the overgrowth, dead and damaged leaves and stems. Also, prune near the nodes to encourage new growth in your plants.
  • Do not plant your indoor plants too close to each other. You may try, but if you notice problems in your plants, you should consider taking the plants out and repotting them after spacing them out from each other.
  • You can use a heating pad for germination but don’t use heat pads if not required. Heating pads can increase the heat above optimum level and damage the growth of the plants.

FAQ

What do leggy plants look like?

A leggy plant looks untidy and uneven. Here are a few signs that tell you that your indoor plant is leggy.

  • Long and weak stems
  • A gap of around an inch between the leaves
  • Uneven growth
  • Plants tend to fall over on one side
  • No or fewer blooms

How do you prune a leggy houseplant?

There is not much difference between pruning an average plant and pruning a leggy one. You must prune right before a leaf node to encourage new growth when you are pruning a leggy houseplant.

If you plan to remove a whole stem, cut it close to the base of the main stem.

Are leggy plants bad?

Leggy plants are nothing but signs that something is not right with your plant. Mostly it is a problem of insufficient or uneven distribution of light.

However, leggy plants are not harmful in any way. But you must try to fix the issue as soon as possible so that your plant can be healthy again.



How can I make my plant thicker?

Nobody likes a leggy plant. A fuller or thicker plant is what everyone looks forward to. You can exercise a few steps to make your indoor plants thicker.

  • Prune your houseplants before they start growing aggressively, i.e., before the onset of spring or the growing season.
  • Prune the stems that outgrow the plants that outgrow after one or two months.
  • Provide sufficient sunlight, water, fertilizer, and use the correct growing medium to keep the plant healthy and increase its growth.
  • Pinching the tips off will also make your indoor plants thicker and bushier.

Source: University of IllinoisGrowing Indoor Plants with SuccessAgriculture, and Natural Resources, University of CaliforniaMissouri Botanical Garden.