Indoor plants come in different colors, sizes, and shapes. We treat them like our babies. But, it can become disheartening to see severe problems in them. One such problem is leaf loss.
Despite all the care some indoor plants start losing their leaves for no obvious reasons. So, in this article we shall learn why is your indoor plant losing its leaves and how can you fix the same.
Indoor plants lose their leaves either due to natural aging or inadequate care and poor living conditions. Premature leaf loss often indicates possible problems. Pests infestation, temperature stress, and improper watering are some problems that often lead to the loss of leaves in indoor plants.
Sometimes, the cause of losing leaves is natural. Leaves fall when they end their lifecycle. This is normal, and you don’t have to worry about it.
You can even remove them yourselves when they change from green to yellow to brown.
You are at the right place if you want to know why your houseplant is losing leaves and how to save them from the problem. This article will help you know all the possible reasons behind leaf loss and its remedies.
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Causes of indoor plant losing leaves
It is frustrating to see leaf loss in our favorite houseplants and even more frustrating when we fail to diagnose the real problem behind it.
Sometimes, the leaves start falling one by one gradually, and sometimes a lot of leaves start dropping. Don’t worry, as I have listed some possible causes behind it so that you can perceive the actual reasons and treat them.
- Watering issues
- Low light
- Temperature stress
- Low humidity
- Insufficient nutrients
- Small pot
- Physical damage
- End of lifecycle
Now, let’s discuss these problems, along with their remedies.
A sudden change in the plant’s environment can shock them, which will result in the loss of leaves. It happens when you bring a new plant home or have recently repotted or divided the plant.
When you bring a new plant from the perfect growing conditions in the greenhouse to your home with a different environment, your houseplant might experience a shock. They can go yellow or brown at times, and then leaves start falling off.
There is nothing much you can do. The only thing up to you is taking proper care of the plants to help them recover from stress.
The same happens when you repot them. Before repotting, they stay in a pot and medium with which the plant is completely acquainted.
When repotted to a new pot and soil, the environment is new. So, the plant goes into a shock and starts going yellow and then falls.
In this case, your plant will survive if you do not give them any extra stress. Instead, try to provide the requirements in an adequate amount. The same goes for the dividing of the plants.
Unfortunately, there is nothing much to do with these problems. All you need is to take care of the plants and hope to see the plant surviving. In maximum cases, the shock is temporary, and the plant gets healthy once they get used to the new environment.
Watering issue is a common problem in all houseplants. Either we overwater them with the thought that our plant will remain healthy or starve them for water. All houseplants need deep but infrequent watering.
The initial signs are yellow leaves which then droop down. The leaves have a water-soaked look. Eventually, they fall off if you ignore them despite the symptoms.
When you overwater your plant, the root system suffocates. As a result, they cannot absorb any water and nutrients.
In severe cases, the plant suffers from root rot. When this happens, you have to handle it carefully. Such situations are attractive to pests and diseases. Root rot will even kill the plant.
Let the overwatered plant get dry. If you notice still water, tilt the pot to get that water out. Keep the plant in a bright spot with good airflow and let the soil get dry.
You can also take the plant out of the pot, spread the soil and roots on paper, and place it under indirect light. Once the soil and roots dry out, you can plant it back in the pot.
The next time, you should keep a constant check on the moisture level.
Most houseplants prefer evenly moist soil. Some prefer slightly damp conditions, but no plant likes being in waterlogged or soggy soil.
Start by watering your indoor plants once a week thoroughly. The soil will remain moist for the rest of the days of the week.
After watering the plant, wait for the soil to dry up. Water again only if the topsoil feels dry when you insert your finger to check the moisture.
You should not use a pot that is too big for your plant. Plants standing in a bigger pot will hold more water, leading to an overwatered plant.
Never skip the drainage holes. If the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, make some before placing the soil and plant inside.
Focus on the soil. The soil should drain excess water and also retain moisture. Clay soil tends to hold moisture for an extended period.
If your potting soil has high clay content, avoid watering until the medium dries up. You can add compost to the soil to improve the drainage system.
If your plant is at the extreme stages of overwatering, you will need to repot it after removing the affected roots.
Underwatering has the same signs as overwatering, yellow leaves, and droopy leaves. Do not confuse it with overwatering.
The difference is that underwatering will make the leaves dry, curly, and crisp. These can also be signs of other problems. So look at the signs closely to make sure these are caused due to underwatering.
Check the soil. If you have kept your plant dry for a long time, the soil will become completely dry. It will feel very compact. Eventually, these leaves will start falling off from your plant once they turn dry.
If you have an underwatered plant, you can just trim off the affected leaves and start watering your plant when the leaves change color. By this, you can help your plant to revive back. Water them thoroughly every 5-10 days.
Houseplants like moist soil, but you don’t have to water frequently. If the medium has too much sand, add compost to it. It will help in moisture retention.
You can keep a calendar for marking the watering dates. It will help you follow a watering routine so that you don’t forget to water your plant.
But always check the soil before watering. If the top half-inch of soil dries, you can start watering again.
However, watering differs for some plants. Succulents like cacti will resist drought for a long time. You can keep them without water for even a month or more, and they will remain alive and healthy.
Also read: Overwatering vs Underwatering
For all the houseplants, light is the most crucial requirement for their healthy growth. The plants need a lot of energy to produce.
When your plant is not getting enough energy due to a lack of light, it will weaken. And your plant will start losing leaves. This mostly happens during the winter when the light level is relatively low.
Significantly, the lower leaves get affected as the sunlight cannot reach the plant’s lower parts. Eventually, they start falling off.
Try to solve the issue before your plant starts losing all the leaves.
Move your plant to a place where it will receive enough light. Some houseplants like Crotons need direct sunlight to live. You can keep them on an open balcony or roof so that they can get enough sunlight.
Although the sunlight level is low during the winters, keeping them in open places will solve the problem to some extent. But make sure you do not provide them excess sunlight as that will cause sunburn.
Another great idea is to use a grow light. If you have your houseplant on a shelf or patio, keep the grow lights above them.
They will match the right intensity of the sun and will give your plant all the lights they require for healthy growth. Keep the grow lights 12 inches away from the plants.
Most houseplants come from the tropical region. They cannot tolerate low temperatures, and most of them start losing leaves in chilled weather. These plants need warm temperatures to grow well.
The houseplants will not tolerate extreme temperatures, be it cold or heat. We sometimes make the mistake of keeping them close to ACs to cool them down or near the heaters for warmth. But actually, we are exposing them to extreme temperatures, resulting in the loss of leaves.
Sometimes, we suddenly change the position of the plant by taking them outdoors or bringing them indoors. These sudden changes cause temperature stress, and they go into a shock. This can result in loss of leaves in your houseplant.
First of all, keep your plants away from heat vents and air conditioners. The air released from them can touch the plant directly and harm them. So, it is best to place your houseplant away from these devices.
Keep the plant away from windows and doors which are opened and closed frequently. Frequent opening and closing allow the drafts to enter the room, causing temperature fluctuations.
You can keep the plant near a window where it receives bright sunlight. But in case of cold drafts, either close the window or keep the plant a few feet away.
Do not suddenly take them outside and keep them there for a long time. If you want to change your plant position, do it gradually.
Start with short visits and then increase it. Once your plant gets acquainted with the new environment, you can permanently change its position.
The same goes for the case outside potted plants that you wish to bring inside. It will give less temperature stress.
Most houseplants love high humidity as they come from tropical regions. They need high humidity to remain healthy. When grown indoors, they do not get the exact humidity as they do in their native land. This causes the indoor plants to lose leaves.
Low humidity is also a problem, especially during the winters. The transpiration rate increases and the plants start losing moisture quite fast. Therefore, the leaves will turn yellow and then fall off.
It is not possible to provide such high humidity indoors as it will be uncomfortable for us. But you must provide average room humidity at least.
You can start misting your plants regularly.
You can group all the moisture-loving houseplants. This will allow them to create and maintain the required humidity.
You can keep your houseplants inside terrarium jars. They will create high humidity inside. The water vapor released by the plants will condense on the jar and run down to the soil.
If your room is full of tropical plants that need high humidity, install a humidifier in the room. It is a permanent solution and will mimic the humidity for all houseplants that need a lot of humidity.
You have provided all the requirements adequately as discussed till now, and still, your plant is losing its leaves. The reason could be a lack of nutrients.
Every living thing needs nutrients to stay fit and healthy. So it is crucial to provide your plants with the right amount of nutrients.
If you have recently bought or repotted your plant, then your plant does not need any fertilizing. The soil is already nutritious enough for them. But if your plant is 1-2 years old, it is time to focus on its nutrition.
If you find that despite providing the requirements accurately, they are losing leaves, the reason can be a lack of nitrogen.
Nitrogen helps in making the leaves strong and healthy. Lack of nitrogen will make the leaves yellow, tiny and they will even fall if not strong enough.
Use a balanced fertilizer, i.e., one with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
You can also use a fertilizer that has high nitrogen content. You can use liquid fertilizers, which support easy absorption. But they are a bit messy and can have chances of spilling.
You can try using slow-release fertilizer, which is a favorite of all gardeners. They can last up to 8 to 9 months.
Fertilize once a month during the growing season. As winter approaches, start reducing the strength and frequency. Houseplants don’t need fertilizers during winter.
If you are more of an organic fertilizer user, you can use fish emulsion, cottonseed meal, or alfalfa meal.
A small-sized pot will result in a rootbound plant. The roots will start growing in circles. When space is less, they will grow out of the soil and twist around the plant. You won’t be able to see the soil.
A root-bound plant will show stunted growth and drop the leaves as they will fail to support them due to the lack of water and nutrients.
But, some plants like being slightly rootbound as that encourages blooming. But it varies from plant to plant. So before coming to a decision, research well about your plant type and then take action.
If a rootbound plant is a reason behind your houseplant losing leaves, repotting is necessary.
Choose a pot size 1-2 inches bigger than the current one and transplant your plant. You can prune the long roots. But do not disturb the root ball.
While pruning, make sure not to hurt the healthy roots. Make a clean cut with a sterilized pruner or scissor.
Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, scales, whiteflies, and many more pests can get attracted to your plant.
They feed on the leaves and stems and suck out all the nutrients from the plants. Some even eat off the leaves. All these cause the plant to become weak and drop leaves.
Pests primarily get attracted when you overwater or overfertilize the plants. Damp conditions are ideal for them.
If you notice that your indoor plant is losing leaves, take a close look. If you find any signs of pests and insects, treat immediately.
Give the plant a good shower with a strong force. But do not put too much force also. The pests will get washed away. If still, they remain, you can handpick them.
Try using neem oil. It will help to get rid of the pests and also treat the plant.
Use insecticidal soaps or baby shampoos to get rid of them.
Take one teaspoon of the soap or shampoo and mix it with four ounces of water.
Spray it all over the plants, especially the parts where the infestation is more. Keep it for some hours, and then rinse it off.
There are some herbal sprays available for treating pests – lavender, rosemary, sage, peppermint.
The indoor plants can lose leaves if there is any physical damage.
The plant can get physically damaged due to various reasons – the plant got knocked or bumped, stems accidentally broken, pets and children rubbing the plant, or it’s frequently brushed to clear any dust or spider webs.
Whenever you see any fallen leaves around your plant, consider checking for these.
Keep your plant in a safe place where it will not have to face any accidents like bumping into something. This also means keeping the plant away from the reach of pets and children.
If your plant’s stem accidentally broke, you can use that for propagation. Watch if the stem is healthy or not.
End of lifecycle
Some plants drop leaves due to aging. The leaves die because the plant starts focussing on growing new leaves. Due to this, the old leaves start falling from the plant.
The old leaves no longer have the energy to allow the cells to hold adequate water and nutrients. So they fall off.
There is no fixation on this problem. It is not a problem. It is a natural thing, and there is nothing to do about it. However, if you don’t like the sight, you can remove the old leaves when they turn yellow or brown.
There are a lot of reasons for indoor plants to lose their leaves. Losing leaves is not the initial stage.
It starts with leaf discoloration, and then eventually, they drop off. So, if you constantly observe the plant and notice the initial signs, take action immediately.
Some signs are similar to other problems. So before acting, consider diagnosing the right cause and then take steps.
Can plants regrow their leaves?
Once the leaves fall, they will not grow in the same place. However, you will soon see new leaves in your plant when the right season comes or when your plant is healthy.
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How to revive a plant without leaves?
Prune all the dead leaves and stems too. If the roots are healthy, leave 5 cm of the stem and cut the rest. Your plant will grow new stems and leaves soon after.