6 Most Common House Plant Issues and How to Solve Them

Growing plants indoors has been popular for many years but grew in popularity this past year when many of us were forced by Covid-19 to work from home.

Indoor plants improve the indoor environment by purifying the air. When purchasing plants to grow in our homes, the beauty of the plant is probably the most important.

Maybe you want to grow organic herbs on your kitchen windowsill. Sometimes, the plant just looks visually interesting because of the shape of the leaves or the color of the flowers.

Whatever the reason you are attracted to a specific plant, you want your plant to not just survive but flourish.

Start by purchasing the right plant for the right location. If you want a plant to be located in a specific location, take note of what advantages and disadvantages exist in that spot. The amount of light your plant will receive is the most important.

You may have a bright sunny window where your plants receive direct light. If you want the plant to be on your desk, your plant may only receive indirect lighting. Perhaps you plan on using a grow light to compensate for the lack of sunlight.

Whatever the situation, choose a plant that will be happy in the conditions you have. Of course, if you bought a plant and aren’t sure where to put it, research the plant’s needs and choose a spot that meets its needs.

placing new house plant

Once it’s time to choose a plant, look it over carefully. It has been growing in the greenhouse under optimum conditions and should look very healthy. Check the leaves for any discoloration or damage. Is there new growth visible?

Look for any signs of pests or disease. Once you bring your plant home, it is best to isolate it from your other houseplants for a week or two. If your new plant has any pest problem or disease, it should be apparent in that amount of time. It is very disheartening when you bring a supposedly healthy plant home and place it with your other plants, only to have all of them infected.

If you should discover a problem, there are many products available to cure the problem. Check the garden supplies section for the correct product. Use organic products whenever possible, as these plants are in your home environment.

Here are some common houseplant problems and how to solve them.

1. Overwatering

overwatering house plant

If your plant starts to droop but the leaves and stems are soft, you have probably overwatered. This is the major cause of death in houseplants. Make sure your plants are all in pots with bottom drainage holes to allow excess water to drain out.

After watering, pour off the excess water. Set up a watering schedule. Every plant has its own watering needs, but the majority will probably be fine with a once-a-week watering. Choose a day like Saturday for watering your plants.

For those that need more water, add Wednesday for a second watering each week. If you stick to a schedule, you lessen the chance of overwatering or underwatering.

2. Underwatering

Much like overwatering, your plant will start to droop when it receives inadequate water. The difference is the leaves become dry and brittle rather than soft.

The cure is the same. Water on a schedule. When you water, all the soil should be damp, not just the top surface. Watch for the water to start to drain through the bottom drainage holes.

3. Leaf Curling

This can be a sign of low humidity in the air. Frequently, this is a seasonal problem that occurs when the heat is on in the house during the winter months. You can try misting your plants to provide humidity.

Another great solution is to fill a tray with decorative stones or glass pebbles and then fill the tray with water. Place the plants on top of the tray and they will get plenty of humidity in their own small microclimate.

4. Root rot

This problem is usually the result of overwatering. If you want to save your plant, you will need to remove it from its pot and clean off the old soil.

With a sharp tool, cut away all the dead roots. The plant then should be repotted in fresh soil and a fresh pot. If you want to use the original pot, you will have to sanitize it first.

5. Lopsided growth

sick gardenia plant with falling yellow leaves

If one side of your plants is looking great but the other side is shorter and less full, it often is the result of one side of the plant getting all the sunlight. It starts with the plant leaning toward the light source, but can actually evolve into a lopsided plant.

The solution is simple. Just rotate your plant every time you water. This way, all sides of the plant will receive the same amount of light. Also, remember to clean the leaves of your plants. Even a light layer of dust will significantly impact the amount of light the leaves are actually absorbing. Just wipe the leaves with a slightly damp cloth when you water.

6. Scale

This is one example of houseplant pests. Scale are small bugs that latch on to your plant and suck the sap from your plant. They usually attach to the vein where they can easily feed. Scale reproduce quickly and a few scale bugs will turn into an infestation very quickly.

Scale bugs should be removed at the first sign by manually removing with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. After you have removed the visible scale bugs, you should immediately treat the plant as each scale bug hatches hundreds of almost invisible tiny worms that quickly attach to the plant and then form their shell and become adult scale bugs. Make sure you keep your plant isolated while in treatment.

The key to healthy houseplants is prevention. Purchase healthy plants from a nursery you can trust and establish a plant care routine.

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