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Eight common houseplant problems and how to fix them

21-Feb-2021

Houseplants are a great way to brighten up your home, purify the air and improve your mood. They have become extremely popular in homes everywhere but, no matter whether you’re a complete plant newbie or you’ve been looking after them for years, you might run into some common problems. 

They’re great at telling you when they’re not happy or when they want you to change something but knowing what the problem is and how you fix it can be a little more tricky. It might take a bit of trial and error to get to know your individual plants and their needs and quirks. 

Understanding common problems and how to fix them can help you to keep your plants happy and learn from experience to make sure your other plants don’t experience the same problems. Many of these problems are easily fixed, all you need to do is observe your plants and get to know them a little better. 

Click the links below to jump to your house plant problem:

Problem 1: Yellowing leaves 

It’s completely normal for the older leaves on your plants to turn yellow and fall off. It’s how your plant focuses on new growth and is usually nothing to worry about. However, you might start to notice a huge number of leaves yellowing and dropping off, which is cause for more concern and care. 

The solution: In many cases, the leaves turn yellow on plants if they’re getting too much light. Try moving them to a spot with less light if they’re in a bright spot or somewhere with more indirect sunlight to see if it solves the problem. 

In addition, overwatering can cause yellowing leaves, particularly if the roots begin to rot so you should check your watering schedule and make sure your plant’s soil isn’t always wet. 

Problem 2: Dropping leaves 

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s normal for plants to drop some leaves but, if you find more than usual are falling off, you might need to make a few changes. 

The solution: This can be a sign of both under and over watering so can be a little trickier to diagnose and fix. To avoid both problems, we always recommend sticking your finger into the top inch of soil before watering to see if it is dry or not. 

Keeping a regular check on your plants in this way will help you to understand what they need and when. If you find that the top inch of soil is dry when you get to it, it will need watering. On the other hand, if it's still damp or wet, you’ll want to leave it for another day or two to make sure you’re not overwatering. 

It’s important to make sure you water your plants before they start to show signs of underwatering. The whole process of watering your plants will take a bit of trial and error to get right and will be different for individual plants. 

Another reason many plants drop their leaves is because they have recently been moved and are a little sensitive to change. This applies to Ficus in particular. They’re very sensitive to change and will let you know by dropping their leaves initially until they get used to their new spot. Once they’ve adjusted, you should find that the problem fixes itself. If not, you’ll need to take a look at your watering schedule. 

Problem 3: Curling leaves

If you find that the leaves of your plants are curling up and going dry, you might want to have a look at their environment to make sure it’s just right. 

The solution: If you don’t water your plants for a while, the leaves will start to curl so give them a bit of water to see if you can revive it. Try to make sure you stick to a regular watering schedule to avoid this. 

Alternatively, this is also a sign of low humidity in your home and will affect tropical plants in particular. To solve this problem, try misting the leaves every now and again to try and increase the humidity levels for your plants. 

Problem 4: Browning leaf edges or tips 

If you find that the edges or tips of the leaves on your plants start to go brown, it could be a sign of a couple of problems. 

The solution: Lack of humidity can cause your plant’s leaves to go brown so you can try moving it to a more humid location, mist the leaves or place the plant on a pebble tray to try and increase the humidity around the plant. 

Underwatering or inconsistent watering can also cause your plants to develop brown leaves. Being consistent with your watering doesn’t mean that you should always water your plants at the same time, on the same day, it means you should make sure you only water your plants when they need it. They’re really good at letting you know so it’s pretty easy to get right! 

You should also make sure the water can drain out of the bottom of the pot to make sure it’s not constantly sitting in water or that the water is not just reaching the top of the plant and not making its way down to the roots. Try not to go weeks without watering your plants and then giving them a huge amount in one go.  

Over fertilising your plants can also be a culprit of brown leaves too. As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to under dilute your fertilizer than to over dilute it. 

Problem 5: Wilting or burnt leaves

Wilting or burnt leaves on your plant is another problem that can be easily solved and fixed. 

The solution: This problem is a key indicator that your plant is getting burned by being in direct sunlight for too long. Not many plants like to be in bright, direct sunlight all day so, if you’re experiencing this problem, try placing them away from windows or windowsills to protect the leaves. Tropical plants in particular are used to being shielded by the canopy in the rainforest so don’t appreciate being in the sun all day. 

Afternoon sun can be particularly strong and will damage most indoor plants so, if your plant is close to a window, make sure it’s not too exposed during the afternoon. 

Problem 6: Root rot 

Root rot can be fatal to plants once it’s started to set in so it’s important to look out for the initial signs so that you can nip it in the bud before it goes too far. 

The solution: Root rot means your plant is unable to absorb the water and nutrients it needs from the soil. The leaves may start to drop off or turn yellow as a result. So, if you suspect your plant might have root rot, it’s important to try and solve the problem before it sets in properly and the plant dies. 

Remove the plant from the soil and inspect the roots, trim any black roots and give them a good rinse. You’ll then need to replant the plant in fresh soil and make sure you’ve thoroughly cleaned the pot otherwise the rot will continue to spread. 

Unfortunately, root rot can be fatal if it’s not caught in time and there will be no way to revive your plant. The best thing to do is try to prevent it from happening by making sure your plant has proper drainage and you stick to a regular watering schedule by only watering the plant when the soil is dry,. 

Problem 7: Leggy or sparse growth

You might find that your plant is becoming more leggy or there is more space between stems and leaves. 

The solution: this is a key sign that your plant is not getting enough natural light. Just try moving it to a spot in your home with slightly brighter light or where it might be exposed to light for longer periods during the day. 

Problem 8: Lopsided growth 

Lopsided growth isn’t a sign of anything seriously wrong with your plant but a plant that leans to one side or with all the leaves pointing one way might not be as aesthetically pleasing. 

The solution: The solution to this one is simple. Just make sure you turn your plant around every now and again so that all sides get to see the sun. We recommend doing this whenever you water it. 

You might find that Fiddle Leaf Figs, in particular are prone to this and may need rotating more often to keep growth even on all sides.

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