Houseplants dying? How does this happen?


Many people, including myself, have various houseplants scattered around here and there. Unfortunately, with our busy lives sometimes we forget about them. One day they look great then a few days later, they are laying down. The good news is that, for the most part, droopy plants just need to be watered. So, we water… and we water. Now the saucer under the plant is overflowing with water, QUICK! grab the paper towels! But before we get ahead of ourselves the question is why do we love our houseplants? Well, they spruce (pardon the pun) up our living environment, they filter and oxygenate the air, add color, and provide a calming effect in our home. We nurture them, clean up debris and dead leaves and put them in a sunny spot. Perfect! but things can go wrong.


Wilted houseplant

There are several components your plant requires for healthy growth. Mostly water, light and space. As previously mentioned, we were bad, we forgot to water our plants and now they are wilted and laying down. They look so unhappy.

Adding water will revive them but we have to water correctly. Consistently wet soil stops oxygen from getting to the plant roots, they can drown if they are waterlogged. The best way I know to tell if a plant needs water, besides from it being wilted, is by weight. A dry plant will feel very light when picked up, conversely, a soaked plant will feel heavy. If you have overdone your watering, leave the plant to dry out for a few days to a week or so depending on how warm or cool your home is. I’ve seen a ficus tree that was over-watered take 2 weeks to dry out to a point that it would require watering again. Obviously, this depends on the size of the planting pot. Ficus are trees and require large planters.



Water and nutrients go hand in hand. When we grow plants indoors and water them diligently, we may see that a plant is now off-color, perhaps it’s yellowing. The more we water our indoor plants the more we flush out needed nutrients. Thus, we have to replace those nutrients. A once per month pick-me-up in the form of plant ‘food’, ie: fertilizer, will increase nutrients in the soil and replenish the needed nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium required for healthy root growth. There are other elements like calcium, magnesium and sulfur which a plant needs as well  so it’s best to buy an all- purpose fertilizer that has both the macro and micro nutrients on the label.


Leaf tip burn

Unless you are growing shade loving plants in your home, most houseplants need a warm, sunny spot to thrive. However, if  you move a plant to a sunny location AFTER it has already adjusted to the lighting it had, you may deal with leaf tip burn, a condition that causes the leaves to discolor and become pale and crisp.

When growing houseplants, if they are a sun loving plant, start them off in a sunny location. If you have plants that are doing fine where they are, then they should not be moved. Keep houseplants growing environment consistent. (It is worth noting that too much fertilizer can also burn plants.)


I often mention to people to give space between houseplants. If one plant happens to get an infestation, it could infect others. In addition, the pot that a plant is growing in may be too small, so transplanting to a larger pot enables more space for roots to grow. Most plants will need to be placed in a larger container every few years. (There is an exception to this rule but it is more involved to explain in this newsletter, curious? Send us an email.)



Always prune or trim out dead stems and pick off dead leaves. In the wintertime, it’s a great idea to mist your plants. You can add a foliar fertilizer to promote feeding through the leaf surface. Misting increases humidity which normally lacks during the colder months. Fertilize each plant with the all-purpose fertilizer at least once per month and give them a quarter turn to promote light on all sides of the plant on a regular basis.

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