There are several reasons why your houseplant might be struggling. However, most of the time it could be due to either one of these 6 basic reasons. Hence I suggest you look at each of the below parameters one by one to analyze where you are going wrong in your plant care.
- TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE SUNLIGHT:-
It’s actually quite easy to recognize if a plant is exposed to too much sun or is getting low light. If the leaves are looking very pale almost like they are bleached then it’s a sign of high sun exposure. Along with this the leaves might be brown and brittle.
However, if the stem/leaves are looking leggy it's a clear sign of low light. Another clear indication is, the new leaves are way smaller in size and the plant hasn’t shown much growth in a very long time.
Also please note that never shift your plant suddenly from extreme low light to high light or vice versa. It will shock them.
- UNDERWATERING/ OVERWATERING:-
In most cases this is where a lot of you struggle. Once you understand the art of watering houseplants (which isn’t that hard) half your plant care struggle is gone. Now how to water/when to water your houseplants is a huge topic that needs a separate blog post.
Here I’m going to share how to identify if your plant is struggling due to improper watering.
Actually the first signs of overwatering /underwatering can be very similar. But if you look closely there are some distinctions that can help you identify the issue.
Wrinkled stem and a droopy plant is a sign of underwatering. When you touch the soil it will be bone dry with a lot of surface cracks. Houseplants with thick foliage like the ZZ plant, Peperomias, Orchids and succulents, the leaves become very soft when under watered. Another way to identify watering issues is by looking at the roots of the plant. Severely under watered plants will have dry almost papery roots. Also the plant overall looks just dried up.
Your houseplant will get droopy even when overwatered. However, the key here is when you touch the soil it will be moist. Too many yellow leaves is another big cue of overwatering. Some plants will develop brown patches on the leaves (Fiddle Leaf, Peace Lily). And when you look at the roots, it will be dark and mushy with signs of rotting. Incase of Succulents and plants with thick foliage(ZZ, Peperomias) the stem and the leaves can get soggy.
- POOR SOIL:-
If your potting soil is too old and doesn’t have any nutrients, it will affect the plant's growth. Common signs- Stunted growth, vein discoloration, pests.
Ensure the soil isn’t too clayey and hard. Most houseplants like a well draining soil mix. A good sign is when you water a plant there shouldn’t be any water logging at the top. The water should evenly flow down the pot.
- WRONG POT SIZE:-
Ok this is another common mistake I have seen many newbie plant parents do, potting your houseplant in either a very small planter or a huge planter.
When the plant is in a small pot it basically stops growing. This is because there’s no room for the roots to grow thereby affecting the overall plant growth. Now this is still okay when compared to plants potted in huge pots. In this case there’s too much soil hence more water retention in the pot thereby leading to over-watering and root rot. A good rule of thumb is to plant them in pots just 2-3 inches larger than the current root ball size.
If you have plants you’re bound to have pests. However the key is to be ahead of them and treat them on time before they take over your plant. Common pests- mealey bugs, spider mites, scales, sooty mold, aphids, fungus gnats. This again causes stunted growth and abnormal leaf shapes. One way to have plants pest free is to keep its surroundings clean along with regular inspection.
- LOW/ HIGH HUMIDITY:-
Humidity can be sensitive to certain plants like Ferns, Calatheas, Begonias, Alocasias, Anthuriums. These plants love good humidity and if the weather you live in is too dry then yes these plants will suffer from crisping and browning of leaves.
Apart from these certain other reasons why your houseplant might be suffering could be due to over fertilizing, no drainage hole or poor air circulation.
To conclude, we all have at some point struggled with growing a plant or two. It’s part and parcel of gardening. The key is to notice the early signs and tweak one of these parameters. In most cases (not always) plants are resilient and they do flush back in no time.