Common Houseplant Issues & Remedies : Part 1

We all love our houseplants, but sometimes it feels like they don’t love us back. You give them all the care in the world, but it seems like you come home each day to curled or yellowing leaves, droopy stems, or just a nagging suspicion that your houseplant is not thriving. You’ve given it ample nutrients, it has the perfect amount of indirect sunlight, and you’ve made sure it has plenty of water. So why isn’t it blooming? Here are 3 common issues that emerge in houseplants and how to resolve them.

Plant has been Overwatered

If you dote on your houseplant by giving it water each day, you’re probably doing more harm than good. Yes, plants need water, and they will die if they do not get enough water. But watering a plant every day is a recipe for root rot. Since your plant is indoors, they aren’t getting as much sunlight as they would in a greenhouse or in an outdoor garden. Light provides the energy needed to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose (which is used by the plant to grow) and oxygen. If you don’t have light energy, all the water you’ve dumped into your pot has nowhere to go.

An overwatered plant will wilt and have yellowed leaves. The soil will be continuously moist.

You can save an overwatered plant, but there is no failsafe method. If your plant has become contaminated with a pathogen while it was suffering from root rot, there’s little that you can do. First, stop watering the plant. Wait a day or two, then repot the plant. While repotting, discard most of the soil that is clumped about the roots. Any moldy, rotten smelling soil should be immediately disposed of. Once you can see the roots, trim away any that do not look white and firm. Do the same for dead leaves and stems. A general rule of thumb is to cut away an equal amount of roots and stems. Finally, transfer the plant to a new pot. Cover the roots with new potting soil.

Pale leaves

While not every plant has deep green leaves, when those that do become pale, a common culprit is sunscald, sometimes called sun bleaching. Sunscald is the plant equivalent to human sunburn. Though plants need light to survive, overexposure to light will kill a plant. Like water, light for most plants is something that requires a happy medium. Sunscald commonly happens in shade loving plants that are exposed to direct and excessive amounts of sunlight. This causes the uppermost leaves to turn a white, bleached color. The margins (edges) of the leaves can also become a crispy brown when sun scalded.

Once sunscald has occurred, there is no way to save the leaf. You will need to trim away the scalded leaves then immediately move the plant into shade. Water as normal and keep an eye on how the plant is recovering.

White Spots on Soil

If you see white spots in your soil, it's generally a type of mold. Mold easily forms in areas that are moist, shaded, and have plenty of dead matter. Little pebble-like bits of this white mold are fine and are unlikely to impact the health of your plant. However, if the mold is beginning to form larger fuzzy patches, you need to act.

White mold can form due to a variety of reasons, all of which are a result of the lack of balance and beneficial bacteria in your potted soil. When a plant grows outdoors, weather, environment, wind, and sunlight are a continuous stream of ever-changing factors that makes it difficult for mold to propagate around a plant. Inside your home, conditions are much more controlled. Overwatering a plant can create an accelerated breeding ground for white mold, as all types of molds love continuously moist environments. Lack of light, as discussed in the overwatering section, prevents water from being absorbed and the soil from drying out. Poor air circulation, which can be common in many homes, can also leave the top layer of soil damp for an extended period of time.

If you want to get rid of white mold, repotting the plant is the simplest way to go. Keep in mind that repotting the plant simply acts as a restart. If you do not take steps to reduce the plants water intake, expose it to more sunlight, or improve air circulation (a simple oscillating fan works great for this) the white mold will be back.

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