House Plant Care 101: Common Issues, Indicators, and Resolutions for your Favorite Indoor Plants

Common issues, indicators, and resolutions for your favorite indoor plants.

The first step in keeping and caring for indoor plants is understanding how they communicate their needs. Being removed from their natural environment, houseplants rely on you to provide the optimal light, water, humidity, and temperature to support their growth and keep them thriving.

You will be able to discern if a plant is suffering much more quickly if you have a relationship with it and take note of the details and its appearance often.

A lot of factors play into how and why a plant grows and thrives. Don't be discouraged if your plant doesn't look as vibrant as it did in the greenhouse once you bring it home.

Recreating the ideal environment for houseplants can be laborious, tricky, and frustrating. Any sudden drastic change in the environment will typically result in a time of "plant hardship". Consider this an adjustment period- it is normal!

Common Signs of Suffering:

Leaf drop: plants will regularly shed older leaves in order to put energy into new growth. If your plant is shedding rapidly, it is likely a result of shock. A drastic change in environment, watering schedule, light conditions, etc will typically result in a loss of leaves. Give the plant time to adjust, and refrain from making any other sudden changes.

Some plants, like ficus, will often shed up to 20% of their leaves during the dry season in order to save moisture. This often happens during the Winter. No need to be alarmed, they will fill out with leaves again come Spring.

Brown Spots on Leaves:

When soft brown to black spots appear on leaves, this is typically a sign of fungal, viral, or bacterial disease. If you can catch this early on, you can likely save the plant! Disease most often affects indoor plants when the plant is under stress, or experiencing undesirable growing conditions.

The first step to remedying brown spots on leaves is to isolate the plant in case the disease is viral and contagious (yep, just like humans). You want to ensure that it doesn't spread to your other houseplants. Remove affected leaves or areas of the plant and repot with fresh soil, ensuring adequate aeration for the root system. When repotting, always clean out the pot! You can dilute with white vinegar to kill any residual bacteria. Keep the plant isolated for two weeks to see if new evidence of disease appears before re-integrating it with your other plants.

Brown and Crispy Tips:

Brown and crispy leaf tips indicate a lack of humidity. Take note of the air vents in your home and be sure to move your plants away from them.

Easy Ways to Increase Humidity:

  • Use a humidifier. They work wonders in particularly drafty places
  • Create a pebble tray. Fill a dish with a thin layer of pebbles or stones, and keep them evenly moist. Place your plant directly on the top of the tray
  • Group your plants together to increase transpiration between their leaves (tip: after grouping, mist in the center of the plants to create a central well of humid air to feed your plants)
  • Mist your plants frequently! But think more so about misting the air around them than actually wetting their leaves. The idea is to increase moisture in the air

Plants with Brown Tips:

This is likely sunburn, most indoor tropical houseplants prefer bright yet indirect sunlight; too much direct sun can cause leaf discoloration. If brown spots are forming in the middle of the leaves, your plant may be diseased. Snip off the diseased parts, repot and isolate.

Yellow Leaves:

In general, leaves typically yellow as a response to an inconsistency in watering. It could be that you over-watered your plant or you let it dry out too much between waterings.

Always remove yellow leaves as you see them. If the plant continues to yellow and drop leaves, it may be time to repot. The soil may not be holding moisture appropriately for your plant.

If leaves are yellowing at the base, these could be older leaves falling off the plant. This is totally normal. Yellowing leaves at the base of a plant also indicate a need for fertilizer or repotting (it is best to do this between March or September, or whenever temperatures are consistently over 55 degrees in your area.)

Droopy or Wilted Leaves:

Droopy and wilted leaves indicates that your plant is dehydrated. Water promptly, preferably in the morning, with room temperature water.

If the plant is excessively droopy, you may want to soak its roots for an hour. most plants will bounce back after a good soak!

If the soil is moist, yet the leaves are still droopy- it may be time to repot. This is a sign that water is not moving through the soil and the roots are not absorbing moisture properly.

Of course, if you have any questions about your indoor plant's needs, we are available at Plant Doctor to help at anytime!