Signs of Unhealthy Indoor Plants
Symptoms of an unwell indoor plant might be difficult to detect right away. In general, you try to pick plants which appear healthy and vigorous. An indoor plant’s health can be evaluated by how it changes over time, so the best indicator is the way it grows.
You can spot unhealthy indoor plants by observing them closely when you are watering them or tending them, as well as looking for the following common symptoms.
Leaves Falling Off
A plant that loses a lot of its leaves is a sign that it is sick, commonly known as “leaf drop.” The older leaves near the stem usually lose a leaf or two, and that happens to most house plants occasionally. The leaves of an unhealthy plant are shed frequently or develop new leaves. Leaf drop is usually caused by:
A Sudden Change in Environment
If plants are brought indoors for the winter, tropical plants are exposed to cold winter temperatures, or light conditions suddenly change, leaf drop may occur. The plant is usually not affected by this leaf drop if it has not lost all of its nutrients after leaf emergence.
The Pot is Too Small
An overly-small pot will also result in older leaves falling off, but it is usually not fatal. When a plant has a small pot, the roots do not have enough room to develop and support new leaves, so the plant becomes stemmy.
Watering the Plant with Cold Water
A plant’s roots may be damaged by cold water, which chills them and may eventually kill the plant. For this to not happen, it is best to fill your watering can with tap water and then let it sit out overnight before using it to water your indoor plants. As a consequence, the water will reach room temperature and any chlorine in it will dissolve.
The Plant is Overwatered
It is common to consider leaf drop signs as an indicator that the plant is not healthy and that more water is needed, but in reality leaf drop is far more often caused by overwatering than by underwatering. If this happens, make sure that the soil is dry between waterings.
Leaves Turning Brown and Crispy
Many plants experience some browning and fall off of older leaves from time to time, just as with leaf drop. It is a sign of unhealthiness if new leaves are brown instead of growing, or if the plant has more brown leaves than growing.
Although the entire leaf can turn brown all at once, there may be conditions in which it turns brown just at the tips or parts of it. There are a number of potential causes of leaf browning, including:
The plant is probably under-watered
Sometimes this can also occur in plants that require a higher humidity level in their environment. You can increase watering frequency or deepen watering, and consider using a humidifier or pebble tray, or putting the plant in a more humid area.
Edges and sides of leaves are turning brown and dry
A high level of fertilizer would contribute to this, but it could also be a sign of disease or pests. It’s not necessary to fertilize most indoor plants frequently, particularly during the winter months when they aren’t in a growth period.
Tips of the Leaves are Turning Brown and Dry
Indoor plants are commonly affected by this problem, and a number of factors can cause it.
The following factors can cause browning of leaves: irregular watering, cold or chlorinated tap water, water with too many minerals, insufficient humidity in the environment, over-feeding, inadequate containers, pests and parasites, or a combination of factors.
Ensure the pot has enough room for the plant’s roots, and pour tap water out and let it sit out at room temperature for several days to keep the plant healthy. If the plant seems otherwise healthy, check the pot to make sure it has a lot of space for its roots. Use sharp, clean scissors to trim brown tips. You may want to filter your tap water for plants or choose a humidifier for the environment.
Leaves Turning Yellow
It’s common for yellowing leaves and wilting leaves to precede leaf drop, and these two conditions often go together. Refer to “leaves falling off” above if your plant’s leaves yellow. These other reasons may also cause a plant’s leaves to turn yellow:
When a plant does not receive enough light, its leaves often turn yellow. Yellowing is especially noticeable in plants facing windows but not one that faces away from the window. If possible, move the plant to a brighter location or rotate it regularly to ensure that all leaves are exposed equally to the light.
If new leaves have yellowed or if the veins of a plant remain green while the tissue turns yellow, it indicates inadequate nutrition. Your plants’ roots may be suffering from a lack of nitrogen because of hard water, hard minerals in your water, or hard water that contains too many minerals.
It can be tricky to figure this out, so research the specific nutrient needs of your plant species. If you don’t feed your plants, consider a general plant food. If your water is hard, consider a water filter.
Leaves Developing Spots or Speckles
Oftentimes, leaves that show browning or speckles signify an infestation of pests or diseases. Initially, quarantining the plant is the only way you can correctly diagnose and correct the problem. Even when you suspect it may be related to the plant’s nutrient levels.
There are several organisms that can cause spots and discoloration, including bacteria, fungi, and pests. Thus, it’s wise to snip a leaf and place it in a tightly closed plastic bag before taking it to your local garden center for diagnosis and treatment.
Variegated Leaves Faded in Color
When an indoor plant that has beautiful variegated leaves starts losing its color and turning solid green, it can be disappointing. Almost always, the problem is caused by insufficient light. You can correct the problem by moving the plant to a more illuminated area.
Leaves Are Wrinkled or Distorted in Shape
When plant leaves are wrinkled, shrinked, or distorted in shape, this is often caused by a parasite or pest, but diseases may also be to blame. Immediately quarantine the plant, and check the leaves (particularly their undersides) for signs of insects, fungi, or any other problems.
Plant is Drooping
Watering the plant thoroughly will make the plant perk up within a few hours if it is drooping. Try watering the plant if it is drooping the entire time.
When the soil is saturated and the plant is drooping, it may be a sign of over-watering. If the plant is in a pot with drainage holes, move it to a sink so it can drain freely and fully.
You should check to see if your drainage holes are blocked and, if so, poke upward into the soil with something like a toothpick to open up drainage and allow air to circulate into the soil.
White Crust or Mold on Surface of the Soil
Usually when your soil or the rim of your plant pots develop a white crusty substance it is caused by an excess of minerals or salts. If your indoor plants accumulate these substances, they will harm the health of the plant and may cause rot in the roots or leaves. To prevent this, you should “leach” the plants once or twice a year.
Watch for these signs that your indoor plants are unhealthy in order to diagnose and treat problems early. By doing so, you are able to preserve the health of your plants and prevent any issues from spreading.