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13 Common Indoor Plant Problems And How To Fix Them

Your plants have problems. It happens. Everybody who owns a house plant has experienced at least one of these common plant problems at some point.


Lucky for you, plants are pretty good at showing you when things aren't going well. If you pay close attention - to a leaf drooping, some color changes, and a few bugs here and there - you'll be able to identify the problem and nip it in the bud.


Some of these problems can be fixed or prevented by using natural fertilizers and knowing the best spots in your house for specific plants. For example, look at the best plants for your bathroom; if you're not a bathroom plant person, look at plants best suited for your kitchen.

Pot plants on table, natural light

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13 Common Indoor Plant Problems

 
Brown and yellow sunburnt plant leaves

1. Sunburned Leaves

If you notice crisp brown leaves, especially the tips, it's most likely that your plant has been burnt from too much direct sunlight.


Problem:

  • Crisp, brown leaves

  • Stunted growth

Solution:

  • Move your plant to a shadier spot or provide shade through sheer curtains or blinds.

  • Remove the affected leaves.

 
Green watering can pouring water over purple flowers

2. Overwatering

I call overwatering "too much love." Unfortunately, most people fall into this trap; the top soil is dry, so the plant must need water, right? Wrong!


Or, you haven't watered your plant in a few days; surely it's thirsty? That's not always the case.


Problem:

  • Yellowing leaves

  • Root rot

  • Wilting and brown spots on leaves

  • Attracting various pests

Solution:

  • Make sure your pot has drainage holes

  • Empty any excess water from the drip tray

  • Use a moisture meter and only water your plant when necessary

 
Big brown spot on plant leaf

3. Brown Leaves

Just as overwatering can harm your plant, keeping it too dry can lead to various problems. It might be hard for a plant to recover from a drought fully, so pay attention.


Problem:

  • Wilting, drooping leaves

  • Brown leaves

Solution:

  • Immediately soak the plant with water to ensure all the roots get enough moisture.

  • Consistent watering schedule

  • Mist your plants every few days

 
Tall Fiddle leaf fig tree in basket

4. Stretching

If your plant is a very light green, has leaves that are far apart, and starts leaning toward its light source, it's called stretching.


Problem:

  • The plant grows awkwardly tall or long

  • Spindly stems reaching toward the light

  • Yellow leaves

Solution:

  • Move to a brighter spot that gets more light

  • Rotate your plants; so all sides get an equal amount of sunlight

  • Purchase a plant light

 
Sprouts in small containers

5. Weak Growth

The two most common factors for weak growth are incorrect lighting and a damaged root system from overwatering.


Problem:

  • Plant stops growing

  • Grows at a very slow rate

Solution:

  • Move to a spot that gets good lighting

  • Use a moisture meter to establish the correct watering schedule

 
Root rot on plant roots

6. Root Rot

The number one cause of root rot is overwatering and improper drainage.

If your plant's roots are soft and black and look slimy, that's usually from root rot.


Problem:

  • The plant looks wilted, worn, soft

  • Discoloration on leaves (usually yellow)

  • Foul smell

  • Attracts bugs and gnats

Solution:

  • Gently rinse off roots

  • Cut out infected roots

  • Repot the plant with fresh potting mix and a pot with enough draining holes.

 
Dark spots on leaf

7. Leaf Spots

As the name suggests, you'll notice tiny black, brown, yellow, or tan spots on your plant's leaves.


Problem:

  • Leaf drop

  • Distortion and discoloration

Solution:

  • Remove infected leaves

  • Increase air circulation in your house

  • Do not get water on the leaves

 
Aphids on underside of leaf

8. Aphids

This is one of the most common insects on the undersides of leaves or at the tip of the plant.


They are tiny, soft-bodied insects that tend to be more prevalent in the spring and summer when temperatures are warmer, and plants are actively growing.


Problem:

  • Stunted plant growth

  • Smaller leaves

  • Distorted foliage

Solution:

 
Fungus gnat on leaf

9. Fungus Gnats

Fungus Gnats feed on plant roots and decaying organic material in the soil, like damaged or dead foliage.


Problem:

  • Root issues

  • Affected growth

  • Overall unhealthy look

Solution:

  • Spray the plant with soap and water

  • Get yellow sticky traps from the store

  • Cut up potatoes and place the pieces in the soil - the gnats will be drawn to them

 
Spider mites on plant stem

10. Spider Mites

These guys are very hard to see. Grab a piece of white paper and shake a leaf onto it - if you see red and brown dots crawling on the sheet of paper - that's spider mites. Their webbing causes damage to foliage and stems.


Problem:

  • Distorted yellow foliage

Solution:

  • Wipe the leaves with dish soap

  • Wipe the leaves with rubbing alcohol and rinse with water after a few hours

 
Whiteflies on underside of leaves

11. Whiteflies

These gnat-like insects are soft-bodied and like to feed on the sap in plants or leaves.


Problem:

  • Yellow/ white leaves


Solution:

 
Thrip on discoloured leaf

12. Thrips

These light tan/ dark brown insects are almost impossible to see with the naked eye. They pierce the plant with their mandible and suck up the juices.


Problem:

  • The plant becomes distorted and discolored

Solution:

  • Prune and cut down away affected areas of the plant

  • Wipe with insecticidal soap

  • Spray with neem oil

 
Powdery mildew on leaf

13. Powdery Mildew

This one is easy to identify. If you see white powdery fungal growth on foliage, you know it's powdery mildew.


Problem:

  • Spreads quickly

  • Affects plant growth

  • Leaf distortion

Solution:

  • Spray (1 tablespoon) baking soda and (½ teaspoon) non-detergent soap, mixed with a gallon of water, on the affected areas

  • Use fungicides

  • Increase airflow around the affected plant

  • Remove the severely infected foliage

 

How To Prevent Plant Problems

If you read through the abovementioned solutions again, you'll find that there are a few general guidelines for keeping your plants happy:

  • Keep plants dust-free

Use a microfiber cloth or dust wand to clean the leaves off gently. You can also use a damp washcloth to wipe the leaves, stems, and pot.

  • Use Neem oil

Spray your plant evenly and ensure the leaves' undersides are coated.

  • Make sure your plant gets enough light.

Familiarise yourself with your plant's light needs and find the perfect spot for it.

  • Water occasionally

Depending on your specific plant's care requirements, ensure you're giving it the right amount of water at the right time.

 

The Bottom Line

If you've experienced any of these problems - welcome to the club. You're not a bad plant parent; these problems are extremely common. However, caring for your indoor plants doesn't need to be a massive task. If you spend 10 minutes daily checking up on your plants, you'll quickly catch any looming problems and nip them in the bud. Happy planting!

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