Houseplant Troubleshooting Guide

Please select from the possible plant symptoms:

Dying plants or seedlings
Weak-looking, stunted, pale plants
Weak-looking, straggly plants
Fading, wilting plants
Slow plant growth
White crust on soil
Lower leaves turn yellow, but remain on plant
Base of stem is soft or mushy
Collapse of plant
Brown-edged leaves
Brown patches on stems and leaves
Powdery mold on leaf surface
Reddish-brown, powdery marks on leaf surfaces
Speckled leaves
Sudden loss of leaves
Bronzed or abnormally reddened leaves
Dry and brittle leaves
Leaf drop
Brown or yellow leaves
Yellow or white ring and spots on leaves
Swellings on leaves, corky ridges, water-soaked spots that turn red or brown
Yellowing between veins of young leaves, or older leaves less severely affected
Healthy leaves but no blooms
Bud drop

Symptoms Possible Problem Suggested Treatments
Dying plants or seedlings

 

 

Too much fertilizer Water thoroughly to flush excess fertilizer.  Halt or severely reduce feeding program.
Water-logged plants Improve drainage.  Halt or severely reduce watering.  Repot.
Weak-looking, stunted, pale plants

 

 

 

Insect attack Isolate plant.  Try to identify insects.  Remove insects; wash with soapy water.
Water-logged plants Improve drainage.  Halt or severely reduce watering.  Repot.
Under-nourished plants Feed regularly with complete fertilizer or specialized plant food.
Weak-looking, straggly plants

 

 

 

 

Not enough light Move gradually into a position with better light.  Provide artificial lighting if necessary.
Overcrowded Divide plants.  Repot.
Too much nitrogen Reduce or halt feeding.  Use a low- or no-nitrogen fertilizer.
Water-logged plants Improve drainage.  Halt or severely reduce watering.  Repot
Fading, wilting plants

 

 

 

 

Not enough warmth Check recommended temperature range for plant.
Not enough moisture Water, if badly wilted.  Immerse in water for quick recovery.  Check for causes of excessive drying such as heaters, air-conditioning vents, or drafts.
Too much moisture Improve drainage.  Halt or severely reduce watering.
Slow plant growth

 

 

 

 

Not enough light Move gradually into a position with better light.  Provide artificial lighting if necessary.
Too little water Check plant's watering needs.  Follow correct watering procedure.
Too little fertilizer Add liquid fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks.
Roots pot-bound Repot.
Natural dormancy in winter Be patient.  Wait for Spring.
White crust on soil

 

Build-up of fertilizer salts Remove crust, leaching salts by flushing with pure water.
Lower leaves turn yellow, but remain on plant Too little fertilizer, particularly nitrogen Add high-nitrogen fertilizer.
Base of stem is soft or mushy

 

 

 

Too much water, particularly in cold weather Let soil surface dry out between watering.  Improve drainage.  Repot if necessary.  Add coarse sand to container mix to improve drainage.
Fungal attack in damp, cold conditions Isolate plant.  Move to warmer situation.  Allow it to dry.  Repot if necessary.
Collapse of plant

 

 

 

Extreme heat or cold Check for cause of change, such as window left open.  Move to position with more moderate temperature.
Gas fumes Check for source of fumes.  Remove carefully.
Brown-edged leaves

 

 

 

 

Too hot, too dry Check recommended temperature range for plant.  Immerse in a bucket of water and place out of direct sunlight.
Container mix saturated with chemical salts Water repeatedly to flush excess salts from container mix.
Leaves have been splashed with strong chemicals or fertilizer. Rinse leaves with water.  Take care that leaves are not splashed with unwanted chemicals.
Brown patches on stems and leaves

 

Die-back, fungal disease or other infection Isolate plant.  Remove affected leaves and stems and destroy.  Check for other symptoms to diagnose infection.
Powdery mold on leaf surface

 

Powdery mildew Remove affected parts and destroy.  Move plant to airier position.  For severe infestations, use a systemic insecticide.
Reddish-brown, powdery marks on leaf surfaces

 

Rust Isolate plant, cut off affected areas and destroy.  For severe infestations, use a systemic insecticide
Speckled leaves Virus infection Destroy infected plants.
Sudden loss of leaves

 

Rapid temperature or light change Check recommended temperature range for the plant.  If necessary, restore previous temperature or light conditions.
Bronzed or abnormally reddened leaves

 

 

 

Not enough heat Check recommended temperature range for the plant.  If necessary, move to a warmer, more sheltered position.
Not enough phosphorus or potassium Use higher phosphorus or potassium fertilizer.
Dry and brittle leaves

 

Too little water or low humidity Follow the proper procedure for watering houseplants.  Increase humidity.
Leaf drop

 

 

 

 

Too much sun Move to a location with less light.
Too much fertilizer Halt fertilizer for 3 to 4 weeks.
Too much water Follow the proper procedure for watering your houseplants.
Too little water Follow the proper procedure for watering your houseplants.
Exposure to cold or draft Check the temperature.  Control cold source.
Brown or yellow leaves

 

Occasional yellowing of lower, older leaves is natural No treatment necessary.
Yellow or white ring and spots on leaves

 

Splashing cold water on foliage while watering Water more carefully.  Do not splash foliage.
Swellings on leaves, corky ridges, water-soaked spots that turn red or brown

 

Too much moisture absorbed from warm, moist soil and cool, moist air Increase warmth.  Lower humidity.  Place pot where soil will not get warmer than surrounding air.
Yellowing between veins of young leaves, older leaves less severely affected Too little iron or magnesium Boost with trace element fertilizer.
Healthy leaves but no blooms

 

 

 

 

 

Not enough light Move to a position with more light.
Not enough warmth Check recommended temperature range for plant.  If necessary, move to a warmer position.
Too much nitrogen Reduce or half feeding.  Use a low-or no-nitrogen fertilizer.
Plant is too young or a late-flowering variety Some plants take years to flower and some varieties bloom much later than others.  Be patient.
Bud drop

 

 

 

 

 

Too much heat or cold Check for cause of change such as window left open.  Move to position with more moderate temperature.
Shock from moving from greenhouse to home Check plant's growing requirements.  Adjust growing conditions to restore previous conditions, if possible.
Poor humidity Increase humidity.
Draft shock Control source of draft, or move plant to another location.

Table created from the Encyclopedia of Container Gardening

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