How Do You Save An Indoor Plant That Is Dying?

But if you’re at a loss in front of your own houseplants, watching them lose leaves and turn yellow, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll give you seven reasons why your plants are in bad shape, how you can tell, and how you can save them after all.

1 too little light

Does your plant develop extremely long and thin shoots with small leaves, even though you water it regularly and supply it with nutrients? The phenomenon described is called horny growth, and no, this does not mean anything offensive.

Despite care, your plant simply gets too little light and tries in vain to reach for the next light source. As a result, the leaves become thin and unstable, and your plant looks scrawny and sickly.

Other symptoms by which you can tell that your plant is getting too little light:

  • It stops growing and blooming.
  • It leans extremely towards the light source.
  • The leaves become yellowish or pale and fall off.
  • At the window, the light intensity is about 50 percent of the daylight. If the plant stands one meter away from the window, only about 20 percent reaches it. This is not enough for all plants. So find out how much light your plant needs in each individual case. Then choose a location as close as possible to the window so that it can recover.

You are unsure whether the light is sufficient? With the app Light intensity for houseplants you can measure the lux value at the location of your plants, i.e. the light intensity that reaches the leaf surface. This way you can find out the ideal place for them.

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2 waterlogging

Are the leaves of your plant turning yellow and even wilting? Has water been standing in the saucer for days? Then perhaps you have been taking too good care of them lately and overdoing it with the watering. Waterlogging can lead to root rot and harmful fungi, which in turn can spell the end for your plant.

These immediate measures help with waterlogging
Roots need oxygen to filter nutrients from the soil. However, waterlogging prevents oxygen uptake. If the root ball stands in water for too long, nutrient transport is impeded and the roots become mushy, brown or smell rotten. But don’t throw your plant away as soon as you spot the first yellow leaf. You may still be able to save it.

These immediate measures can help get rid of waterlogging and prevent it in the future:

  • Tip away excess liquid.
  • Take the root and soil out of the pot and wrap it in newspaper and squeeze it out. The newspaper absorbs moisture and removes moisture from the root.
  • Carefully cut off yellow and brown roots with scissors.
  • Replace the plant in new houseplant substrate.

Fill a drainage layer of clay granules into the planter. It ensures that excess water drains off well and prevents waterlogging.
In the future, water your plant too little rather than too much. Most plants die because they are overwatered. You can easily test whether the soil is still moist enough by pressing the surface with a finger. If it is still moist, it is better to wait a little longer before watering.

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3 pests

They never come alone, but always in huge droves and often as if from nowhere: we are talking about pests that can even suck the life out of your plants. It is not always immediately obvious what the culprit is.

Whether it’s thrips, aphids or mites – it’s clear that the pest has to go. But that doesn’t mean you have to dispose of your plant and flowerpot immediately.

The houseplant encyclopedia offers you a detailed overview of all pests from aphids to root lice, including photos. There you will learn everything about the causes and methods of combating the individual pests.

Pest instead of pest: How to combat a fungus gnat infestation
Less harmful to your plants, but all the more annoying: small black fungus gnats, which like to lay their eggs in moist potting soil and then populate every flower pot and your home within a few days. With a fly swatter you come there sometime no longer behind.

On the market there are countless remedies and traps that are supposed to kill the fungus gnats. We have already tested the combination of the following ourselves and found it to be very effective:

  • Yellow traps are available in any drugstore from 2.50 dollars. They are inserted into the potting soil, attractant and glue outwit the dream gnats.
  • Nematodes (beneficial organisms for biological damage control) can be purchased online from 12 dollars. The microscopic nematodes are mixed into the water and eat the gnat larvae and eggs.

Our tip: After a few days it is worthwhile to renew the yellow traps. This way you can easily check whether the number of mosquitoes flying around has already been reduced.

4 dry room or cold draught.

The leaves of your plant already look shriveled? The reason for this may be that the air in the room is too dry. In order to regulate the air humidity, we like to open the window or the balcony door. Especially in winter, this is another source of danger for your plants.

Many plants are ideal air purifiers and ensure a good indoor climate, but if the room air is dust-dry, too much moisture evaporates through the leaf surface and the plant dies. Especially in winter, the dry heating air can be harmful.

You can save your plants by increasing the humidity with these tricks:

  • Short-term effect: Use a sprayer to wet the leaf surfaces of your plants with water, preferably in the morning and not while the heating is turned up full or in the blazing midday sun. Otherwise, the leaf surface will be burned.
  • Long-term effect: If the humidity is permanently too low in winter, you can place your planters in shallow bowls filled with water and pebbles. The water level should be slightly lower than the pebble layer. This will increase the humidity in the immediate vicinity of your plants. From time to time you should add a little water.
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You can measure the humidity with a hygrometer. It should be at least 40 percent, tropical plants even need at least 60 percent in order not to die.

  • Cold drafts damage cold-sensitive plants
  • In summer and winter, proper ventilation is important for several reasons: The exchange of air regulates the humidity in the room, prevents mold and even promotes concentration. However, you may have wondered why some plants on the balcony door or windowsill suddenly shed their leaves after you have aired them out.

Many houseplants are particularly sensitive to cold. If you have moved your green favorites perhaps only a few centimeters to the side to open the window, they are usually too close to or even in the draft. Especially small-leaved plants do not tolerate the bitter cold, the leaves turn brown or are thrown off.

So in the future, clear your plants out of the way when airing through. It is best to find a suitable place for particularly sensitive plants to overwinter.

5 lack of nutrients

When babies are crying, it is usually immediately clear: either they are hungry or the diaper is full again. For plants with discolored leaves, the analysis is not quite so simple, because there are numerous deficiency symptoms and circumstances that can apply.

First, cut off all discolored leaves. You can identify the main deficiency symptoms in houseplants by these symptoms:

  • Spotty leaves indicate a magnesium deficiency. In this case, it is best to use a fertilizer that contains trace elements.
  • Light yellow leaves with green veins indicate an iron deficiency. Here you need a special iron fertilizer.
  • Brown leaf edges indicate a potassium deficiency. With regular fertilizing you can solve this problem after a few weeks.
  • Pale leaves indicate a nitrogen deficiency. With a little fertilizer in the water, this should be quickly remedied.
  • Plants get their nutrients from fertile soil, but many potted plants are sold in cheap, nutrient-poor potting soil, which is why they begin to show deficiencies after a short time. You can save your plants by supplementing them with fertilizer. In spring, however, it is worth repotting the plants in high-quality soil.

6 heat and freezing cold

Ever heard that plants can get sunburn, which manifests itself in light beige to dark brown spots? True, the UV rays coming in through the window glass are not as strong as they are outside. Still, the leaves can burn. For example, if you have wet sprayed your houseplants standing by the window in bright sunshine. The water droplets on the leaf surface then function like a burning glass.

Especially after a long gray winter, the sudden rays of the sun can overwhelm your plant, as the heat draws moisture from the leaves and thus also the green color. If the sun is beating down on your plants all day long, give them a two-week acclimation period. Place them a little further away from the window or provide sun protection.

In winter, however, make sure that your plants are not too close to the window pane. If they touch it, they can freeze to death in some places. The leaves will turn yellow and eventually fall off. So make sure that you keep a distance from the cold glass.

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7 too little watering

Forgot to water your plants again for four weeks? Some plants, such as succulents, don’t mind. Others, however, will drop their leaves faster than you can look.

Give your withered plants another chance. With these five tricks you might be able to save them:

  • Analysis: If all the leaves are dry, but the root is not yet damaged, there is still reason for hope.
  • Water bath: Place the plants and pot in a water bath for a maximum of 24 hours and shower them off. If no more air bubbles rise, the roots and the substrate have absorbed enough moisture. Allow the root ball to drain well before placing the plant back in the planter.
  • Cut back the plant: And do it radically! Remove all brown shoots down to the cane or root ball.
  • Fertilize the plant immediately: This way you’ll supply it with energy right away.
  • Follow-up care: If the rescue was successful, you will soon discover new shoots. If necessary, repot the plant again!
  • In general, you should always be aware of the water preferences of each individual houseplant. If you are very forgetful, help yourself by creating a small reminder in your cell phone or calendar.

Don’t know which plants are on your windowsill and don’t have a green thumb? With apps like Blossom, you can identify plants by photo analysis, get info on watering habits, and set up a watering alarm for each plant right away.

Lifehack for watering plants on vacation

Especially during the vacation season, many houseplants suffer. Instead of asking the neighbor to take over flower service three times, many prefer to drown their houseplants in an extensive water bath or hope that they somehow survive.

But you’re not doing them any favors. If you’re not going away for three months, you can pamper your plants with sufficient water during your vacation with a simple life hack:


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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