7 Common Reasons Your Houseplants are Struggling

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It is no secret that houseplants brighten up a home, purify the air, and boost your mood. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, our beloved plants struggle to grow or even die. There are a few common reasons why this may happen. Let’s take a closer look at each of the reasons why your houseplants may be struggling:


1. Lack of sufficient light

lighting for plants

Houseplants often suffer when they do not receive enough light. While the amount of light required varies by species, all plants need some level of light to photosynthesize.

When a plant fails to receive enough light, it starts to stretch out, searching for a light source. This results in leggy, spindly growth that is weak and vulnerable to breakage. In extreme cases, a plant may stop growing altogether.

In addition to affecting the plant’s physical appearance, insufficient light can also reduce the level of chlorophyll in the leaves, making them yellow or pale. If you want your houseplants to thrive, ensure they get enough light.


2. Too much or too little water

Houseplants require a delicate balance of water to stay healthy and thrive. Too little water will cause the plant to wilt and the leaves to turn yellow or brown. This is because the plant cannot uptake the necessary moisture from the soil to support its growth.

On the other hand, too much water can drown the plant, causing the roots to rot. This robs the plant of the oxygen it needs to respire and can lead to fungal growth. Overwatering can also cause yellowing leaves as a result of nutrient deficiencies.

Therefore, it is critical to monitor your houseplants’ watering needs carefully and adjust accordingly. You can help them reach their full potential and enjoy a long, healthy life by giving them just the right amount of water.


3. Poor soil or potting mix quality

One of the most critical factors in growing healthy houseplants is the soil or potting mix quality.

Poor quality soil makes it very difficult for plants to thrive, as it lacks essential nutrients or drainage. Compacted soil can also cause problems because it prevents roots from getting the oxygen they need to stay healthy.

If you think your soil or potting mix might be of poor quality, there are some simple tests you can do to check.

First, try squeezing a handful of soil – if it forms a clump that doesn’t break apart easily, it’s probably too compacted.

Second, test the pH level – most houseplants prefer a pH between 6 and 7. If your soil falls outside this range, it may be difficult for plants to absorb nutrients.

Finally, consider doing a nutrient test to see if your soil is lacking in any essential minerals. If your soil is poor quality, there are some things you can do to improve it. For instance, add organic matter like compost or peat moss to help improve drainage and increase nutrient levels.

You can also loosen compacted soil by adding sand or perlite.


4. Over- or under-fertilization

dying houseplant

Over-fertilization and under-fertilization are both common problems when it comes to caring for houseplants. Both can lead to stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and other issues.

Over-fertilization occurs when too much fertilizer is applied, causing the plant to become overloaded with nutrients. This can burn the plant’s roots and damage the plant.

On the other hand, under-fertilization occurs when insufficient fertilizer is used. The plant is malnourished, leading to weak growth and poor overall health.

The best way to sidestep these problems is to fertilize according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This ensures that your plants get the proper nutrients without overloading or starving.


5. Temperature extremes

Temperature extremes can be damaging to houseplants. Exposure to severe cold causes leaf tissue to die, and extreme heat can cause plants to wilt and drop leaves.

Furthermore, fluctuating temperatures can stress plants and make them more susceptible to disease. To avoid temperature extremes, choose a location for your houseplants that is away from drafts, heat sources, and open windows.

In addition, pay attention to the temperature in your home and take steps to stabilize it. For example, you can use a humidifier in dry conditions and a fan in wet conditions. By taking these precautions, you help your houseplants thrive despite fluctuations in temperature.


6. Pests or diseases

Pests and diseases are other common reasons for houseplant struggles. If you see any strange pests on your plant or the leaves are starting to discolor, it may be time to treat the plant with an insecticide or fungicide. Or even keep bugs away without chemicals.

Common houseplant pests include aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, and spider mites. These tiny insects feast on plant sap, causing leaves to yellow and wilt.

Aphids can also spread disease. Mealybugs congregate in groups and secrete a waxy substance that can inhibit plant growth. Whiteflies are damaging to tomato plants and can also affect other vegetable plants.

Spider mites are another common pest that destroys crops by spinning webs that trap plant leaves and prevent sunlight from reaching them.

Common diseases that plague houseplants include root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf spot.

Root rot is typically caused by too much moisture and results in softened, discolored roots. Powdery mildew appears as a gray or white powder on the leaves of affected plants. Leaf spot is usually characterized by small, dark spots on leaves that eventually turn yellow or brown.

These diseases are often spread by pests such as aphids and whiteflies.


7. Failure to re-pot

repotting plants

Once a houseplant has outgrown its current pot, it needs to be replanted in a larger one. Failure to do so leads to several problems, chief among them being stunted growth or even death.

When a plant is pot-bound, its roots become cramped and suffocate. This limits the amount of water and nutrients the plant can take up, ultimately leading to stunted growth. In extreme cases, the plant may even wilt and die.

Re-potting is, therefore, essential to keeping houseplants healthy and ensuring they continue to thrive. With proper care, re-potting can be a simple process that helps keep your plants looking their best for years to come.



By troubleshooting these seven common problems, you can figure out why your houseplants are struggling and get them back on the path to health.

  • Simon Elstad

    As assistant editor at Greener Ideal, Simon champions clean energy, mobility, tech and the environment. He’s passionate about uncovering innovative solutions that power a sustainable future. When he's not dissecting envirotech data, you can find him exploring nature, actively supporting wildlife & environmental conservation efforts.

    To collaborate, support, give feedback or sponsor a post, please reach him at: [email protected]

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