10 Common Houseplant Problems & How to Fix Them

Houseplants can transform your home into a green sanctuary, adding beauty and a touch of nature to your living space. However, caring for these indoor plants can sometimes feel like a full-time job. If you’ve ever struggled with drooping leaves, yellow spots, or mysterious bugs, you’re not alone.

Here are 10 common houseplant problems and how to fix them, ensuring your green friends thrive all year round.

1. Yellowing Leaves

pothos plant leaves turning yellow
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Yellow leaves are a clear sign that something is amiss with your plant. This issue often results from overwatering, which suffocates the roots and prevents them from absorbing necessary nutrients. To combat this, check the soil’s moisture level before watering. If the top inch of soil is still damp, hold off on watering for a few more days.

Another potential cause of yellow leaves is insufficient light. Ensure your plant is receiving the appropriate amount of sunlight for its species. If natural light is scarce, consider using a grow light as a supplement.

Regularly rotating your plant can also help distribute light more evenly and prevent yellowing on one side​.

2. Drooping Leaves

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Drooping leaves can be alarming, but the solution is often straightforward. Most commonly, drooping is a result of underwatering. If the soil feels dry, give your plant a thorough watering until water drains from the bottom of the pot. Establishing a consistent watering schedule is crucial to prevent future drooping.

On the flip side, overwatering can also cause leaves to droop. Ensure your plant’s pot has proper drainage to avoid waterlogged soil. Additionally, check for any signs of root rot, such as a foul smell or blackened roots.

If root rot is present, you may need to trim the affected roots and repot the plant in fresh soil​.

3. Brown Leaf Tips

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Brown tips on your plant’s leaves often indicate low humidity or inconsistent watering. Many houseplants, especially tropical varieties, thrive in humid environments. Increasing humidity can be as simple as placing a humidifier nearby or misting the leaves regularly. Grouping plants together can also create a micro-humid environment.

Inconsistent watering, particularly allowing the soil to dry out completely before watering again, can stress your plant and cause brown tips. Ensure a regular watering schedule that keeps the soil consistently moist but not soggy.

Using a moisture meter can help maintain optimal soil conditions​​.

4. Leaf Spotting

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Leaf spotting can be caused by a variety of issues, including fungal or bacterial infections. These spots often appear as black or brown patches on the leaves. To address this, remove any affected leaves and ensure proper air circulation around your plant. Avoid overhead watering, which can encourage the growth of pathogens.

Additionally, using a fungicide can help control the spread of fungal infections. Ensure your plant is receiving adequate light and avoid overwatering, as damp conditions can exacerbate the problem.

Keeping your plant’s environment clean and free from debris will also reduce the risk of infections​.

5. Pests

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Common houseplant pests like spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs can wreak havoc on your plants. Early detection is key to managing these tiny invaders. Regularly inspect your plants for any signs of pests, such as webbing, sticky residue, or visible insects.

To combat pests, start by isolating the affected plant to prevent the infestation from spreading. Use a gentle insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to treat the plant. For severe infestations, you may need to repeat treatments over several weeks.

Maintaining a clean growing environment and regularly wiping down leaves can also deter pests.

6. Stunted Growth

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If your plant isn’t growing as expected, it may be suffering from nutrient deficiencies. Plants require a balance of nutrients to thrive, and deficiencies can result in stunted growth. Replacing these essential nutrients can be as simple as applying a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer according to the package instructions.

Another cause of stunted growth is being root-bound. If your plant’s roots are tightly packed and circling the pot, it may be time to repot into a larger container. Ensure the new pot has adequate drainage and fill it with fresh, well-draining soil.

Regularly check for signs of root crowding to keep your plant healthy and growing.

7. Leggy Growth

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Leggy growth, where plants become long and spindly with sparse foliage, often results from insufficient light. Plants stretch towards the light source, leading to weak, elongated stems. To remedy this, move your plant closer to a window or provide additional artificial light.

Pruning can also encourage bushier growth. Trim back the elongated stems to promote branching and fuller foliage. Regularly rotating your plant will help ensure even light distribution, preventing one-sided growth. Ensuring your plant receives adequate light is key to maintaining a compact and healthy appearance.

8. Moldy Soil

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Moldy soil is a common issue in overly damp conditions. Overwatering and poor drainage can create a perfect environment for mold growth. To fix this, allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Ensure your plant’s pot has sufficient drainage holes to prevent water from sitting in the soil.

Adding a layer of horticultural sand or perlite to the soil surface can improve aeration and discourage mold. Additionally, avoid crowding plants together, as this can restrict air circulation.

Maintaining a balanced watering schedule and keeping your plants in a well-ventilated area will help prevent mold from returning.

9. Leaf Curling

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Leaf curling can be caused by various factors, including pests, nutrient deficiencies, or environmental stress. Inspect your plant for any signs of pests like aphids or mites, and treat accordingly. If no pests are present, consider nutrient deficiencies. Applying a balanced fertilizer can help address this issue.

Environmental stress, such as drastic temperature changes or low humidity, can also cause leaf curling. Ensure your plant is in a stable environment with consistent temperatures and humidity levels.

Moving your plant away from drafts or heat sources can alleviate stress and help the leaves return to normal​.

10. Root Rot

anthurium root bound plant
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Root rot is a serious condition caused by overwatering and poor drainage. Affected plants often exhibit yellowing leaves, wilting, and a foul smell from the roots. To save your plant, remove it from the pot and inspect the roots. Trim away any blackened or mushy roots with sterilized scissors.

Repot your plant in fresh, well-draining soil, and ensure the new pot has adequate drainage holes. Water sparingly until the plant shows signs of recovery. Prevent root rot by maintaining a balanced watering schedule and ensuring proper drainage in the future. Regularly checking the soil’s moisture level can also help avoid overwatering.

Taking care of houseplants can be a rewarding experience, but it’s not without its challenges. Remember to observe your plants regularly, provide the appropriate care, and adjust your methods as needed.

With a little attention and knowledge, your houseplants will continue to bring joy and greenery to your home.

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.