Houseplants make a great home décor accent, but caring for them can seem frightening at first—How much do I water? How much light should my plant receive? Keeping an eye on your plant’s appearance can offer valuable information on what it lacks or has been getting in excess. The leaves may droop, spots may appear, growth may stop. Reacting to these signs quickly can eliminate problems before permanent damage has been done.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- My plant has falling leaves or yellowing/browning of leaves.
- Is my plant poisonous to children or pets?
- How can I cut back my plant?
- How do I propagate my plant?
- The stems are long and leaves are pale and undersized. What does this mean?
- Leaves are curling, and the plant is leaning away from the light source. What does this indicate?
- Stems are becoming mushy, dark, and rotten. The lower leaves are wilting, and roots look black.
- Why are leaf edges of my plant crinkly and brown in appearance?
- The stems of my plant appear elongated with excess foliage.
- The lower leaves of my plant are pale green and drop off. New leaves appear undersized.
- The leaves of my plant are turning yellow and curl or wilt.
- Yellow or brown spots appear on leaves.
- White or yellow spots appear on leaves, particularly plants with hairy foliage.
- A white crust appears on soil surface or on sides and rims of clay pots. The leaves touching the rim wilt, rot and fall off.
- Roots fill the pot completely and may reach down through the bottom hole.
Most houseplants are pushed into decline by improper watering schedules. Aim to keep the soil moist but wait until it has almost dried out before re-watering. You can check the soil moisture level by simply pushing your finger into the soil profile. You can also gently remove plant from its pot, being careful not to disturb root system, and look for changes in soil color as the profile deepens. As you become comfortable with this procedure, the plant's weight can be also used as a gauge. Poor root health from overwatering or excessive soil dryness between watering is the primary cause of indoor plant decline. Soil is a living, breathing organism and needs oxygen as well as water to cultivate the roots. Insufficient fertilizer, especially nitrogen, disease, sudden change in light, temperature, or relative humidity can also contribute to bottom leaf drop.
Read the plant's care tag or research the plant species and understand what it needs. Learn how to "read" the plant and listen to what it is saying it needs. Do not be afraid to thoroughly apply room temperature water to soil once you have determined a need. A good soil will hold proper amount of water if allowed to drain out. Never let plant "sit" in water for more than 15 minutes. It is okay to water plants by placing them in saucer full of water, but after 15 minutes the soil will absorb all it needs and all water should be removed from the saucer. This holds true for pots up to 8" in diameter. If you choose to water the plant from below, once every 4-6 weeks, thoroughly water the soil from above to flush out any built up salts (fertilizer).
Overwatering a plant with a declining root system will ensure further decline, or even death. Periodically pull plant out of pot to verify roots are healthy; having white or cream color tips and plenty of hairs along the root shaft. If roots are not healthy, reduce water schedule slightly and repotting may be necessary.
All of our plants are sprayed with insecticides, so it is best to keep them out of reach of children and pets as individual reactions may vary. Please contact a physician or veterinarian should a child or pet ingest any part of a plant. The ASPCA lists common toxic plants. This list is a guide, but is not exhaustive. Again please keep plants out of the reach of children and pets.
Pruning, pinching or shaping house plants is a necessity to achieve your desired look. Simply remove the terminal growing point from vigorously growing plants by pinching above a node (the point where a leaf is attached to the stem) to achieve your desired shape. Cuts made here usually force branching below the cut. This typically produces a fuller plant since newly forced tips are generally tighter and sometimes produce multiple new shoots from one cut. Long vining plants, such as Pothos, can be trimmed to keep desired length, or pruned up high near the crown to keep a mounding shape. Remember to alter your watering schedule depending on how much foliage you remove.
Plants can reproduce asexually from pieces of stem, leaves or roots because the cambium layer, a tissue located just beneath the plant's surface, forms a callus tissue once it is cut from which new roots and shoots can develop. Each cutting should be one to three inches long and have two or three leaves attached. Cut 1/4 inch below the bottom node (the point where a leaf is attached to the stem) and pull off the lower leaves, leaving upper leaves attached. Insert the cutting in the media so the bottom node is covered with soil one to one and a half inches deep. If you have a rooting hormone, dip the cut end of the cutting into the hormone. If you do not have any, it should still form roots. Place the cutting in some moist soilless media (i.e. peat moss) with the leaves above the soil surface, and water the cutting to ensure soil contact. Cover the pot in a plastic bag to keep the microclimate at 90-100% humidity. This will prevent water loss from the cutting. Leave the bag somewhat open to allow air exchange. Do not over water the soil and keep the bag from direct sunlight. If all goes well, in 3-4 weeks new roots should emerge between the cut stem and the bottom node where you removed the leaves. This will obviously be below the soil line, so do not pull up cutting to see if rooting has occurred. Check drainage holes for roots or gently invert pot in hand and carefully remove pot to check for roots. Once several roots have reached the bottom of pot, gradually remove plastic bag over one week to acclimate the plant's foliage to less humidity. This technique may be used on the terminal tip cutting or with individual node cuttings that contain stem and leaf, meaning there does not have to be an established growing point for rooting to occur.
Your plant is not receiving enough light and possibly too much nitrogen from fertilizer. Give your plant more sunlight (see our variety description for specific plant's needs) or move closer to plant-growing lights. Reduce strength of fertilizer or frequency of application.
Your plant is getting too much light. It is trying to move away from the light source, so leaves are curling and turning to avoid light. Give the plant more shade or move it farther away from the light source. Try filtering light with curtains or blinds.
Your plant is getting too much water. Do not water so much or so frequently; water only when top soil is dry to the touch and reduce watering while the plant is dormant. Roots should appear light in color and should not appear mushy. When too much moisture is present, the root system begins to rot, causing the dark color. Make sure the pot's drainage hole is not clogged and do not let plant stand in water in its saucer for more than 15 minutes to avoid this issue.
A lack of humidity can cause this. Increase humidity by placing pots on a bed of moist pebbles in a tray or by grouping plants in a planter with moist peat moss around them. Mist the leaves. Install a humidifier in the hot-air heating system if the house has one, or use a cool-vapor room humidifier. Move the plant away from appliances, doors, and air ducts.
The plant has received too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen. Fertilize less often, or at half the suggested rate, particularly during winter months when the plant is receiving less light. Do not use high-nitrogen fertilizers during the blooming season. Do not fertilize dormant plants.
Fertilize more often during the plant's growing season to encourage lush growth. Follow the instructions on your plant's care tag for variety specific information.
Your plant is receiving too much heat. Move the plant to a cooler spot in the house (see our variety descriptions for optimum night and day temperatures for specific plants). Be sure plants are not close to a radiator or hot-air outlet.
This is called sun scorch. Give the plant more shade, especially during summer, by filtering sunlight through blinds or curtains or moving the plant to a window that does not receive full midday or afternoon sun.
This is due to cold water on leaves. When watering plants, use water at room temperature or higher.
A white crust appears on the soil surface or on sides and rims of clay pots. The leaves touching the rim wilt, rot, and fall off.
This is caused by build-up of salts from fertilizer. Water the plant thoroughly to dissolve the salts; after half an hour, water again generously to carry the dissolved salts of through the pot's drainage hole. Wash salts off the pot's rim and sides; coat the rim with melted wax to prevent future salt build-up from harming leaves and stems.
The plant is becoming too big for its pot. To give the plant more room to grow, repot into a larger container- about 1"-2" larger than the current size.