Troubleshooting Guide for Houseplants

Houseplants can bring so much joy but what about if they do not look too good.
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In this article, we will be discussing what to look out for when your houseplants are not doing too well.

In this useful troubleshooting guide, you will find what the signs of trouble your houseplant exhibits and what can be causing that trouble. This guide should be used in conjunction with my article on getting the best from your houseplants.

When you examine a houseplant. It will be obvious if the plant is attacked by foliage pests and disease as they are easy to recognise. You may not know what disease the plant may have but you can certainly see that the plant has a problem. Troubles that are caused by soil pests and disease may not be so obvious, as often they produce identical symptoms to those induced by failure to look after the plant properly.

Houseplants can bring so much joy but what about if they do not look too good.
Houseplants can bring so much joy but what about if they do not look too go

In this situation, it is best to check this guide to what the likely cause of the troubles that are showing on your plant.

 

By examining the growing compost you can determine whether the wilting of the leaves is due to underwatering or overwatering. If the compost looks good and is not overly moist then the next step is to knock the plant out of its pot and examine the roots for the presence of any insect pest.

If no insects can be observed and the roots or base of the stem are beginning to rot then fungal infections are likely to blame. Scorching of the foliage and premature drop of leaves are generally caused by either being too kind to the plants or you have neglected it for too long, but then yet again it can be caused by the incorrect use of aerosol sprays.

TROUBLESHOOTER GUIDE

POOR GROWTH

Plant growing poorly, which can be caused by underfeeding, overwatering, poor lighting levels or the plant has become pot bound.

NEW GROWTH IS PALE COLOURED AND SPINDLY

This can be caused by underfeeding, low lightening levels or the temperature is too high.

THE LEAVES WILT
Yellowing of leaves
Yellowing of leaves

This can be caused by under watering, overwatering the plant, it being pot bound, insects at the roots, or fungal disease at the roots.

THE PLANT TOTALLY COLLAPSES AND ROTTING CAN BE OBSERVED AT THE BASE

This is crown and collar rot.

THE BASE OF THE PLANT BLACKENS

This is rot caused by blackleg disease.

THE TIP OF THE LEAVES TURN BROWN AND LOOK DRY

This is caused by a lack of humidity and a dry atmosphere.

THE TIPS AND EDGES OF LEAVES TURN YELLOW OR BROWN

This is caused by under watering, overwatering, dry atmosphere, sun scorch or draughts.

NEW LEAVES START TO YELLOW

This is more likely caused by watering acid-loving plants with hard water, as this contains alkaline magnesium and calcium salts.

YELLOWING OF OLDER LEAVES

This is caused by overwatering or draughts.

DRY BROWN PATCHES ON LEAVES

This is most certainly caused by lack of water.

PALE COLOURED PATCHES ON LEAVES
Rust on leaves
Fungal infection leaves

This is caused by sun scorch, water splashes caused by incorrect watering techniques or by spray damage (caused by incorrect use of leave shine sprays).

DARK BROWN PATCHES APPEAR ON LEAVES AND ARE SOFT

This is a classic sign of overwatering.

DARK BROWN OR BLACK PATCHES THAT APPEAR ON LEAVES AND ARE MOIST

This is caused by leaf spot disease, a fungal infection.

YELLOW SPECKLING ON LEAVES

This is caused by red spider mites

SILVERY STREAKS ON LEAVES

The thrips is to blame for this.

THE LEAVES DISTORT AND ARE COVERED WITH BROWN SCARS

The cyclamen mite is to blame.

BROWN CORKY SCABS ON THE UNDERSIDE OF THE LEAVES
Mealy bugs
Mealybugs

This is likely the response by the plant to unfavourable growing conditions rather than attacks by pests or disease. This develops when the roots take more water than that is lost from the leaves, This cause the plants’ cells to swell up and some of these later burst giving rise to the brown scab. This is likely to occur in pelargoniums and succulents when they are exposed to high temperatures and high humidity when the growing compost is too wet.

CONCENTRIC RINGS OF SPORES ON THE UNDERSIDES OF THE LEAVES

This is rust disease, a fungal disease.

A BLACK COLOURED MOULD APPEARS ON THE UPPER SURFACE OF THE LEAVES

This is yet another fungal disease caused by sooty moulds.

WHITE POWDER APPEAR ON LEAVES, STEMS, FLOWER BUDS AND FLOWERS

This is yet another fungal disease of powdery mildew.

GREY FLUFFY GROWTH APPEAR ON LEAVES, STEMS, FLOWERBUDS AND FLOWERS

This is Botrytis or grey mould another fungal disease.

WHITE COTTON MASSES APPEAR ON LEAVES AND STEMS

This is the classical sign of an infestation of mealy bugs.

TINY WHITE MOTH-LIKE INSECTS APPEAR IN THE UNDERSIDES OF LEAVES THAT FLY AWAY WHEN THE PLANT IS SHAKEN

If you see this then you can be certain that you have whitefly.

COLONISES OF YELLOW, GREEN, PINK, RED OR BLACK INSECTS THAT APPEAR NEAR THE GROWING POINTS AND ON THE UNDERSIDES OF THE LEAVES

This is an aphid attack.

BROWN, SHELL-LIKE, OVAL SCALE INSECTS ARE OBSERVED ON THE LEAVES AND STEMS

This is the scale insect attack.

LEAVES START DROPPING
houseplant root rot
houseplant root rot

This can be caused by moving the plant around too much lack of water, too much water, draughts or aerosol damage.

FLOWER BUDS DROP OFF

This is caused by lack of water, lack of humidity or moving the plant shock.

FLOWERS FADE COLOURS QUICKLY

This is due to lack of water, the plant being in a too hot location or a dry atmosphere.

WHITE FLECKS ON FLOWERS WHICH MAY TURN BROWN

Another sign that you have got thrips on your houseplants.

LAYER OF ROOTS CAN BE SEEN ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE PLANT

The plant is becoming pot bound.

ROOTS HAVE A BROWN CORKY SWELLING

This is an attack by eelworms.

THE ROOTS LOOK BROWNER THAN USUAL AND ROTTING CAN BE OBSERVED

This is a root rot disease.

THE ROOT SYSTEM IS POORLY FORMED AND YOU CAN SEE LARGE FAT, WHITE GRUBS PRESENT

This is the larvae of the vine weevil as they eat the root of plants.

THE ROOT SYSTEM IS AGAIN POOR BUT THIS TIME TINY, WHITE MAGGOTS ARE OBSERVED

This is caused by the larvae of the fungus gnat, again feasting on the roots of the plant.

YOU ACTUAL SEE INSECTS FEEDING ON THE ROOTS.

This could be the root aphid or root mealybug.

HOW DO I REMEDY THIS?

Accidently if you have overwatered, you must allow the compost to dry out and the plant should recover.

If you have underwatered, add more water enough to keep the compost moist (often when you see water running out of the bottom of the pot).

If you underfeed then feed your plants to the recommended dosage recommended by the manufacturer.

Over fertilising can be dealt by trying to wash the salts out of the compost by watering more than usual and to reduce the feeding rate.

Problems with humidity can be death by misting or by having a container full of water near the plant.

Fungal disease can be treated by fungicides and pests can be dealt with by the appropriate use of insecticides.

Pests at the roots can be more difficult to treat and may involve washing the roots off and then dipping in an insecticide solution. After this, it can be rehoused in a new compost. With vine weevils, the only solution available is to destroy the plant.

With root rots, any unhealthy rots must be cleanly cut off and the plant repotted in fresh compost in a clean pot.

A strong fungicide needs to be used and the plant kept out of direct sunlight until new growth appears.

With crown, collar and blackleg fungal infections, it is best to dispose of the plants. It is important not to overwater the plants.

CONCLUSIONS

In this article troubleshooting problems, you can find with houseplants have been discussed. You can see how to identify the many problems a houseplant can exhibit and what the likely will be causing the problem. The problems have been discussed in a previous article and what steps can be done to deal with them.

It is not only pests and diseases, you have to look out for but the bad habits that you do. This could be overwatering, under watering, over or under fertilizing, constantly moving the plants around, not increasing humidity or general neglect. You have to get everything in the right balance and you play an important role in this.

If you have any comments and questions that you wish to raise, please do so win the comment box below.

Be safe.


12 thoughts on “Troubleshooting Guide for Houseplants”

  1. Hey Antonio, thanks for the thorough information about what to notice if your houseplant isn’t thriving like it should.  When you mentioned that the tip of your houseplants leaves will look dry and turn brown, I currently have one of those types of plants in my house and didn’t realize it was from lack of humidity or a dry atmosphere.  I have the plant sitting on a table in my office near the window.  Do you have any suggestions on how I can make my plant more lively? Thank you again for the insight!

    1. Hi Lindsey

      Thank you for those kind words and your appreciation  of why this article was written. It was to  help people like you to know what is causing your houseplants problems. To answer your question, if the humidity is low then you can either mist the plant or have a bowl of water near the plant or even use a humidifier. This should help.

      Thanks

      Antonio 

  2. All along I have been too hesitant to keep natural plants indoors despite knowing the benefits of doing so. I had seen well natured indoor plants either developing some moulds or withering. Your post gives me hope. I never would of thought of checking out infections on the roots. Thank you for putting together such a brilliant guide. 

  3. Hi, Antonio 

    This was a clear and well written article. 

    It was really interesting to learn how to look after your indoor pot plants. 

    The guide was particulary useful listing all the different problems that can happen. The descriptions were easy to understand and follow.

    It was great that you offered solutions for problems. 

    Thanks, 

    Cameron

    1. Hi Cameron 

      This is my pleasure, as I try to help people as much as possible. 

      Thanks

      Antonio 

  4. Hello Antonio 

    Thanks for sharing this post with the members of the public it’s really insightful and educating. I never really knew much about house plants problems/diseses and how they can be managed. This article is really well detailed, now I can boost of a good understanding on problems that plants exhibits, the likely causes and how to manage effectively. Thanks once again.

    1. Hello Sheddy

      Thank you for those kind words and I do try my best to give as much useful information  that gardeners can use. I hop that you use this guide to highlight problems you find with your houseplants.

      Kind regards 

      Antonio 

  5. Hello there once again. thank for sharing this useful piece of information here with us. Going through your articles have been really helpful in gathering some useful products. Some of my plants are having some of these listed information guide here, i think i might be over watering my plants which i must watch out for, thanks

    1. Hi Philebur

      Thank you for once again stopping by and commenting. Believe  me, overwatering is such a common problem  with houseplants, ad you think you are being kind to the plant, when in fact you are hurting them. This is why this guide was written to help people identify  common problems.

      Thanks

      Antonio 

  6. Hello there, thank you for this very detailed and informative post on troubleshooting guide for house plants. I never knew I could really over water my plants and thereby cause harm to it, because I have recently noticed yellowiing of older leaves and certainly I can’t say its drought because I water my plants always it must be as a result of over watering. Thanks for sharing I know better now.

    1. Hi Jomata

      My goal in writing this article is to help people to diagnose  common problem that houseplants can exhibit.  With houseplants it is important to know what is happening quickly, otherwise you will lose your plants. I am glad you got help from this article.

      Thanks

      Antonio 

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