Be Your Own Plant Doctor
Nurse Your Garden Back to Health
July 28, 2022
Is there a plant doctor in the house? Yes! It’s you! Learn to diagnose and treat your plants indoors or out with these easy tips.
Whether you have indoor or outdoor plants, there are some signs of distress they all show:
- Discolored leaves
- Leaf drop
- Rotted roots
- Strange smell
- Pest infestation
If you notice any of these issues, there are a few ways to help diagnose the problem. Correct identification will greatly help in making it right. First things first, don’t think the worst. Even if your plant looks dead, there’s a chance you can revive it.
Playing Plant Doctor
Bringing a plant back to life is easier if you know why it’s distressed. Some of the more common issues include:
- Overwatering. The soil will be moist and the leaves will be yellow or brown and wilting.
- Underwatering. These leaves are wilting and brown as well but the soil is super dry, cracked, and pulling away from the pot.
- Too much or too little light. Check to see if your particular plant prefers full sun or shade and then adjust accordingly. Move the indoor or potted plant or transplant anything in the garden.
- Drastic changes to the environment. Any sudden temperature changes can impact plant health. This is especially true for tropical plants you may plant in the summer, but then don’t expect them to live through the winter.
- Lack of nutrients. Change the soil and add some fertilizer if needed.
- Bugs. Determine which bug is attacking and attack back.
While most of these issues can be fixed, it comes down to determining which issue you’re dealing with. Some diagnosis is easier than others.
- Do you see signs of insects? Look for the actual infestation or bite/chew marks in the leaves. Catching the bug in the act makes it easier to target the correct pest.
- Is the soil dry and crumbly? Give it a long drink of water until it pools slightly at the surface. Some plants may even need to soak for a few hours. Then wait to water it again once the soil is dry.
- Is the soil sopping wet? Lay off the water for a while until the soil is dry. You may want to change the soil altogether if it’s really bad. Move it out of direct sunlight while it dries out.
- Are the roots dark and mushy? They may be rotting from disease or too much water. Roots should be plump and tan with white tips.
If you don’t notice any of these signs, but you still see some glimmers of green on your plant and relatively healthy roots, it still has a fighting chance.
Treating a Sick Plant
When a plant starts showing signs of distress, there are certain things you can do while you try to figure out the problem.
- Remove dead leaves. Don’t let them hang on the plant, since they could still be taking away precious nutrients the living leaves need. Remove whatever is brown and wilting. It’s not going to grow back. You want to focus on new growth now.
- Prune. Trim any dead stems or branches back to where there’s still green tissue.
- Change the soil. Sometimes a plant needs new dirt and a bigger pot to play in. When you’re repotting, this is also a good chance to check the conditions of the roots.
Don’t expect a drastic change overnight. Depending on the plant and the problem, you may not see improvement for a few weeks. Also, don’t make too many changes at once. Focus on one issue at a time and wait a few weeks to see if it improves. If not, try another tactic. You don’t want to overstress a plant.
All is Not Lost
Ok, so you’ve tried everything, waited the appropriate amount of time, and you’re still not seeing signs of life. It may be time to call the time of death. However, depending on why your plant didn’t survive, you can give it back to the earth. As long as it didn’t have a disease and you didn’t treat it with chemicals, you can turn it into compost so other plants can benefit from the nutrients it still has. It’s the circle of life.
Another thing to remember: don’t be too hard on yourself. Keeping something alive is hard. Especially something that can’t tell us exactly what’s wrong. Even low-maintenance plants need some TLC. The only plant that doesn’t need any attention to thrive is a silk one, but even those may need some dusting now and then.
Professional Plant Doctor
So the next time your plants are looking less than green, you can be their first responder. Look for the signs and do your best to nurse them back to health. If you need help with diagnosis or treatment, contact the plant specialists at Elite Tree Care for a second opinion.