Before you can address what ails your plants, first evaluate the situation. “When you’re looking at a plant and you think, ‘Gosh, this doesn’t look like it did when I bought it,’ the first thing to consider is how old it is,” says Clarke de Mornay, senior buyer at San Francisco’s Flora Grubb Gardens. “If it’s just a couple months or less since you bought it and it’s having issues, it probably has to do with light, air circulation, or watering.” If you’ve had the plant for more than a few months, the issue might be nutrition, pests, or other problems.
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Here’s what to look for to diagnose the problem, plus ways to fix things with simple, sustainable steps that will help your little sprouts bounce back in no time.
Symptom: Soft, yellowing leaves
Too much water
Check the soil–if it’s especially damp or wet, water less frequently. Make sure the pot has proper drainage holes in the bottom, too.
Symptom: Brown, crispy leaves that are falling off
“The most common mistake is to either under- or over-water in the beginning and then to switch gears and do the opposite,” he says. “It’s about consistency and getting water to plants on a timely basis.”
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Remember that houseplants need different amounts of water in different seasons. If you’re running the air conditioner or furnace, for example, soil dries out faster. While you might not need to water more often, you should up the amount of water you’re pouring into the pot each time.
Symptom: Fine webbing and tiny insects
For a basic, organic pest-fighting solution, dilute rubbing alcohol in water and gently wipe down all leaves and stems weekly for at least three weeks in a row. To avoid stressing the plant even more, keep it away from sunshine and heat as you apply the solution.
Stir one teaspoon of alcohol into two cups of water for small plants; for bigger ones, try no more than half a cup of alcohol in a gallon of water. Don’t have rubbing alcohol on hand? Vodka makes a cheap and sustainable substitute.
Symptom: Tired leaves and low soil levels in the pot
The article 4 Reasons Your Houseplants Are Dying And How To Fix Them originally appeared on Rodale’s Organic Life.