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Garden Rescue: Can That Houseplant Be Saved?

One of the most frustrating things as an indoor gardener is to see your plants getting sick or eaten up by pests. You want to help, but you might not know how.

Unfortunately, not all houseplants can be saved. However, a surprising number of “dead” plants are actually just in need of a little TLC. Here are some of the most common plant problems and our best advice on how to fix them.

Dry, Brittle Leaves

Let’s say that you forgot to water your plant for a while–long enough that some or all of the foliage has turned brown and become papery. You might assume that the plant is 100% dead, but before you toss it in the trash, check the roots and stems.

If the roots and stems have turned just as dried-out and brittle as the rest of the plant, then there’s no coming back. However, if there’s still healthy, green, pliable stems at the core of the plant, then don’t lose hope.

Trim back all the dead parts until you start to see green on the cut ends. If the roots are the only thing hanging on to life, trim the entire plant down to about two inches.

Pale Foliage, Leggy Stems

Does your houseplant look skinny and sickly? Are the leaves too pale and the stems overly long? That’s a sign the plant might not be getting enough light. The poor houseplant is literally getting taller to try to reach more sunlight.

You will commonly see this with succulents that are grown indoors without sufficient sunlight. The easiest fix is to move the plants to a brighter windowsill. You might even need to invest in a grow light to supplement the natural sunlight.

However, that won’t make the leggy plants shrink. If you don’t like the way the plants look, you might want to trim them back down. Succulents (and many other plants) can be rooted from cuttings, so the parts you trim off could be used to grow new plants.

Wilted, Yellow Leaves

If you see a houseplant drooping, your first instinct might be to reach for the watering can. Unfortunately, watering too much is just as bad as too little.

When the roots are mushy and rotten feeling, you can’t do anything to revive the houseplant. That could be a sign that you actually overwatered the plant. But if the plant’s core is still pretty healthy, you can rescue it.

Make sure the pot you chose has adequate drainage. Letting the roots sit in water will cause plants to rot. If the pot has developed mold, you should re-pot the plant and clean the original pot with a bleach solution before reusing it. And if the soil has any kind of mold or fungus from being kept too damp, it’s a good idea to remove the plant, shake off as much soil as possible, and re-pot in fresh potting mix.

Summer Clayton

Summer Clayton has always loved getting her hands dirty. Ever since she was a kid playing in her grandparents’ garden, Summer wanted to learn everything she could about plants. Now she wants to help you grow a bigger, better, greener garden.

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