Indoor Plant Disorders

Indoor Plant Disorders

150 150 jcharlow


Some disorders of indoor plants are caused by disease organisms and insect pests, while others are environmental or cultural in nature. For every species or culture of indoor plant there is a set of environmental conditions that favors optimum development. This ideal environment rarely exists in the home and when one or more environmental or cultural factors become particularly unfavorable, the plant will appear abnormal. Changes in plant appearance or “symptoms” are often characteristic of a specific problem. Although symptoms are generally a reliable basis for diagnosing houseplant problems, they can vary somewhat from one kind to another. Listed below are several symptoms of indoor plant problems that are fairly consistent for a large number of species.


  • Leaf edges crisp and brown. New growth may quickly wither.


  • Cause – Too much heat, too low humidity, uneven soil moisture, excessive soluble salts in the soil.
  • REMEDY – Move plant to cooler location. Increase humidity around plant by using a tray of stones and water. Water soil thoroughly and more often. Use containers with adequate drainage. Do not allow drainage water to be reabsorbed. If container has no drainage, re-pot frequently.


  • Lower leaves yellow.


  • CAUSE – Insufficient light, dry air, age of particular leaf, heavy, tight soil or nitrogen deficiency.
  • REMEDY – Increase light or humidity. Check watering and fertilization practices. Old leaves that mature and turn yellow should be clipped off the plant.


  • Leaves appear lifeless, limp, and the plant wilts frequently.


  • CAUSE – Growing container too small, poor root activity due to improper watering, too much fertilizer, excessive soluble salts or disease.
  • REMEDY – Use appropriately sized container. Shift to slightly larger pot if necessary. Pot in well-drained soil mix. Fertilize lightly, if at all, when plant is not actively growing.


  • New foliage is yellow.


  • CAUSE – Alkaline soil, inadequate light, poor root activity.
  • REMEDY – Apply chelated iron according to directions on package. Provide better light. Change soil if necessary.


  • Spindley “leggy” plants.


  • CAUSE – Insufficient light.
  • REMEDY – Provide better light or select low-light tolerant plants and fertilize, water less often.


  • Plant produces no flowers.


  • CAUSE – Not enough light, too much water or fertilizer.
  • REMEDY – Adjust light to individual plant needs, increase humidity, check watering practices, reduce fertilizer use if vegetative growth is lush and rapid.


  • Flower buds and/or leaves fall off.


  • CAUSE – Poor growing conditions. When plant is brought into the home, it may have difficulty adjusting to conditions in the home.
  • REMEDY – Avoid rapid fluctuations in temperature and light, improve humidity about plant.


  • Stems gradually turn to mushy brown or black, leaves wilt.


  • CAUSE – Disease.
  • REMEDY – Don’t water too much, check soil for drainage, discard diseased plants.