Do you love having indoor plants but you can’t keep them alive to save your life? It usually starts when a leaf starts to turn yellow, crumple, and then fall off the plant. You think it’s underwatered, so you start watering it more. Then your plant gets waterlogged and wilts.
How did this happen? Where did you go wrong? Instead of spending hours poring over every move you’ve made looking for a mistake, you should learn some common causes of yellow leaves. Check out this infographic by Safer Brand and the list below to learn how to read your plant’s leaves and some easy fixes to get it healthy again.
Lack of Sunlight
Plants turn sunlight into chemical energy, so without the sun your plant isn’t making any fuel for itself. Without chemical energy, your plant will begin to suffer. The amount of sun needed varies from plant to plant, but practically every plant needs at least a few hours of sunlight each day. If you’re concerned that your plant isn’t getting enough light, you might need to move it to another location. If you’re all tapped out of natural light, you can use artificial lights to help your plants along.
Everyone knows that plants need water, but not everyone knows how to gauge the right amount of water. Some plants prefer wetter conditions, but if your leaves are yellow and wilted, you might be drowning your poor little plant. A good way to know if your plant needs water is to check the soil first. When you touch the soil, how does it feel? Is it dry and flakey? Does it feel damp? If the top of the soil is still moist, your plant probably doesn’t need to be watered more.
If you don’t think you’re overwatering but your plant still seems to be getting too much water, you might have a drainage problem. Always make sure that potted plants have holes at the bottom of the container to allow excess water to escape. Consider adding sand or another additive to your soil in order to create more space in the soil and allow it to drain better.
As you can see, water is an essential element for a healthy plant. Striking the right balance can be difficult. A plant that is underwatered will have leaves that feel dry and crunchy when you touch them. If the soil feels dry and crumbly when you stick your finger into it, then you know it’s ready to be watered again. Water your plant more regularly and it should perk up soon.
It’s also possible to have soil that drains too well: it doesn’t hold any water for the plant to use. A layer of mulch around your plants will help them retain the needed moisture.
Plants need their vitamins and nutrients to grow big and strong just like people do, so yellowing leaves could be a sign that your plant is lacking important nutrients. If the edges and tips of the leaves are yellow, this could be a sign of potassium deficiency. Burying citrus rinds at the base of your plant and using a compost rich in fruit and vegetable waste will have your plant back on track in no time.
Plants that need nitrogen will have leaves that are yellow at the tips with a yellow center vein. An organic compost such as coffee grounds can work wonders for fixing this particular problem. Other nitrogen-rich items that you can add to a compost pile for your plants include corn cobs, eggshells, nutshells, moldy bread, grass clippings, and even hair or fur.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but little bugs munching on your plants can do a hefty amount of damage. If you notice holes in your leaves, obvious signs of chewing, or pests living on your plants, go into pest-control mode. Insect-killing soaps and neem oil are both great options for getting rid of pests, but you can make your own pesticides at home too if that’s your style.
Some plants are more susceptible to disease than others, but almost no plant is completely disease-free. If you notice spotting on your leaves or a change in the shape of your leaves, your plant might be fighting some kind of disease. Other issues that could trouble your plants include wind burn or even salt burn, which can occur in plants that are near the ocean or that have been “marked” too often by the local wildlife.
To make your plants as disease-resistant as possible, try planting varieties made specifically to resist disease, and make sure your plants have good air circulation. Plants that are lying on the ground can be more susceptible to disease as well.
If you suspect one of your plants is infected but the rest of your crop is fine, you should remove that plant and dispose of it to prevent the infection from spreading. Never use infected plants for compost and be sure to clean and disinfect any garden tools that come in contact with the infection.
Soil pH is just one thing you can learn from a soil test. Testing your soil can also determine what type of soil you have, if your soil is compacted, and what nutrients the soil has or needs. While most plants prefer a slightly acidic soil, a soil that is too acidic will not allow plants to thrive.
Adding lime to your soil can lower its acidity. To combat alkaline soil, you’ll want to add sulfur or ferrous sulfate. Alkaline soil can also be amended by regularly adding compost and manure.
Whether you’re a practiced green thumb or just getting started in your garden, yellowing leaves are a cause for concern. With a little research and attention, you can quickly get your plant back in tip-top shape and ready for harvest time.
Featured photo credit: Safer Brand via saferbrand.com