Many people like the convenience and beauty of houseplants. These plants may be protected from some of the diseases and insects that commonly afflict outdoor plants, yet they are not without their own set of difficulties. Understanding when there is a problem, and being able to diagnose it, is critical for the plant to survive and thrive in an indoor environment.
While houseplants can generally survive under any type of indoor light, there should be an adequate supply of light, especially if you are hoping to see growth. Those who leave their homes for long periods of time for trips or vacations may want to leave a light on a timer, leave a turned light on or make sure the plants are near windows. Some plants may also benefit from a full-spectrum light, which more closely resembles natural light. Symptoms of plants not getting enough light, or not getting the proper type of lighting, include leaf drop and wilting, even when they are adequately watered.
Houseplants can suffer from one of two ailments when it comes to watering--either they get too little or too much. If you know about the types of houseplants you have, you will understand what the watering requirements are.
Some plants, such as those found in desert environments, thrive in dry soil with only occasional watering. Others plants require much more water. Common symptoms of watering problems include yellowing leaves, soft stems, brown leaves, and dry or brittle leaves. Also, try not to leave standing water in the catch basin, as this can keep the soil and root system too moist.
Lack of sufficient humidity can cause problems for tropical plants in desert environments or northern winter environments, where the humidity in a home drops to very low levels. Common symptoms include browning or dry and brittle leaves. To correct this problem, make sure you are not only watering the soil and roots, but the leaves as well. Spritzing the plant with mist from a spray bottle is the easiest way to accomplish this. Lightly wetting the leaves every day or two should help.
Unlike outdoor garden plants, the soil for potted plants cannot adequately replenish nutrients through natural processes. Therefore, a fertilizer will likely be needed. Yellowing leaves, wilting and leaf drop can all be signals that fertilizer is necessary. Too much fertilizer could also cause the browning of plant leaves, so be judicious with its use.
Many of the plant problems listed here have the same symptoms. As the plant owner, only you can tell what the cause is--for example, if you have watered too much or not enough. In some cases, trying a couple of these solutions may be needed before you find the true underlying problem. Try not to get discouraged, because if you give up, the plant may die.