The Signs and Symptoms of Unhealthy Plants And How To Keep Them Alive

 How to check if your plants are healthy

Although plants can't talk, they definitely communicate with us and tell us what they need more of or less of - like babies who cry when they're hungry and laugh when they're happy. In their own way, plants try to tell us about their health condition and how they feel. And as plant parents, it is our responsibility to notice these signs and symptoms as they occur so we can help them grow well and avoid diseases.

In this blog, we'll look into the main signs and symptoms to look out for which could indicate that your indoor plants are unhealthy and what you can do to solve them.


Wilting plant

wilting plant

If your indoor plants are wilting, this could be a sign that you're underwatering. To know if your plants are dehydrated, check if the plant soil is dry. You can do this by placing your fingers into the soil pot, about 1-2 inches deep. If you feel that the soil is dry then it's a sign your plant needs hydration.


Observe how often their soil gets dried and create a watering routine around that. Consider moving your plants away from the sunlight if you feel that water evaporates quickly due to the sunlight. You can always do research too on how often others water these plants that are similar to yours.

Tip: If you have Peace Lilies like me, don't fret if you see them wilting! They can be a drama queen! You'd think it was dead, but it just needs a refreshing drink and it will perk back up again.


Pest and disease

How to check for plant pest, bugs, aphids, mealybugs

Pest and diseases are clear indications that your plants are unwell and need help. They signal that your plant may have root rot. Pests such as aphids, mites, mealybug, and spider mites are often found on the undersides of the leaves and the joints where the stem attaches to the leaves. On the other hand, if you see discolorations and changes in the leaves of your plants, this could be a sign of viral and bacterial infections. If it is a fungal infection, you'll most probably see white chalk-like powder on leaves and stems.


Review your plant care routine. Your watering routine may be causing the root rot and may have to be changed up. If you're using fertilizers, you might want to check the chemical substances in that too. It's best to check other plants in your space too if they too have pests or diseases.


Troubled roots

How to check for root rot and plant rootbound

Roots are like the heart of your plants and will surely show you the condition of your plants. The early signs of root rot are yellowing, browning, or wilting leaves. If you notice this, you'll want to check the roots. Remove the plant from the soil and feel the roots. If the roots have turned brown or black, feels mushy or slimy, and are smelly, it's root rot! You've probably overwatered your plants or could be a root rot fungus flare-up.

If roots are coming out of the bottom of the pot, this means you are due for some repotting as your plant has outgrown its home. If you don't look out for this, the roots will eventually take up all the space in the pot leaving no space for the soil or water which will cause your plant to die from lack of nutrients.


To treat root rot, remove the plant from the soil and gently wash the roots under running water. After washing away the affected soil and roots, trim all the remaining affected roots with a clean pair of shears. Make sure to wash the pot thoroughly if you'll be using the same pot. You can also use a fungicide solution or a mix of 3% hydrogen peroxide with two parts of water and carefully pour it over the plant's root system with a watering can or spray bottle. This will kill off the bacteria or fungus which causes root rot.


Discoloration of leaves

discoloration of plant leaves

The color of the leaves gives you a lot of information about the health and condition of your plants. Leaves shouldn't hang, curl, or discolor. If you notice one of these things, it's a sign that there's something wrong with your plant like a deficiency or surplus of certain nutrients. A single discoloration though is no big reason for concern. 

Common discolorations:

yellow plant leaves

Yellow leaves - indicates moisture stress and could be excess water brought by either overwatering or poor drainage. This can also indicate that the plant needs more sunlight to do photosynthesis and make their food.


Regularly check if the soil is dry or moist by using either the finger test or a moisture meter, and water depending on the plant's needs. When in doubt, always use less water as it is better to underwater than overwater—it's easier for plants to recover from drought than root rot. You can also try placing your plant in a spot where it gets more sunlight.


Brown plant leaves

Brown leaves - this typically indicates under watering or sunburn. If the edges and tips of the leaves are turning brown and crunchy, either the soil has become dry for too long or the plant has been exposed to direct sunlight. Brown leaves may also be an indication of root rot, infection or toxins so it'd be best to check the condition of the roots too.

Trim down the brown tips to get the plant back looking healthy, it will not turn green anyway and might just consume more plant energy.


Soil drainage

How to check plant soil

Soil is also important to keep your plants healthy. If you notice that water is pooling when you're watering, it's a sign that there's a problem with your drainage. If the water is running directly to the bottom of the pot, it's a sign that your soil is too sandy or loose. On the other hand, some indicators of soil containing too much clay are a greasy or slimy feel when the soil is wet, a dusty but hard appearance when the soil is dry. Soil that's too sandy or containing too much clay can hinder your plant's root system and affect its moisture retention.


Make sure you are using the correct and recommended soil. If your soil is sandy or has too much clay, you can try mixing it with organic matter, or leaves, wood chips, hay or straw.


Stretching stems

How to check if plant is healthy

Nope, this ain't yoga for plants! If you see your plant growing more on one side or if it looks like it's trying to reach out your window or any light source, then this is a sign your plant is not getting enough light. Check here to get more deets on house plant lighting requirements.


Move your plant to a spot where it can receive more light — just enough for it to grow healthily. You could also try 'pinching' where you pinch off the top inch or so of your plant's stem to encourage it to grow laterally and have fuller foliage.


Salt build-up

Indoor plant salt build up

If you're noticing white stuff on the plant soil, those are most likely salt build-ups. Salt and other minerals build up as you water or fertilize your plant. When ignored, this will cause the leaves to turn yellow or brown too.


When watering plants, allow water to run through a few times (you can do this in your sink or tub) so you can flush out salt and other minerals instead of letting them build up. Repot regularly and check your soil content.


And that's it, we've covered the most common signs and symptoms to know if your plant is healthy or unhealthy. Be sure to give your plants utmost care and check on them daily so you'll identify right away if they need water, repotting, food, etc.


How keep plants alive

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