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Trouble Signs in Plants and What to Do

By Edited Nov 30, 2013 1 2

When your plants are in trouble, they will tell you!

House plants can be costly and it's important to take good care of them.  With good care you can extend the life of a plant for many years.  But, many house plants are a little fickle and it doesn't take much to cause them stress.  When a plant becomes stressed it will show tell you by showing trouble signs.  There are numerous trouble signs to watch for so you know when your flower or vegetable plant is in trouble.  

Knowing these signs of trouble is the first step in learning how to take good care for your plants.  There are a number and variety of factors that can easily be changed and will take care of the problem immediately in most cases. 

If you spot a trouble sign, you need to know what it means and with this simple guide you will then know how to take care of it. 

Plant in Trouble

Here is list of common plant problems and how to solve them:

The leaf tips are turning brown and the lower leaves are turning yellow and dropping off.

  • THE CAUSE:  Too much water
  • THE CURE:  Allow the soil to dry out and then water the plant less often.  Quit watering for a few days!

The leaf tips are turning yellow and then brown before drying out.

  • THE CAUSE:  Under-watering
  • THE CURE:  Soak the whole plant pot in water.  Set it in the kitchen sink of warm water for a couple of minutes.  Remove, let drain, and then water more frequently.

The leaves look faded and are streaked with yellow or brown mottling.

  • THE CAUSE:  Too much light
  • THE CURE:  Move the plant to less intense light.  Many plants are not good in a sunny window and need more shade. 

New growth is elongated, pale and undersized.

  • THE CAUSE:  Not enough light
  • THE CURE:  Move the plant to stronger light.  Some plants need to be set out in the light of the full sun.

The leaves become yellowish, but the veins are green.  The lower leaves drop off and the new growth is weak.

  • THE CAUSE:  Under fertilization
  • THE CURE:  Start fertilizing on a regular schedule

The plant put on new growth rapidly but the stems are weak and streaked.

  • THE CAUSE:  Over fertilization
  • THE CURE:  Flush the buildup of fertilization out of the soil by watering the plant several times in a few hours.

The leaf edges curl under and dry out.

  • THE CAUSE:  Too high of temperature in the room - it's just too warm!
  • THE CURE:  Move the plant to a cooler spot

White cottony growth appears in crevices between the leaves and stems.

  • THE CAUSE:  Mealybugs
  • THE CURE:  Dab each bug with rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab

Stems and leaves get tiny brown "warts."

  • THE CAUSE:  Scale - generally targets the underside of the leaves and the leaf joints
  • THE CURE:  Gently scrape the scale off with a knife or fingernail

The leaves get a mottled dusty look.  Eventually there are webs on the branches.

  • THE CAUSE:  Spider mites
  • THE CURE:  Rinse foliage thoroughly with a lukewarm shower.  Repeat once a week if necessary.


Feb 24, 2011 12:29pm
Make sure that you have the balanced fertilizer, as some contain no ferrum or microelements. Then you can have the poor plant both over- and underfertilized at once. My dad had this problem with his anthurium.
Feb 24, 2011 7:49pm
Excellent point Dominika! I'm glad you pointed that out. Fertilizing plants is a whole article in itself. Thanks for your comment.
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