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8 Reasons Why Your Plant May Be Dying

Updated: Jan 2, 2023

If you’ve arrived here you’re probably worried that your plant might be struggling. Not to worry, we wanted to share the most common reasons plant parents are speaking with us.

1. It may have nutrition deficiencies

Many of our clients haven't fertilized their plants in a few years, it's only a matter of time that some of these plants will start to show signs of this. Depending on the plant, it'll need some combination of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium as well as several trace elements. Fertilizers have different levels of each so it's important to know what your plant needs in order to find the right fertilizer and use it properly.

2. It may have a pest infestation

The most common pests we see are aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, scale, fungus gnats, and spider mites.

Aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs all respond well to insecticidal soaps.

Scale only responds to elbow grease; it must be mechanically wiped off the leaves with a damp cloth and subsequently treated with neem oil to treat invisible nymphs (immature scale insects) or eggs that may still be present.

Spider mites are stubborn pests that must be doused with repeated and persistent applications of neem oil to be eradicated.

Fungus gnats are a pest that is best attacked on two fronts: the adult and larval stages of the gnat’s life cycle. To kill the adult gnats, put sticky fly tape near your plants. There are products like Katchy available on Amazon that are more elegant solutions to this. To kill the larva, Gnatrol is the most effective tool. Gnatrol is a product that contains and insecticidal bacteria that kills the larval stage of the fungus gnat.

3. It might be waterlogged

You'll see a lot of differing advice about the type of pots to use. Here's our simplification of it, if you are a new plant parent, we almost always recommend getting a pot with ample drainage. This is because (depending on the location of the plant, your expertise, and the season) the plant will require differing levels of water. As a new plant parent, it is very easy to overwater your plants in pots without drainage holes, especially in the winter. When in doubt, always get the pot with drainage over the pots without.

4. Its pot material and shape could be the problem

Some of our clients have plants in curved, ceramic pots. Though they may be beautiful, the issue with such pots is that as your plant grows, it will become difficult to take the plant out of the pot when it needs a larger one because the root ball can become trapped by the rigid shape of the pot. Often in these cases, you may have to break your pot to get the plant out safely. Pots can be ridiculously expensive so it's super important to pick the right type of pot the first time.

5. It might not be fertilized at the right times

It's always important to know that plants only need fertilizer during certain periods of the year. Generally, this is right after the equinox to the end of September for the northern hemisphere. It is during this growing season that plants will grow, bloom, and put out more stems and roots. The fertilizer you use and when you use it will be an important catalyst and nutrition source for your plant to grow to the best of its ability.

6. It might not have the right fertilizer

When looking at fertilizers, there are trade-offs between organic and chemical. While organic is generally better for the environment, it also must be broken down in the soil by bacteria to be bioavailable to the plant, this creates an environment where pests such as fungus gnats will thrive. While chemical fertilizers are less environmentally friendly and are more prone to potentially burning our plants than organics, they have the benefit of being immediately available to our plants. Meaning, chemical fertilizers do not require a microbiome in the soil to break them down in order to be available to the plant for uptake. This creates less of an environment where pests, such as fungus gnats, can thrive.

7. It may be getting sunburned

For some of our clients, one of the recommendations we often make is to bring their plants closer to a bright window for direct sunlight. If your plant has been in the shade for most of its life, then direct sunlight exposure could burn the plant's leaves. It's almost like walking out into a hot sunny summer's day with no sunscreen when you've been indoors binging Bridgerton for weeks. Your skin will burn, and so will your plant's leaves. We recommend adjusting your plants slowly towards the sun so that it acclimatizes in a healthy way.

8. It may be overdue to repot

We've seen a lot of larger plants in smaller pots, often the plant has outgrown the pot. A common way to tell is if you see the roots circling up from the side of the soil or if you see roots coming out of the bottom, then it's time to repot.

Generally, we recommend up-potting to a pot with 2 to 4 inches in additional diameter to the old pot. That of course depends on the situation. When plants become root-bound it could affect their root health. Repotting them at the right time is crucial for plant growth and health.

You might be seeing a combination of some of these issues. If you are worried about your plant, or curious about how to get it into the best conditions in your home or garden feel free to book a Plant Checkup, we're here to help!

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