I Got Troubles…Oh Oh!… Houseplant Problem Solving

As we turn our gardening eyes away from the cold and snowy outdoors, we look at houseplants –and some of the common problems they may develop. This two-part series will start with the basic principles of keeping houseplants healthy.

Part 1 – Principals of Healthy House Plants

1. Home Sweet Home

Replicate the plants natural conditions as much as possible. Is your houseplant a warm and humidity loving tropical? Or is it a succulent preferring dry warmth? Does it like cool evenings (who doesn’t)? What are its preferences for light? Most plants commonly grown indoors are selected for that purpose because of their tolerance for indirect light and tolerance of heat and dryness, there is great variability in what is acceptable to different plants. Ensure that each plant has the best possible environment for success.

This fiddle leaf fig (Ficuslyrata) plant was in real trouble in a south facing window. Once it was moved to an eastern exposure, the leaves stopped browning and dropping, and it burst into new

2. An Ounce of Prevention

Inspect plants carefully before bringing them indoors. Disease and pests which may be tolerated outdoors may take over indoors. Whether purchased de novo, received as a gift, or coming in from the yard for the winter, every plant needs to be examined thoroughly (that includes BOTH sides of the leaves!). Plants brought in from the yard are readily sprayed with a forceful stream of water (BOTH sides of the leaves, remember!). To prevent soil insects, the entire pot may be immersed in a bucket of water and insecticidal soap. The Laidback Gardener recommends doing this for half an hour, with a brick on top to keep it underwater. Allow to drain well after removing. Many experts recommending isolating those plants coming into your house for a few weeks since it may still contain not yet visible eggs or small pests

Scale is a houseplant pest that’s difficult to manage. (Image: Savvy Gardening https://savvygardening.com/types-of-houseplant-bugs/

3. Better Sooner than Later

Careful weekly observation may reveal the early signs of a problem which can be dealt with before it gets worse. This should also be done when bringing any new plant into your house. Are there obvious insects? Any stickiness on the plant or its surroundings (honeydew) indicating an infestation. Is the foliage healthy or are there brown, yellow or dry spots? Leaves dropping off? Getting on top of such problems is much easier in the early stages. And will also prevent spread to other plants. And besides, we want houseplants because we love looking at plants and their development.

4. Too Much of a Good Thing or Too Little

Every plant is unique and needs individual care. Setting a routine like watering every week is likely to lead to over-watering for some houseplants –and perhaps under-watering for others. Same goes for fertilization. Many houseplants are relatively dormant in winter and fertilization can be harmful. But not all of them. Know the names of your plants, and what care they require. Hang on to those tags so you can look it up! Who can remember it all?

by Allyn Walsh – Halton Master Gardener

Further Reading:


search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close