How to Recognize Symptoms of a Dying Plant

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Sometimes the health of a plant can be obvious. The plant is practically screaming out that it needs water. Other times, you can't tell what is going on. Is the plant weak or dead, or is it simply going through a tough time? Here is how to recognize when it is time to tend to your beloved plant.

Examine the leaves. They may be yellow or yellowing, brown or browning, scabby, spotted with brown or dropping. Any "crispy" look to the leaves is a danger sign.

Monitor the flowers or buds. Browning flowers or buds, or buds that drop off can be natural or it can indicate a sick plant. An indoor plant should not lose flowers suddenly, although you can ask nursery personnel about seasonal blooms in your plant. You may wish to deadhead the dead or dying buds or flowers, water and hope the plant can recover.

Watch the roots and notice how secure or stable the plant seems in the soil. Any lifting of the roots, tilting or wobbling of the plant base can mean the plant is not lodged deep enough and should be replanted with extra compost for a nutrient-rich new beginning. A plant with roots totally filling the pot and crawling to the outside edges need to be re-potted in a larger pot or an outside area, if appropriate.

Take any wilting as a sign that the plant needs water, sun or a change of atmosphere. Some indoor plants, such as the ficus, can be moved outside temporarily (providing there is no frost) in order to recover.

Wait before yanking dead seeming stems. Perennials such as salvia may look dead, but then recover with time and regular care. Indoor palm type plants can also rejuvenate themselves after a seemingly harsh trimming of dead parts, even when down to a stem.

Tips & Warnings

  • Watering is the short-term remedy, but long-term health could require fertilizing or moving the plant to a new location with a change of light.
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