Did you know that the Earth is home to approximately 435,000 species of unique land plants? Of that, more than a third are “exceedingly” rare. However, many others, like pothos, cacti, and monstera, are widespread, growing even indoors.
Unfortunately, even the easiest-to-grow houseplants can still die due to incorrect care practices.
To that end, we created this plant guide listing the most common reasons (and errors) that cause plants to die. Read on to discover what they are so that you can start avoiding them right away.
Plants need oxygen to convert food into energy and food sources. That duty of obtaining O2 falls on the roots; they acquire it through tiny air pockets in the soil around them.
Those oxygen-filled spaces can disappear if you overwater your plants. That’s because excess water causes the soil to become waterlogged. It displaces the oxygen in the air pockets surrounding the roots.
As a result, the roots’ air supply gets cut off, making them unable to obtain O2. That then leads to the rest of the plant not having access to essential nutrients.
Overwatering also triggers root rot, which, if left untreated, can lead to plant death.
Water, making up 80% to 95% of a plant, assists with photosynthesis. It also helps cool down plants and carries minerals and nutrients taken from the soil into the plant. From there, it evaporates through the stomata, the tiny holes dotting plant leaves.
That water movement and loss through evaporation is what you call transpiration. Leaves transpire at varying rates, but it’s a continuous process for all plant species.
So if you underwater your plants, they have no way to replace the water they lose via transpiration. They can’t get the minerals and nutrients they need, either, so they end up unable to make food. All that can lead to their leaves curling and wilting, and eventually, the plant itself can die.
A staggering 400,000 to 500,000 insect species feed on living plant tissues. Many prefer the leaves, others the sap, and some feast on all parts, including the leaves, flowers, and roots.
Left uncontrolled, those pests can destroy the entire plant. At the very least, their feeding habits can deform, discolor, and damage plant tissues.
Fortunately, you can control pests using homemade insecticides made of garlic or pepper. View here for more details on common plant pests and how to deal with them.
Not Enough Sun
Sunlight contains photons, which, in turn, carry energy needed by plants for photosynthesis. Therefore, a lack of light can inhibit plants’ ability to manufacture carbohydrates. Without carbs, plants can deplete their glucose supplies, leading to their death.
Plants that don’t get enough sun usually have leaves that turn pale green, yellow, or even white. You may also notice increased or more frequent leaf shedding.
Too Much Sun
Plants can harvest the sun’s energy using the molecules chlorophyll and carotenoid. There are times, though, when they absorb excess light energy. That causes them to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS).
ROS are chemicals that can harm and even destroy plants.
One way to tell you’re killing your plants with too much sun is if they have scorched leaves. Some species may also develop a bleached appearance, wherein their leaves turn white.
For plants to grow as they should, they require 16 essential nutrients. Aside from hydrogen and oxygen, they also need nitrogen, calcium, copper, and zinc, to name a few. Malnutrition can occur if they don’t obtain enough of those nourishing substances.
Plants can turn yellow, brown, or chlorotic depending on the nutrient deficiency. Young leaves may also develop a paler color compared to mature leaves.
The longer the plants remain nutrient-deficient, the higher their odds of dying.
Overusing Plant Food
Fertilizers supply plants with essential nutrients in the form of soluble salt compounds. Plant roots then take up those nutrients to assist their growth.
However, adequate watering alone doesn’t dissolve excess fertilizers. Moreover, salt compounds used in houseplants don’t leach, as they don’t have anywhere else to go. That makes the minerals stay behind in the soil, raising its salinity while lowering its pH level.
The lower the soil’s pH level, the fewer nutrients the plants get. That’s because most plant nutrients are available in pH ranges of 5.5 to 7.5.
If you’ve been overfertilizing your houseplants, they now likely have yellowing leaves. The longer this goes on, the yellower or browner their leaves can get. In addition, they’re likely to grow slower, or worse, stop growing altogether.
Pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, can infect 70% to 80% of plant populations. They cause diseases that can lead to deformation, discoloration, rotting, or wilting. Worse, they can destroy enough plant tissues to trigger death.
One way to tell your plants are sick is if their leaves have white powdery stuff or brown spots. Another symptom is an increase in leaf shedding. The dropped leaves often bear signs of disease, too.
Environmental Stress or Shock
Cold, heat, and humidity are environmental stressors that can shock plants. An example is a sudden change in your home’s indoor climate, such as when you turn off your furnace in the winter. That can cause a drop in indoor temperature, exposing your plants to cold that can kill them.
The air is also less humid during winter, making plants transpire more. The thing is, that can lead to them losing too much moisture. If that happens, their leaves are likely to develop brown streaks.
As for summer, heat waves can be as dangerous to your plants as they are to you. They can get sunburns, making them more susceptible to diseases and pests.
Keep Things Green With This Plant Guide
There you have it, the ultimate plant guide on why your indoor greenery keeps dying. Now you know it can be due to too much (or too little) of a good thing, including water, food, and light. Don’t forget that pests and stress can kill your greens, too, so watch out for them before they deal more damage.
Are you looking for other tips on gardening or how to look after plants? If so, then please feel free to check out more of our blog now!
- About the Author
Alex Grigoryan is a Professional Home Improvement and Lifestyle Writer. He has been in the industry for over 6 years and has been writing for Chique Home Living since 2019. His work has been featured in prestigious blogs such as Spruce Home, Better Homes & Garden, and more.