How to Save a Houseplant on the Brink

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Rescue your indoor plants from these common ailments and go for a new lease on life. Use these tips to save you plant from certain demise.

Dying indoor plants are easy to spot. A few clues: Drooping, dropping, yellow or crispy brown spots on leaves. Other clues include insects and fungus on the soil or foliage. Try these first-aid fixes for common problems with your indoor plants.

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Check the Drainage

The container must have bottom drainage for water to escape or your plant will drown. Re-pot, or do it the DIY way and add a few holes yourself. Use a drill bit made for ceramics and metals, making one hole in a small pot and up to 3 in larger ones.

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Back Off the Water

Wilting leaves don’t always mean, “I’m thirsty.” Too much water may be the culprit. To find out, check the pot’s weight. Heavy means very wet, and lightweight means dry. Don’t rely on just the finger test. A moisture meter inserted into the soil always gets it right. Be sure to water less frequently moving forward.

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Check the Soil

Saturated potting soil is the kiss of death. If the pot stays very heavy for several days, is sitting in water or has a faint odor, the soil needs to be replaced. Remove the plant from its container and ditch the soggy stuff. Replace it with new, better-draining potting mix to give the roots a fresh start.

These are the secret ingredients that can really help your plants grow.

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No Insects Allowed

Hovering tiny fungus gnats mean it’s time to change the soil. Fuzzy white mealybugs on stems require insecticidal soap spray (use according to directions). Remove black, hard-shelled scale on stems with a dab of rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab.

If you’ve got gnats hovering over the soil, here’s another way to solve the problem.

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The Right Light

Direct sunlight often causes parched, pale or crisp leaves. Conversely, a plant living in a dark corner may become spindly and weak. Bright, indirect light almost always works. How to know the environment is just right? If you can read in the room in the middle of the day, without turning on a lamp, most plants will thrive. If your light isn’t ideal, try a plant from our list of 10 houseplants that you probably won’t be able to kill.

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Ellen Riley
As a free-lance writer and former Southern Living Associate Garden Editor, Ellen Riley has a knack for teaching readers to find joy in the garden (indoors and out) every day. Her approach is based on simplicity, ease, and success. When not in the garden, find her in the kitchen preparing the day's harvest or arranging a few flowers to share. Her latest adventure offers 4 hands-on gardening workshops in the Nashville area.