House Plant Help: Your Four Most Common Problems, Solved

2019 has been the year of the house plant. They’re all the rage, and everyone seems to be on the prowl for the perfect green accent for their home. Some of us have been blessed with a knack for house plants, some of us have learned over time, and some of us just need a little help. If you’re in the last group, fear not. Today we’re tackling some of the most common plant problems.



Problem 1: My plant’s leaves are yellow.

More often than not, yellowed leaves are a sign of a watering issue. Over-watering is the number one killer of plants. Think on that for a second: over-watering. Contrary to popular belief, plants are much happier being underwatered and tend to bounce back quickly when they get a little too dried out. Alternatively, plants that are over-watered are prone to disease, pests, and a condition called root rot. The results of over-watering are also hard to reverse once the damage is done, but the first step is allowing your plant to fully dry out before watering it again.

There are a few steadfast signs that it’s time to water your green friend:

  • The soil feels dry to the touch. Aside from ferns, most plants want to fully dry out between watering.
  • The soil is starting to pull away from the pot. Look closely: you’ll notice a space between the soil and the pot when the plant is in need of a drink.
  • The leaves are starting to go soft or are a bit more limp than normal.

When you water your plants, make sure you’re either watering in a pot with a drainage hole at the bottom, or you’re removing the plant from your cache pot (this is the term for a decorative pot with no drainage hole) and watering it over the sink. There should never be excess water sitting in your pot after watering.

There is no steadfast rule for how often to water a plant. Each home has dramatically different humidity, temperatures, and lighting, which will determine when your plants need care.



Problem 2: My plant has really crunchy leaves.

A couple of things could be the culprit if your plant all of a sudden has dry and crunchy leaves. Under-watering could be at play here, so if your plant has very dry soil, try giving it water (don’t drown it!).

If just the perimeter of the leaf has turned crunchy and you’re using a plant fertilizer, it may be too strong for your plant or you may be fertilizing too frequently. Give it a rest for a month or two, and dilute your fertilizer the next go around.

If your plant is a variety that thrives in humid climates (i.e., ferns), your plant may have too little moisture in the air. A quick fix is filling a bowl with water and setting it next to the plant so extra moisture is introduced into the air. Misting your plant with a spray bottle or using a humidifier are also great options.

If your plant has crunchy dry spots all over the leaves, your plant may be scorching from too much sun. Try pulling your plant back from the window by a foot or two where the sun is less intense, or moving it to a different window all together.

Regardless of the cause, always remove sickly looking leaves from your plant.



Problem 3: My plant isn’t growing at all. 

If your beloved plant seems to be stuck at its current size, a couple of factors may be at play. Plants benefit from being re-potted once a year into a larger container. Over time, a plant can become root bound (roots growing without space to spread out adequately) and as a result, the plant struggles to thrive. Get plastic grow pots from any nursery in the next size up and move your plant up to a bigger pot with fresh soil.

The lack of growth could also be due to a lack of sunlight. Many plants are tolerant of low light (snake plants, for example) but just won’t thrive in low light. If you’re wanting to accelerate growth, try moving it to a spot with a little more light.

Plants also benefit from fertilizing once every month or two during growing season (spring, summer, early fall). House plants tend to go dormant when the weather gets colder, so it’s best to stop fertilizing during this period. We recommend a water-soluble fertilizer than can be mixed into your watering can.



Problem 4: My plant is leaning in one direction. 

If your plant is leaning or growing in one direction, you’re witnessing a phenomenon called stretching. When plants aren’t getting enough sunlight, they’ll crane towards the closest natural light source. If you notice this happening, ideally, you’ll move the plant into a brighter spot.  If this isn’t an option, you can also rotate the plant every few days, which will help it to straighten back out.


  • The latest from Rachel
Rachel Gang is the owner of Helen Olivia Flowers, a boutique flower and home décor shop, located in Del Ray, Alexandria. She developed her love for flowers while working as an event planner in the busy Washington, D.C. events industry. Along with her husband and team of designers at Helen Olivia, Rachel works with brides and corporate clients to create unique and captivating designs. Her work has been featured in Traditional Home Magazine, HGTV, Borrowed and Blue, and Style Me Pretty.

Helen Olivia is a boutique floral design studio located in the Del Ray neighborhood. Known for a lush and timeless style, the shop is a favorite among locals. Outside of beautiful flowers, Helen Olivia is a destination for house plants, decorative pottery, and an endless selection of stylish front door wreaths. The shop is also well known for its weekly floral design workshops — come visit us and try your hand at flower arranging! Helen Olivia is owned by Chuck and Rachel Gang who are veterans of the bustling Washington, D.C., events industry. Both are D.C. natives, and reside in the Ft Hunt neighborhood of Alexandria with their son Jack.

1519 Leslie Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


1 Comment

  1. Avatar Elizabeth Moon says:

    Great post! I have a long, and well known, history of killing plants! This post is very helpful! My biggest issue right now is what plants can I keep in my house that are “cat-friendly?” We just adopted our buddy Alfalfa and he eats anything green.

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