How to save a dying plant?

By Shannon McKee     1 May 2019 

Takeaway: As long as there is still a hint of green that is not able to be broken off of your struggling houseplant, you will most likely be able to turn around its fate.


Have you ever returned home only to find one of your houseplants struggling to survive? It was most likely neglected for one reason or another. Maybe you went out of town and your housesitter missed your favourite potted plant in your book nook, or maybe you just lost track of how often you’ve been watering your houseplant with how busy you were over the summer outdoors. No matter the reason, you can save your struggling houseplant by following these steps.


Give Your Dying Plant a New Home

Repotting your plant into a new home full of fresh soil or potting mix can bring it back to life. You’ll want to find a new container that has ample room for the roots to grow. Pick a pot that is considerably wider than the old one. A quick trim of the foliage may seem like a step backwards for the plant, but it can be helpful if there is a lot of damage to the roots. This will give the plant a fighting chance because the root system will not have to support a large amount of foliage.

Is Your Dying Plant Lacking Nutrients

When you add fresh soil to a larger container, make sure you are using a high-quality mix that will provide the essential nutrients the plant needs. Added fertilizer may also be a way to boost the performance of a struggling plant. Be sure to follow the directions on the bag—don’t overdo it as too much fertilizer can kill your plant just as easily as forgetting to water it can. Depending on your plant, you might choose to use a slow-process fertilizer variety instead. This may take some time, so be patient.

Evaluate Your Plant's Environment

Your potted plant may not be thriving for reasons other than the occasional forgetful spell of not watering. The environment may not be right for the type of houseplant. You can tell if the plant’s current spot is too sunny because the leaves will have bleached or dark patches, touching the compost will reveal a dry surface and the foliage may become brittle. Select a shadier spot and trim the dead and badly damaged leaves. Water the soil well, and you may want to increase the surrounding humidity by rigging up a tray with water and gravel for the pot to sit on. If your plant is not getting enough sunlight, you’ll find that the leaves are pale and small. You will want to move the plant to a brighter area and see if doing so has a positive effect on future growth.

Should I give more water to my dying plant?

It could be possible your plant is being harmed not from you under-watering it, but from you overwatering it, especially during its dormant phase. If the soil becomes oversaturated, the roots may start rotting, or the pot may start growing mold or mildew. Your plants should be fed and watered well during the growing season, but less water is needed when the plant is dormant, which typically happens in the winter. Learn about your particular plant to give it the best care.

Keep Pests Away from Houseplants

Your houseplants are the perfect place for insect invaders to hang out. Pests like aphids, fruit flies, spider mites and fungus gnats love the environment your plant provides. This is bad for both your home and your plants. Stop these invading freeloaders by wiping down the leaves on your plants with a damp cloth or mild soap solution from time to time. This removes the pests along with any dust. Dusting your plants removes the organic compounds pests love to snack on.

Don’t get discouraged if it seems like your efforts are going to waste. It may take a few weeks to see some improvement in your neglected plant. After completing these steps, give it some time to let your efforts bear some fruit. Eventually, you’ll be amazed when your plants are restored to vigorous health because of your well-thought-out actions.