Adding houseplants to your home does come with some work and it is not uncommon for a plant to become wilted despite your best efforts. Luckily, most wilted houseplants can be revived with proper care and some extra attention.
How to quickly rehydrate a wilted houseplant:
- Use a fork to gently break the dry soil apart
- Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and place the pot inside
- Wait for the soil to completely rehydrate
- Remove the pot and allow it to drain
- Place the plant in a shaded location and watch for growth
When the soil of a wilted plant becomes overly dry, using traditional watering methods will not work and soaking is a must. While this sounds like a simple process, it does involve some added steps and knowledge. I will further break down exactly what you should do with your wilted plant and how to prevent this from happening again in the future.
So yes, it is possible to revive a dying houseplant!
Steps to save a wilting plant
A major factor regarding if you can save your wilted plant or not will determine how long the plant has not been cared for. If the plant is just showing signs of wilt or distress, it can likely be saved. However, if it is extremely dry or has been forgotten for some time, check the roots for any signs of life as it could be too far gone.
The best way to save your potted plant that has begun to wilt is to follow these steps:
- If the soil is very dry, begin by using a fork to break it apart. When the soil hardens, it will cause the water to simply pour over it without soaking in. This means any form of watering will not be effective.
- Next, fill up a large tray, bowl, sink, or other basins with lukewarm water. You want the water to cover a large majority of the pot, allowing for water to soak appropriately.
- Leave the plant in the water container until the soil expands again, everything looks moist, and you are no longer seeing many air bubbles float up.
- While soaking, to ensure that as much water as possible is entering the plant, you can poke holes in the surface of the soil. Do not damage the plant or roots, but simply break up the soil additionally. This will allow air to exit the soil and water to fill in these gaps.
- Remove the pot from the water and allow it to drain. You may want to hold it over the sink or other container for a few minutes to allow the water to drip out and then place it on a plant holder or somewhere it can continue to drain.
- After some time has passed, recheck the soil. You should find soil that is still moist to the touch and appears darker in color. If you notice the soil feels dry again, you can repeat this watering process or water the plant traditionally.
- Place the plant in a cooler, shady location that is not in direct sunlight for a few days, weeks, or even a month. Monitor the plant often and look for signs of health and new growth. You may also trim off any overly dead areas and leave only what appears healthy.
- Spray any leaves with water lightly during this waiting phase. Keep the foliage moist to help encourage growth.
- If you do not see any growth or rejuvenation after a few weeks, you may want to check the roots. Shriveled or dead-looking roots may mean that it was too far gone to save.
What are the causes of leaves wilting?
While it may seem simple and many think that wilting leaves on plants immediately equates to low watering, this is not always the case. There are countless reasons why plants can begin to look unhealthy or wilt. A lot of gardening and plant care comes with some trial and error, but some things to look for are:
Underwatering is a common cause
As mentioned, watering your plants regularly should be the first thing you think about when it comes to wilting. If you cannot remember the last time they were watered or know you have forgotten a plant or two, this may be the issue. Underwatering almost always leads to dray soil, dry roots, and wilting plants.
If you know you have not watered your plant, immediately assume this is the cause of plant wilt first.
If you have watered it but may not be doing so as frequently as possible, take a look at the soil and see if it appears dry. If the soil is very dry or hard, you will want to follow our previously mentioned steps.
Check for improper temperature
The temperature that you keep your houseplants in is highly dependent on the type of plant you are growing. Many tropical species can handle much higher temperatures than plants that need a more temperate home. You will want to do your own research into the plants that you are growing to ensure you know their origins and what temperatures they will grow best.
If you have a plant near a heat source and notice wilting occurring, it could be from excessive heat.
Keep plants away from:
- Windows in direct sunlight
- Heating vents
- TV, computer, or other electric devices’ exhausts
The same goes for a plant that is near air conditioning, in a drafty area, or further away from heat sources that are experiencing wilt.
Pest infestations can cause sudden wilting
Many make the mistake of thinking that indoor plants are not susceptible to pests, but this is simply not the case. While having plants indoors can lower the number of pests that will harm the plants quite significantly, some can still make their way in. You always want to check your plant for small bugs that could be causing damage.
It is best to check your plants at the first signs of wilt or even monthly as a precautionary measure. The second you notice unwanted guests, take action. The most common pests are:
- Spider mites
You can find many bug killers or natural options online.
Diseases can induce wilting in houseplants
Wilting can often be caused by diseases, which can impact the health of your plant’s roots. Diseases in plants can be hard to deal with and can range in what is causing the issue. You want to check the plant for any signs of disease and act quickly if you notice these.
Also, you want to separate a plant that is showing signs of disease from any others it is near, as it can spread and cause a larger loss of plant life.
You may want to consult an expert if you have a nursery or other garden center near you, as pinpointing the exact disease is important. Once you know what you are dealing with, look for products that can help cure the plant such as anti-fungal solutions.
How to tell if your plant is overwatered?
One reason for wilting that many do not recognize and may seem strange is actually overwatering. While it may seem like adding more water is always the solution to plant wilt, this is simply not the case. In fact, adding more water than your plant can handle can quickly lead to the death of your plant.
If you overwater your plant, it will begin to show signs of what is called leaf edema, this is a fancy term for a yellowing of the leaves. When you continue to add too much water, these leaves will begin to die. Unfortunately, an excess of water will stop oxygen from entering the roots, causing bacteria to grow near the roots and often root death.
Of course, most plant owners know that unhealthy roots automatically leads to unhealthy plants.
You want to always look for signs of overwatering and check your plant’s soil when wilting appears:
- Soil that is over-moist and always damp to the touch
- Yellowing and wilting on the leaves with no other identifiable cause
- A rotting or pungent smell from the roots and soil
- Mold or other fungi growing in the soil
How to save your overwatered plant
If the leaves of your plant are just beginning to look yellow, you are probably still in luck when it comes to saving your plant. However, if you are seeing an excess of wilting, you may already be too late. The best chances of saving your plant are to follow these tips:
- Stop Watering Immediately! – Of course, this is self-explanatory, but you will want to stop watering your plant. No more water means less chance of completely drowning the plant.
- Check the Drainage – A major factor in overwatering is that your plant is not allowing proper drainage of excess water at the roots. All potted plants should have drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. If you do not have drainage holes, add them with a drill or knife.
- Repot the Plant – This can be tricky but is a great last-ditch effort if your plant seems to be losing the battle against overwatering. You can take the plant out of its current pot and shake off any soil, allowing access to the roots where you can cut away damage. Replant the plant in a pot with proper drainage and fresh, drier soil.
- Move the Plant – You want to move your plant away from any bright lights or windows. Your plant is having trouble absorbing water and the roots cannot support leaf growth caused by light. Instead, keep it in a darker area.
- Give it Time – Once you have done one or a few of these tips, you will want to give your plant a bit of time to see if you notice any changes. If you are not seeing any signs of recovery in a week or so, it may have been too late to save the plant. Do not begin watering or fertilizing the soil again until it is dry, and you see new growth.
Prevention Tips – Keeping Your Plant Healthy
Now that you know more about how to save an overly dry and overly wet plant, it is important that you establish a proper care routine for your houseplants. This is not very difficult and begins with proper monitoring. You need to be checking your plants often for signs of wilting, leaf damage, dry soil, wet soil, pests, and other areas of concern.
Once you have set up a good monitoring routine, keep these three things in mind:
- Do not be afraid to move your plant to new areas. Avoiding areas of extreme temperatures is highly recommended.
- Only water your plant when the top inch of the soil is dry. Use a knuckle or fingertip to test this and add water accordingly. If the soil becomes too moist, stop watering.
- Add fertilizer and extra nutrients as needed to promote positive plant health. Giving your plant regular boosts of nutrients can help it grow stronger and live longer.