Drooping Houseplants: Why it happens and how to fix it

drooping houseplants

This article lists common causes of droopy leaves on houseplants and their solutions.

Like wilting leaves, droopy leaves that hang limply from the stem indicate tha the plant is in distress. Unlike a wilting plant however, a drooping plant is not necessarily dry or browning. While wilting is often caused by excessive heat and under-watering, these not the only factors that can contribute to droopiness.  In addition, a plant with drooping leaves may look otherwise healthy. 

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A healthy plant will have turgid leaves held upright by the wonders of water tension. Limp leaves can be caused by a range of things. With some trial and error, it may be possible to pinpoint which of the following is making your plant droop. 

Dusty leaves

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Plants with broad, waxy leaves tend to attract household dust to their surfaces. Dust on your plant doesn’t just pose an aesthetic issue. It can interfere with the physiological processes that keep your plant healthy.

Dust prevents light photons from hitting the surface of the leaf, decreasing photosynthesis.

When dust accumulates on the leaves, the plant is prevented from regulating its moisture content. Depending on the species, dust may either prevent or increase transpiration, a process by which plants release excess water through their leaves.

Increased transpiration can cause droopy leaves because without moisture loss is the primary way that water gets drawn up through the plant from its roots. This is because of the mechanics of water transport in a healthy plant. When one cell is depleted of moisture, it draws the deficit from the neighboring cell and so on, right from the roots through the xylem to the leaves. Water loss through transpiration is therefore critical to maintaining water transport through the whole plant.

Make sure to wipe the upper and lower surface of leaves regularly with a wet sponge or similar.

Incorrect sunlight

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Droopy leaves may be caused by the plant not receiving enough sunlight to photosynthesize.

This is particularly common in plants variegated with pale patches. The pale sections of the leaves do not contain chlorophyll and cannot photosynthesize. As a result, the plant requires a much brighter situation than their non-variegated cousins.

On the other hand, if your drooping plant is shade-loving species, it is likely receiving too much light. Move them to another location or further away from the window.

Incorrect watering

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Drooping leaves can be caused both by under and over-watering. Check the watering requirements for your plant to determine which is more likely to be the case.

With moisture-loving species like the fern, droopy leaves may indicate you are not providing enough water or humidity. Water little and often, ensuring the soil never dries out completely.

Drooping may result from over-watering. Too much water in the soil eliminates any air pockets from which the root can draw oxygen. Once this happens, the roots stop being able to absorb any moisture and nutrients. You may need to change the soil to a better draining mix by adding coir or gravel.

If you suspect over-watering as the cause of drooping, inspect the root for root rot. Signs of root rot are mushy roots and a foul odor. By comparison, healthy roots will be firm and white.

Root rot can be treated with horticultural hydrogen peroxide. This gives the roots concentrated amounts of oxygen. First, remove the plant from the pot, remove soil from the roots completely, and cut off any roots that are completely damaged. Then, make a solution of 1-quart water (at 66 degrees Fahrenheit) to 1 oz. hydrogen peroxide. Soak the roots in this solution for an hour.

Alternatively, you can add 2 ½ teaspoons of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water and only use this solution to water the plant until it revives.

Low humidity

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Droopy leaves may indicate that your plant is craving air humidity. This applies especially to species from tropical rainforests, such as Anthurium, Alocasia, and Fittonia.

When there is not enough moisture in the air around humid-loving plants, the plant will lose much more water through its leaves via transpiration. The roots will not be able to supply enough moisture to replace it, resulting in sad, limp leaves.

If humidity is the problem, you should place the plant on a tray full of gravel that is half-filled with water. You should also mist the leaves at least once a day. To boost humidity further, you can get a humidifier to run near the plant.

You may want to consider growing your tropical species in a closed terrarium. This is a glass structure that sets up a humid microclimate around your plants and is ideal for tropical species. Learn how to set up a terrarium habitat here.

 

 

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