Dead plant

Read about some of the remedies to prevent your beloved houseplants from dying.

Why do plants die? Every time a plant dies in my garden, a little part of me dies with it. In the beginning I never really understood why exactly a plant died – I felt miserable for a few days after that and kept going over what could probably be the cause. Over time, my PMR or Plant Mortality Rate, as I like to call it, has reduced by quite a margin as I learnt more about gardening and the quirks associated with it.

Why do plants die

Analyzing why do plants die is quite similar to trying to understand why a baby is crying. When a baby cries, a mother mentally ticks off against a checklist – Is she hungry? Is it time to sleep? Diaper’s full? Tummy ache? Something/someone is bothering her? etc. Similarly, when a plant looks like it’s dying, there’s a quick checklist you could go over. We have also given some remedies by which you can save your plant from sure death.

Why do Plants die?

  • Poor Soil: 

Have you potted your plant correctly? If it is in the ground, is the soil healthy? The health of your soil is very important – the soil needs to be fertile, free of harmful worms like grub worms, which destroy the roots of a plant and are a common cause for yellow patches on your lawns.

The soil also needs to be loosened as tight, compact soil prevents the roots from breathing oxygen. If the pot is too small for the plant and the roots are getting constricted, it is time to repot the plant into a larger planter.

Why do plants die?
Dead Houseplant due to Poor soil

Your soil has to be of the right pH level for your plants to thrive well. It should not be too acidic or too alkaline. A pH range of approximately 6 to 7 promotes the most ready availability of plant nutrients.

Read more about “Soil pH and Plant growth”.

  • Too Much/ Too Less Water:

If your plant has brown spots or the leaves are soggy and rotten, then you are giving too much water to your plants. Different plants require different amounts of water. Some plants need to be watered everyday while some should be watered only once a week. The best thing to do is to search online about the care to be taken for the particular plant and act accordingly.

  • Poor Drainage:

A common reason for plants dying is bad drainage. The soil or the potting mixture should be porous enough to allow for good drainage of water. Does your pot have a hole at the bottom? If yes, has it been blocked? Test this by pouring water into the pot – the water should be completely absorbed by the soil and it should flow out through the hole.

Why do plants die?
Unhealthy houseplant due to poor soil drainage.

If it is not flowing out, then a good idea would be to re-plant the pot. This time place some stones at the bottom to ensure good drainage of water. Also, add coco peat or a similar organic mulching mixture to the soil, to improve its porosity to allow better drainage.

Read more about “Waterlogged Garden solutions”.

  • Not enough sun light/ Too much sunlight: 

Different plants need different amount of sunlight. Indoor plants need little sunlight whereas plants like roses require full sunlight. If the leaves are becoming dry and brittle, this means that there is too much sunlight for the plant. Try keeping it in semi-shade for a few days. Yellowing of leaves occurs when the plant is receiving lesser sunlight. Shift the plant to a place which receives ample sunlight.

Why do plants die?
Unhealthy plant due to poor sunlight.
  • Pest/Disease:

Root Rot Fungus or other diseases and pests can cause plants to die suddenly out of nowhere. Regularly checking the growth of your plant and spraying it with organic pesticides like Neem Oil can help in preventing such incidents.

Read about various kinds of Organic pesticides for your plants by clicking here.

Also browse through the vast collection of Organic pesticides offered by GreenMyLife shop.

  • Too much/too little Fertilizer:

Overdosing your plant with too much fertilizers/compost is a very common cause of death, especially for new plants. Younger plants only need a smaller portions of  fertiliser. Always remember to mix the fertiliser properly with soil, otherwise pure concentrated fertiliser may choke and kill the plant.

Why do plants die?
Over fertilised plant

Once your plant has grown up a little, you would have to regularly nourish it with compost- at least once every 2-3 months.  Not enough nutrition can cause the plant to wilt and die out.

Read about various kinds of Organic fertilisers for healthy plants.

Also browse through the vast collection of Organic Fertilisers offered by GreenMyLife shop.

  • Is your dog peeing on it? 

Dog urine is rich in urea, an organic nitrogen compound, as well as alkaline salts. In large amounts, the nitrogen in urine dries out plants and leads to leaf burn, and also causes disease and infections in plants. Dog-urine salts can also alter the pH of your plant’s soil, making it even more alkaline and damaging the plant’s roots.

I lost a whole row of healthy Cauliflower plants to my dog’s nature calls – on second thoughts, even if the plants hadn’t died, I couldn’t have eaten the Cauliflowers with “Clyde” peeing on them. So keep your dog away from your plants.

Why do plants die?
Keep pets away from your plants

After your dog urinates on any plants in your yard, douse the area with water from your garden hose. A thorough rinsing of the area within eight hours of urination dilutes the urine enough to prevent damage to your plant. You can also discourage your dog from peeing on the plants by spraying a mixture of Eucalyptus Oil and water. This remedy along with regular outdoor walks for my dog has worked for me.

  • Natural Course: 

It is the natural course of some of the plants to die after a certain age or after they have given fruits/flowers etc. For example, the Plantain/Banana tree dies after giving birth to a bunch of bananas and a few young saplings. This is perfectly normal so save your tears!

Why do plants die?
Sunflower having lived its natural course.

With the causes and preventative steps in place for plant mortality, we hope that you never have to bid a plant friend adieu…!

Happy Gardening!

Written by Gitanjali Rajamani for GreenMyLife.'
June 13, 2014

Thanks Gita… very informative.'
November 12, 2014

Very well written.

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