How to tell when your plants are too far gone


Is it time to say goodbye? (Picture: Getty)

Admitting that a beloved plant is on its last legs isn’t always easy.

Maybe you’ve cared for this plant since it was a tiny sprout or visited market after market until you found the gem, with its (then) beautiful leaves that were just the right shade of green.

It is sometimes possible to save a wilting shrub – but how can you tell if it’s too late?

Not to worry, we have spoken to the experts to find out why a plant might die, last-ditch efforts to save it and clear-cut signs that it’s time to toss it out.

How to tell if your plant is dying

Watering plants is a fickle business – too much and they could wilt, not enough and they could wilt.

Check the soil and base to find out what’s going on.

‘Plants can be quite sensitive to their surroundings, and they can respond badly to being not only under-watered, but also being over-watered,’ says Chris McIlroy at The Grass People.

‘To diagnose the failing health of your favourite plant, touch the soil to see if its moist.

‘If it’s very wet to the touch, and its leaves are turning yellow or brown, it has probably been overwatered, especially if there is a fungus growing at the base.

‘The fungus will be a big sign that the plant is too far gone to be saved.

‘To solve this issue in the future, use a plant pot with drainage holes and a plate underneath to catch the extra water.’

If it’s not too late, there is a trick you could try to fix the overwatered soil.

‘Remove the plant from the oversaturated soil, remove the bad roots, and re-pot it to try to keep it alive,’ Daniel Nichol at House of Kojo, tells us.

‘If root rot has already set in, I’m sorry, but it is time to lay that plant to rest.

‘You probably don’t need to water your plant every day, just when the top of the soil is dry. 

‘Just put your finger in the soil and if nothing sticks to it, your plant needs some water. 

‘If you want to water your plants often, try misting it instead, keeping an eye on the soil.’

Now to the leaves.

Aside from water, you also need to consider where your plant is placed in the home – and its access to sunlight.

‘For a droopy plant that looks far from happy, it can probably be revived with a top up of water and by placing it in the sun for a couple of hours if it is normally in a shady spot,’ adds Daniel.

‘Direct sunlight is not good for most plants. 

‘Like people, direct sunlight can burn the leaves of a plant unless it is a type specifically adapted to direct sunlight; such as a cactus.

‘Overexposure to sunlight can make the leaves look a bit dull and droopy or turn brown or crispy. 

‘Find a place where your plant can get indirect light. 

‘If you think your plant is getting too much sun or not enough, then simply move it to another location to see how it likes that.’



Most common signs that your plant is dying

  • Leaves turning brown or yellow – most probable cause is overwatering
  • Stunted growth/fewer new leaves or flowers – caused by poor or low light
  • Scorched leaves – caused by too much direct sunlight
  • Blackened/soft roots –indicates root rot usually from overwatering
  • Brown leaf tips – either too much fertiliser or under-watering
  • Wilting plant – usually under or overwatering

Source: Angela Dobson, founder of Green & Wild

You need to look out for insects, too.

Daniel says: ‘If you see little insects you should treat this as soon as possible. 

‘Move the infected plant away from the others and find a treatment that works for you. 

‘Treatment can take weeks, so it depends on how long you want to persevere.  Sometimes for your sanity, it’s best to just get rid of it and start again.’

The time of year will also influence how much care you need to give to your greenery.

And they might not look as thrilling during colder seasons.

Daniel says: Plants need feeding and more attention in the spring and summer months. 

‘Keep in mind that your plants will probably look a bit ropey during the winter, but don’t throw them out.

‘They are just going through their winter phase, don’t we all? 

‘Between October and March, your plants will need less watering and attention, and you should see them flourish again in the spring.’

Do you have a story you’d like to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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