A sure way of letting your ego take a knock is to care for a plant that then goes and dies on you. However, all is not lost. Often a plant that looks quite dead still has a bit of life in it and will almost miraculously start growing again with the right care. Here are 20 hacks that will bring your dead or dying plant back to life.
Published April 22, 2019. Updated March 31, 2021 and June 30, 2022.
Find Out if the Plant is Actually Dead First
Just because a plant’s leaves are dried out and papery doesn’t mean the plant is beyond saving. Check the stems and roots for signs of life. They should be pliable and firm and the stems should be greenish on the inside if you’re going to have any hope of reviving the plant. If the stems and roots are mushy and brittle, the plant is dead and can’t be saved.
Related: How to Save a Dying Houseplant
Trim Back the Dead Parts
Can you bring a dying plant back to life? Of course you can! It’s important, though, to get rid of the dead parts so that the plant can use all its energy for the bits that still have life in them. Start by trimming all the dead leaves first. Then do the same to the dead stems, one third at a time, until you see signs of green. New stems can grow from the trimmed ones.
Leave Bits of Stem Intact
If the stems are completely dead but the plant roots are still alive, don’t trim the dead stems all the way down to the roots. Leave about five centimetres of the stem intact above the soil. When you manage to revive the plant, the new growth will sprout from these stems.
Move a Thirsty Plant to a Humid Spot
If your plant is dried out, watering alone may not be enough to help it recover, especially if you tend to forget about watering it regularly. Move it to a humid spot out of direct sunlight, such as the bathroom. The plant will then absorb moisture through its leaves and spruce up your bathroom at the same time.
Water a Thirsty Plant
Clear signs that your plant is thirsty includes brown leaves that are dry around the edges or curled up. The soil around the roots will be completely dry too. If your plant is dying because you didn’t give it enough water, the solution is obvious: water it! Watch this video and learn more easy plant care tips.
Move a Burned Plant Into the Shade
Many plants don’t prefer too much sunlight. In fact, there are some indoor plants that thrive in low light. If your plant has been getting too much sun, it will have dried-out leaves with dark or bleached patches. So how do you revive a plant that gets too much sun? Trim the foliage, move the plant to a shady spot with high humidity and water it well. If you can’t move the plant, consider installing some kind of shade, such as a canopy.
Diagnose the Problem
There are several reasons why a plant could be dying, so you need to find out what’s wrong with your plant first. Consider all the possibilities: the amount of water you’ve given it, plant nutrition, pests and diseases, whether it’s been getting the right amount of sunlight and so on.
Use Filtered Water on Your Plants
Some plants are sensitive to the chemicals commonly found in tap water in Canada, such as chloride and fluoride. Bamboo, for instance, can die from chlorinated water. Instead of using water straight from the tap to water your plants, use filtered water. Alternatively, install a tank to gather rainwater and use this as an alternative.
Replant an Overwatered Plant
An overwatered plant will look wilted. It may also have dead-looking brown or yellow leaves while the soil around it is moist. If your plant is dying because you’ve given it too much water, the best solution is to replant it in drier soil. Suitable planters can be beautiful backyard ideas so the bit of extra work now may not only save your plant but may also give your garden a bit of a makeover.
Hold Off on the Fertilizer
It may be tempting to give your plant a nutrition boost with some fertilizer but don’t do it just yet. When a plant is struggling, fertilizer may damage those tender roots. Wait until the plant has recovered.
Move The Plant to a Sunny Location
Some plants require lots of light to grow. A plant that hasn’t been receiving enough light will have small, pale leaves and weak stems. Its growth will be stunted too. Sometimes the solution is as simple as opening the drapes and letting the sunlight in. Otherwise, move the plant to a sunny location. And if a specific room doesn’t get much sunlight, check out one of these plants that thrive in low light.
Consider the Less Obvious Solutions for Too Little Light
If your plant hasn’t been getting enough light, there might be solutions that are less obvious. For example, cleaning the windows will allow more light through. You can also add light-coloured gravel around the plant. This will reflect light and ensure that the plant gets enough of it.
Protect Frost-Damaged Plants
If your plant seems to be dying after a cold spell, it’s very likely that it has suffered frost damage. Jasmine plants are especially vulnerable to frost that can kill the vines. How do you revive a dying jasmine plant and protect your outdoor plants from frost? Cover the plant with a frost blanket until the weather is warmer. It will likely grow again in spring.
Feed Your Plant
A lack of nutrients is a common cause for plants dying. Signs of nutrient deficiencies include stunted growth, discoloured and malformed leaves and weak or dying stems. Replant the plant in fresh soil that has plant food added to it.
Get a Bigger Pot
If your potted plant is dying, it might be that it has become too big for the pot. Replant it in a bigger one with well-drained, fertile soil. This will allow the roots enough space to grow.
Use a Water-Soluble Fertilizer
Too much fertilizer, or the wrong fertilizer, can burn the plant’s roots. However, your plant still needs nutrition to grow. Put some water-soluble fertilizer in a watering can and water your plant with this nutrient-rich solution instead.
Use Fertilizer at the Right Time
Because too much fertilizer can do more harm than good, you should only fertilize at the right time. Except for those plants that will flower in winter, most plants use the colder months to rest. Only fertilize them during the time they’re supposed to grow, which is generally from spring to autumn.
Get Rid of Pests
Pests can wreak havoc on your plants and kill them. Shrubs are especially vulnerable because they provide so many places for pests to hide. So how do you revive a dying bush? Check for signs of pests, such as folded or curled-up leaves, abnormal growths, deformed and discoloured leaves, holes in leaves and, of course, bugs that shouldn’t be there. A mild solution of soap in water can get rid of most pests.
Don’t Attract Bad Bugs
You might be doing one of several things that attract bad bugs into your house and yard, from leaving dirty pet food bowls lying around to having an unkempt garden. If your plant seems to be having a pest problem, find out how the pests got there in the first place and do what’s necessary to prevent them coming back.
Get Rid of Diseases
Plants are susceptible to a number of diseases, each with its own causes, symptoms and treatment. If you suspect that your plant has fallen prey to some disease like powdery mildew, root rot of leaf spot, ask a gardening expert to help you identify it and learn how to treat it. It’s also important to isolate the plant from your other plants so that the disease doesn’t spread.
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