10 Common Indoor Plant Problems and How to Fix Them

Under the right conditions, keeping your houseplants happy and thriving can be easy-peasy. However, that's not always the case. Sometimes you may encounter yellowing leaves, diseased plants, rotting roots, plant pest and more. But don't fret, even the most experienced houseplant keepers will experience numerous amounts of plant problems. Here's how to identify and fix common indoor plant problems.

Common houseplant pests

Something you may not have considered when getting into houseplants is plant pests. Little tiny critters that thrive on your plant's demise. Have you noticed a sudden onset of yellowing leaves or dropped leaves, specifically on the top of the houseplant and not just from old growth? Do you see any webbing on the plant foliage? Curling leaves? Tiny bugs on the undersides of the leaves or even flying around the soil of the plant? These are huge red flags that your houseplants might be infected with some sort of pest.


Thrips are thin bodied, winged insects that can look gray, brown or black on your plants. In their adult stage, they can fly around from houseplant to houseplant. Thrips are usually found on the under sides of the leaves and will leave a small stippling pattern on the foliage. In a few short weeks of a thrips outbreak, you may see a mass amount of dropped or yellowing leaves on your indoor plants.

Thrips on the underside of a leaf
Thrips on the underside of a Philodendron leaf


Aphids are pretty easy to see with the naked eye. They usually live on the top of the plant or on the underside of your leaves. Over time, you'll start to see feeding damage on the foliage and notice severely stunted plant growth or even new growth growing in a weird way.

Spider mites

Spider mites are almost impossible to see with the naked eye unless you have really good lighting and a magnifying glass. However, their presence is very noticeable. You'll instantly start seeing webbing in the area where the leaf meets the plant stem. You may also see webbing on the underside of the leaves. Spider mites also cause your plant leaves to yellow and leave behind a yellow stippling pattern.

Spider mites on a leafy plant and spider mite damage

Spider mites on a leafy plant and spider mite damage

Fungus gnats

Fungus gnats aren't the worst plant pest to have, because they don't cause significant damage to your indoor plants unless they've survived long term. Gnats are flying insects, smaller than fruit flies, and will often be found around the soil of your plant. The larvae will be found either crawling on the soil or just a few inches underneath, around the plant roots.

For more tips on plant pests and how to treat for each of them, click here.

Dropping Leaves

When a houseplant starts dropping leaves, this can happen for a number of different reasons. To help determine what's wrong with your plant, ask yourself some questions.

Bamboo plant with yellowing leave due to neglect
Bamboo plant with yellowing leave due to neglect

Have you missed a few waterings with the plant?

This will definitely be an issue for a lot of tropical plants that thrive off a consistent watering schedule. If you let certain plants get too dry, too many times, the houseplant will start conserving energy by dropping it's lower leaves and only concentrating on newer growth.

Are there any visible signs of pests?

A sudden onset of dropped leaves, specifically newer or top leaves, is often the first sign of plant pest.

Is there a change in season and lighting?

Even though our indoor plants are indoors, they still have similar patterns to the outdoor plants and still react to seasonal changes. In the winter, when houseplants receive less sunlight, you'll notice a lot of the lower leaves start to drop to help the plant put more energy into new growth. The same goes for changes in location. If you move a houseplant further away from a light source, it'll start dropping lower leaves and slowly start to acclimate to it's new environment.

Office plants under a grow light
Office plants under a grow light

Pale or burnt-looking leaves

Pale leaves are often times cause from too much direct sunlight. This is especially true for the more leafy tropical houseplants. The pale leaves don't always fall off, instead they'll slowly fade to a pale green color and still remain on the plant. Move the plant a few feet away from the window or grow light. And if that's not an option, you could always add a shear curtain to your window treatment.

Burnt looking leaves could also be a sign of too much light. However, it could also be from over fertilizing your plant or maybe too many minerals in your water. Some plants, like Calatheas, are sensitive to hard water. You may notice the edges of the leaves start burning, turning cripsy and even curling in a bit. The best solution for this is to use distilled water. And, for over fertilizing, make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle. You could also dilute the fertilizer with extra water to be safe, especially if it's the first time the plant has been fertilized.

Distorted or Misshapen Growth

Plant's leaves grow in distorted shapes for a couple of reason.

Plant pest

There are a number of common houseplant pest that can destroy an entire plant. Distorted leaves, new growth falling off, stunted growth, or even a sudden onset of bottom leaves yellowing and falling off are the first signs of a pest infestation. Closely take a look at the affected plant and try to properly identify it before they spread.

Low humidity

Low humidity is also a huge factor in distorted plant growth, especially with tropical houseplants. You may also notice your plant leaves getting stuck or not fully unfurling. To help this, you can spray new growth growing in and find ways to increase the humidity around your houseplant area.

Why Is My Houseplant Stretching?

Etiolation is when a plant starts to stretch out, or will start to look sparse and grow more stem than leaves. This happens when a plant is looking for sunlight and will start to stretch in the direction it's receiving light from. To help this problem, introduce more light to the houseplant either with a grow light or by placing it closer to a bright window. The stretched out part won't grow more leaves, only the top part will. If the look bothers you too much, you could always chop and propagate!

Want to learn more about propagating house plants? Click here.

Spots on leaves - House Plant Diseases

Spots on leaves could vary from yellow to brown, but this is often a sign of some sort of plant disease. Plant disease can be cause for all sorts of different reasons; poor air circulation, too much moisture in the air, etc. The most effective way to fix this problem is to cut the affected foliage off and spray the entire plant with a fungicide mixture. Remember to keep the affected plant in an isolated area so no fungal diseases can be spread to other plants.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is another type of plant disease and is caused from too much moisture and poor air circulation. Powdery mildew is a gray mildew growing on the foliage and stem of plant that can quickly and easily spread to other plants. It's important to quickly isolate the affected houseplant, cut off any infected leaves and spray down with a sulfur fungicide. However, this may not always help and if the houseplant was treated too late, it may be best to toss the plant. To prevent this from happening again, increase air circulation to your houseplant area and make sure there isn't an excessive amount of water or moisture sitting on plant leaves.

Wilted Leaves - Soil staying wet for too long

When a houseplant doesn't have proper drainage and is dense, the houseplant won't be able to absorb water properly which can lead to leaf drop and even root rot. To help your plant thrive long term and prevent root rot, you need to amend your soil by adding something like perlite, orchid bark or horticultural charcoal. And always make sure to use a planter that has drainage holes.


Overwatering happens when you don't give your houseplant enough time to dry out in between waterings. Even a houseplant that loves to be watered frequently, needs some time for the soil to dry out a bit. This gives the plant roots time to absorb the water that's already in the soil and ensures it's not staying constantly wet. Houseplant roots that stay consistently wet will almost always succumb to root rot.

Root Rot Solution

Noticeable signs of root rot in a plant is wilted leaves, even after a proper watering. Or, the leaves will still show signs of being thirsty days after being watered. To fix root rot, you need to unpot the plant and cut away any mushy or dead root. To be extra safe, you can spray the infected roots with a mixture of 50% water and 50% hydrogen peroxide. Once the roots had a chance to dry off, pot the plant up in fresh soil with extra amendments. Make sure the plant has more time to dry out before the next watering and is receiving enough light to help recover.

If there are not many healthy roots left, you may need to create a humidity dome for you plant to help it recover and grow new roots quickly. However, if you think a plant is too far gone, you could cut and propagate the healthy part of the plant.