Why Your Houseplants Look Leggy (and How to Fix This Common Problem)

Have you noticed a plant that all of a sudden starts stretching out more, leaning more towards one side, and is dropping its lower leaves? That's because the plant has leggy growth, a common problem with many houseplants. And the main reason for this is the plant isn't receiving sufficient light.

Let's talk more about leggy houseplants and how to fix it.

A close up photo of succulents

A close up photo of succulents
Photo by Ev on Unsplash

Why Do Plants Get Leggy Growth?

With leggy plant growth, you'll start to notice more stem and just a few leaves. The plant might start to even look a little awkward, be it bending or leaning to one side, or even losing lower leaves as it continues to put out new growth. If you're dealing with cacti, you'll notice the new growth growing in skinner than before.

This is all because the plant is receiving insufficient light. Also known as phototropism, which is when a plant grows towards the direction of light in order to receive brighter light so it can have healthy growth. When plants aren't receiving enough light, not only will they have leggy growth, they'll also start to drop bottom leaves.

Sunlight helps plants with photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is when plants convert light energy into chemical energy, which fuels the plant with enough energy to do their day to day activities, like producing new growth, producing flowers and so on.

A group of plants by a bright sunny window
Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

Therefore, less light equals leggy growth and, often times, sparse leaves.

Another reason a plant will have leggy growth, is from seasonal changes. In the winter time, when there's naturally less sunlight, plants will have more leggy growth.

How to Fix Leggy Plants

Luckily, fixing a leggy plant is one of the easier plant problems to run into. With a few simple steps, you can get your leggy plants growing lush new growth in no time.

Increase Amount of Light

The first thing you'll need to do is increase the amount of light for your leggy houseplants. This can be by moving the plant closer to a window or introducing grow lights if needed. When the leggy houseplant is under ideal growing conditions, it'll start holding onto the lower leaves while pushing out new healthy growth.

Different succulents lined up on a windowsill
Photo by Katka Pavlickova on Unsplash

Pruning leggy houseplants

Now that the light problem is solved, you're left with a really leggy houseplant. The solution? Cut and propagate! Cutting the plant will give you a free, new plant and it'll encourage the leggy plant to put out new growth. Once the cutting is full rooted, you can plant the cutting back with the original houseplant to make it look nice and full.

To take a proper cutting, use clean pruning shears and cut a few inches below a node. If the node has leaves attached, simply pull them off to expose the node. You can now take the cutting and place it in water or soil for a few weeks to give it time to establish it's own root system.

Plant supplies propped on a wall

Plant supplies propped on a wall
Photo by David Rangel on Unsplash

If you choose to soil propagate, make sure you provide the cutting with enough humidity to give it the best chance of survival. And always provide your new propagations with enough bright light. Proper light is especially crucial to a fresh cutting.

Click here to read learn more about propagation.

Two leaf cuttings in a vase with water
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash