First aid for indoor plants

green potted plant next to an artwork and a white wall

Jenna Meade

Posted February 16, 2021

Indoor plants looking a little sad and droopy? Here’s how to save them.

Whether it’s sporting yellowing leaves, has stopped growing or has developed a worrying lean to the side, chances are your plant is trying to tell you something. Honing in on your lush housemate can help you acknowledge its requests for resources - which extend far beyond watering.

From choosing the ideal sunny site to fertilising with finesse, here’s the first-aid kit you’ll need to get your best fronds back to their thriving selves.

(More: Five of the hardiest indoor plants.)

Six common indoor plant problems and how to fix them 


Yellowing leaves

The natural ageing process will inevitably turn a few of your older leaves yellow. But if your younger leaves are flaunting an ombre look, your plant is crying out for care. 

The most common cause is overwatering. You’ve got a lot of love to give, but best to back off on the helicopter plant-parenting, read the specific care instructions and make sure you’re only giving them a drink when they need it. 

Other signs you’re overwatering include brown patches and crusty, dying leaf tips.

Side stretching

Just like us humans, some plants can get sad and unsettled without a good dose of vitamin D.

If your plant is reaching to the side, or getting a little leggy or lean, you’ll want to relocate it to a sunny space with plenty of rays. Aim for a window spot in front of a lightweight curtain so the leaves don’t burn from direct sunlight. 


hand with teal spray bottle next to plant

There can be too much of a good thing - don't over-water your plants.


Dropping leaves

Moving a plant can spark an emotional - then physical - reaction. A stressed plant may drop its leaves temporarily, but will usually calm down once it settles into its new space. 

If you haven’t moved the plant, a more common explanation could be overwatering or cold air. Try to position it somewhere with air flow at a consistent temperature.

(More: These are the best plants to purify the air in your home.)

Brown edges

Recently fertilised your potted pal? Brown tips or edges could be an indication you’ve used too much. 

Alternatively, your environment may be too dry. Most indoor plants hail from humid rainforests. Even if they’ve got adequate moisture in their pot, they still need some specific leaf love. 

Spray leaves occasionally and be sure to wipe them down to remove dust. Remember: if your plants are dusty, they’re suffocating. Gasp.

Repelling water

Finding your potting mix difficult to wet? You might notice water pooling on the soil’s surface or running down the inside of your pot.

Restore your plant’s thirst by giving it a thorough soak. Immerse your pot in a bucket of water for 15 minutes to completely saturate both the roots and the soil.

Stunted growth

We all need the right nutrients to grow to our full potential, and plants are no exception. 

If your plant has stopped growing, it may need some extra help - and a nurturing dose of nutrients including magnesium, potassium and nitrogen. 

Fertilisers will bring a boost of benefits, but dietary needs do differ. Be sure to ask in-store or check packaging to ensure you’re fuelling your species with the right food.