My Houseplant Is Dropping Leaves: Why Leaves Are Falling Off Houseplants

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Yikes! My houseplant is dropping leaves! Houseplant leaf drop isn’t always easy to diagnose, as there are a number of possible reasons for this worrisome problem. Read on to learn what to do when leaves are falling off houseplants.

Before you get too upset about a houseplant dropping leaves, keep in mind that houseplant leaf drop may not even be a problem. Even healthy houseplants drop leaves from time to time – especially the lower leaves. However, if leaves falling from houseplants aren’t replaced by healthy ones, consider the following possibilities:

Environmental changes: Many plants are extremely sensitive about changes in their environment, including drastic differences in temperature, light or irrigation. This often happens when a new plant is moved from a greenhouse environment to your home, when outdoor plants are moved indoors for the winter, or after a plant is repotted or divided. Sometimes, a plant may rebel when it’s moved to a different room. Often (but not always), houseplant leaf drop due to environmental changes is temporary and the plant will rebound.

Temperature: Often, excessive heat or cold drafts are to blame for a houseplant dropping leaves. Keep plants away from drafty doors and windows. Be careful of placing plants on windowsills, which may be too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Keep plants away from fireplaces, air conditioners and heat vents.

Pests: Insects aren’t typically the most common reason for leaves falling form houseplants, but it still pays to take a close look at the leaves. Watch for scale insects, mealybugs and tiny spider mites, which are difficult to see with the naked eye. Although some houseplant pests can be removed with a toothpick or cotton swab, most are easily treated with insecticidal soap spray.

Fertility problems: If you notice leaves are turning yellow before they fall, the plant may be lacking certain nutrients. Fertilize regularly during spring and summer using a product formulated for indoor plants.

Water: Don’t jump to the conclusion that dry soil is to blame when leaves are falling off houseplants, as the problem may be due to either over- or under-watering. Although some indoor plants like consistently moist (but never soggy) soil, most plants shouldn’t be watered until the top of the potting mix feels slightly dry. Use lukewarm water, as very cold water may cause houseplant leaf drop, especially during the winter months.

Humidity: Certain plants are prone to leaf drop when the air is very dry. A humidity tray with a layer of wet pebbles is one effective way to rectify low humidity. It may also help to group plants together.

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