How to diagnose and save a dead or dying plant


To be as transparent as possible, in this article I have included links to the Amazon store for products that will help save a dead or dying plant. As an Amazon affiliate partner we receive a small commission when an item is purchased via a link on this website.

Plants can do so much more than just add colour and fragrance to your garden. Caring for and watching your plants grow is the most amazing experience for any garden enthusiast so the last thing you are going to want to see is a dying plant! If you are faced with a dead or dying plant you may be wondering if and how you can bring your loved plant back to life. The good news is that there may still be hope depending on some factors. Always remember that a plant’s appearance can be deceiving, often a plant that looks dead may not be actually be the case. Luckily, there are a few gardening tricks or hacks that can help you to revive your dead or dying plant.

The first thing you should do is look for any signs of life in your thought to be dead or dying plant

It might appear like your plant is dead, but if you take a closer look, this may not be the case. If there is so much as single green part of the foliage left, there is still a chance to bring it back to life, since it’s these leaves that will absorb the sun light needed to grow.

It’s also best to check the roots carefully as they will provide a lot of information about the overall health of the plant. Even if the plant looks dead, if you have healthy roots that appear white or tan in colour then they are still able to obtain water and nutrients from the soil and in turn, bringing your plant back to life.

If your plant appears dry and brittle with no green foliage left then unfortunately there is a good chance that your plant is dead. If this is the case then try to find out why your plant died in the first place to avoid it happening again.

Have you been under watering or over watering your plant? Does it receive enough sun light? Have you researched your plant in particular to determine the right amount of water and sunlight needed? Not only this but there are 3 categories of plants which include annual, perennial and biennial. Annual plants typically have a life span of 1 year, germinating, blooming, setting seed and dieing all within 12 months. Biennial plants typically have a life span of 2 years which means that they germinate and grow in the first year and bloom and set seed in the second year before dieing. Any plant that lasts longer will be classed as a perennial plant.

Remove any dead leaves from your plants

Dying plants will likely have dead leaves so the first thing you must do to have any chance of reviving them is to get rid of the dead foliage. If the leaves are completely brown or dead, they are not going to come back or grow again. Removing the dead leaves will allow the plants to utilize their energy to produce new and healthy leaves and stop wasting energy on ones that won’t come back. Think of if this way – If you had 10 dead leaves on a plant with the addition of 5 healthy leaves, your plant needs to share its energy and nutrients across 15 leaves whilst only 5 are keeping the plant alive. If you removed the 10 dead leaves then your plant can focus all of its energy on those leaves, giving it more energy to produce new leaves and therefore giving it a better chance of surviving.

Depending on how dead your leaves are, moving the leaves can be as simple as breaking them off by hand. You can also use shears, secateurs or scissors to cut the leaves but be careful to avoid any damage to the healthy parts of the plant. Firstly, remove all the dead leaves and then move to the dead stems. Remove the dead part of the stem until you see the signs of green tissues. This may seem a bit extreme but the stem will grow again from the trimmed tissues but don’t cut the plant’s stem right down to the roots – Only cut as low as you need to. If the entire stem has no green left, then it is likely that your plant is past saving.

Are you over watering or under watering your plants?

Plants need a certain amount of water to carry out their metabolic activities and ultimately sustain their life. Giving too little or too much water can have adverse effects and actually harm your plants. Overwatering can cause rotting and disintegration of the roots which will turn your bright green leaves to wilted yellow or brown leaves. If your plant is dying due to overwatering cut then you will need to short the water supply immediately and move the plant under sunlight to help dry the roots. Let the soil dry out completely before applying the next water.

If you regularly forget to water your plants or have forgotten to water them for a long time then they will ultimately dry out and shed all of their leaves. After a certain point of time the plants will die due to shortage of water and will not be able to recover, especially if all of the leaves have lost their colour. Always follow a regular watering schedule to keep your plants healthy.

Does your plant need more humidity?

Dry air, also known as low humidity can accelerate the loss of water from plants through evapotranspiration. Do not keep your plants near heaters, radiators, vents or air conditioners as they will lose water quickly and may become dry. If necessary then try using a humidifier to add water to the air, giving a higher humidity. It will reduce the loss of water and prevent your plants from drying out or losing water.

If your plants are dying then are they getting enough sun light?

Light is a critical factor to maintain the health of plants. Plants utilize sunlight to prepare their food through photosynthesis with every plant having different light requirements. You should research your particular plant and be familiar its needs and whether or not your plant likes to grow under full sun, partial sun, or indirect sunlight.

Indoor plants can be kept near a sunny window where they can receive plenty of sunlight. If the plants are kept under heavy shade, they will appear leggy or stretched, also known as etiolation which is when they try to reach for sunlight. Trim back the leggy or stretched out plants and keep them at a place where they receive plenty of sunlight.

Depending on your plant, exposure to direct sunlight can also cause burning of the leaves. If your plant has been burnt due to too much sunlight exposure and has dry leaves or dark patches then you may still be able to bring it back to full health. Cut back the dead leaves and place your plant at a shady location. If you cannot move your plant to a shady location, you can install a shade or canopy around the plant to give it the shade it needs and stop your plant from dying.

If your dying plants are kept outside then could frost be killing them?

Some plants are extremely vulnerable to freezing cold temperatures. A short spell of icy temperatures and frost is enough to kill some types of plants. If your plant has started drying out after a cold spell it has likely suffered frost damage. To revive your dying plants from frost damage cover them with frost blankets, they will start growing again in the spring season.

Lack of nutrients can also kill your loved plants

If your plants do not get the nutrients they need then ultimately they will starve and die. Lack of nutrients is a very common cause of plant death but the good news is that there are several signs of nutrient deficiency which could help you spot them early. These include stunted growth, leaf discoloration, malformation and weakening of the plant. This is most common in potted plants as eventually the roots take all of the nutrients from the soil. To revive your dying plants it is recommended to replace the old potting soil with fresh and fertile soil. A fresh potting medium will supply plenty of nutrients to boost the healthy growth of your dying plants and bringing them back to health.

Be sure to use fertilizers when your plant is healthy but avoid using them if your trying to bring your plant back to life

Using fertilizers is a great way at keeping your plants healthy but using them at inappropriate times and in an incorrect quantity can harm your plants and cause them to die. Always read the instructions on the fertilizer label before applying. It is recommended to fertilize your plants during spring to fall when they are in their active growth period but avoid fertilizing your plants during winter when they lay dormant as well as using too much as you may very well damage the roots.

Fertilization is a good way to provide supplemental nutrients and boost plant growth. When a plant is struggling for life, the fertilizers may damage its tender root system. Hold off and do not apply fertilizer until the plant has recovered.

Have your plants outgrown their pot?

One of the possible reasons behind a dying plant might be that a plant has become too big for their pot or container. Repotting your plant in a bigger container may be the only solution to healing your dieing plant. As a rule of thumb choose a container that is 2 inches larger than the previous container. Repotting will provide a bigger space for the roots to grow and spread. If you suspect that your plant is dying because it has become rootbound transfer it immediately to a bigger pot containing fresh soil medium.

Inspect your dying plant for any insects

Insects like aphids, mealybugs, mites, thrips, scales, and other bugs can attack plants. Insects feed on your plants by chewing the leaves, stem and can even attach the root system. Keep monitoring your plants regularly to get rid of any visible bugs. It is recommended to wash your plants with warm water and then wipe down to remove all types of creepy bugs if you are struggling to remove them.

When the infestation is severe, you can use a recommended insecticidal spray. Make sure to reach all the crevices and undersides of the leaves. It is advised to keep your plants neat and tidy to avoid the risk of insect pest infestation.

Check for any plant diseases that may be killing your plant

It’s not uncommon for plants to be attacked by fungal or bacterial diseases. Some pathogens are so detrimental that if they are left unchecked, they can cause the death of the plant in no time. It is important to keep a close look at your plant and treat them as soon as the infection appears. You can use a recommended nontoxic fungicide or pesticide to get rid of any diseases. I’ll be writing an article soon explaining these plant diseases in more detail so I will update this article when I do so!

My thoughts on saving a dead or dying plant

If your plant appears dead then don’t panick just yet! Just one green leaf could be enough to bring your plant back to life with enough love and care. Just check for any life within the leaves, stem or roots before giving up on your loved plant.

Whether you decide to revive or replace your plant, either way it’s best to find the root of the problem to avoid it happening again. If I’ve missed anything or you have any questions then please do comment below for a response the same day!

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