Identifying common house plants

Houseplant Troubleshooting: Pinpointing Pests, Disease Or Environmental Issues Indoors

Houseplants are nice to have around and they are a pleasure to grow when things go as they should. However, when your plant is looking puny instead of perky, it can be difficult to pinpoint the reason.

What’s Wrong with My Plant?

Good question! There are many possible reasons why your plant is looking sick, but you can usually narrow it down to common houseplant problems with water, light, pests or disease. Learning basic houseplant troubleshooting may help you determine if your plant can be saved, or if all hope is lost.

Environmental Problems

  • Light – Environmental issues indoors often include problems with light. For example, a plant that looks long and spindly may be stretching to reach available light. A flowering plant that refuses to bloom may also be lacking adequate light. If this is the case, moving the plant to a brighter spot may solve the problem. On the other hand, if your plant is brownish with scorched-looking tips or edges, the light may be too intense. Move the plant to a less intensely lit location and prune out the brown areas.
  • Temperature – Temperature is also a factor. Remember that most indoor plants are actually tropical plants adapted to the home environment. Room temperature may be too low or the air may be too dry. Raising humidity indoors can help alleviate most issues with dry air.
  • Water – How much and how often you water your houseplants can have a major effect on their overall health. Overwatering is one of the most common reasons houseplants fail, as it literally drowns the roots. For most plants, you should allow the soil to dry out some between watering intervals. On the flip side, under watering your plant can be a factor too. When plants do not get enough water, they will begin to wither and dry up. In this case, hydrating your potted plant will normally help.

Common Houseplant Diseases

As previously mentioned, improper watering is the most common reason that houseplants fail to thrive. A little neglect isn’t always a bad thing, and well-meaning plant owners may actually kill their plants with kindness.

One frequent result of too much water is root rot, a disease that causes the roots or stem to turn soggy and black or brown. Usually, rot is deadly and you may as well discard the plant and start with a new one. However, if you catch the problem early enough, you may be able to save the plant by trimming the leaves and moving the plant to a new pot.

Other diseases caused by too much water include:

  • Anthracnose, a fungal disease that causes leaf tips to turn yellow and brown.
  • Various fungal and bacterial diseases, often indicated by black dots or water-soaked areas.
  • Moisture-related diseases, including powdery mildew, are often an indication of poor air circulation around the plant.

Pests That Affect Indoor Plants

Some pests, such as spider mites, are so tiny that they’re difficult to spot, yet they can cause big trouble for your plants. If you can’t see the pests, you may be able to identify them by the fine webbing or tiny specks they leave on the leaves.

Other pests that plague indoor pests include:

  • Mealybugs, which are usually easy to spot by the small, cottony masses on joints or undersides of leaves.
  • Scale, tiny bugs covered by a hard, waxy shell.

Although they are less common, your plant may be infested with fungus gnats, whiteflies or aphids.

What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?)

“This attractive, comprehensive, authoritative and easy-to-use guide, allowing gardeners to diagnose and organically treat a wide range of plant problems, is a worthy purchase.” —Library Journal
“This is one of the best books I’ve seen for guiding the gardener through the maze of maladies that can visit garden plants. . . . This book is a valuable tool and long overdue.” —The Washington Post
“Bases its tutelage on progressive drawings that will help puzzled gardeners diagnose the troubles. Another plus: Suggested remedies are organic.” —Chicago Tribune
“A handy reference book for figuring out how to help your plants stay healthy.” —Garden Gate
“Almost as good as having your own consulting plant doc at hand.” —Plant Talk
“An essential book for anyone who gardens.” —Garden Design Online
“An answered prayer for all gardeners.” —Real Dirt
“It’s like having a Master Gardener at your beck and call, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, any season of the year.” —
“A great resource for gardeners at any skill level.” —San Jose Mercury News
“The idea behind What’s Wrong With My Plant? is so obvious that I almost gave myself a head slap for not thinking of it first. . . . A phenomenal resource for the serious gardener as well as for hobby gardeners who just want to know why some flowers wilt and die.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“It was with great joy and relief that I opened an envelope. . . with What’s Wrong With My Plant? My excitement heightened when I saw that authors David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth had approached the subject organically.” —Oregon Live
“A combination of drawings, photos and easy to understand advice on organic methods for diagnosing and treating a whole host of plant issues.” —Stonington-Mystic Patch
“Whether your garden consists of herbs on a kitchen windowsill, a vegetable garden, an elaborate backyard border, or a container on a patio, What’s Wrong With My Plant? is an indispensable resource. If you can see it, you can fix it. Curing a sick plant just doesn’t get any easier.” —Growing a Greener World

Houseplants have been growing in popularity as a way to relieve stress, purify air and bring a bit of nature indoors. They can brighten up an office, living room or kitchen with their vibrant colors or sooth the space with their earthy scents.

Obviously, you want to choose a houseplant that fits your needs, but you want to make a healthy selection to ease long-term maintenance. This is why it’s important to purchase your houseplants at a reputable garden center and fully examine your plant for signs of insects, disease and malnourishment.

It’s also important to consider where you’re planning to put your plant and choose a variety that’s well suited to the location’s light intensity, temperature and humidity level. However, even under similar conditions your new houseplant will take time to adjust after being raised in an ideal greenhouse environment.

More than likely, your new houseplant will become established and bounce back in a couple of weeks. Don’t be too concerned if you notice droopy leaves with brown edges or a slightly different color. Once your plant has adjusted it will start to look healthier.

If it looks like a zombie plant over a longer period of time, you might need to start ruling out common houseplant problems.

Environmental problems

Some of the most common houseplant problems are a result of poor regulation of water, temperature, humidity and light. While it’s easy to give a plant too much or too little of one or more of those factors, it’s also easy to correct them. The tricky part is when one problem is a combination of several factors.

Here is a list of common environmental problems and their causes.

    • Spindly plants: Poor lighting conditions.
    • Weak growth: Too much or too little light, root system is damaged from poor soil drainage or over-watering.
    • Wilting: Over-watering, under-watering, root rot, salt build up, too much fertilizer, needs a larger pot.
    • Defoliation: Over-watering, under-watering, needs a larger pot, poor lighting conditions, injured by extreme hot or cold temperatures, low humidity, insects and diseases.
    • Yellowing plant: Poor lighting conditions, not enough fertilizer, insects or mites, over-watering.
    • Spotty leaves: Watering with cold water or splashing water on leaves can cause white or pale yellow colored spots or patches on the leaves of some plants.
    • Yellowing leaves: Over-watering, poor lighting conditions, low humidity, poor soil drainage, injured by low temperatures from a draft.
    • Yellowing, browning and death of lower leaves: Nitrogen or iron deficiency.
    • Scorched or faded leaves: Too much direct sunlight.
    • Reddened leaves: Temperature is too low, phosphorous or potassium deficiency.
    • Brown leaf tips: Chemical burn from over applying pesticides or fertilizer, soft water, long stretches of dry soil, temperature is too low, low humidity.
    • Small leaves: Soil is either too wet or too dry.
    • Small pale leaves: Poor lighting, not enough fertilizer.
    • Oedema (rough corky swellings on the undersides of leaves and stems): Over-watering, poor lighting, low temperatures.
    • Few flowers: Poor lighting conditions.
    • Few flowers and excessive growth: Too much nitrogen fertilizer.
    • Bud drop: Not enough fertilizer, too much nitrogen, under-watering, over-watering, spraying with cold water.
    • White crust on soil: Salt buildup.
    • White or yellow mold like growth: Soil fungus.

Pest Problems

If you’ve ruled out environmental causes as to why your plant isn’t thriving, it may be time to consider some common pests that affect houseplants.

Here is a quick list of the most common insects to watch for:

Aphids: These tiny insects live on the undersides of leaves. They can be green, brown or black in appearance. Look for them if you notice stunted plant growth and curled or distorted foliage.

Mealybugs: They are a scale insect that live on the stems, undersides of leaves and on the nodes of houseplants. They appear white and cottony. Mealybugs cause stunted plant growth.

Mites: Mites are actually tiny, pale spiders. They produce webbing on leaves and stems and can cause distorted yellow leaves.

Scale: These are oval or round, brown insects that live on the leaves and stems of house plants. They suck the plant’s juices and cause stunted plant growth.

Thrips: These very tiny insects are white before maturity and range from tan to dark brown as adults. They feed on flowers and leaves, causing them to become distorted or discolored.

Whitefly: These small, gnat-like insects feed on the leaves of houseplants, which causes them to turn pale shades of yellow or white.

Fungus gnats: As adults they resemble fruit flies and do not cause damage to plants. However, their larvae can sometimes be a problem for plant roots. Certain species of the tiny white and black-headed maggots will feed on the root hairs of plants, causing reduced plant growth.

The best way to get rid of any pest is through non-chemical management, removing insects by hand and wiping off the affected areas.


Diseases are probably the least common issue houseplants face as proper environmental conditions promote healthy growth. However, weak plants are more susceptible to infection.

Here are some common diseases and their symptoms:

Anthracnose: Leaf tips turn yellow and then brown with the potential for the entire leaf to die.

Solution: Remove the infected leaves and avoid misting the plant.

Leaf spots: There are two types of leaf spots. Fungal spots appear brown with a yellow halo and will kill either portions or the entire leaf. Bacterial leaf spots appear water soaked and can also have a yellow halo.

Solution: Remove the infected leaves, increase the air circulation around your plant and avoid getting water on the unaffected leaves.

Powdery mildew: A white, powdery fungal growth will start to take over foliage, causing leaf distortion and potentially leaf drop.

Solution: Increase air circulation, ensure the soil is draining properly and remove the severely infected leaves.

Root and stem rots: Rotting will cause stems and roots to appear brown or black and feel very soft. It causes plants to initially wilt and eventually die.

Solution: Rot is primarily caused by over-watering, so you want to avoid this and make sure your soil is draining properly as a preventative measure. In the event of rot where symptoms are affecting some, but not all of the roots you can try to cut out the infected roots and repot the plant.


  • PennState Extension
  • Clemson Cooperative Extension
  • North Dakota State University


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What’s wrong with my plant?


If I had to choose a single question that I’ve gotten more than any other this spring, it would easily be this one. Usually it goes something like this: “My (insert plant name) is dying, and the leaves are yellow and brown.” Or maybe, it’s: “There’s some kind of spots on my leaves, and after a while, they turn brown and die.” So, what to do, what to do? Chances are, most of these folks’ plants have a disease, in one form or the other.

So, let’s start with the science. Plant disease is, in short, any appearance or growth that deviates from what is considered normal plant growth and development. Said disease may be due to an abiotic (non-living) factor, such as is the case with nutrient deficiencies, wind damage, etc., or it may be a result of a biotic (living) pathogen.

Among those include your fungal, bacterial and viral diseases. We could throw insects and their associated damage under that umbrella as well. Most all of these organisms are native and present every year, so why, then, do we not have these diseases every single year.

Well, that question gets to where my plant science heart’s passion truly lies … plant pathology. I just love a nice, sick plant. I fully understand that that makes me a weirdo. Healthy plants all look the same. Variety is the spice of life, right? Plus, it’s job security.

Within the study of plant pathology (that is the study of plant disease), we have what is known as the plant disease triangle. The three points of that triangle being the following: a susceptible host, a favorable environment, and a pathogen. All three of those things must be present for a plant disease to occur. So, if that tomato plant is there every season and that Fusarium wilt fungal spore is lying in wait in soils all over the world, then when and why does sometimes disease occur and sometimes it doesn’t? The answer: environment!

Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that it has been an abnormally wet spring this year. Wet, cool and cloudy conditions are all great ingredients to a good recipe for fungal and bacterial disease in plants, and let me tell you, disease, we’ve got in abundance. Roughly 9 of 10 of the clients that have called or stopped by our office this spring have done so because of a plant disease issue.

One thing to realize is that many of the vegetables, flowers and other ornamentals that we grow here in Baxter County in northern Arkansas aren’t native, and as such they aren’t all that well adapted to the native pathogens that we have here.

Tomatoes originated around the equator in the areas of present day Peru and Ecuador. Okra is likely from western Africa or South Asia. Peaches are of Chinese origin. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, of course, but it does lend some understanding to why we fight disease issues more so with those species that aren’t from here.

So, what to do about it, if anything? Many plants, especially perennials, that catch a bug, will come out of it on their own once that favorable environment for disease is no longer favorable. Other than that, we as gardeners and growers can do our part to remove one point of that disease triangle. We’ll hit on each, briefly.

Sometimes, we create the favorable environment in the way and time that we water the plants or where we put them in the garden. Sun exposure, moisture, spacing and drainage considerations are just a few and many considerations. We can’t always control what we get when it comes to rainfall and sunshine, but we can control what we do. Maybe just plant those tomatoes in a different spot in the garden where pathogen populations haven’t built up as much over time.

As far as a susceptible host, we’ve got plenty of control over that aspect. When available and desired, choose varieties that have some bred resistance to common diseases. This isn’t always an option, but consider it.

For example, “Arkansas Black” apples are susceptible to fire blight, a bacterial disease. “Enterprise” apples are moderately resistant. Or in some instances, just don’t plant that particular species at all, unless you’re willing to diligently keep fungicides sprayed every spring.

Managing the pathogen itself is often the hardest part. These organisms have been here a long time and will continue to persist. Total eradication of a particular pathogen in your area isn’t feasible. Knowing which pesticide to use, be it conventional or organic, depends upon the pathogen present and the stage its current life cycle stage.

For example, we wouldn’t use a fungicide to manage fire blight because it’s bacterial. We can provide recommendations on that, as well, but proper identification is first and foremost. Ultimately, our best bet is to manage around the pathogen by controlling the environment and the host.

One great resource that Extension provides to make that proper identification is the Plant Disease Clinic, whereby the county office can ship diseased plant samples to the lab, and within a few days, get a diagnosis and control recommendations. The best part is: It’s free!

All you need to do is bring us a sample of the plant that is showing symptoms, bag it up in a gallon plastic bag, and come by the office. We’ll ask a few questions, ship it off, and within a few days, get you a solution … if one exists. That’s something to keep in mind.

Just like in humans, not all diseases are curable or fixable. Sometimes, the answer is to just dig it up and plant something else in its place. This service is for all plants: ornamentals, vegetables, trees, shrubs, pasture plants, turf grasses, etc.

For any other questions on plant disease or other horticulture related issues, give us a call at (870) 425-2335.

Common House Plants

Most common house plants we know and grow are popular for two basic reasons. One, they’re attractive, and two, they’re easy to grow.

So many plants fit this criteria, that it’s difficult to narrow this list to just a few. In fact, most in the House Plants Encyclopedia A-Z are common. (You’ll find care tips for those shown here and many more in the Encyclopedia A-Z.)

Fortunately, common house plants provide us with a huge range of sizes, shapes, and textures to choose from. But why choose? Tall or trailing…broad leaves or feathery fronds…the contrasts look spectacular when brought together in a room.

Fiddle Leaf Fig makes a big statement in any room. Interior decorators are finally appreciating this tall beauty as an architectural feature. We’re seeing this fig tree everywhere — online and off.

Boston Fern is a classic. This is the most popular of the fern species that originated in Central America and became a fast favorite in parlors and porches in North America during the Victorian era.

Today, there are numerous new cultivars that are getting attention, including ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ with curly fronds and a dwarf variety ‘Timii’ that makes an elegant table accent.

Cascading stems covered with lush lobed leaves make English Ivy an ever-popular houseplant. New cultivars offer foliage variegated with creamy white or yellow, giving them fresh allure.

Whether you display your ivy on a pedestal by itself, surround it with other plants, or add it to a dish garden, its beautiful foliage is a stand-out.

Splashed with cream, green and gray, this Rubber Plant cultivar is stunning. Like other members of the ficus family, this big-leafed tree wants bright, indirect light. It’s not as fussy as some about watering, but don’t allow it to dry out or it will protest by dropping its leaves.

The glossy, deeply-veined leaves of the Peace Lily (shown at right) make it a beautiful foliage plant year-round.

It tolerates low light levels. But, give it bright light, and it will dependably produce long-lasting white spathes, each surrounding a spadix covered densely with its tiny, true flowers.

There are many hybrids to choose from. ‘Domino’ has beautiful marbled leaves. ‘Mauna Loa’ is a popular variety, treasured for its big, showy leaves and blooms.

Whether you call it Mother-in-Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant, those common names don’t give sansevieria the respect it deserves.

It’s tall, sword-shaped leaves make stunning vertical accents among a group of leafy, bushy plants. And because of its ability to tolerate low light levels and low humidity, sansevieria is an extremely adaptable houseplant.

This hardy succulent originated in Africa and remains a favorite all over the world. You’ll find it in homes, shopping malls and offices everywhere.

Umbrella-like foliage gives Schefflera the common name umbrella tree. It’s easy-care and lush leaves make it a stand-out for indoor gardens. It’s more tolerant of low humidity than most tropicals. Give it a quarter-turn in front of the window every week to expose all sides to indirect sunlight.

Spider Plant has slender, arching leaves with creamy white and green stripes. It has a trailing habit, making it ideal for a hanging basket.

Its spidery appearance comes from the small plantlets that grow on the ends of narrow, wiry stems, called runners.

These plantlets — or “babies” — are easily propagated, making this a plant that keeps on giving.

Several common house plants called ficus come from the Moraceae family. The elegant Weeping Fig is the most popular of all the ficus species from this clan.

Although slow-growers, you can expect the tree to reach up to 10 ft (3 m). Dwarf cultivars will grow to only 3 ft (90 cm) tall.

Weeping figs adapt best when placed in bright, indirect light and left there. It is known to drop its leaves when moved around. However, with good care it will grow new leaves in spring and summer.

Small, waxy leaves densely cover its drooping branches, giving it graceful elegance. Growers sometimes braid its trunks, adding to its charm.

Chinese Evergreen is ever-popular. You have a wealth of varieties of these common house plants to choose from, in many colors and patterns. Give them bright, indirect light to maintain their color and variegation.

Who hasn’t grown a Heartleaf Philodendon? This happy-go-lucky vine tolerates low light and infrequent waterings like few others can. Even with little attention, it grows like nobody’s business. Cut it back once in a while to keep it under control.

Or put it on a shelf or in a hanging basket and allow the thickly leafed vines to trail. This little philodendron thrives under fluorescent lights, making it a popular office plant.

House Plant Identification

Identify My Houseplant

A huge change has been made for house plant identification, and all of it is positive, moving forward and helping you guys to find more support to identify indoor plants. We now have an open FORUM (no longer just a form that comes to me).

Before heading over to the forum you might want to check the A-Z list of house plants to see if you can make and ID there first. If you cannot find the plant on the list or just wish to head for help from the forum, you’re more than welcome to choose the best option for you.

Please Include

To make identification for you and others a little easier please include as much information as possible…..but more importantly include some good photos.

If it’s a flowering plant include a picture of the flower/flowers and a picture of a leaf/leaves. A picture of the whole plant and its stem would also be very helpful.

Forum Home Page ”

Forum Section For Plant Identification ”

Brief Explanation of Information to Provide the Forum ”

Disclaimer: We may use pictures sent to us on our website or forum for a specific plant. We will not include any pictures that show peoples faces, property address numbers, or anything else that could identify a person or property in any way. We also wont include an attribution to a persons name unless requested, to protect their privacy. Please notify us if you would not like your pictures displayed on this website or you are welcome to try another source to identify your plant.

It can be soothing to care for houseplants and help them grow. But it’s hard to take good care of your houseplants if you don’t know what they are. Not all plants are created equal, and the ideal care for one plant will quickly cause another to wither. That’s why houseplant identification is so important.

But what if you inherited a plant without a label, or long since forgot what species your houseplant is? How do you ensure that you’re taking good care of it?

Identifying your houseplants is important to ensure that you’re taking care of them properly. Each plant species has different needs regarding:

  • Watering. The amount of water that’s ideal for a cactus would kill a venus flytrap. Many houseplants also have specific needs as far as how they should be watered – for example, most bonsais are best watered by soaking and orchids do well with melting ice cubes.
  • Soil Type. Not all potting soil is created equal, and not all plants have the same “taste.”
  • Sunlight Amount. There are sun-lovers and shade-lovers and everything in between. If your plant is withering, it could be that it’s just not getting the right amount of light!
  • Pot Size and Spacing. Some plants like to be kept nice and close – they actually like a smaller pot. Others really thrive when they’re allowed to breathe.
  • Mulching or Fertilizer. Most plants need some “plant food” – but the amount and type will vary based on species.
  • Pruning. Some plants never really need pruning, while others should be trimmed regularly.
  • Common Concerns. Some plants are vulnerable to certain parasites or blights. If you know what those are, you’re more likely to effectively protect your houseplants from them!

Houseplant Identification 101

A good go-to option for identifying plants is our app PlantSnap. This app identifies flowers and leaves using a photo-identification algorithm. It can take a bit of practice to frame the photo correctly, but the app is excellent for identifying houseplants in seconds.

PlantSnap isn’t good at identifying damaged, broken, or very young plants. If you’re having a hard time identifying your houseplant with PlantSnap, it might be time to do some more digging.

Field guides aren’t always very helpful for houseplants because they focus on local plants in a given area. If you have no idea where your plant is native to, it can be really tricky to get a positive identification!

You can generally narrow down your houseplant into one of a few broad categories: is it a small tree, a succulent or cactus, a vine, a fern, or another type of herbaceous plant? What are the veins on the leaves like? Is it flowering? What are the flowers like? What shape are the leaves? From there, you can generally get help at greenhouses or on the PlantSnap Facebook page. Bring in photos when you get help!

Most houseplants are pretty popular around the world. Here are some of the most common houseplants. See if yours matches one of these!

Vines and Creepers

  • English Ivy
  • Hoya
  • Philodendron

Small Trees

  • Ficus
  • Parlor Palm
  • Dracaena


  • Asparagus fern
  • Maidenhair fern

Succulents and Cacti

  • Aloe Vera
  • False Christmas Cactus
  • Jade Plant
  • Pincushion Cactus
  • Roseum
  • Snake plant
  • Dudleya


  • Anthurium andraenum or other Anthurium species
  • Peace Lily
  • Peperomia (variety of species)
  • Cast-iron Plant
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Chinese Evergreen
  • Spider Plant
  • Orchids

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