If you forget to water a potted plant, its leaves wilt a likely reason for this wilting is that

Why do plants wilt?

If you think about tall trees over a 100 feet tall – water must be delivered to leaves at the top of the tree all of the time. If not, those leaves will wilt and die. When water escapes through the leaves into the air through transpiration, it provides a pulling force. This pulling force pulls water up and out a plant through tiny little tubes called the xylem.

These tubes (xylem) can be thought of as pipes inside the plant that deliver water to all parts of the plant. They are highly effective at stacking up water molecules into long chains and pulling them upward and outward to the leaves of the plant. Xylem exists in all parts of the plant – roots, stems, leaves and everywhere in between.

As water is pulled up the plant through the xylem, the water molecules are all tied together like a long chain (capillary forces).

The pulling force created by transpiration pulls these long chains of water upward and outward to the leaves.

These chains of water create turgidity (meaning the plant is rigid, strong and upright; essentially the opposite of wilting). Plants do not have bones to keep them upright – they rely on this turgidity to keep them upright and strong.

When the soil of a plant runs too low of available water, the water chains in the xylem become thinner and thinner due to less water.

Effectively, the plant is losing water faster than it is absorbing it. When this happens, the plant loses its turgidity and begins to wilt.

Five reasons your houseplants die and how to save them

Our ancestors lived surrounded by dirt, animals and fields of green. We now live in a world of square edges – cubicles, hallways, refrigerators and computer screens – not to mention pollution, stale air and dust. Indoor plants can clean the air of toxins and dust, offer a sense of well-being, and liven a space, literally, with life.

If you think you have “bad luck” with plants, the solution may be simple. Here are five most common reasons your houseplants keep dying, and each has an easy fix.

1. Not Enough Light

Direct sunlight is actually hundreds of times brighter than ambient light in an artificially-lit room, but the human eye is an amazingly adaptive, making changes in light levels seem small. You may not realize when your plant’s spot isn’t bright enough.

Plants that need more light become lanky, floppy, pale or shed leaves, and can eventually die. If it’s growing but the new growth is pale and flimsy, it’s probably not getting enough light.


>> Choose plants that are most commonly sold as leafy houseplants; most are adapted to grow slowly under a thick tropical rainforest canopy (rooted in wet tree trunks, or lying in wait for a big tree to fall so they can switch to cheetah mode and take its place). They can survive the relative darkness of a living room.

>> It’s too dark for food plants like tomatoes, carrots or basil to produce usable harvests indoors. Don’t beat yourself up for failing what’s impossible.

>> If a plant looks like it needs more light, move it to a windowsill. Keep the blinds open! A window with closed blinds is as useful as a car without wheels.

>> Skylights or South-facing windows provide the best light, followed by West-facing windows, then East-facing windows. (West-facing windows are better than East because the sky is less cloudy in the afternoon.) North-facing windows get the least light.

>> Move plants as infrequently as possible so their leaves can orient themselves towards light. If you re-locate or rotate plants, older leaves may die and the plant has to grow new ones that face the light.

>> Plants you buy seasonally, like poinsettias, amaryllises or Christmas cactuses, are sold as “throw-away” plants because most people don’t give them enough light. But they’ll thrive for years in a West or South-facing windowsill.

2. Watering the wrong way

Most “brown thumbs” call it bad luck when a healthy-looking houseplant dies so suddenly from being dry. But it’s not that they forgot to water – it’s that they water wrong.

They buy a plant looking pretty and lush, pay it lots of attention and give it a sprinkle of water every day. The plant gets lazy – it grows weak roots.

When the novelty wears off, they water the plant less. Plants adjust to the sudden drought by shedding leaves, but their caretakers assume they’re dying and throw them out. If potting soil gets bone-dry, water will pass through without soaking in, and plant-keepers see the drainage and assume the soil is saturated when the opposite is true.


>> Plants are sold in tiny pots; re-pot them in bigger ones right away. More soil holds more water and stays moist longer. Make sure the new pot has drainage holes in the bottom. ( if you don’t know how to re-pot a plant.)

>> Water a plant less often, but when you do, soak it thoroughly in the sink or with a pitcher. The wet-dry cycle encourages stronger roots and prevents root rot.

<< If the soil gets so dry it won’t absorb water, set the pot in the sink and put the faucet on a slow trickle for 15 minutes. After watering, the pot should feel much heavier.

>> Keep plants in a shallow tray and water until the tray fills up – which allows you to give it lots of water at once without making a mess. Over the next day or two the soil will re-absorb the water from the tray, adding to the time you can leave before watering again.

>> If you expect you’ll frequently forget to water a plant, avoid clay pots and use porcelain or plastic ones instead. Clay pots allow water to evaporate out of the sides of a pot in addition to the top, so they dry out much faster.

3. Too much fertilizer

Ecosystems recycle nutrients when dead leaves and twigs decay. A houseplant’s dead leaves are thrown away, so fertilizer replaces what’s lost – but most people give their houseplants way too much and burn the roots. Houseplants can also become over-fertilized over time as water evaporates and leaves the solids behind.

An over-fertilized plant can wilt even when it’s watered, the leaves may get soft like they’re made of cloth, or the leaf tips might turn brown.


>> Most potting soils come with plenty of organic material or added fertilizer, and won’t need additional fertilizer for a long time.

>> Carefully follow the instructions on a fertilizer package, and when in doubt use less than recommended. Make sure the fertilizer you use is marked as good for houseplants.

>> Choose solid or time-release fertilizers over liquid fertilizers; it’s less likely to burn roots.

>> You don’t have to fertilize a plant until it’s showing signs of needing it: Lack of new growth, new leaves that are pale with green veins, or new leaves that never grow to the same size as the old ones.

>> A dusty, white or tan substance can gradually accumulate in the plant’s tray – that’s excess fertilizer and salts. Even tap water can slowly add some salts to soil over the months and years. Rinse the tray off every few months; it’s usually a miracle fix for African violets that seem to be dying for no reason.

>> In general, houseplants that grow quickly and shed a lot of leaves, fruits or dead flowers need more fertilizer. Other plants need much less.

4. The air is too dry

Colorado is known for dry air. That makes sweat evaporate faster, so a hot day won’t feel as hot. For plants it has the opposite effect – low humidity increases heat stress. The air in your home is driest in the winter, and especially damaging to parlor palms, ferns and orchids, which can lose leaves or develop brown streaks in dry air.


>> Choose plants that don’t need humidity, like succulents, bulbs, or most plants with woody stems.

>> Keep humidity-loving plants in a well-lit bathroom, where the air gets steamy every time you shower. Small rooms are also less drafty.

>> Cluster houseplants together; plants raise the air humidity around them.

>> Swamp coolers and home humidifiers are as good for humidity-loving plants as they are for people.

>> The coolest room in the house is usually the most humid, as is the cooler part of a warm room – such as a windowsill in winter.

>> Finally, setting the pot in a wide tray of water and gravel can humidify the air through evaporation.

5. You think it’s dead but it’s not

Plants can re-grow after trauma, and even many tropical plants go dormant seasonally because of wet and dry seasons in their native habitats. Just because a plant looks unhealthy or loses its leaves doesn’t mean it’s dead.

The solution:

>> If a plant looks dead or dying, trim off the dead parts, give it a little love and see what happens.

>> Poinsettias and amaryllises can go dormant and return on their own. Cyclamens go dormant but will come back with a vengeance after being kept in a cool garage or basement for about 6 weeks, then returned to warmth.

Originating in Central and South America, Fuchsia plants are perennials that produce beautiful, exotic flowers. They are grown throughout the United States and are commonly seen draping out of pots or hanging baskets.

There are over 100 varieties of Fuchsia available, varying in color and appearance. Upright Fuchsia plants are bush-like and are commonly seen in gardens or flower pots. Trailing Fuchsia grow more horizontally and are frequently seen in flower pots or hanging baskets.

Fuchsia plants are considered easy to grow for novice and seasoned gardeners alike. By following the tips below, your Fuchsia plants will produce beautiful flowers throughout the growing season.

How to grow and care for Fuchsia plants

Fuchsia plants can be grown from seeds or clippings, but are most commonly sold as established plants. Depending on the variety, plants will begin to produce flowers in early to mid Spring and continue to bloom into early Fall. In general, Fuchsia plants require constant moist soil and partial sun. They will not thrive and may even die if they are over watered or exposed to direct sunlight.

Fuchsia plants respond well to pruning early in the growing season before the plants begin to grow. Flowers will only appear on new growth, so trimming old branches encourages new branches and flowers to appear. Dead and overlapping branches should be cut. Fuchsia plants can also be pruned into the desired shape. Once new growth starts, new buds can be pruned to encourage branch and flower growth. Once Fuchsia plants are blooming, dead flowers should be regularly removed to cause new flowers to appear.

Water requirements

Fuchsia plants require moist soil to thrive. Fuchsia grown in containers should be planted in high quality, well-drained potting soil. Potted Fuchsia will likely require daily watering, but the best way to determine if they need watering is to stick a finger into the soil and make sure that it is damp. Potted Fuchsia will not thrive if the soil is left dry or if it is overly wet; if the soil is too wet, the roots may rot, killing the Fuchsia plant.

Fuchsia planted in gardens, once established, requires slightly less maintenance than potted Fuchsia. Garden Fuchsia should be planted in loose, well-drained soil. Plants will grow best if the soil is moist, but in a garden, they can tolerate a dry day better than potted plants.

Fuchsia should be regularly fertilized. Using a liquid fertilizer once every couple of weeks will allow Fuchsia plants to thrive and produce flowers throughout the growing season.

Sunlight requirements

Fuchsia plants do not grow well direct sunlight or excessive heat. For the best results, Fuchsia should be planted in areas that get partial sunlight. The temperature requirements may vary between varieties of Fuchsia, but as a general rule of thumb, Fuchsia plants grow best if the soil is cool and they are shielded from the hottest hours of sunlight. Plants that receive too much sunlight will lose their flowers quickly and wilt.

List of Common Problems That Fuchsia plants have and Solutions

The most common problems when growing Fuchsia are over watering or keeping the plants in areas that receive too much sunlight. However, Fuchsia plants can also attract insects. Outdoors, it is less common for these pests to appear on Fuchsia plants because they receive regular rain and good ventilation. Indoor plants or plants that aren’t well ventilated are prone to aphid or whitefly infestation. If these pests appear, a pesticide should be applied.

Overwintering Fuchsia plants

Fuchsia plants are often treated as annuals and are discarded at the end of the growing season. However, they are actually a perennial plant which can produce flowers for many years is properly cared for during the winter. Most Fuchsia plants will not survive if exposed to cold winter temperatures. However, there are some varieties that can withstand colder temperatures.

Fuchsia plants should be brought indoors during winter and then put into dormancy until the next year. Plants should be sprayed with water to remove any pests that are present, since pests may damage the plants during indoor winter storing. Plants should be placed in a cool, dark location such as a basement or garage. The temperature should be kept at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Plants should be watered every 3-4 weeks to keep the soil moist.

During this time, the plants enter a dormant state and will not flower. About a month before the expected last frost of the year, trim Fuchsia plant branches to about half of their length, and then place plants in a well lit area, away from direct sunlight. After the last frost, Fuchsia plants can be moved outside and grown according to the tips above.

My Fuchsia is dying! Help!

Hi Amey, sorry about your new bought fuchsia, it sounds to me it is the growing conditions you have it in, soon as you said sun room and the word hanging, these are all culminations for disaster where fuchsias are concerned, firstly, as your sun room gets hotter as the day goes on, the hot air is riseing and that dry air is circulating around the plant, it cant breath, the foliage is wilting as it is dehydrating in the hot dry air, then you add water to it, this only drowns the root as the wilting leaves mean that the plant has shut off its system for drawing up the water, I think your african violet food is wrong also as this has a bit of acidic matter added to it as these plants like that, but fuchsias dont. remove the plant from the sunroom and maybe place it in a cooler room like bathroom or laundry where it can regain some energy, even outside in a real shade area will be better for a day or two, just to let air and cooler temp allow it to recover. dont give it any other food while it is in shock as I said before, it has closed it’s system down and will sit in too rich a soil which for now, could burn the roots, once you see the leaves firm up a bit, then check to see if it needs water again, stick your finger in the compost and if it feels dry, then water, if still wet, leave it as the water will evaporate by your temp alone, when you need to feed it, give it half strength tomato or house plant food till it is properly recovered, meentime, get rid of all the dead and dying flowers, even the ones that have shriveled up before they opened, last thing it needs right now is to try produce seed heads, I would also trim all the little branches off to half the length so that it has less foliage to try recover, once it perks up in a few days time, it will start to show new little growing tips and within 2/3 weeks it will start to produce new branches for new flower buds, they dont really like shaken about, not the hanging ones as they have a load of very soft wood as stems and break really easy, they are prolific flowerers, so feed every week as you water, then you will see the plant come back to the origional size as when you bought it, this could take a good few weeks so be patient, it should recover anyway with the right care
just cool it down for now, once you get it going and you want to hang it again, choose a cool place out of direct sun and by then it will prob need water every day. Good luck, be patient but mostly, be brave. WeeNel.

Why Is Fuchsia Wilting – Tips On Caring For Wilting Fuchsia Plants

Help! My fuchsia plant is wilting! If this sounds familiar, the likely reason is an environmental problem that can probably be remedied with a few simple cultural changes. If you’re trying to figure out the reason for wilting fuchsia plants, read on for suggestions.

Reasons for Wilting Fuchsia Plants

Why is my fuchsia wilting? Fuchsias require a lot of water, especially in hanging baskets. Problems with wilting fuchsia plants may be due to lack of moisture. During the heat of the summer, potted fuchsia plants may need water twice daily, especially if the plants are exposed to sun and wind.

On the other hand, wilting fuchsia plants may also be the result of too much water, especially if the roots don’t have adequate drainage. Ensure the potting soil (or garden soil for in-ground plants) is well drained.

Potted fuchsias must have at least one drainage hole. While fuchsias need regular water, they should never sit in soggy soil.

Watering may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. Just feel the soil before watering. If the top of the soil feels dry, water until liquid begins to trickle through the drainage hole, then allow the pot to drain. Never water if the soil feels moist, even if the leaves look wilted.

Tips for Caring for Wilted Fuchsia

If your fuchsia is properly watered and still wilts, you may be able to save the plant with a good pruning.

Too much sun may be responsible when fuchsia plants are wilting. A little morning sunlight is fine, but afternoon sunlight is much too intense for these shade-loving plants. In hot climates, full shade all day is generally best.

Once fuchsia plants are established, water them regularly with a dilute mixture of water-soluble fertilizer. Avoid feeding just planted fuchsias, as the fertilizer may scorch the tender roots.

Watch for pests, such as aphids, spider mites, thrips or scale, all of which can cause leaves to wilt or curl. Regular application of an insecticidal soap is usually enough to keep these sap-sucking insects in check. However, never use insecticidal soap on a hot day or when the sun is directly on the leaves, as scorching may occur.

In the past few years, houseplants went from passive home decor items to near obsessions for some people, populating our social media feeds alongside images of puppies and sunsets. If you’re one of the people shelling out good money for plants, you probably want to be a good #plantparent (sorry) and make sure your potted possessions flourish—or at least stay alive.

But as it turns out, plants are tricky and, like some humans, are less active in winter. Many go dormant in extreme weather, like freezing temperatures, then come out again when conditions are better for them to grow. While dormant, a plant’s leaves fall off and it might look dead. But before you start planning your plant funeral (at least it’ll be a green burial), you should know that there’s a good chance it’s not, though. Here’s how to tell if it’s actually dead or just dormant.


Remember, indoor plants go dormant, too

Outdoor plants obviously go through some changes with the weather, but your indoor plants can go dormant, too. Some plants will actually predict bad weather conditions (typically triggered by a temperature drop or hike). This is aptly called predictive dormancy. There’s also consequential dormancy, when a plant goes dormant after adverse conditions arise. In fact, many plants need this dormant period to survive. Gardening site Evergreen Garden Works explains:

Species that have well developed dormancy needs cannot be tricked out of them. If you attempt to give a such as species, for instance Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, an eternal summer by bringing it in the house, it will grow continuously for as long as two years. After a maximum period of sustained growth, a temperate climate plant will automatically go dormant no matter what the season or condition. Deciduous plants will lose their leaves, evergreens will curtail all new growth.

It’s not just weather, though. Both outdoor and indoor plants can go dormant when they’re stressed. If the plant is bone dry, for example, it might drop its leaves and go dormant to conserve any water it has left in it. It looks like it’s dying, but it’s basically a defense mechanism to keep itself alive. As StupidGardenPlants.com puts it, a mistreated plant might just be waiting for more suitable growing conditions.

Whether it’s stress or winter weather, plants tend to exhibit these same simple traits when they go dormant: they wilt, start dropping leaves and look dead.


Try the snap-scratch test

To check if your plant is dead or just dormant, Oklahoma State University suggests what they call the Snap-Scratch Test:

Start by selecting the tip of a twig the size of a pencil. Grasp the twig and bend it sharply back on itself. A living limb will bend easily and eventually the stem will split showing moist wood within. A dead limb will snap cleanly with very little pressure and appear dry within. The scratch test is another common method. Use a knife or fingernail to scratch the bark on a young twig.


If the tree is alive, it’ll be green under the bark and slightly damp to the touch. A dead limb, on the other hand, will be brown and hard to scrape in the first place.

If you do see brown, work your way down the plant stem, too. Try the scratch test with a lower twig or lower down the stem. The plant may show signs of life as you near the roots. If it does, cut off the dead stems an inch or two above the growth.


Inspect the roots

Despite looking dead above the soil line, a dormant plant will have healthy roots. If the snap and scratch test proves inconclusive, you could actually remove the plant from the pot and check to see if the roots look alive and healthy or if they’re completely rotten or shriveled up.


Rotted roots will also have a sewer-like smell, so if the plant’s roots look mushy and they smell, it might just be dead. If the plant’s roots are light and supple, though, the plant is probably still alive, it’s just hibernating.

Some of the roots might be dead while others, including primary root, are still alive, though. You can see this for yourself with a dormant Bonsai in the video above. To help the plant optimize its resources so that it can come back when the weather warms up, you could trim back the dead roots. Just make sure to keep the primary root intact, along with any other healthy roots.


What to do with a dormant plant

Your plant might be dormant, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely hands-off. It doesn’t need any light while it’s dormant, according to horticulturist and plant writer George Weigel. It does, however, still need the occasional watering: once a month ( if that) should be enough. Easy enough, but people often over-water their plants around this time of year, which could kill it. Heating your home tends to kill any humidity in the air, causing the soil to dry, which makes people think their plants need to be watered more often. In short, houseplants are in greater danger of being over watered during the winter, Get Busy Gardening explains.


To remedy this, check the soil with your finger. If the soil feels moist one inch down, it doesn’t need to be watered.


A plant’s dormancy is a natural part of its growing cycle. Aside from waiting out the weather, there’s not much you can do for them. They’ll go dormant, but once the weather warms, you’ll see new signs of life. In the meantime, however, you can trim back any bare stems to make room for new growth. See how it’s done with the orchids in the video above.

Plants are tricky and it can be tough to keep them alive. Before you assume you’ve killed another plant, make sure it’s not dormant. It may just be waiting out warmer weather.


This story was originally published on 1/9/17 and was updated on 10/1/19 to provide more thorough and current information.

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