7 Common Ways to Kill Your Houseplants. Dead

Killing Houseplants

A dead houseplant killed perhaps by one of the 7 things belowMaybe you've stumbled on this page because you're convinced you have the classic black thumb that can be inherited, caught, or just plain cursed with and you're desperate to find the elusive cure? Well the good news is that in general houseplants really do want to live and do that quite well without a great deal of effort from you.

But, okay, even we have to admit there are those people out there who need help. A lot of help. So this article featuring the 7 most popular ways to murder houseplants (and how not to do it) is dedicated to the plant killers of the world.

Before we get started...

Because plants have a variety of different needs you can do any number of the following "mistakes" which can all end in disaster. Try to spot which ones you're prone too and read up on our suggested articles to enhance your knowledge and skills. Good luck and remember even the experts have experienced the majority of these issues at some point or other!


1 - Overwatering

Overwatering a plant is the number one cause of indoor plant deathThe number one reason houseplants die is due to incorrect watering and the leading mistake with this is overwatering. It's too easy to fuss your new plant to death, it's not really your fault we know you just want it to settle in and do well.

Of course, as a good attentive host the last thing you want is for it to become thirsty! But the problem is you keep on watering until you drown the roots. The soil is sodden and if you tilt the pot over a glass you can pour yourself a smelly brown colored drink. Not good for you, and lethal to the plant.

The Easy Fix

You need to learn the art of patience and give time between watering's. Not only that, but you might not need to give as much when you do come to water. Make sure the drip tray (or whatever you are using to prevent damage to the surface underneath the pot) isn't still filled with liquid an hour after you've watered. If there is water left over, pour it away.

Further Reading

Watering guide



2 - Underwatering

This Bonsai tree has not been watered enough, meaning it's pretty much deadThe second most popular reason for houseplant death is also water related, but unlike the previous problem this is the flip side of not watering enough. Perhaps you've an apathetic approach to life in general, or are just plain oblivious to the parched plants around you. Screaming from thirst they desperately try to give you visual signs they need water but to no avail, you just don't notice until all that's left is a dusty crispy carcass.

The Easy Fix

If you're apathetic to houseplants then you simply won't care for them properly, which means the easiest way around this is to treat them as objects rather than a living thing. By treating watering as a task as part of your housekeeping routine you can be confident they will get by. Not much of a housekeeper either you say? Well... you can also buy self watering plant containers these days.

The best fix of course though is to get passionate about houseplants. They do great things in the home which makes this really easy to do.

Further Reading

Why plants are good for you
Watering guide


3 - Too Cold

Like people, the majority of house plants are accommodating to a wide range of temperatures. But low temperatures and frost isn't one of them. We don't want to lose bits of our fingers and toes from frost bite and neither do plants. So why on earth why did you think leaving your houseplant outside or in that unheated conservatory when Winter creeped up was a good idea? Perhaps it was simple forgetfulness or some bizarre science experiment to see "what would happen" who knows. Either way, you've gone and killed it.

The Easy Fix

If you're cold then so is your houseplant. Always keep them in places which are at least the minimum temperature that they will accept.

Further Reading

Temperature guide
Find out your houseplants minimum temperature


4 - Pests and Diseases

Aphids are a very common pest which can spread diseasesPests suck. Literally. They're the blight of many houseplant nightmares, causing mess and grime to the surrounding furnishings making plants seem like dirty things, by attracting undesirable house guests and diseases. Both of which take their toll on our green friends in the process. Of all the reasons listed on this page, this is the only cause of plant death which is borderline outside of your control. Notice or treat the problem too late and everything is lost. You aren't off the hook completely though, because diseases and pests don't destroy overnight (unless you have a slug or snail problem) so a negligence claim against you might still be quite justified!

The Easy Fix

Observe and notice your houseplants (if you're relishing their beauty anyway this won't be hard), then when something starts to look wrong you'll be able to tell and treat the problem early on.

Further Reading

Our pest guide
Our disease guide


5 - Too Much Light

Plants need light for photosynthesis, but too much can be badYou learnt in school that plants need sunlight to be able to grow big and strong, so you figure that sun drenched heat trap you've got can only be a good thing in the grand scheme of things. You're intentions might be good and pure so we have to give you credit for that, but remember that saying "too much of a good thing", that's what's happened here. It's fair to say your placement choices need work because you've just given a lethal bout of sunburn to your plant and no amount of aftersun cream is fixing this boo boo.

The Easy Fix

Learn what amount of light your houseplant actually needs to do well. Only a small handful of plants will cope with prolonged direct sunlight.

Further Reading

Light guide
Find out your houseplants light needs


6 - Too Little Light

For a plant to actually succumb from too little light is rare. We could be talking months or even years with leaves falling and very few new ones growing to get to the point it gives up on life. So if you achieve this incredible feat you get the medal for prolonged houseplant cruelty. To ignore or miss the anguish of a slow steady decline in health really takes some serious effort. Tut tut, shame on you.

The Easy Fix

Plants need light and none want endless darkness. Give it the required light levels or accept that maybe, just maybe you should avoid having sole responsibility for any living thing ever again. It's just too risky.

Further Reading

Photosynthesis basics
Light guide


7 - Too much fertiliser

Always read the back of the fertilser bottles and follow the instructions carefullyIt's really hard to cause death by underfeeding. Even if you never use a fertiliser as long as you repot once every couple of years your plant will survive, so the potential to cause damage by overfeeding is massively more probable. However this is still one of those random rare things that should only happen by accident, perhaps a one time overdose. However constant overdoses are worrying and maybe your family shouldn't trust you when dishing out the medicines because... you clearly don't read the instructions! To achieve this death for a houseplant can only mean you are a first class feeder.

The Easy Fix

There is not a single reason why you should overfeed a houseplant unless your intentions are on the wicked side. Stop being a feeder and start being a carer by reading the back of the fertiliser bottle or box and understand how much you need to be giving your plant.

Further Reading

Our feeding guide


And that's the end of our article. Have you fallen foul of any from our list? Go on, share your horror stories in the comments below and make our other readers feel a little bit better!


Also on Ourhouseplants.com

Photo credit of the dead plant to Julien Berthier

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