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Why is My Houseplant Turning Red?

Often, the direct cause of a houseplant turning red is the plant releasing protective antioxidants called anthocyanins. Used by many different types of plants, these anthocyanins offer protection against too much light, too little water, and other stressors. Many deciduous trees and shrubs will naturally turn red in the fall season as a way of salvaging the nutrients in the leaves before they fall to the ground. Some plants also have leaves that are red when they are new and actively growing, before turning green when the leaves reach maturity.

Indoor houseplants do not go through these same seasonal growth patterns, but their leaves can still turn red as the result of environmental stressors. If you’re noticing some reddening on the tips of leaves, there’s no reason to panic, but you should take steps to determine the underlying cause in case it does threaten the longevity of your houseplants.

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Some houseplants will turn red as a way of coping with too much direct sunlight. Many types of jade plants—which like lots of indirect light and some direct light—are known for turning red in the summer if they start to receive too much direct light. This reddening is usually not the sign of anything serious. In many mild cases, it’s like a summer tan for the plant that will gradually fade back to a lush green throughout the winter. Notably, some people want to know how to make their houseplant turn red. If you like the look of red jades, you can intentionally give your houseplant a sunnier spot and fast-draining potting soil that hasn’t been enriched with extra nutrients.

Water and Temperature Changes

Even in summer, direct light exposure isn’t the only possible cause. If you start reducing watering frequency prematurely, this can prematurely cut off nutrients to the remaining foliage growth and the plant may turn red as a result. Water softeners, hard minerals, and metals can also cause reddening. Similarly, if the plant suffers a temperature shock, especially from warmer to cooler temperatures, the houseplant may turn red. These problems can affect many types of plants but are especially common with jade and jasmine plants.

Soil Imbalance

Soil imbalances can also cause houseplants to turn red. If you’ve added too much fertilizer or if it’s been a long time since you’ve added fertilizer, soil amendments, or fresh potting soil, this could be the culprit. Likewise, if you’ve been tinkering with your soil composition with a new kind of fertilizer or if some kind of contaminant has been introduced to the soil, one of the signs could be leaves that start to turn red.

The key takeaways here are that often a houseplant turning red is nothing to worry about, especially if you’ve been keeping up in general with houseplant care practices. Even still, you should investigate the change in coloration and the circumstances to make sure there aren’t more serious problems that lie ahead.

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Myths about Potting and Placing Houseplants

There is no shortage of myths about houseplants in general. It’s easy to take basic facts about how plants live and grow and come to the wrong conclusions about what’s best for choosing, potting and placing houseplants. There are also many popular myths about houseplant care. Here, we wanted to focus on some of the most common myths about potting and placing houseplants in your home or office.

Biggest Myths about Potting and Placing Houseplants

  • Placing Houseplants Will Affect Your Indoor Air Quality: A misunderstood NASA study continues to perpetuate the myth that houseplants can improve indoor air quality. This study looked strictly at the effect of plants on closed environments like you might find on a space station. A different myth suggests the opposite: You should avoid putting houseplants in bedrooms because they will hurt your indoor air quality. The simple facts are that houseplants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the day, while releasing carbon dioxide overnight, but there is enough space and ventilation that these emissions do not appreciably change the overall air quality in your home or office space. Houseplants can affect mood and mental health that may improve breathing indirectly, but this has nothing to do with the indoor air quality.
  • Plants Grow Bigger in Bigger Pots: Most people who know their houseplants can tell you that this isn’t true, but it’s a self-perpetuating myth based on people’s intuitions. It’s easy to think that if you want a houseplant to get bigger, it needs room to grow. It’s also easy to think that because repotting puts stress on the plant, it’s better to start with a bigger pot. The facts are houseplants need comparatively little soil to sustain new growth. Instead, they need easily accessible potting soil and less competition. Bigger pots hold more soil which retain more water and can lead to root rot. It also provides more opportunity for mold, bugs, and other houseplant pests to get a foothold. Think of the stress of repotting a houseplant as a positive stressor that stimulates new growth. By knowing what type of houseplant you’re potting, it’s easy to choose the correct size pot and to know the signs for when it’s time to repot.
  • You Should Put Gravel in the Bottom of Pots: There are a lot of people who think that if you’re going to put a houseplant in a pot without drainage holes, it’s best to put small rocks or gravel at the bottom of the pot to help drainage and prevent root rot. The truth is a little more complicated. Excess water will sit at the bottom of the pot without hurting the plant, but it won’t be helping, either. You will still need to water enough to get the bottommost part of the root wet. It’s when the soil stays moist for a prolonged period of time near the top of the root that serious root rot can set in. Thus, by putting gravel in the bottom of the pot, you’re shortening the available growing medium and the potential distance between the bottom and top of the root system. By putting dirt through to the bottom of the pot, you won’t need to water as much to give the plant what it needs. An even better plan is to always use pots with drainage holes, except in special circumstances like when growing hydroponic plants.
  • Some Plants can Grow without Light. Full shade plants is not the same as plants that can grow with light. You may have an office or houseplant that has good environmental conditions, is a full-shade plant and is coping with indirect light from across the room. Sunlight likes to bounce around. Even small windows or plants near open doors that may catch sunlight from an adjacent at least have a chance. It doesn’t take much in other words, but if you have houseplants in a basement, media room, or bathroom with no windows at all, plants will not grow or stay alive indefinitely without the aid of special indoor grow lights. These types of lights may cost anywhere from $50-$250 or more.
  • All Houseplants do Best in South-Facing Windows. It’s so common for a houseplant that’s lingered along for several months or even years with a minimal amount of light to brighten up and sprout new growth in a south-facing window that it’s become something of a myth that all houseplants do best in south-facing windows. It’s one of the more versatile windows, and some of the most popular houseplants like lots of indirect and some direct sunlight that it reinforces the myth. However, this is far from universally true. Worse, if you take a cherished houseplant that’s experiencing mild symptoms of overwatering or less than ideal soil conditions but is ill-suited for direct sunlight, you might inadvertently kill the plant in an attempt to brighten up its leaves.
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Why is My Houseplant Turning Brown?

Houseplant leaves may turn brown for a variety of reasons. This most often occurs when a houseplant does not have the requisite water and nutrients to support its current foliage, and the leaves start to die back. Often, there’s nothing that can be done to save the withered growth, and it should be pruned from the plant to make room for new growth. By understanding the cause of the browning leaves, you can hopefully ensure the plant can support and maintain green, healthy growth in the future. Much of the time, you can accurately diagnose why your houseplant leaves are turning brown by looking at the timing and circumstances of the discoloration.

Most Common Reasons Houseplants Turn Brown

Too Much Sunlight: Direct solar rays can burn many types of houseplants. Dried leaves naturally turn brown. If your houseplant is turning brown in the summer and especially if it’s a houseplant in a south- or west-facing window, then it’s likely sun damage. This type of browning almost always starts with the tips of leaves or other parts of the plant that are closest to the window. As a remedy, prune back the damaged part of the plant. Next, consider moving the plant to an east- or north-facing window, or moving it further back from the window if possible. You should also closely monitor the soil moisture level to make sure this isn’t contributing to the sun damage.

Underwatering: Plants that don’t receive enough will also dry out and turn brown. Underwatering is often connected with summer and sunlight, especially if you first started caring for the plant in colder weather. Most houseplants need more water in summer as evaporation increases. At the same time, browning plant leaves will occur due to underwatering regardless of the season. The winter season brings dry air for houseplants, especially in homes with forced air heating. Along with holiday travel, it’s easy to forget your houseplant watering. The solution here is to increase the amount of water you give the houseplant—albeit gradually. First, you need to be sure the problem is underwatering, but you also don’t want to overcorrect. Too much water can lead to root rot.

Pests: Yellow is a more common discoloration with houseplant pests which tend to steal nutrients from the plant. Once the pest damage hits a critical point, leaves may begin to die back and it’s more common for them to turn brown. Any unusual discoloration—but especially yellow, brown, white and black—may be a symptom of a pest infestation. The initial discoloration may be spotted and/or clustered based on where the insects are attacking the plant. If you see bugs on your plant or other signs of houseplant pests, then you should begin insecticide treatment as soon as possible.

Root Rot: Here, too, houseplants that turn yellow are more common with root rot—at least with the leaves. Root rot occurs when the soil is oversaturated and the roots become waterlogged. The leaves are more likely to turn yellow, but the roots will turn brown. If you expose a portion of the roots and they look brown and feel soft to the touch, then there’s a good chance that the discoloration you’re seeing is root rot. The solution here is to remove the affected roots, and the discolored leaves, and repot the healthy portion of the plant. Closely monitor the watering schedule going forward.

Water and Soil Quality: If leaves continue to turn brown, but don’t seem to be seriously harming the plant, it could have something to do with the water quality. If our tap water has high levels of fluoride or hard alkaline minerals, it can affect the soil quality and health of the roots. Adding a water softener is NOT the solution. These salts will interfere with houseplant roots even more. Another common reason for houseplants turning brown is adding too much fertilizer which will also disrupt the roots ability to deliver water and nutrients to the plant.

Houseplant Turning Brown: Why It’s Important to Know the Type

A lot of times, you can tell from the situation why a houseplant is turning brown. Other times, it’s not as obvious. Knowing the type of houseplant can help you diagnose the discoloration. For example, a drought-resistant plant that loves sunlight is less likely to be seriously harmed by the summer sun. However, in late summer and fall, houseplant pests are also more likely to find their way inside your home and may be the hidden cause of houseplants turning brown. Finally, there may be multiple, contributing causes. The summer sun may start to burn houseplants, or maybe you overcompensate and overwater a plant slightly. This weakens the plant just enough for a common houseplant pest to get a foothold.

Once you recognize why a houseplant is turning brown, you’ll know how to treat and care for the houseplant to help it recover. Sometimes, a houseplant simply can’t be saved—or else the best chance to save the plant is to isolate the healthiest growth and put this part of the plant in a new pot.  

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Why is My Houseplant Turning Yellow?

A houseplant may turn yellow for all kinds of reasons. This typically happens when the leaves have lost their nutrients and photosynthesis capabilities. Mild yellowing in isolated parts of the plant may be something that’s easily remedied and unlikely to kill the houseplant. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t ignore the problem when a houseplant is turning yellow, as it may be a symptom of more serious trouble ahead.

Much of the time, you can confidently figure out the problem by looking at the timing and circumstances of the discoloration. Take a look at the following reasons why a houseplant is turn yellow, and consider what’s changed recently in your houseplant care or seasonal conditions.

Most Common Reasons Houseplants Turn Yellow

Not Enough Light: The chlorophyll that makes plant leaves green will catch sunlight and use it for photosynthesis, but the sunlight also stimulates the production of new chlorophyll pigments in the plant. In other words, if a houseplant isn’t getting enough light, the chlorophyll can’t do its job and stops give the leaves their natural green color. The nutrient loss and stunted growth often cause the houseplant leaves to turn yellow. If the plant is already in a window with lots of light, consider whether it’s a dried brownish yellow that’s the result of burning under the sun. Again, looking at the plant’s general living conditions will often reveal the source of the discoloration.

Overwatering/Root Rot: Leaves that are bloated with water may turn a translucent yellow. Overwatering may have also caused root rot which is cutting off nutrients to the growth that depend on this part of the root system. If you have entire areas of the plant, from stem to leaf turning yellow, this is likely the cause. To be sure, expose a portion of the roots under the yellowing houseplant. The roots should be white and firm. If they are soft and brown, this is root rot. You should reduce the watering schedule, but you will also need to remove the affected part of the plant, which is unlikely to recover. Underwatering plants may also cause yellow discoloration, though a brown color is more likely with soil that’s too dry.

Water and Soil Quality: Leaves that turn yellow especially at the tips may have something to do with the type of water you’re using on houseplants. Some tap water has higher levels of fluoride or alkaline minerals that rarely kill a houseplant but can interfere with the roots ability to absorb water and deliver nutrients to all areas of new plant growth. Think about switching to filtered water, or let the watering can sit for 24 hours to reduce the chemicals and minerals in the water. Too much and poorly timed fertilizer will also cause disruptions to water and nutrient absorption and is another common reason houseplants turn yellow.

Pests: Whether it’s some type of scale or plant mite, houseplant pests have a knack for boring their way into your plants and stealing the nutrients stored in their leaves, stems and/or roots. This nutrient loss may eventually cause the plant to die back in a major way, but often the first sign is houseplant leaves turning yellow. Be sure to check for tiny spots and other signs that your houseplant has pests. Take immediate action to remove as many of the pests as possible and begin a regimen of insecticidal treatments.

Temperature: Most indoor plants can tolerate modest swings in temperature between summer and winter. However, it’s not a good idea to leave tropical plants near vents where air conditioning will periodically blast the plant with cold, dry air. If it gets cold enough for long enough, the plant can turn brown and die back altogether. Periodic drafts are more likely to turn houseplant leaves yellow.  

Houseplant Turning Yellow: Look at the Type of Plant

As part of diagnosing why your plant is turning yellow, it’s often helpful to know what type of plant you’re dealing with. Full shade plants are less likely to suffer from insufficient light unless they are far away from windows. Bromeliads are more pest-resistant than most types of houseplants. Azaleas, begonias, and African violets all tend to prefer acidic soil and are more likely to be affected by alkaline soil from tap water.

Yellowing leaves is one of the most common signs of distress in a houseplant. In some cases, it can be helpful to review why houseplants turn brown. Once you understand the underlying cause of the discoloration, it’s usually easy to find out what treatment and recovery steps may be taken to return the houseplant to full health.

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Popular Names for Houseplants

A lot of people have names for their houseplants. It increases the fun and the sense of connection that comes with caring for a houseplant. If you like to talk to your plants or think you may want to give it a try, naming the plant helps a lot. It’s also easier to show off your plants and your creative side to friends and family when you can refer to the plants by a clever name rather than, say, the jade on the corner of the windowsill.  

Naming a houseplant is also a great way to enhance the mental health benefits that come with owning and caring for plants. Some people already pick houseplants for their symbolism and aroma. Without a doubt, they can influence mood. The lavender plant is calming, for example, while the eucalyptus plant is known for rejuvenation and focus. Houseplants can enhance your work and living space, but they are also an excuse to take a moment out of your day for self-care. Naming your plants goes hand-in-hand with these benefits. Find something that speaks to you and will reinforce your reasons for owning and caring for the plant in the first place.  

Find Popular Names for Houseplants 

Any name, common or uncommon, that speaks to you is great. There are no wrong answers. Name it after your favorite (or least favorite) celebrity. Make a pop culture reference. Here are some of our favorite names for houseplants we’ve collected over the years.  

  • Bamboozle 
  • Aloe Vera Wang 
  • Aunt Begonia 
  • ZZ Top 
  • Eddie Money Tree 
  • Sigmund Freud 
  • The Kraken 
  • Jayden Potts (jade) 
  • Jake (the snake plant) 
  • Moses (wandering Jew) 
  • Sonny and Cher 
  • Matzo 
  • Dr. Rooth 

Plain or odd, the houseplant name doesn’t have to come to you right away. Maybe you’d prefer to wait a few weeks or even a couple months to see what growth and personality your new plant shows. Some of our favorite plants took a while to grow on us. Looking for even more ideas? Check out this list of names from Mashable.  

Plant-Themed Baby Names 

Interestingly, there has been a noticeable uptick in plant-themed baby names over the last couple years, especially in the UK but in the US as well. It’s not just Lily and Violet, either. Coral, Jade and Fern are viable choices as well, while staying within the mainstream of baby names.