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ASK A PLANT EXPERT: Is it possible to bring a plant back from the dead?

Every week we’re answering all your pervy questions about plants with the help of the plant geniuses over at Leaf Supply. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to [email protected] We’ve got you covered. 

Question: Is it possible to bring a plant back from the dead, and if so, how?

Simple answer: depends how dead we’re talking.

The sight of a sick or dying plant is a sad one indeed. As with most things, prevention is better than a cure and staying on top of the health of your indoor plants is the best way to nip any issues in the bud before they really take hold. Checking in every three to four days with your plant pals to ensure their light and water needs are being met, removing any dead foliage and giving them a once over for pests and disease is the best way to keep them happy and healthy.

Having said all that, there are so many variables when it comes to plants that sometimes despite our best efforts they still get sick.

You need to start by quarantining the sick plant so it doesn’t infect or compromise your healthy plant babies. Next, assess just how far gone it really is, and be honest with yourself! With plants that are severely infested with pests or disease it can sometimes be better to cut your losses and ditch the plant to avoid the spread of the issue to the rest of your collection.

If however there’s still some healthy foliage on the plant, signs of new growth and healthy roots, then there is still hope and it’s time to troubleshoot! Working out what’s gone wrong will help you decide on the best course of action to nurse it back to health and avoid any of your other plants suffering a similar fate. Some of the common issues that can lead to a less than healthy plant pal:

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  • Over or under watering.
  • Too much or too little light.
  • A lack of humidity.
  • A pot that is too small or too large.
  • Not enough aeration in the soil.
  • Pests and disease.

When you’re dealing with over watering, the wrong size pot or pests and disease it may be useful to repot the plant. Gently remove as much of the old soil as possible and give the roots a good once over to ensure there’s no signs of rot. Re-pot using fresh organic potting mix. If the plant was root bound in its original pot it’s a good idea to repot into a slightly larger vessel (think just an inch or two bigger in diameter) or if you’re sticking with the same pot be sure to give it a good clean before replanting.

To give your plant a kickstart back to health, get busy removing and discarding any affected foliage. Check really carefully for any pests as unhealthy plants are especially susceptible to attacks from nasties including spider mites, mealybugs and scale. Give the foliage a thorough wipe down with a cloth soaked in diluted soapy water to remove any signs of these pesky pests.

When a plant is suffering from neglect and under watering it is not uncommon for well meaning plant parents to overcompensate by drowning the plant. Instead it’s best to ease the plant back into a solid watering schedule. Then be sure not to forget to water deeply and regularly.

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Bringing a plant back to life is incredibly rewarding and can provide a real confidence boost in your plant parenthood abilities. On the flip side if your efforts to revive a sick plant don’t have the desired outcome, try not to get disheartened, it happens to even the most experienced plant parents out there. Indoor gardening is all about experimentation and some dead plants are to be expected, learning what went wrong and how to avoid it happening in the future will mean your plant hasn’t died in vain.

More from the Leaf Supply column: 

How do I know if I’m watering a plant too much or not enough?

What’s the one indoor plant even a black thumb like me can’t kill?

What are the safest plants to have around cats and dogs?

Leaf Supply is an online plant store delivering lush green goodness throughout Sydney and beautiful botanical wares Australia wide. It’s the love child of friends and massive plant nerds Lauren Camilleri + Sophia Kaplan, who believe that life is better surrounded by greenery. For some serious plantspiration, follow along on instagram @leaf_supply and check out their online store.

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