Indoor plants are fun to collect and they can breathe life into any space in the home. They offer so much and ask for so little in return. All they need is the right level of sunlight, enough water to get them through the days, and a proper potting mix. However, just like any living being, plants can also get sick and spread diseases.

You can look into this short guide to identify a sick plant and how to treat as well as prevent it:

  • Wilting – While plants may wilt due to the lack of water, insufficient light, or outgrowing their indoor planter, it can also be a symptom of a bacterial infection called Ralstonia solanacearum. It could also be a good indicator of root rot.
  • White or Gray Substance – This can be a tell-tale sign of pests, particularly mealybugs and whiteflies.
  • Bacterial or Fungal Spots – Dark spots on the leaves is a symptom of a disease called Black Spot. Rust orange spots are an indication of a fungal disease of the same name. If you find any gray, fuzzy spots, it could be a sign of Gray Mold. Brown spots with yellowish-orange rings are known as bacterial spots.
  • White Powdery Substance – If you find any white, powdery substance on the underside of a leaf, it's a clear indication of a fungal infection known as powdery mildew.
  • Fine Webbing – Partnered with a few holes, this is a clear indication of spider mites feasting on your plants.
  • Rotting Leaves – If any part of a leaves shows any signs of rotting, it is an indicator of Botrytis or root rot.
  • Rotten Smell from the Soil – Soil that smells rotten is a sign of soil that’s been retaining water for so long. This can serve as an implication that your plant might be suffering from
  • Blackened Roots – Roots that turn black at the tip is an indication that the plant's roots are starting to rot.


Now that you’re aware of the problem, here are a few things that you can do while treating your plants:

  • Isolate the Plant

Keep your other plants from becoming a potential victim by isolating the affected foliage. Harmful fungal pathogens can travel through the air. To keep your other plants from getting sick, take the infected plants away from them.

  • Prune Away Affected Areas

The first step to help your plants is to prune away the affected areas. This works best with fungal infection and pest infestation. Discard the infected debris by either burning it, burying it to the ground, or throwing it away in a closed, plastic bag. Simply throwing it in the trash can cause airborne fungal spores to latch onto your other plants.

  • Repot the Plant with Fresh Soil

This is for soil-borne diseases. If you plan to re-use the indoor planter where your plant was previously housing, make sure to scrub it clean of any infected soil or debris. However, for severe cases, you may need to discard the whole plant as well as its potting mix.

  • Apply fungicide/pesticide

For fungal diseases and pest infestation, this is an important step to keep the fungi and pests from coming back. Spray them on affected parts of the plant. If you don’t like using chemical substances on your plants, you can make pesticide with neem oil or castile soap.

How to Prevent These from Happening

  • Do NOT Overwater

Overwatering is the number one killer of plants. Do your research on how much water a plant needs as it’s different from every houseplant. A good rule of thumb for almost every indoor plants is by using your fingers to get a feel of the soil. If it’s damp, wait for a few more days. If it’s dry, go water it. When it comes to plants that like to keep their soil moist, keep track with a watering schedule. During the most humid or rainy days, you can water lesser than usual.

For good practice, water at the bottom, directly on the soil. If your plant demands high humidity, give them a good misting. Do during the day to allow their leaves to dry quicker.

  • Buy from Trusted Source

Most plant diseases are infectious, so it's best to buy plants from a store trusted by the community or from someone close to you. This will prevent you from unknowingly spreading unwanted diseases to your other plant babies. If you’re shopping online and it's your first time with a new store, ask for pictures of the actual product and photos of the mother plant if you're buying propagated cuttings. If a plant's price seems too good to be true, there's a good chance of that being the case.

One way to tell if a store can be trusted is in how knowledgeable they are about plants and how transparent they are with you. The best stores and sellers can also advise on how to grow certain plants. Check their reviews and ask for a second opinion of the indoor plant community. Most groups are accommodating and have had the same experiences as you at one point so don’t be afraid to ask them!

  • Put plants in well-ventilated areas

Good air circulation can help in lessening infection. Space your plants so that air can circulate between them. Doing so will help in reducing moisture and allow fungal spores from latching onto your plant’s leaf surface.

  • Remove Plant Debris

Even if your leaves have or stems have died and fallen off from natural causes, the threat of fungal spores and pathogens is still apparent. You can keep the disease from manifesting by removing the fallen plant debris and disposing of it properly.  

  • Keep Your Tools and Containers Cleaned

One of the ways that disease can travel is through cross-contamination through the tools and containers you use. For pruners, you need to clean the blade with rubbing alcohol and a clean rug after every plant. When it comes to indoor planters, get rid of any soil that was used previously. Then give it a good scrubbing with bleach and water.