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Tips to Diagnose Houseplants that have Stopped Growing

Nothing is more satisfying than watching your plants grow and thrive in your home environment. Seeing your hard work pay off and produce new shoots, stems or a new leaf is gratifying for not only garden beginners but also veterans in the plant world.

So when a plant stops growing, it can be pretty frustrating – especially when, on the surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. When it comes to plant care, a lot of the focus often seems to be on what you can do to stop your plant from dying – but what about when a plant just seems to… stop?

As annoying as it can be to have one of your plants slow down or stop growing, it’s actually surprisingly common. Here are some common reasons and tips on how to diagnose and attend to your plants.

Variegated leaves with water droplets.

Insufficient Nutrients

One of the most common reasons why your plant might have stopped growing is because it’s not getting enough of what it needs to thrive.

If you suspect your plant is getting insufficient nutrients whether from natural light or warmth (especially during winter), water or fertiliser your plant will conserve all its energy so it can stay alive.  Some plants may revert to ‘survival mode’ where they may drop leaves and extremities so their food/energy doesn’t have to travel far. This leads to the plant reducing or stopping growth to conserve. Other signs that your plant may not be getting the nutrients it needs include yellowing or thin leaves and a loss of variegation in variegated plants.

 

Spraying an indoor plant with neem oil and washing liquid.

Pests

No one likes dealing with pests, but if your plant has stopped growing, then one of the common household pests such as aphids or fungus gnats could be to blame. 

Some pests are harder to eradicate than others but start by wiping the plant’s leaves down with diluted washing up liquid or neem oil.

 

A gardener removing a plant from an old pot that it has outgrown.

Root Bound

If you’ve had your plant for a while and have yet to change its pot, then it may have stopped

growing because it’s root bound. Plants can exhaust the nutrients in the soil but also outgrow the pot itself. On the occasion, some plants are happy being root bound, but others can struggle. To check if your pot is root bound, check by:

  • Are roots growing out of the bottom pot holes? 
  • If you lift your plant gently, do the roots bound or swell to the pot shape?

If yes to one or more, then it's a clear sign your plant is root bound and needs to be transferred to a bigger pot where its roots can expand and continue to grow.

 

An stunning collection of varying indoor green plants.

Reached Full Potential

If you’ve worked through all the causes above and can’t seem to find anything wrong with your plant, chances are it’s just reached its final size. Some houseplants are specifically bred to be slow-growing to ensure they don't outgrow indoor spaces or indoor use. Just like humans, houseplants can have a limit to their growth. However just because your plant has stopped growing, doesn’t mean maintenance is still not key for its survival for years to come. Occasional pruning will promote new leaves and branches to replace the old.

 

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