If your Philodendron wilts or gets yellow or brown leaves with root rot, either your Philodendron is dying or getting old.
Generally, the dying Philodendron is likely from root rot due to overwatering, requiring fungicidal treatment or repotting. Beware of severe temperature and lighting stress, incorrect pruning, pest/diseases, and chemical choke, which may cause the gradual death of the plant.
Remember, with the correct measures applied sooner; you can save your dying Philodendron and restore your Philodendron.
10 Possible Causes of Dying Philodendrons
It is easy to tell if your plant suffers from tell-tale signs like sickly leaves (wilted, yellowed, or browned), stunted growth, decaying roots, moldy potting mix, etc.
Therefore, it’s important to note that individual plants can differ, and factors such as diseases, pests, or environmental stressors can impact their lifespan.
1. Overwatering Plant
The waterlogged soil caused by overwatering can lead to root rot, which deprives the plant of essential nutrients and oxygen.
As a result, the Philodendron’s dying roots will exponentially increase, leading to failed water intake from sources to stem and leaves.
You could tell this by the tell-tale signs as such:
- Leaves turn yellow or brown, starting from the tips and edges and spreading inward.
- Wilting or drooping of leaves as the leaves fail to restore water.
- Stunted appearance, such as small or undersized leaves.
- The foul odor comes off the potting mix, resembling decaying organisms.
When you inspect the roots, they may appear mushy, slimy, or dark brown instead of firm and white, which are clear indications of root rot.
Dying Philodendron Birkin will display leaves wilting inwards to save water and sometimes faded white variegation.
2. Under-watering Issue
Although not as severe as overwatering, underwatering your Philodendron can damage significantly, sometimes even leading to death from drought stress.
The drying potting soil will choke the roots, preventing nutrient, water, and oxygen intake required by the leaves to prepare plant food.
As a result, you will notice dry, crispy, and brown leaves, which may resemble a sunburned plant.
Gradually, the leaves will falter and curl before wilting and falling off.
Philodendron dying leaves are the beginning, where your plant will experience stunted growth and fail to produce new leaves.
Remember, without any moisture around the roots; the plant is as good as dead.
3. Incorrect Soil pH
Wrong soil pH affects the absorption of nutrients and minerals from the soil and healthy microbial activity.
For instance, Pink Princess Philodendron leaves dying can be attributed to an alkaline potting mix, as these tropical species thrive in slightly acidic soil (5.5-6.0 pH).
On the other hand, too acidic soil will deprive the roots of macronutrients like Nitrogen and Potassium.
Here is what you need to know.
|Below 5.0 pH
|Above 6.5 or 7.0
|Yellowing or chlorotic leaves
|Chlorosis or yellowing of leaves
|Stunted growth and poor nutrient absorption
|Reduced nutrient availability (esp. iron)
|Reduced overall vigor for tropical plants like philodendron
|Slow growth and overall decline
It is important to note that Philodendrons can tolerate a range of pH levels to some extent, but prolonged exposure to significantly incorrect pH will negatively impact their health.
A sick Philodendron is more susceptible to bacterial and fungal diseases, inviting root decay problems and eventually death.
4. Cold Injury
Remember, cold temperature is a No-No for Philodendrons because they quickly show changes in their leaf and appearance.
Philodendrons thrive in ambient home temperatures ranging between 60-75F (15.5-24°C), whereas anything below 55°F (12.7°C) will stress out the plant.
For example, cold drafts from the window or air conditioner expose the leaves to frostbite, inhibiting photosynthesis, and transpiration.
While they can tolerate below 55F temperature, prolonged exposure to extreme cold can cause significant damage and even result in the death of the plant.
Signs of Cold-Stressed Philodendrons
- Philodendron leaves will begin to turn brown or black or exhibit discoloration patches.
- Cold-stressed leaves will wilt or droop as they fail to take up water and nutrients.
- Severely stressed leaves will begin to drop prematurely.
- The plants will experience slowed or stunted growth before dying.
5. Erwinia Blight
Philodendrons are susceptible to Erwinia blight caused by the bacterium Erwinia chrysanthemum, which can become a deadly pathogen.
These bacterium attack sickly or dying Philodendrons at or below the soil line and slowly reach the stem and leaves.
If you are wondering, using infected tools, wind, splashing water, and insects can introduce the bacterium to the plants
Keep an eye out for the signs of Erwinia’s blight onset.
- It typically starts with water-soaked lesions on leaves, stems, or petioles.
- The lesions may enlarge and turn dark brown or black, often accompanied by yellowing leaves.
- As the disease progresses, usually in warm (71-93°F) and humid conditions, infected leaves may wilt, collapse, and die.
Remember, Erwinia blight can quickly spread to other parts of the plant and neighboring plants if left unchecked.
In a matter of weeks, your plant will succumb to the bacterium and falter, leading to its death.
6. Poor Drainage
Poor soil drainage is a significant concern for container-grown plants because it invites waterlogged soil.
Without slow water drainage, the excess will remain in the soil drowning the roots, causing fungal growth, often leading to root rot.
Therefore, Philodendron dying roots are often associated with poor drainage and overwatering.
Many things may lead to poor drainage, including a lack of drainage holes.
- Poorly-draining potting mix
- Excess organic matter
- Stale potting mix.
Old potting mixes are more likely to harden over time. It lacks microbial activity and proper aeration.
As a result, the plant’s health will dwindle, indicated by yellowing leaves, wilting or drooping, stunted growth, and signs of root rot.
Remember, the signs of poor drainage are very similar to overwatering problems.
7. Improper Sunlight
Philodendrons are shade plants and are not very picky about direct sunlight.
But yes, you must provide Philodendron with bright, indirect sunlight for at least 6-8 hours daily to ensure healthy growth.
Similarly, it does not do well in low light because it alters the photosynthesis process, leading to loss of color.
Although some exposure would not kill your philodendron, prolonged exposure to direct sunlight or low-lit conditions will damage the plant, possibly leading to death.
8. Pests Infestation
Stressed or weakened Philodendrons are prone to pest infestations.
Some common garden predators, such as spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, scale insects, and fungus gnats, will quickly attack defenseless plants.
If your Philodendron is severely light or water-stressed, then the chances are it is already weakened.
So, keep an eye out for some tell-tale pest signs.
|These tiny, sap-sucking pests create fine webbing and cause yellowing on the leaves
|Small, soft-bodied insects that form white, cottony clusters on the plant. They suck sap from the leaves, causing yellowing and distortation
|Small, soft-bodied insects that cluster on new growth, sucking plant juices and causing curling or distorted leaves
|Small, immobile pests that attach to the plant and form protective shells. They can cause yellowing, leaf drop, and overall
|Flying insects that lay their eggs in moist soil, and the larvae feed on the roots, leading to root damage and poor plant health
While pest infestations can weaken the plant’s biomechanics, they typically do not cause immediate plant death.
Beware, untreated pest infestation can damage the plant’s immunity and may even cause death.
9. Nutrient Choke
Remember, Philodendrons are not heavy feeders but enjoy occasional feeding.
Seeing Philodendron Birkin leaves dying or Philodendron micans dying prematurely also has to do with incorrect fertilization.
An overfed Philodendron will show unmistakable signs such as burned leaf tips, severe leaf chlorosis, stunted growth, and salt buildup on the soil surface.
On the other hand, under-fertilized Philodendrons are more likely to experience slow growth without any drastic change in appearance.
If so, you should promptly start fertilizing your plant with balanced plant food.
For example, Philodendron Birkin common problems are usually due to less fertilization. These species enjoy regular fertilization.
10. Rootbound and Transplant Shock
Generally, many growers wonder if plants die from transplant shock.
In reality, transplant shock will break down the plant’s immunity and make it susceptible to pests and pathogens, but it does not necessarily kill the plant.
On the other hand, severely pot-bound Philodendrons will stop growing until you transplant them in a fresh potting mix.
Although both these cases are considered worse, Philodendrons would not necessarily die.
How to Save Dying Philodendron?
Now you know what may cause your Philodendronto to die, let us look at some proven solutions to save them quickly.
1. Treat Root Rot
- Stop watering the plant and gently remove it from the pot to examine the roots. See whether the extent of mushy, browned, dark, and smelly roots is significant.
- Significantly damaged roots should be discarded immediately. Trim away affected roots for minor rot using clean, sterilized pruning shears.
- Before transplanting, dip the entire root system in the fungicide or apply fungicide to the cut roots.
- Place a layer of the well-draining potting mix in the new pot. Place the plant in the center, spread out the roots, and add more soil.
- After repotting, water the plant thoroughly and only re-water when the top inch or so of soil dries out.
If the problem results from poor soil drainage, consider transplanting to a well-draining mix or amend the existing soil with organic matter like compost and perlite stones to improve aeration and drainage.
Similarly, using pots with single or no holes should be let off. And find a good pool with multiple drainage holes at the bottom.
2. Correct Watering
- Check whether your plant is waterlogged or suffering from drought by assessing the signs.
- Cut back on the watering schedule and allow the soil to dry until the top inch of the soil feels dry.
- In drought, give the plant a deep and thorough watering session or immerse the pot in a tub of water to soak up moisture.
- Using a sterilized pruning shear, clear off affected leaves, stems, and roots (if necessary) to restore the plant’s health.
- Change the soil to a well-draining substrate if necessary and aerate the soil with perlite or pumice to improve drainage.
- Increase or decrease humidity levels around the plant using a room humidifier, preferably around 60-70%.
3. Fix Soil pH
- Always use a soil testing kit to determine the exact pH level.
- If the soil pH is very acidic, raise it by amending agricultural or dolomite lime to the soil. Gently till or mix it to ensure even distribution.
- For alkaline soil, lower the pH by amending acidic amendments such as elemental sulfur, aluminum sulfate, or acidic organic matter like peat moss with the soil.
- Now, wait a week for the test and check whether the pH has reached the desired range (around 6.0-7.0).
Repeat the lime or sulfur application until the pH is adequately adjusted.
4. Treat Cold-Stressed Plant
- Bring Philodendrons from the open window and patio to provide a controlled and warmer environment.
- Consider using protective coverings, such as frost cloths or blankets, to shield it from the cold, especially in winter.
- Wait until early spring for the new growth to emerge and prune away the damaged leaves or stems.
- Provide proper care to support the plant’s recovery, including a warm, brightly-lit location with ample humidity.
5. Treat Erwinia Blight
- First, isolate the affected plant to prevent the spread of the disease.
- Remove and destroy infected plant parts with a disinfected pruning shear, including leaves, stems, or flowers.
- You can use copper-based bactericides to reduce the risk of pathogen spread.
- Always disinfect any tools before and after pruning to avoid spreading the bacteria symptoms to other plants.
- Avoid overwatering, overhead irrigation, or excessive humidity, as these conditions can create an environment favorable for bacterial blight.
6. Treat Light Stressed Plant
Remember, Philodendrons thrive in medium or bright indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours daily.
Here are a few tips to save your light-stressed Philodendron.
- Move the Philodendron plant to a brighter location with indirect or filtered light, such as an east-facing window.
- Ensure the direct sunlight does not reach the plant, usually at the south-facing window.
- Trim off affected leaves and stems to preserve the plant’s energy toward new growth.
- Water the soil thoroughly to compensate for excessively transpired leaves and mist often.
- Finally, avoid fertilizing until the plant seems to recover and produce new growth.
For lack of sunlight, supplement with grow lights. Ensure the light intensity of 2,500 – 10,000 lux or 250–1,000 foot candles (FC) to mimic their natural habitat.
7. Treat Pest Infestation
If you notice any signs of infestation, take immediate action to mitigate the damage.
Here are some steps to address pest problems:
- Manually remove pests using a soft cloth or cotton balls dipped in insecticidal soap or rubbing alcohol.
- Trim heavily infested leaves or stems to reduce the pest population and prevent further damage.
- Use Neem oil on the affected area. Apply them occasionally in the growing season to prevent pests.
- Avoid overwatering and provide adequate airflow and light to promote plant health and make the environment less favorable for pests.
8. Treat Nutrient Choked Plant
Start with identifying the damage done by excess nutrients before applying the fixes.
- Thoroughly water the plant to flush out excess nutrients and salts. Repeat the process if necessary.
- Cut damaged leaves, stems, and roots to help restore the plant’s health.
- Cut back on fertilizing and continue with a balanced houseplant fertilizer every 1-2 months in the growing season.
- If you suspect overfertilization, dilute the fertilizer by applying it at half-strength or less than the recommended dosage to prevent further nutrient buildup.
Alternatively, using slow-release fertilizers (Osmocote) will help reduce the risk of overfertilization. Also, apply fertilizer pellets on the soil, water it, and let it be for up to 3 months.
Extra Tips to Ensure Healthy Philodendron
Along with the care tips and fixes mentioned above, try these extra health tips to keep your Philodendronhealthy.
- Use a reflective surface: Place a mirror near your Philodendronto to help redirect and amplify natural light from the window.
- Use rainwater: Rainwater is naturally chlorine-free, which will help Philodendronroots to get optimal moisture without retaining harmful chemicals or salt.
- Provide sugar water: Mix a teaspoon of sugar in a liter of water and pour it onto the soil to boost the plant’s immunity. However, refrain from doing it regularly but as a one-time treatment.
- Provide gentle air circulation: Place a small fan on the lowest setting near your plant to provide gentle air movement, especially in hot summer.
From Editorial Team
It is often easy to confuse a sickly Philodendron for a dying plant because of the unmistakable signs.
Remember, not all sickly Philodendron plants are prone to death; some are aging, dormant, or experiencing winter shock.
Stick to regular care and maintenance without overdoing it to ensure your Philodendrons remain problem-free.