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Oh No! My Plant Has Wilted, What Do I Do?!

by Fern on April 27, 2010

in How To,Pests & Problems

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Your first reaction upon discovering that a plant has wilted may be to trip over yourself while trying to find your watering can. But adding more water may not be the best thing to do, or at least not the best thing to do first. Intrigued? Read on my friends…

It Could Be The Weather

A wilted plant doesn’t necessarily mean a plant that hasn’t been watered enough, though that’s a possibility. Sometimes, on a particularly hot or windy day, a plant can look wilted even though you just watered it this morning. This is because the plant is losing moisture through its leaves faster than it can take up water through its roots.

If you’re pretty sure that the problem isn’t lack of water (because you’ve stuck your finger in the soil and it is still moist) then move the pot to a lightly shaded spot. If it perks up by the time the weather cools down, then you know that the problem was the weather. If the plant is question can tolerate light shade, you might want to leave it there, at least during the heat of summer. Another option would be to move the pot to a location where it gets morning sun but is shaded in the heat of the afternoon. If those two things aren’t possible, your only option is to move it back to its old spot and continue to occasionally move the plant to the shade during heat waves.

Or It Could Be Too Much Water

If you followed the above advice and the plant still isn’t perking up, (and yet you’re confident that you were watering the plant and it’s soil is moist) then it’s possible that you overwatered the plant to the point that the roots have started to rot and can no longer take up the water the plant needs. The plant may be beyond saving at this point, but certainly stop watering. Place the plant in part shade and see if it recovers. I did this recently to a plant that was in a self-watering pot. Whoops!

If It’s Neither Of The Above…

If neither of those first two scenarios describe your situation, then you probably need to water. If the soil has become hard and has puckered to the point that it is pulling away from the sides of the pot, it’s not enough to simply pour water into the container. In all likelihood, water will rush down the sides (in between the soil and the pot) and flow right out the bottom without wetting the soil. Try using a pencil to poke a few holes in the surface of the soil to allow water to penetrate in several spots. Water until you see water flowing out the bottom, and then repeat in 10 minutes.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary C. April 27, 2010 at 11:11 am

oh good tips there! I didn’t know they could lose moisture from the leaves faster than they soak it up and always watered right away…. maybe now I’ll save some more water…

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Linda April 27, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Hi. Speaking of over watering – Someone once gave me a beautiful jade plant that had wilted. Turned that the plant was waterlogged. After the plant dried out it came back and thrived.

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Fern April 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Mary–Your finger is your best gardening tool! I’m always poking around in my plants leaves and in the soil to make sure everything is as it should be.

Linda–I bet they thought they were giving you a goner of a plant too! Lucky you!

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Bob April 27, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Some plants will wilt if its too cool for them as well. Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato vines) are notorious for this. When the weather outside is cool (50′s) they will wilt, but bring them inside where its warm and they perk right back up.

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Fern April 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Interesting Bob. Didn’t know that. My sweet potato has never wilted, but then again, it doesn’t usually get down to the 50s during the day here, so I might not have noticed.

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meryemilymay April 28, 2010 at 8:16 am

thank you thats accactly the problem i have with a plant and this information is very usefull

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Steve Masover May 1, 2010 at 9:42 pm

I have that plant in the picture. And I have to tell you, Fern, I have the blackest thumb on the planet. I have trouble keeping cacti alive. But this plant, in my living room — what’s the name of it? — it tells me when I’ve forgotten to water it by wilting just like the photo shows. it’s the ability to conduct a dialog with a plant-idjut like me that has saved its life, about a zillion times. It’s been at least a decade now. A world and Olympic record for yours truly…….

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Rob J May 3, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I have two plants in my office, and being somewhat ill-informed I can’t even tell you what they are. But, for years they flourished while I was located on the east side of the building with lots of light.

Then, I moved to the West side, and they’ve struggled ever since. I assume it has something to do with light exposure, but it’s amazing the difference moving from one side of the building to the other has made.

Cheers for the post!

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Fern May 3, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Rob–The only thing I can think of is that your plant is now getting more light (that it doesn’t want) in your new office. Or maybe it is now under an air conditioning duct and it doesn’t like that?

cheryl a June 27, 2011 at 10:19 am

i have or had a beautiful golden shrimp plant . i grew from a small plant and now is about 3 feet tall , i bring it in every winter , i put it out in the spring and i had to put in in a bigger pot. which i didnt realize had no holes in bottom, well it rained for days and of course it was floating in water i quickly drained it and repotted it in fresh soil but it still is willted its only been a day is there any thing else i should do

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Fern June 27, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Did you repot it in a pot with drainage holes? Place your shrimp plant in part shade while it recovers.

Megan October 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I have some type of indoor Impatien I received from my boyfriends mother sometime in the summer, and it was growing amazing. Now that its October, being really cold up here in NH, it has started to wilt. I was worried that maybe I was over watering it, so I checked the roots to make sure they weren’t rotted. They were fine. I’m just so worried a bunch more soggy, wilted leaves are going to just drop off. I hope you can give me advice. All my other plants I have had for a while and I know how they act and what they need. I know nothing about this Impatien.

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Chris May 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm

We just purchased Snapdragons to plant in our
flowerbed today, but it’s very windy outside
(60 degrees). Wondering if the wind will have
a negative effect on the transplants? Thanks
for your speedy reply!

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Chris May 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm

This was my first submission about the wind/

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Chris May 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm

We would like to plant some Snapdragons
in our flowerbed today, but are concerned
that the very windy weather today will be
detrimental to the new transplants in some
way. They are still in the store containers.

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Chris May 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm

We would like to plant some Snapdragons in our
flower bed today, but are concerned the very
windy weather today will be detrimental to the
new transplants in some way. We live in Flagstaff
Arizona, and it’s 60 degs. The plants are still in
the store containers.

Doug July 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

I have the same wilting problem (90 deg+ midwest days), especially the large leaf plants such as zucchini and cucumbers. The odd thing is that at dusk the plants look vibrant again. I think the wilting I’m experiencing is nature’s way of not letting the plants lose water via the leaves as fast.

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Ben November 15, 2012 at 10:33 am

This is really generalized, so do a little google research after reading my post. …Sometimes plants will suffer from wilting during daytime temps and perk up at night because of root rot like fusarium. Day time temps diminish a plants uptake of nutrients, and in combination with over watering can deprive the plant of oxygen. During the warmer day time temps, nutrient availability and oxygen saturation of wet dirt is utilized primarily by fusarium activity that peaks with the increased temperature. When it cools, fusarium activity decreases, and the plants normal perkiness returns. The short term effect seems like everything will be fine, but the long term result is generally a dead or poor yielding plant. This is a common problem in deep water culture hydroponics, it is generally remedied by adding bleach or hydrogen peroxide to the plants water source(other organic remedies also exist). In the case of a garden in the ground, the plant may require some sort of fungicide applied as directly as possible to the root zone. Hope that helps someone… as it isn’t always an A or B problem, but often an A, B or C(c being disease) problem.

Ben November 16, 2012 at 10:54 am

I thought I should add to my last comment, to make it a teeny tiny bit clearer… Oxygen deprivation would happen to plants in a seedling stage before they have developed leaves other than the two seedling leaves. In adult plants the vascular system is constricted or clogged, and they simply can not up take nutrients. Either way, fusarium is a possible reason for cyclical plant wilt.

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norma September 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I have the plant in the picture as well and I was wondering, Why are the leaves turning an golden and brown color???

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