So you have started your gardening journey, and you are following all the instructions to take care of your favorite plants, but you do not see any sign of growth.
Or maybe your plant has suddenly stopped growing, and you cannot figure out why.
Well, don’t worry because we have compiled the list of reasons why your plant might be struggling with growth and the possible solutions for each problem.
Good Reasons Why Your Plants are Not Growing
Plants do not grow because you planted them in the wrong season and location. It could also be because of transplant shock and poor soil conditions. Incorrect watering, lighting, and fertilization can also make your plants stop growing. Lastly, pests and diseases can also lead to your plants’ stunted growth.
1. Incorrect Planting Season and Location
Planting in the wrong season means incorrect soil and atmospheric temperature for your plants.
Off-season planting can decrease fruit production, and plants also struggle with germination as the correct soil temperature isn’t available.
Warm-season edible crops are planted in spring, whereas cool-season crops are grown in fall. Planting or sowing seeds in the wrong season can be avoided by creating a planting calendar.
This will also ensure your garden stays colorful and flourishing year-round because you will have something to grow in each season.
The location of the plant mainly depends on the light levels, but you should also consider the following:
- Avoid placing plants in windy areas as the wind can damage the foliage, especially of young plants.
- Avoid dark or gloomy areas unless your plant is accustomed to growing in low light.
- Avoid planting in areas that receive harsh midday sunlight. This can easily result in a scorched plant.
- Avoid high-temperature areas that might dry out the soil more often unless you can keep up with your plant’s watering needs.
- Choose companion plants carefully because pairing the wrong plant can hinder the growth of the plants.
- Avoid planting in crowded spaces or a tight container. Your plants need room to spread their root system and grow. Choose a container 1-2 inches bigger than the plant or at least the root system for potted plants. For in-ground plants, maintain the proper spacing between individual plants.
2. Transplant Shock
Transplant shock results in the failure of the plant to establish itself in a new location. If your plants are weak, they can easily suffer from the stresses caused by transplantation.
The top symptoms of transplant shock include wilted appearance, leaf shed, and decline in plant growth.
Plants that have root systems that are shallow are more vulnerable to transplant damage; therefore, pay attention to such plants.
A strong root system can help minimize the damage caused by transplant shock because your plant will recover fast. The following tips will help in dealing with transplant shock:
- The root systems should stay moist during the procedure. Therefore always water your plant thoroughly before transplanting. Otherwise, the dryness might stress out the roots.
- Thorough water after transplanting is also essential as it minimizes the chances of transplant shock.
- Whether you are repotting, propagating, or transplanting, avoid disturbing the root system unnecessarily and handle the plant carefully. The root ball should be transferred as it is, except when infected with root rot. In this case, it’s crucial to trim the diseased roots.
- If you are performing root pruning, make sure you prune a few leaves and branches to balance out. Add a root booster fertilizer solution to encourage root development.
- Try to replicate the previous growing environment as much as possible this includes maintaining the same soil type, drainage, and temperature.
- Allow the plant to recover on its own in a few days time. Not every case of transplant shock has long-term effects. As the plant starts adjusting to the new location, you will notice an improvement in the plant’s appearance.
- Timing matters; the best time for transplant or propagation is early spring or late fall.
3. Poor Soil Conditions
Soil plays a significant role in the growth of potted and garden plants. The soil also nurtures essential microorganisms.
In fact, the best soil for plants is the one that has plenty of living organisms. Remember, healthy soil means healthy plants.
The soil should be tested every few years to keep a check on macro and micronutrients. Soil tests give a precise idea of the nutrient level.
The right soil should anchor the root system, keep the plant upright, retain water, protect plants from erosion, and provide nutrients.
It’s like a pantry for plants, so using infertile, poor soil can hinder the overall plant growth. You can improve the soil conditions in the following ways:
- Add organic matter like compost to enhance the soil conditions such as aeration, nutrient content, and structure. Compost will also serve as a food source for soil-living organisms.
- Avoid soil compaction, as it reduces airflow and water movement. Divide your garden into small raised beds that can be protected from foot traffic and equipment weight.
- Mulch the soil surface to improve water retention and keep the soil cool during extreme weather. Mulching also reduces weed growth that can consume nutrients from the soil.
- Practice crop rotation and add cover crops to discourage pests and diseases. This also prevents the depletion of nutrients.
- Before planting, treat the soil with manure and fertilizers to increase fertility. Repeat fertilizer application throughout the growing seasons to add nutrients.
- Each plant has a preferred soil pH range, indicating whether the soil should be acidic, neutral, or alkaline. Make sure you maintain the right pH. You can use soil amendments to bring the pH in the correct range for your plants, but this should be done a few weeks before planting.
4. Improper Watering
Water is one of the critical elements for all stages of plant growth because 85 to 95% of plant weight is water.
It helps in seed germination, transportation of nutrients, transpiration, photosynthesis, and support.
Each plant variety has its own watering needs depending on the season, temperature and light supplied.
Lack of water or mulching can increase soil temperature, which in return stresses the plant.
Under and overwatering can impact the plant growth in different ways, so keep the following in mind and maintain a balance:
- Grow outdoor plants in garden soil with excellent soil drainage to prevent overwatering and use pots with drainage holes to prevent watering issues.
- Adding too much water eventually leads to root rot due to being deprived of oxygen. Adding less water will hinder the transportation of nutrients within the plant system, which results in a weak, stunted plant.
- Water your plants early in the day so that the water can evaporate properly throughout the day.
- Plants need more water in hot weather than during cold weather.
- Always check the soil before adding water. You can either use the finger test or a moisture meter.
5. Incorrect Light
Light helps the plants in photosynthesis, so it’s a vital element for plant survival. But too much of everything they need is harmful to the plants, including light.
Excessive light exposure will burn your plant, whereas lower light levels than required will result in leggy growth.
Both of them slow down the overall plant growth and flowering capacity. You might also end up losing the coloration on variegated varieties.
Consider the amount of light your plant needs before choosing a location. This is important for in-ground plants because it’s difficult to transfer them to a new site.
Potted plants can be moved easily from one spot to another. Based on light requirements, plants are divided into three categories: low light plants (shade or 50-250 foot candles), medium light plants (partial sun or 250-1000 foot candles), and high light plants (full sun or more than 1000 candles).
- While planning your garden, study the sunlight direction within your garden or indoor space. Know the areas where the maximum or minimal light is available during the day.
- Shade-loving plants should be planted under taller plants or near walls or fences so that they remain shaded during most of the day. Remember, these low-light or shade-loving varieties are understory plants in nature.
- If you cannot find a shaded spot, you can utilize shade cloths, sheer curtains, or blinds to create a dim environment.
- Plants that need full sunlight should be planted or placed in areas without obstructions like trees, tall plants, or walls. They must get sunlight for 6-8 hours every day.
- You can compensate for natural sunlight with artificial lights such as LED, fluorescent, incandescent, high-pressure sodium, and metal halide. Each of these options have its own cons as well as pros, so make sure you choose the right type. According to the University of Minnesota, you should focus on the duration, light intensity, light quality, and distance from source when using artificial lights for your plants.
- The color of the light also matters when using artificial light sources. Blue light produces compact plants with thick leaves, whereas red light produces large plants with long stems.
- Never let dust accumulate on the leaf surface. It reduces the light-capturing capacity of your plant, which means even if you keep the plant under the right light levels, it isn’t actually getting the light.
For more details about artificial lights, you can check out our article about LED Grow lights.
6. Incorrect Fertilization
Just like water, you also need to find a balance for fertilizers. Plants do not appreciate being under or over-fertilized.
Plant owners are easily tempted to overfeed their plants in the hopes of better growth and a strong plant.
But, it causes more damage than good because it makes them vulnerable to pests or diseases in most cases.
In addition to slow or no growth, other signs of over-fertilization include burned leaf edges, dry edges, and wilting.
Salts also accumulate on top of the soil surface, making it difficult for the plant to absorb moisture. Overfertilization can also contaminate groundwater.
It can be avoided in the following ways:
- Only fertilize your plants during active growth periods and not in dormancy or winter. When plants do not grow actively, anything added to soil remains in the soil, which can quickly burn the roots.
- If you are unsure about the fertilizer ratio, use half of what’s the recommended ratio.
- Remove the dying or dead foliage to conserve plant energy and help the plant recover from fertilizer damage.
- Replace chemical fertilizers with organic ones as they are environment friendly and release the nutrients slowly, which helps in preventing over-fertilization.
- Research and understand the nutrient needs of your plants. Some plants need more phosphorus, while others need more nitrogen. Therefore, choosing the right NPK is important if you want to avoid incorrect feeding.
- Take your potted plant to an open area and flush it with water to remove the excess fertilizer salts. You can also refresh the top layer of soil with fresh potting soil or leach garden soil with a hose to get rid of extra fertilizer.
7. Pest or Diseases
Pest or diseases can create severe issues for your beloved plants. There is a long list of houseplant pests that might infect your outdoor or indoor plants.
All these bugs or pests will feed on the foliage, roots, or plant sap and slow down the growth.
Just like pests, diseases spread by harmful bacteria or pathogens can also stress your plants. Some of the diseases are plant-specific others are common diseases.
The following are top tips for pest and disease management:
- The first step in disease (fungal, viral, or bacterial) or pest management is preventing the infection. Inspect your plants regularly while watering, misting, or cleaning. Check both sides of the leaves, the leaf nodes, and other hidden areas.
- Most pests are introduced via an external source. Therefore, you need to buy your plant, soil, and fertilizer from reliable sources.
- Separate the newly bought plants from other healthy plants for at least two weeks so that no disease or pests are spread. If the plants are infected, the symptoms will start showing up in these two weeks.
- Chemical treatments should be your last resort, that too if the plant is heavily infected. Your first defense against pests and diseases should be natural products like neem oil, horticulture oil, dish soap, etc.
- Keeping your plants healthy throughout their growth cycle increases their pest and disease resistance.
- Prune off the heavily infected or diseased parts and dispose of them properly. Avoid recycling infected leaves.
- Maintain good air circulation and do not keep the foliage moist for a long period.
We hope that the information shared in this article will help your plants grow better. Remember taking care of your plants requires the right knowledge about their growing environment.
A rule of thumb is always to plan your garden in advance and enhance the growing conditions accordingly to avoid poor growth.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.