Wilted Leaves: Can This Plant Be Saved?

Wilted Leaves: Can This Plant Be Saved?

How wilted can a houseplant get before it's too late to save it? It depends on why it's wilting...

Make no mistake: Wilted leaves are a cry for help.

When your houseplant wilts, it's telling you something. Why it's wilting and how long it stays that way will determine if your plant can be saved.

What does wilting mean?
Conventional wisdom tells plant owners that when a plant wilts it needs more water. This is true for most plants. However, a plant may also wilt if it has been overwatered. Plants can also wilt due to stress from temperature changes. If, for example, you bring your houseplant home from the garden center on a cold day, it can wilt dramatically after you bring it into your warmer house. 

Can your wilted plant be saved?
It depends on why your plant is wilting. Different causes require different responses. If you’ve under watered your plant or have extremely low humidity, you can add water more and/or raise the humidity level around the plant. If you’ve overwatered, wait until the soil dries out before you water again. 

Why do plants wilt from lack of water?
The water pressure inside of the leaves and stems of plants give it structure. Plants have a vascular or circulatory system, just as humans do. In humans, the liquid is blood. In plants, it’s water. Up from the roots and through the leaves, water moves through a plant to create strength and health. A plant begins to wilt when there is an imbalance between water absorption and transpiration or if the transport of water through the xylem (the vascular tissue in plants that moves water up from the roots) is interrupted.

Some plants, such as peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) and waffle plants (Hemigraphis) are often called drama queens when it comes to underwatering. They wilt quickly, almost like they are fainting. Water the plant and the stems stand back up again. Nerve plant (Fittonia) react to lack of water in a similar way. But some plants are more sensitive and won’t revive as quickly. All plants suffer when they dry out too much, but it’s a matter of how soon they get water that determines if they will live or die. If they dry out completely, as in the image above, they cannot be saved.

Bottom line: If your plant wilts, investigate the reason. The most common reason for wilting is lack of water. But you should also check for overwatering.

Read more plant care tips: 
Dropping Leaves: Can This Plant Be Saved?
Yellow Leaves: Can This Plant Be Saved?

Written by Karen Weir-Jimerson