Indoor Plant Leaf Loss?

If you have put your plants outdoors for the summer–or even perhaps if you haven’t but you start to see something like this, what do you do?


When I lecture, I often say that we are far too quick to discard plants that “look” like they’re dying. I know more ficus plants end up in the trash than ever should because a weeping fig’s (ficus benjaminii) unfortunate habit is to lose many of its leaves once it’s moved.

So if you buy one in a nice humid greenhouse and bring it home to your house–especially as we get into the drier heating season–you can bet it’s going to lose most, if not all of its leaves. That’s the point that new plant growers think they’ve killed it, not realizing that this is just the unfortunate habit of the plant.

So patience! Patience is sometimes required (and let’s face it–who has patience and wants to look at a bunch of sticks in a pot?) But do try not to discard a weeping fig before it’s really dead.

My geranium (pelargonium, actually)(the plant in the above photo) is another story. What’s happening?
Well, a bunch of things. First of all, it’s pot bound (which you can’t tell by looking, of course, but I know from my experience with this plant) so it goes through cycles of “wet” and “dry.”

When it was outside and in full leaf all summer, it was fine with this. Now that it’s indoors and in a sunny window, it’s not so happy about this. I tried to cut it back a little to prevent some of the transpiration from the leaves, but obviously I didn’t succeed enough.

Should I worry? Not as long as I can see that my leaves are burning (as they are) and that I am still losing older leaves from the bottom of the plant (as I am–it may not be apparent from this photo).

I don’t want to do anymore cutting back right now–there’s not a lot to cut. I would rather let it defoliate, if need be and then trim up in the spring.

But I hope that this shows you that it’s okay to let a plant lose leaves. On Friday I will show you my citrus. They have come in in full leaf. But mid-winter, they’ll be sticks in my climate, even though they are in a full sun south window. Do I worry? No. Do I hate it. Yes. We’ll talk more Friday.

2 thoughts on “Indoor Plant Leaf Loss?

  1. tonytomeo October 8, 2018 / 11:42 pm

    That is somewhat normal for them as houseplants, although it is a bit early. I would recommend doing nothing more than plucking off the dead leaves and letting the media (potting soil) get a bit drier than it normally does between watering. There is not much evapotranspiration without foliage. Growth should resume as things warm up at the end of winter. If you see new shoots developing down low at the end of winter, you should cut off the gnarled old stems back to the new shoots.

  2. gardendaze October 9, 2018 / 5:23 am

    Thanks, Tony. I did do a little bit of trimming over the weekend. I had remembered that about a month or so before bringing this in, I had pruned it back and stuck the “trimmings” in the soil to root. Some of them had and some not so much, it being later in the growing season for us. So I got those out, neatened the poor thing, and it will rest until spring. On Friday, you’ll see my citrus, which do about the same thing, but so far look okay.


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