P&PDL Picture of the Week for
June 7, 2004

Natural Shedding of Houseplants

Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Department of Horticulture, Purdue University

Gardeners often grow alarmed when their houseplant leaves turn yellow or brown and fall off. This could be symptomatic of serious problems such as overwatering, root rot, underwatering, excessive salt buildup, etc. However, in many cases, it may just be the natural shedding of older leaves. It may be helpful to think of such shedding of older leaves as reallocation of resources to the newly developing leaves.

This particular Spathiphyllum (peace lily) is wilting due to excessively dry soil while in a very sunny window. The owner reports that they usually wait until the plant wilts and then water thoroughly. The plant appears to recover quickly upon watering.

Certainly stress such as drying out too much between watering or waterlogged soil can hasten the discoloration and eventual leaf drop of older foliage. But if it is primarily old leaves being shed while new growth appears to be active and healthy, there's generally no need to be alarmed. Keep a close eye to be sure the pattern does not escalate to younger foliage and take steps to avoid stress as much as possible.

Click image to enlarge

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service