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How to Fix a Leggy Plant

How to Fix a Leggy Plant

So you’ve noticed that your indoor houseplant is growing leggy. It is tall, skinny, long and spindly and doesn't have its normal lush foliage. A leggy plant looks like it is all stem. So what do you do in the case of a long and lean plant?

Well in this article we are going to address how your plant became leggy and what to do to fix it. So let's get back to growing our lush and full foliage! 

What does a leggy plant look like? 

Most plants will grow leggy when their light is restricted. The most common time to see leggy plants is as seedlings. This is also the time when they are the most fragile. 

A leggy seedling is tall and delicate. The stems are fragile and they look like they are standing super tall with only a few leaves on the top. 

This can also appear in forests where many evergreen trees are bunched together. The next time you go for a walk in the park, you may notice the tops of the trees have lush, green foliage but the bottoms are dead and / or struggling to survive.

This is survival of the fittest to say the least. The trees that grew the fastest got the most light and drowned out the bottom branches. Although the bottoms may be dead and dying because of lack of light, the tree will continue to grow upwards, pushing its foliage to the top, and sacrificing the bottom. 

Indoors, you may see a jade, pothos or ivy plant become leggy. Especially if they are receiving improper lighting. A leggy vining plant usually has one or two vines that grow extremely long while the rest of the plant stays stagnant. It wouldn’t be described as full or lush, rather long and spindly. 

Whether a plant is indoors or outdoors, there are ways to prevent leggy plants. Though leggy plants may look okay now, if left too long, permanent damage can be done and you may have a dying plant instead of a thriving plant. 

(Click on the photo above to read about leggy Pileas on The Healthy Houseplant blog ! )

How did my plant become so leggy?

Before we fix our leggy plants, we need to understand how it got this way in the first place!

Leggy plants occur when the lighting isn't quite right. If your plant is too far away from the window or light source, leggy limbs are bound to happen.

When leggy plant limbs occur, it prevents the growth of lush and full foliage. The reason being there isn’t enough energy to produce lush leaves. Your plant spends the majority of its energy on the stem in an effort to grow closer to the light, and sacrifices new foliage.

Your plant needs to photosynthesize, and to do that it requires light. 

When the light source is limited, the plant struggles. Hence, leggy plants.

In an effort to soak up more sunlight, the plant stretches closer to the light. All the energy it receives from photosynthesis is used while growing a long thin stem that isn't aesthetically pleasing and can be very dangerous for your plant. 

Long spindly stalks create a weak plant. And without lush foliage to strengthen the stem,  breakage is bound to happen. Eventually, the plant will grow so lopsided and heavy that it breaks right off. 

To prevent breakage, we need to address these lighting concerns and share the solution you’ve been asking for! 

How to fix a leggy plant

You can solve this problem by placing the plant closer to the window or lowering the grow light. If the plant is outdoors, you prevent legginess by planting the trees further apart. This lessens the competition for light and allows the plant to absorb all that it needs to flourish.

The pinch method works well for smaller plants that grow up straight. If you want to encourage foliage growth back down the stalk, this method works in the same way pruning does. When you pinch your plant, all you do is squeeze off the newest growth. You quite literally pinch it off and wait for the lower nodes to push out more leaves.

Soon, the plant will decide to grow leaves out of its nodes before sending a shoot upwards. The pinch method creates a full and lush plant, just make sure to research your plant first because this method isn't right for every kind! 

If pinching is not an option, there is also the chop and prop solution! This technique is my favorite! I am a huge propagation fan.  If your plant can be easily propagated, and you notice that the “leggy” part has a node, chop it off and repot it! Just remember that you will still need to move your plant to a location with better lighting or else you'll have the same leggy growing pattern.

Remember to rotate your plant every month or so to encourage even rotational growth. As your plant grows towards the light, rotation will prevent lopsided growth. Rotating lowers the risk of your plants limbs breaking. This will also slow further leggy growth. 

What else could I do? 

If you’ve done all these methods but are looking for a more creative solution to your leggy plant. Why not try a coir pole? 

Coir poles provide support to vining and climbing plants by imitating their natural growing environment. 

By using a coir pole, you are providing your plant all the support it needs to grow onwards and upwards. That way you won’t have to worry about the stem breaking off and your poor plant dying. Coir poles are the perfect solution for a plant that needs some extra support.

The coir poles are an especially cool solution because you can turn your leggy babies into a creative masterpiece. Try propagating various vining plants in one pot with a coir pole. This way you can chop and prop your favourite plants into one lush bouquet ! 

So if you’re ready to try something new today, this might be just what your plant has been asking for!

If you would like to learn more about how our coir poles can help, we wrote a blog about them! We talk all about our manilla coir poles and how you can tell if your tropical indoor houseplant needs one.

Learn More About Coir Poles Here

Our sustainable manilla coir poles are different from our moss poles, so make sure to check them both out so we can provide the best fit for your planty friends!

Let us know how it goes and send us a photo of the progress! Can’t wait to see new lush foliage on your green girls! 

P.s. If you’d like to listen to a fun song while repotting today, check out our newest plant-music release “Chica Verde”.

Talk soon!


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