At times during your gardening endeavors you may come across a plant that appears to be dead or dying. Its condition could be due to a number of things including whether or not you are watering it enough or too much, insects are threatening it, or the plant is getting too much or too little sunlight.
If the leaves of the plant have turned brown, then it could be dead. However, to be certain, you should check for the signs. Signs of a dead plant not only include brown leaves, it also includes leaves falling off the stem or the appearance of brown stems and no new flower growth.
However, even if there are signs, this does not necessary mean that the plant is dead. Instead, the plant could be dormant and will revive after receiving proper care.
Determining That The Plant Is Alive Or Dead
Things you can do to ensure that the plant is really dead include performing the snap-scratch test, checking the roots, or checking the buds.
The snap-scratch test includes selecting a twig with the width of a pencil and bending it back on itself. If the twig bends easily and the stem eventually splits, then the plant is alive. If the twig snaps cleanly with very little pressure and appears dry inside, than the plant is dead.
If you’re worried about a tree being dead, then perform the scratch test. To perform this exam, simply scratch the bark of the tree off by scratching it with your fingernail or a knife. If there is green underneath the bark and the bark feels moist, then the tree is alive. If you have difficulty scraping bark from the tree or you observe a brown color underneath the bark if you are able to scratch it off, then the tree is dead.
If it is a plant that you are worried about, perform the scratch test on the stem. It is advised that you check all the stems for any sign of life or new growth.
If a potted plant has brown leaves and the leaves are falling off, then check the roots to determine if it is dead or alive. Pull the plant out of its pot. If it appears mushy and smells bad, then it is dead. If there is no mushy appearance and the plant smells fine, then the roots should appear light and supple. There is a possibility that the plant could have both healthy and dead roots. If the roots have any signs of life, then the plant is still alive. If the roots are rotted, then the plant can be saved with root rot treatment. Replant the plant in another pot that includes new soil.
If you look at the buds, and they appear plump, but are beginning to swell. Then the plant is alive. If the buds look withered, limp and off-color, then the plant is dead. When you observe a bud that looks dead, press it firmly between your fingers. A dead bud will be flaky. If the plant has dead buds, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the plant is dead. Look at the stems to see if there are any live flower buds.
Reviving A Dead Plant
If after performing the tests and closely observing the plant and you determine it is dead, then there are things you can do to revive it. This includes watering the plant, determining if the plant is getting the proper amount of sunlight, placing the plant in a humid room, stopping insects from threatening the plant, feeding the plant carefully, giving your plant an IV, or compost it.
If you believe that the plant needs more water, then give it a little. Make sure you don’t overwater it. On the other hand, if you think the plant died due to overwatering, then remove the plant from where it is and put in to a new pot with fresh soil.
Once the plant is in the new pot, be sure not to overwater it.
If the plant is not getting enough sunlight because you moved it to another room, move it back to where it was or place it at a window that gets more sunlight. Other things to consider if the plant appears to have died due to poor sunlight, then it could be because you have thick drapes covering the window or you planted a tree outside the window that offers too much shade.
If you conclude that the plant died due to too much sunlight, then move it to a window where the sunlight isn’t as strong.
Plants get water through their roots and their leaves. So you may want to consider moving a dying or dead plant to a humid room. You may be surprised how fast the plant revives due to the humidity.
You probably know that insects can cause plants or trees to die. Spray water on the plant throughout the day to rid it of the insects. If that’s not enough, then apply a mild soap onto the leaves of the plant. The soap repels insects.
If you have a dead or dying air plant, then place it in a bowl of lukewarm water. You want the plant to be submerged in the water. So you may have to tie a heavy object to it so that it won’t float to the top of the bowl.
Feed Milorganite as a fertilizer/nutritional supplement to the plant. Depending on the nutritional deficiency of the plant, offering nutrition to it can help it recover within just a few days.
Another option for a plant that is malnourished is to apply a water-soluble fertilizer. The fertilizer will slowly release nutrients and will not burn the plant’s roots. Use fertilizer only while the plant is growing from March through September. Too much fertilizer or using the wrong fertilizer can burn the roots of the plant.
If you’ve tried everything, but nothing will revive the plant, then let it go. Turn the plant to compost. Its remains will serve as a nutrient for the soil and permit a later plant to thrive.