When To Give Up On A Plant

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante
Credit: Shutterstock / Alohaflaminggo

Your instinct as a gardener is to do everything you can to keep your plants alive for as long as possible. Sadly, that’s not always possible, as plants have many factors stacked against them that can lead to an untimely death. Understandably, you may struggle with when to give up on a plant.

It’s time to give up on a plant if the roots are brown, mushy, and rotten. Brittle leaves and stems that lack color and break easily typically mean that a plant is either dead or dying. You can fix problems like wilting leaves in some cases, but your plant may not be salvageable if the wilting simply doesn’t improve.

It’s worth it to try to save your plant if it’s infested with aphids or spider mites. However, it may be too late if you don’t catch the infestation soon enough. Follow along as we explore when to give up on a plant so you don’t have to guess anymore.

When Is It Too Late To Save A Plant?

1. Rotten Roots

A plant is nothing without healthy roots, and it tells you more about a plant’s health than anything else. Plants are susceptible to root rot, and this can happen due to everything from overwatering to fungi. Rotten roots look brown instead of green and they feel soft.

Root rot is common in spots with poor soil drainage, but it can also happen because of floods. It’s quite hard to nurse a plant back to health if it has rotten roots. A plant with root rot is only salvageable if not all of the roots are mushy.

However, that’s quite rare, as the rot typically spreads quickly and is impossible to recover from. Cut your losses and replace the plant if the roots are dead and mushy.

2. Freeze Damage

Freeze damage is a common sign that a plant is dead. You can save a plant that has become frozen if it’s frost-resistant. Coneflowers and peonies are frost-resistant, but that doesn’t mean they’re invincible.

However, plants that aren’t frost-resistant are unlikely to survive a frost. That’s especially true for tropical plants as they simply aren’t used to super-cold conditions. Because of that, many plants native to warm climates can’t withstand temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

It may be time to give up on plants that froze outside if the temperature was 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. That is simply too traumatic for plants that aren’t frost-resistant.

3. Colorless Stems

The inside of a healthy plant’s stems should be vibrant and green. That is a sign of life, and it’s a great way to tell if your plant is healthy or beyond repair. Scratch the outside of the stem to see if it is green underneath.

A stem’s strength can also indicate a lot about how healthy the plant is. For example, you can tell the plant is dead or nearly dead if the stem breaks off when you scratch it to see if it’s green. Each part of a plant can eventually become brittle if it’s malnourished, old, dehydrated, or dead.

4. Unfixable Wilting

Have you tried everything you can to revive your wilted plant? It’s possible to save a wilted plant, but that’s sadly not always the case. It’s time to give up on your plant if the wilting won’t go away, and the stem, leaves, and roots are discolored.

You should first try to soak and repot the plant before you give up on it. This can take a few tries, and not every wilted plant is can be revived. However, you can tell the plant is beyond repair if soaking it doesn’t help and there’s no green in the stems.

5. Pest Infestation

You may want to give up on your plant if it’s wilted, discolored, brittle, and infested with pests. The pests are likely the reason why your plant is dead or dying. It’s best to get rid of infested plants that are beyond repair before the pests can spread.

That said, you can kill some pests, such as spider mites before they kill a plant. It takes 2-4 weeks to kill spider mites in most cases, but the mites may kill the plant if they reproduce too quickly. Aphids can also kill plants if you don’t catch them right away and it’s too late.

Do you have a tree that is infested with termites? If so, that could indicate that the tree is dead, or at least will die soon. Termites are primarily only drawn to dead wood, and they rarely target healthy trees.

What Should I Do With Dead Plants?

Ideally, you should put dead plants in a yard waste bag or a compost pile. You can even reuse soil from dead plants, as long as it doesn’t die because of pests and fungi. Soil stays good for 2 years in many cases, but it may not have as many nutrients as it once did.

However, you must be careful when you dispose of a dead plant that is infested with bugs. It’s best to isolate the dead plant in a bag that contains nothing else, tie it up, and throw it away. Make sure to wash your hands and check your clothes for bugs before you handle any healthy plants.

Summing It Up

It’s too late to save a plant if the roots are rotten and mushy, in most cases. You may also want to give up on a plant if it recently froze and hasn’t bounced back from the damage. Otherwise, pest infestations, chronic wilting, and brittle, colorless stems typically indicate that a plant is beyond repair.

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Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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