Wilting is characterized by plants having limp and droopy stems and is usually a sign that the plant needs attention. While dramatic, wilting is a relatively easy problem to fix. Wilting is a natural response by plants to reduce water loss, and many plants can bounce back if the wilting is treated within a day or two. However, prolonged wilting can cause damage to stems, leaves and flowers, and may even result in death.
Leaves will start to fold up and droop, and soft stems will bend over. Flowers may close and droop as well.
Wilting is always a sign of water loss. Identifying the cause of water loss is important for treatment as they can be contradictory if the cause is misidentified. For example, more water will be needed if the wilting was caused by heat, but additional water will kill a wilting plant if the wilting was caused by root rot.
- Wilting due to heat stress
- Prolonged dry periods and high temperatures are likely to cause wilting, especially for plants with soft leaves and stems like Thai Basil, Cai Xin, Lettuce and Cucumber.
- Water your plants more regularly during the dry period and consider adding mulch to the base of stems to reduce water loss.
- Consider moving your plants to a shadier area or build shade netting over the plant during particularly hot periods.
- Wilting due to root rot
- Lots of rain and overwatering can cause root rot, especially if the soil or pot does not drain well and is waterlogged. Check your plant’s roots for damage if it has been wilting despite regular watering.
- If root rot is present, cut off the rotting portions and change the soil to prevent additional rot. Check the drainage of your plot or pot to ensure that water can drain away.
- If the plant can be propagated by cuttings, consider propagating the healthy portions.
- Wilting due to transplanting shock
- Freshly transplanted cuttings or seedlings will need to grow their roots out before they become stable enough to survive in the garden. While they are adapting to their new environment, these plants may wilt, which is what we refer to as transplanting shock.
- Plants showing signs of transplanting shock will need to be watered more, and moved to a shadier area or have shade netting installed to protect them for at least a week before they can be exposed to direct sunlight again.
- Wilting due to being root-bound
- Potted plants that are root-bound may suddenly wilt as the new root hairs are no longer in contact with wet soil, and have instead coiled into themselves or out of the pot. Root-bound plants will quickly bounce back after being bottom-watered, but will still need to be repotted into a bigger pot to kept healthy.