Why Aren’t My House Plants Growing?

“Why would a houseplant just not grow? A couple of my houseplants won’t get any bigger or the growth is so slow it’s barely noticeable. I got them when they were small starter plants & have had them for a year or 2. These are my common plants…spider and prayer plant.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.” Question from Katherine of Las Vegas, Nevada

Answer: There are several reasons why your plants may be stunted or growing poorly. Reasons typically involve soil drainage, soil quality, fertilizer, and light. Here are seven house plants Q&As to make sure your plants are getting what they need.

  1. Does your pot have drainage holes and a saucer to catch water? If not, repot your plants in pots with good drainage. Otherwise, water will pool at the bottom of the pot and inhibit root growth.
  2. When you stick a finger in your potting soil is it saturated or dry? Even moisture is what you want for these plants. (Click here to read a great article about how to water house plants.)
  3. Is your pot big enough? Check to see if your plant’s roots are “bound” by trying to run your finger along the inner edge of the pot below the soil line.  If you feel tight roots along the edge, it is time to transplant your house plants into a larger pot. (Click here to learn how to repot bound house plants.)
  4. Did you choose good-quality potting soil? Good-quality potting soil should be lightweight, porous, and have premium ingredients, such as peat moss, coir, compost, perlite, and added fertilizer. We recommend Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix for house plants.
  5. Is your potting soil more than three-years-old? If so, replant your house plants in fresh potting mix (not a problem in your case).
  6. Do you feed your house plants? Tropical foliage plants, such as prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) and spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), should either be fed with a continuous-release fertilizer, which usually feeds plants for up to six months, or regularly fed with a water-soluble fertilizer.
  7. Are you house plants growing irregularly, are they one-sided, or are their leaves elongated and thin? If so, they may be getting too little light. Be sure to provide them with bright, filtered sunlight for good growth.

I hope this information helps and your plants really begin to grow.

Happy house plant growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist




Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

Leave a Reply

Content Disclaimer:

This site may contain content (including images and articles) as well as advice, opinions and statements presented by third parties. Sun Gro does not review these materials for accuracy or reliability and does not endorse the advice, opinions, or statements that may be contained in them. Sun Gro also does not review the materials to determine if they infringe the copyright or other rights of others. These materials are available only for informational purposes and are presented “as is” without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including without limitation warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. Reliance upon any such opinion, advice, statement or other information is at your own risk. In no event shall Sun Gro Horticulture Distribution, Inc. or any of its affiliates be liable to you for any inaccuracy, error, omission, fact, infringement and the like, resulting from your use of these materials, regardless of cause, or for any damages resulting there from.