With their sturdy dark green veined leaves, this plant grabs the attention of the entire room and stands tall among your urban jungle.
If you have started to notice that your African Mask Plant has begun to droop its leaves and your plant looks quite sad and limp, then there is definitely something wrong. If there aren’t any other signs of unhappiness then it means you have probably caught the issue quite early which makes it easier to reverse. But even if the drooping leaves on your African Mask Plant are also brown, yellow (or there are other issues), with the right methods you should be able to bring your plant back to full health.
Causes of droopy leaves on an African Mask Plant
In this post, we will be going over each of the causes of drooping leaves on African Mask Plants and show you how to fix it and prevent the issue from happening again. Some issues are easier to fix than others, some are easier to diagnose than others but don’t worry – we have you covered.
One of the most common causes of drooping African Mask Plant leaves is consistent overwatering. It’s super easy to do accidentally but can cause quite severe problems fairly quickly. If drooping leaves are the only thing that seems to be wrong with your African Mask Plant, then this is good news – it means that the problem is in the early stages and should be easier to fix. Other signs of overwatering include soft leaves, brown or yellow leaves and potting mix that smells pretty bad.
The reason that overwatering is so harmful to your African Mask Plant is that it causes waterlogged soil which cuts off air circulation in the potting mix. This rots the roots and prevents the plant from taking in any oxygen and nutrients. It also means that the roots can’t physically support the plant anymore. The combination of these two issues is why overwatering will often cause your African Mask Plant to droop its leaves and stems.
Before you take any drastic measures, you need to be 100% sure that overwatering is the cause of the drooping leaves. The first thing to do is to take your plant out of its pot which will allow you to closely inspect the potting mix and root system. If the potting mix feels soggy and clumpy, then this means your plant has been overwatered. If the roots are soft and mushy it suggests that this issue has been going on for a while.
How to fix an overwatered African Mask Plant
Replace the potting mix.
It’s crucial that you replace any waterlogged potting mix straight away with fresh, high-quality soil. Don’t wait for the soil to dry out on its own as this will only make the problem worse over the next few days and you risk causing even more damage to an already rotting root system.
Trim off any soft and mushy roots and leaves.
If your plant is trying to keep rotting leaves and roots alive, it will be wasting valuable energy that it could be using to recover and produce new growth. Use clean, sharp scissors to cut away dying growth.
Adjust your watering schedule.
It’s important to take a look at how often you were watering your African Mask Plant, and how much water you were giving it each time. Cut back on one of these factors to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.
How to prevent the problem from happening again
Now that you’ve fixed the issue for the time being and your plant should be slowly recovering, let’s flip the attention to ways you can ensure you won’t overwater your African Mask Plant again and cause any more drooping leaves.
Only water when the potting mix is dry.
There are plenty of ways to determine when it is time to water. The most accurate of which is using a moisture meter. They are affordable little devices that you pop into the soil and it will literally tell you how damp it is. It takes all the guesswork away from watering your plants and will significantly reduce the risk of overwatering.
Ensure good drainage.
This will help solve the occasional accidental overwatering as it allows some of the water to escape. Having good drainage holes in your pot, using a well-draining potting mix that includes perlite and switching to terracotta pots are all ways you can increase the drainage for your African Mask Plant and avoid drooping leaves.
Downsize your pot if necessary.
One major factor when it comes to overwatering is the pot size. If your African Mask Plant is in a pot that’s much too large for the root system, it means that it will take much too long for the potting mix to dry out. This then increases the risk and possibility of root rot.
Adjust your watering schedule depending on external factors.
Although watering calendars can help us remember to water our plants, they aren’t actually the best thing for our green friends. It’s important to adjust how much and how often you water your African Mask Plant depending on the time of year, temperature fluctuations, sunlight levels and maturity of your plant. There’s no one fits all timeline which is why moisture metres are such a great tool.
The strange (and often frustrating) thing about drooping leaves on an African Mask Plant is that as well as too much water, the issue can also be caused by not enough water. African Mask Plants can be forgiving for the odd time where you forget to water, but consistent underwatering can lead to a variety of issues if not sorted; the most serious of which is plant death. However, if the leaves have only just begun to droop down on your African Mask Plant, then it suggests you have caught the problem early. Other signs of underwatering include brown leaf tips and edges, crispy leaves and your plant feeling super light when you lift it.
If the leaves of your African Mask Plant are quite dry as well as drooping down, then we suspect that a lack of water is the culprit. However, before you start pouring buckets of water over your plant, you need to make sure that this is really the cause of the drooping leaves on your African Mask Plant. As with overwatering, we recommend checking the moisture in the soil, either using the finger method to test how moist the potting mix is or by removing the plant from the pot. If the soil is dry and feels sandy, and the roots look a little crispy and shrivelled, then underwatering is likely the cause.
How to fix an underwatered African Mask Plant
Give your plant a soak.
Fill up a container with fresh temperate water and place your plant in there for about 10 minutes. This will allow the water to soak into the potting mix. Often when watering really dry soil, it flows right through and out the bottom of the pot which doesn’t help the issue at all.
Slowly reintroduce watering.
Sudden changes in the environment can be quite stressful for plants and if the potting mix goes from really dry to soggy super quickly, it can cause your plant to go into shock (this is why we recommend only soaking for 10 minutes). For the next week or so, slowly reintroduce watering by giving your plant a little every day.
Adjust your watering schedule.
Going forward make sure you are keeping an eye on when the potting mix is dry so you know when it’s time to water your African Mask Plant. Using a moisture meter is a great way to avoid any more drooping leaves in future.
If you have inspected the potting mix of your African Mask Plant, and analysed your watering schedule and just can’t be sure that watering issues is the cause of the drooping leaves, then it may be extreme temperature fluctuations that are the problem.
African Mask Plants are native to the tropics of Asia and Australasia so thrive in warm temperatures meaning they’ll struggle in homes with cold drafts. You may not notice the cold air coming through cracks in doors and windows but if your African Mask Plant is right next to any cold air streams then this can over time be a real issue.
Make sure that you draft proof any windows or doors that are close to your African Mask Plant (and other tropical houseplants) as well as moving them away from any air conditioning vents as these can be quite damaging to your plants during summer. Using a digital thermometer is an easy way to monitor the temperature in your home and allow you to check for any cold drafts or hot spots that might form near windows during the warmer months.
If your African Mask Plant is living in a cool room, it’s also more at risk from overwatering and root rot. Your plant won’t need as much water as the soil will take a lot longer to dry out. This is the perfect mix for problems such as root rot to occur which is why you should be extra cautious when it comes to caring for your plants in winter or in colder rooms in your home.
Lack of Sunlight
Although watering and temperature issues tend to be the most common causes of limp drooping leaves on African Mask Plants, it’s important to also consider some other causes if you aren’t able to accurately determine the cause yet. African Mask Plants need bright but indirect sunshine to really thrive and produce new strong leaves and stems. A lack of sunlight (which is common during winter) can cause your plant to struggle and develop brown leaves, discolouration of the plant, small leaves, slow growth, drooping stems or leaves falling off. So all in all, a pretty big deal!!
If you suspect a lack of sunlight is causing the leaves on your African Mask Plant to droop down and become quite limp, then we recommend moving it to a slightly sunnier spot in your home. Keep it away from too much direct sunlight (especially in summer) as this can become quite intense and scorch the leaves as well as create a hotspot that can dry out your plant. If you’re unsure about the light levels across your home, you can always pick up a light meter that will help guide you when finding the perfect spot for your beloved African Mask Plant.
A Pest Infestation
A rarer but equally important cause of drooping leaves on African Mask Plants (and most other houseplants), is a pest infestation. It can be worrying for plant parents to think that pests might be making a home on their plants but if you catch the problem early, you can have a lot of success fighting against the pests. Insects that live on your plant will suck the nutrients from it which is why you’ll often see the leaves drooping down.
Pests are rare on houseplants that don’t spend any time growing outdoors but it can still happen. The first thing to do is isolate your plant away from your other houseplants to stop any spread of the pests. Then inspect your plant closely to spot any further signs, beyond drooping leaves, that indicate bugs are living on your African Mask Plant. The most common signs include yellow or brown spots on the leaves, holes in the leaves, white webbing across the stems or visible pests. Look closely at the undersides of your African Mask Plant’s leaves as this is where pests like to hang out. Using a magnifying glass will really help you spot any crawling around on the leaves.
If you do spot any signs of pests, cut away the worst affected leaves to curb the infestation. Then wash down the leaves and soil in the shower using warm water and wipe over them with a clean cloth. We also recommend treating your African Mask Plant with neem oil and showering every few days. Check over your other plants and keep all infested plants in isolation as pests can easily jump between leaves and plants that are close.
Those are the most common reasons why your African Mask Plant has developed limp and drooping leaves. We recommend going through each cause one by one to determine what’s behind your plant’s problem. Drooping leaves often indicate that you have caught the issue early so you should have a great chance at getting your plant back to full health. It is important to monitor your plant over the next few weeks and months to ensure that you’ve solved the issue.
Check out our African Mask Plant care guide for all the information you need to care for your plant, as well as other common problems, propagation methods and top tips to keep your plant happy and healthy!
Written by Billy Dawson