Loved for their speckled leaves, Polka Dot Plants can be a little fussy if the environment or care routine isn’t quite right. There are several reasons that your Polka Dot Plant might look as though it’s dying. Luckily, we have done the research to find out exactly what symptoms are caused by what problem so you can solve the issue and hopefully bring your plant back to full health.
Overwatering is the most common reasons why Polka Dot Plants die
This is because they don’t like super moist soil at all. Too much water will cause the roots to rot and this prevents the plant from getting the needed moisture and nutrients. The most common signs of overwatering are yellow leaves, soft leaves and stems, drooping leaves.
If you think that your plant is suffering from overwatering and root rot, the best thing to do is to take your plant out of its pot immediately and inspect the root system. Carefully trim away any rotten roots as these won’t come back to life and cutting them off encourages new healthy roots to grow. If the potting mix is still quite soggy and waterlogged, replace it immediately instead of waiting for it to naturally dry out as this risks causing more harm to your Polka Dot Plant. This will help to revive your dying plant and help it look a little perkier.
Over the next few weeks, to help your plant recover, adjust your watering schedule so you are only watering once the soil has dried out. You want to also make sure you are removing any excess water that has run out of the drainage holes so that your plant isn’t sat in water.
Using a moisture meter is a great way to know when it’s time for more water. You will also want to adjust your watering schedule depending on the seasons, to ensure that you are cutting down on watering over the colder, darker months of autumn and winter where there is a higher risk of root rot.
Your Polka Dot Plant might be dying due to underwatering
Another common reason that your Polka Dot Plant is dying is a lack of water. Although the plant will forgive you for occasionally forgetting to water, consistent underwatering can lead to a variety of serious issues if not solved in time. The most common signs of an underwatered Polka Dot Plant are dry leaves, light brown spots on the leaves and drooping stems.
Before you start watering your plant more frequently, it’s important to be sure that underwatering is the cause. Take your plant out of its pot to see how dry the potting mix feels. The worst thing would be assuming that your Polka Dot Plant is dying because it needs more water but it’s actually the opposite, or even caused by the wrong light level or temperature.
When lifting up your plant, if it feels quite light and the potting mix is bone dry, then underwatering is the most likely culprit. Your first instinct to reverse this and revive your dying plant might be to drown your Polka Dot Plant to make up for the lack of water, but this can actually cause more damage and shock your plant.
Instead, we recommend watering your plant a little bit once a day for a full week. This will help to moisten the soil without shocking the plant (which can happen if their environment changes suddenly). A moisture meter can help with knowing when to water here too!
A dying Polka Dot Plant can indicate low light levels
If your plant looks very leggy and as if it’s going to die slowly, then a lack of sunlight might be behind it. Especially during winter where the sun is weaker and out for less of the day, Polka Dot Plants can become quite leggy when not receiving enough sunlight. This also can show up with slow or stunted growth.
If you suspect that a lack of natural sunlight is the cause, start by placing your plant nearer to a window to help revive it. If this happens during winter, you can get away with placing it right by the window as the direct sun rays won’t be as intense as in summer. However, if this is happening during the height of summer, you’ll want to be a little more cautious as to how much extra sunlight you give your plant as too much light can also bring a range of issues as we explain next!
The issue can also be too much sunlight
As with a lot of things in the houseplant world, too much or too little of something can cause your Polka Dot Plant to pack it in and die if the problem persists. If the leaves on your plant look quite faded and scorched, then we suspect your plant is getting too much direct sunlight. This is especially a problem during summer where the sun is much stronger.
Try to move your plant a little bit further away from the window so that it doesn’t receive any direct sun. Unfortunately, once the leaves have burnt, there’s no going back so we recommend trimming off the worst affected leaves to encourage new healthy growth and help revive your plant.
A dying Polka Dot Plant can also indicate low temperatures
Another potential factor that may be causing your Polka Dot Plant to die is extreme temperatures, in particular cool air and drafts. They need warm environments to really thrive and can get quite shocked and damaged by drafts coming in from outside or air conditioning vents.
Whilst you might never feel the cold air coming through cracks in doors and windows, if your plant is right next to a small stream of cold air it can really shock and damage the plant during winter, causing it to freeze and die.
Make sure that you draft-proof any windows or doors that are close to your Polka Dot Plants (as well as any heat-loving tropical plants) and trim off any dry or damaged leaves.
Check for pests that might be killing your plant
A slightly rarer issue that might be causing your Polka Dot Plant to die is a pest infestation. Pests suck on the plant’s leaves, exhausting them and causing them to turn yellow and eventually fall off!
Whilst an infestation is more common in a plant that is struggling due to the wrong environment or care, it can happen to a plant in good health too if you’re unlucky so it’s an important one to rule out if your Polka Dot Plant looks like its dying.
Most pests are visible to the human eye if we look closely or use a magnifying glass so we can catch the problem by properly and regularly inspecting the leaves. You want to particularly check the undersides of the leaves as this is where pests often like to hang out! If you spot pests lurking on your plant the first thing to do is isolate your plant from all of your other houseplants to prevent the infestation from spreading. Inspect your other plants too to make sure they aren’t also suffering from pests. The next step is to trim off the worst affected leaves to curb the growth of the infestation. Then give your plant a wash down in the sink and treat with an insecticide/neem oil.
A pest infestation isn’t always a death sentence if you have caught the problem early. But if you are struggling to stop the infestation after treating it several times with an insecticide, then it may be best to say goodbye to your plant. As much as this can be heartbreaking, it prevents the problem from spreading to your other beloved houseplants so is often better in the long run.
Polka Dot Plants can be dying due to overfertilisation
If none of the other causes seem to match up with what your plant is suffering from, then it may be due to over-fertilisation. Whilst Polka Dot Plant love regular feeding during the months of spring and summer to aid healthy growth, too much fertiliser can cause scorched leaves and yellow patches.
Make sure you aren’t fertilising at all during autumn and winter as this is a more dormant growth period so your Polka Dot Plant won’t need any feed. When you are fertilising during spring and summer, make sure you are using less than the recommended amount on the bottle. Every houseplant is different, not just the type of plant, but also the size and maturity which means there is no one-fits-all recommended amount and you’ll need to adjust for each plant.
If you have been using slow-release fertiliser within the soil then remove the spikes or replace the potting mix if you’ve used pellets in the soil. If you have been using a water-soluble fertiliser then it’s easier to solve as you just have to stop. Trim away any yellow leaves and give your Polka Dot Plant a shower so the potting mix gets a proper rinse through. Wait a few months before fertilising again!
So those are the most common reasons why Polka Dot Plants start to die. There are several quite different reasons so it’s important you diagnose the correct problem and rectify it as soon as possible. We are strong believers in trying to bring your plants back to life, even if they look completely dead, so don’t give up on it unless you really have to!
If you want to find out more about caring for your plant, as well as other common issues that might crop up, check out our Polka Dot Plant care guide.
Written by Billy Dawson