#TuesdayTidbits Why Are My Leaves Dropping?

by | Mar 19, 2019 | 2 comments

Why is my plant dropping leaves? When I purchased this plant below it came to my home from a greenhouse. When I brought it into my home, though I put the ficus into as much light as I had to offer, it still dropped a lot of leaves. Why? When a plant is living in a good light (good light for that plant’s needs) and is moved to a lesser amount of light, it will drop leaves.

Why do leaves drop?

A plant is only going to keep the leaves it can support with the amount of light it is receiving. Remember, light is the food for your plant. Lots of light, lots of food. Less light, less food. Just like us, when we eat less food, we lose weight. I have in the last year lost over 60 pounds. How? I eat a lot less food than I used to. So, when a plant receives less food, it will lose some “weight” in the form of leaves.

Ficus dropping leaves it cannot support

I bought this small ficus above and it was gorgeous and full. When I got it home, it immediately began dropping leaves. Now I realize that ficus are known for doing this, but all plants if they receive less light, are going to react in some manner. Ficus lose superfluous leaves. Other plants may react by losing vigor, stretching for the light, or developing yellow leaves.

Dropped leaves

Light changes

The ficus below has been residing on top of a table in front of a south window. It loves it there. Because it was getting tall, I moved it to a small stand about 8″ off the floor in front of the table. The table was then blocking the light getting to the bottom part of the plant.  The top of the plant was still receiving bright light, but the lower half or more of the plant definitely lost a lot of light. So consequently, the bottom of the plant dropped a ton of leaves.

It lost alot of leaves on the bottom

This happened over time, but I was lazy (and traveling and doing a lot of presentations) and let them pile up……yikes. Below are all the leaves that I swept up.

The fallen leaves

I moved the plant back up into the light by placing it on a tall plant stand. It will start regrowing leaves and be much happier back in the light.

Moved back into the light


Another plant that reacts badly to lower light levels is the fern. Have any of you ever had a Boston fern you have had outside for the summer and then brought in for the winter? Did it drop about 1000 leaflets and you threw it away as it was such a mess? I think we all have. I have had a fern for over 30 years in the house. The one below is my mom’s and it recently came to live with me when mom could no longer care for it. Hers has been in her house since 1957. Yes, it does drop leaves occasionally, but it is used to living in the house and so has the leaves it can support with the sun it is receiving. It doesn’t drop a lot of leaflets because its light doesn’t change except when the season change.

Mom’s fern

Every plant is different

The point is, a plant is going to react to different conditions. Every living thing does. Give your plant the right conditions and it will grow well and you will be happy with a healthy houseplant. And usually, if a plant reacts to being moved and drops leaves, it will recover and get used to the spot you’ve moved it to. This assumes you have moved it to conditions that it can grow and thrive in. Pay attention to the light you have to offer a plant and choose a plant that will thrive in the light conditions you have. You will be happy with the healthy plant you have residing in your home.

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  1. Shari Harniss

    I love that you have your mom’s fern. How wonderful to have such a long lived houseplant!

    • thehouseplantguru.com

      Thanks! I do love it and actually just repotted my mom’s original today!


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