Chinese Evergreens are popular houseplants known for their low-maintenance qualities, resilience, and air-purifying properties.
Despite that, the plant is not invincible, and it’s still prone to dying when things go south, which leads you to wonder why your Chinese evergreen is dying.
While rare, rapid health decline happens to Chinese evergreens due to a variety of factors. In this guide, I’ll walk you through all the different reasons behind it.
Why Is My Chinese Evergreen Dying?
A dying Chinese evergreen can take a wide range of forms. However, in most cases, you’ll notice that the leaves are changing in color and losing their shine. The stems will also become weak and droopy as more and more leaves start to wilt.
To help you identify the root cause behind your dying plant, here’s an in-depth look at some of the most relevant factors behind it.
Problems with sunlight exposure are easily one of the most common reasons for Chinese evergreens to start dying.
As a tropical perennial, Chinese evergreens are typically protected from sunlight in lush forests, which makes them perfect indoor plants.
For that reason, they typically thrive in indirect sunlight with low to medium brightness, with darker color varieties having a higher tolerance for lack of light.
This means that leaving the plant in bright sunlight, even if it’s indirect, can put a lot of stress on the plant and cause its leaves to start falling off.
This is commonly the case if you place the plant near a south-facing window, which receives the most sunlight.
Direct sunlight also evaporates the top layer of the soil, which can dry the plant at a much faster rate. Instead, you need to protect the plant from direct and bright sunlight by providing partial shade.
Chinese evergreens don’t need too much nutrition to thrive. However, leaving the plant without fertilizer long enough will cause plenty of problems down the line.
This is because the plant still needs nutrients and minerals to maintain its vital biological functions.
For instance, one essential mineral for Chinese Evergreens is copper. Poor uptake of copper causes the plant to grow dented leaves. While not deadly, the plant’s leaf quality will decline with time and start to fall off and die.
On the other hand, a lot of people become excited about their new houseplant, so they end up giving them more nutrients than they need.
This causes a common problem, known as fertilizer burn, which is caused by the accumulation of salts in the soil and leads to damage in both the plant’s roots and leaves.
Ideally, using a balanced, diluted, general-purpose fertilizer should be enough for the plant to provide it with all the nutrition it needs.
You also need to fertilize once or twice annually, preferably around the growth season between summer and spring.
Improper watering is another issue that can cause a Chinese evergreen to die. However, the plant is more likely to suffer from overwatering than underwatering.
Overwatering causes root rot, which is a fatal condition that causes the roots to darken, suffocate, and turn mushy. Besides the roots, it also causes the leaves to look extra plump before they fall off.
Ideally, you should only water the Chinese evergreen when the top 1 to 1.5 inches of the soil is dry.
In some areas where humidity is high, you should wait until the top 2 inches are dry. In normal conditions, this means that you’ll typically water the plant every 7 to 10 days.
You should also make sure that the soil has good drainage to prevent stagnation of water. A potting soil mix with peats and perlite should do the trick.
Another major reason why Chinese evergreens may die is diseases. The plant is susceptible to a variety of pests and infections that can severely damage the plant and even lead to death.
In addition to the previously mentioned root rot, here’s a quick look at some of the most common diseases that can end up killing your Chinese evergreen:
- Scales: Scales are the most popular pest of Chinese evergreens. These tiny insects feed mainly on the plant’s sap. This leads to severe malnutrition in the leaves, causing them to wilt and shrivel while turning yellow.
- Spider Mites: Like scales, spider mites are small insects but they’re fairly easy to detect. They also feed on the plant’s cell components, which leads to significant cell damage in the form of streaks of white dots that later turn bronze. You can identify spider mites by the tiny webbing they create between the leaves.
- Leaf Spots: This is a collective term that describes a variety of fungal and bacterial infections that can target Chinese evergreen foliage, causing tiny spots (usually bright-colored) to appear.
If you notice any signs of infestation in your Chinese evergreen, you need to act immediately.
Luckily, most of these infections are easy to manage in the early stages using proper insecticides and antifungal treatments accordingly.
As a tropical plant, Chinese evergreens thrive in relatively warmer temperatures. The plant’s ideal temperature range is between 65 to 80 °F (around 15.5 to 29.5 °C).
However, it can also tolerate temperatures of up to 55 °F (around 12.5 °C), anything lower will put the plant under extreme stress and lead to diseases and death.
Make sure that you also keep the plant away from cold drafts near open windows or air conditioning.
Besides temperature, Chinese evergreen also prefers higher humidity levels, as they prefer moist air with a saturation rate of around 60% to 70%.
If you live in a region where temperatures are low, the humidity levels will also fall significantly in winter. However, you can easily solve this problem by misting or using a humidifier in the room.
Lastly, as the name suggests, Chinese evergreens can last for a very long time as long as you offer them the optimal conditions to live.
However, no matter how long they live, it comes a time for leaves to start falling off as they get older and use up more resources than they provide, which usually takes around 10 years or more.
This shouldn’t be a concern to you, as the plant will typically replace the dying leaves with new ones, so you only need to remove the older leaves and the plant will survive.
Now that you know more about the reasons for the plant to die, here are some of the most common problems that need immediate action to protect your plant.
Wilting is a common issue for Chinese evergreens. It happens when the plant isn’t getting enough resources to sustain healthy growth from the soil.
This is mainly caused by poor watering or fertilization, especially if you neglect the plant for a while. Keep in mind that some pests might cause leaf wilting as well.
While leaf loss is a natural phenomenon in Chinese evergreens, it can also happen due to overwatering.
The main difference here is that the leaves will plump and green when they fall off instead of yellow and shriveled.
Leaf discoloration is another issue that happens for a wide range of causes. A shriveled, yellow leaf can be a result of aging (especially the lower leaves) or underwatering.
On the other hand, if the leaves simply change color while maintaining their structure, it’s usually a sign of inadequate lighting.
If you notice scorching marks on the leaves, it’s usually a sign of overexposure to direct sunlight.
In all these cases, you simply need to address the issue and remove the affected leaves, and the plant should return back to its normal condition.
This one isn’t as common as the previous ones, but it’s typically a cause of serious concern because it can lead to a quick death if you don’t act quickly.
Droopy stems mainly occur because of overwatering, but other reasons can also cause it, such as poor light exposure and low humidity.
Chinese evergreens are resilient and highly adaptable, but they’re still prone to various issues when you don’t provide them with proper care.
Aspects like improper lighting, overwatering, and giving too much fertilizer are among the most popular causes of the problem. However, you should also look out for external factors like diseases and pest infections.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.