5 Plants I’m Struggling With (Imperfect Plant Parenting)

The reality of caring for houseplants is that they are imperfect, living creatures just like we are and there are lots of things that are in and out of our control as their caretakers.

This means that it doesn’t matter how “expert” a person is at caring for houseplants, anyone and everyone can have a houseplant catch a pest, quickly decline, or grow in a less desirable way.

There is no such thing as a perfect green thumb who never loses a plant.

So, in an effort to keep normalizing imperfect houseplants and houseplant care, I’m going to share 5 plants I’m struggling with.

Table of Contents

Here’s a pretty picture of healthy plants before we dive into all the sad plants below. 🙂

#1 My Hoya pubicalyx splash with lots of mealybug frenemies

Mealybugs are not the end of the world when you have a small plant collection, but they can become quite a catastrophe when you have a large plant collection as they are masters of hiding in the tiny nooks and crannies of a plant!

I’ve been lucky to not have any large issues with mealies throughout my plant journey until the last 6 months.

I’m 6 months pregnant and spent the first trimester feeling very sick and tired, which meant I was spending far less time observing my plants.

Almost all of my Hoyas and Ceropegias are growing on a beautiful set of shelves in my dining room and there are too many for each of them to be spaced appropriately so they are growing close to each other, often touching. You can probably see where this is going…..

What might have been a small mealybug issue became a huge infestation right before my eyes. I lost all of my older, mature plants to mealybugs (that is where the infestation started).

I didn’t notice the mealies building up around the tubers (white balls) on the vines, since they blended right in, until my Ceropegias started losing leaves at an abnormally fast rate.

Then, all of a sudden, I realized that mealybugs were all over my String of Hearts and were now popping up on some of my Hoyas as well. I’m sure they are still around… I have no doubt. But, I do think they are much more under control with the large exception of my Hoya pubicalyx splash, which the mealybugs have turned into their permanent residence.

6 months later and I’m still in a battle with mealybugs, especially on this particular plant. I’ve even cut this gorgeous girl back to have less plant surface area to patrol….

Ah well. Such is the life of a person with hundreds of houseplants….

USEhoya struggle 3

#2 My African violet started to deteriorate one leaf at a time

I was super lucky to find a gorgeous variegated African Violet at a local greenhouse a couple of years ago. Its leaves were a dark green/purple color with lighter patches of variegation that was a pink/purple color. Stunning. The plant was growing super well for me and needed a repot.

I repotted it into a self-watering pot to help maintain the desired moisture level (because it was definitely drying out too much) and that’s when everything went downhill.

I’m not sure if it was now growing too wet or if I damaged the roots during the repot or if it experienced a lot of transplant shock. I just know that it wasn’t happy, at all.

My best guess is that the type of self-watering pot I was using was allowing too much moisture to get to the plant and it was staying too wet. Regardless, I ended up having to remove it from the current pot and place it into a tiny terracotta pot with its two tiny remaining leaves.

It’s alive, but it is not even close to the amazing plant that it was at the end of Summer 2021. Here’s the before and after:

USEAV struggle 2
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#3 My Ficus Audrey developing some leaf curl

I repotted my large Ficus Audrey a few months ago into a larger pot. I think I might have kept it a little too wet after the repot, which perhaps caused some of the leaves to curl.

I have heard that Ficus can be finicky about being repotted, but I was hoping mine was healthy enough to do fine!

I’ve cut back on watering, but the leaves have not uncurled. The good news is that it isn’t dropping any leaves or currently showing signs of other fungal/disease leaf issues.

So hopefully I identified the issue in time. Either way, it’s one of my pride and joys, so I want to do anything I can to prevent further decline.

USE Audrey struggle 6
USE Audrey struggle 2

#4 My Large Coffee Tree dropping leaves and developing discolored foliage

I repotted my large coffee tree a few months ago because it was drying out so rapidly, but even after the repot it is still a very thirsty plant.

Because of consistent underwatering, this plant started dropping leaves and developing some fungal issues on the leaves. You can see a couple of yellow spots with brown centers on the tree below.

It got pretty bad and still looks like a struggling plant, but I swear it is actually doing much better. However, it is no longer a beautiful, lush coffee tree.

The good news is that it is growing new leaves and the fungal issue is mostly under control now!

USEcoffee struggle 2

#5 Rhipsalis paradoxa vine issues

Rhipsalis paradoxa is another victim of underwatering for me. I purchased a couple of rooted cuttings from a local nursery a long time ago – 2 or 3 years ago probably. The cuttings had grown, but very slowly because I was underwatering them. I didn’t realize that at the time though.

I was lucky enough to find another larger plant that I brought home and had thriving, after figuring out my watering issues. After some time of caring for both the larger plant and the rooted cuttings, I decided to combine them.

That’s when it all went downhill. The rooted cuttings had a hard time acclimating to the new pot with more frequent watering and died off. Then, the root disease the rooted cuttings developed started to spread to the larger plant.

I ended up having to uproot the plant again and clean up the roots, pot in fresh new soil, and water sparingly to try to help it rehab. The plant you see below is about half the size it once was and It’s still struggling. You can see how some of it looks dehydrated because the roots aren’t fully functioning and taking up water as needed.

I’m watching this one closely to look for signs of further deterioration or recovery. Fingers crossed, it will recover.

Well, this was a challenging post to write. It isn’t fun to purposefully show off only your sad plants, which is why people don’t do it more I suppose. But I do hope it shows that it is so very normal for all of us to have plants that struggle from time to time!

Happy growing! See you next week!

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