One day you could have a parade of beautiful flowers blooming in your garden, and the next, you could wake up to wilted flowers. So how do you bring dying flowers back to life and restore your garden’s beauty?
Here are 6 methods to revive dying flowers in a garden:
- Confirm your plants are not yet dead.
- Confirm whether your plants are annuals or perennials.
- Diagnose the problem.
- Remove all the dead leaves and branches.
- Adjust how you care for your plants as seasons change.
- Patiently tend to the flowers until they start thriving.
Flowers require ideal growing conditions to thrive. So when they start dying, poor environmental conditions may be the culprit. Fortunately, early intervention can save your flowers, and this article will tell you how.
1. Confirm Your Plants Are Not Dead
Your flowers may be beyond saving, in which case, your efforts to revive them would be futile. Dry leaves and wilting flowers are indicators of a struggling plant.
But how do you tell if your plant is just thirsty or if it’s a sign of something serious?
Check the stems of your flowers.
Are they showing some green, or are they brown or mushy or dry and brittle? If the former, your flowers have a chance of coming back to life. If the latter, check the roots for the same conditions by digging them out.
If the roots are also mushy, dry, or brittle, your plant is dead, so trying to revive your flowers would be a waste of time. However, if they’re white, thick, and healthy, it means with the proper care, you can save your flowers.
2. Confirm Whether Your Flowers Annuals or Perennials
Before you work to revive your flowers, you also need to confirm if they are annuals or perennials. Your flowers may be dying because they are annuals, meaning they only last for one growing season before perishing.
Annuals complete their life cycle in one year, typically from spring to fall. They germinate, grow, flower, fruit, and finally die.
Annual flowers generally bloom for longer than perennial flowers, most of which bloom for just a few weeks. Examples of flowering annuals include petunia, geranium, marigold, vinca, and verbena.
Perennials, on the other hand, last for years. They go dormant during the winter and then come back in spring. Aster, Anemone, carnations, creeping zinnia, and hibiscus are examples of perennial flowers.
If your dying plants are annuals, it could be that they have completed their life cycle, so you’d need to plant new ones. If perennials and they’re showing signs of dying as winter approaches, add a generous layer of mulch to protect the roots. You cannot do much until spring—when the soil becomes warm enough.
Consider planting both annuals and perennials in your flower garden. This way, when annuals die, you still have perennials to brighten your flower garden.
3. Diagnose the Problem
Next, find out the reason behind your flowers dying.
Are you overwatering or underwatering them? Do they have a nutrient deficiency, or are you overfertilizing them? Or perhaps you’re growing your shade-loving flowers in full sun?
For example, if the roots are black and mushy, the most likely cause of your dying flowering plants is overwatering. On the other hand, dry soil and dry brown leaves are signs of underwatering.
Once you figure out what you’re doing wrong, you will have an easier time reviving your flowers and ensuring they stay healthy.
Here are common diagnoses of dying flowers and their solutions:
Overwatering is a common cause of plant death. If you suspect this is the problem, stop watering your flowers for a few days or until the soil dries.
If you continue providing more water, your plant roots will drown and consequently be unable to absorb oxygen or nutrients, which plants require to live. A break from watering allows water loss from the soil surface through evaporation and from the leaves and or flowers through transpiration.
Overly wet soil also fosters root rot, which, if left untreated, will kill plants. So giving your waterlogged soil time to dry before you resume watering also protects against root rotting, improving the odds of your flowers bouncing back.
A moisture meter can help you keep track of the moisture content in your garden soil—so you don’t overwater your flowers. It doesn’t use batteries or electricity. Just stick the probe 2-4 inches (5.08-10.16 cm) into the soil and read the moisture level on the dial after a few minutes.
If the soil is dry and the leaves are brown and crispy, your flowers may be wilting due to not getting enough water.
If underwatering is the problem, consider watering your flowering plants more often and increasing the amount of water. Moreover, providing shade as your flowers recover will give them a break from the intense sun that can further stress them.
To avoid underwatering your plants in the future, consider installing an automated irrigation system in your flower garden. This will ensure your flowers get watered at the ideal time with the right amount each day while saving you time and effort.
It may take time for the plants to show signs of improvement. But with consistent watering, the entire plant will eventually recover, which will be evident in the leaves and blooms.
Poor soil drainage, especially during the rainy season, could be why your flowers are dying. So ensure you have an outlet for draining excess water in your garden. Otherwise, the soil can become saturated, starving the roots of oxygen and killing your flowers.
Adding organic matter like compost and manure to soil improves drainage and aeration by creating air pockets. If your garden soil is soggy, you can reduce waterlogged damage to your plants by adding compost to allow it to drain more easily. Increasing organic matter also provides the nutrients your flowers need to recover.
If you want to learn more about fixing soil that does not absorb any water, you can read my other here: How to Fix Soil That Doesn’t Absorb Any Water
Soil compaction affects the availability of water and oxygen to plant roots due to a reduced rate of water infiltration and a decrease in oxygen diffusion rate. When the soil particles clump together, the reduced pore space between them also results in poor drainage, making the soil prone to waterlogging.
So, if the soil in your flower garden is compacted, your flowers may be dying because of reduced water and nutrient uptake resulting from oxygen deficiency and impeded root growth.
In addition to wilting flowers and leaves, other signs of soil compaction include:
- Stunted growth
- Early fall color
- Delayed or absent blooms for longer than usual
These symptoms can exist for a long time, but if compacted soil remains unaddressed, plant death can ultimately occur.
Adding horticultural grit to the soil can help loosen and aerate it, improving its structure. A well-structured soil provides the water, oxygen, and nutrients plants need for healthy growth.
You can also loosen compacted soil with a garden fork—but this is only practical if the area is small. Push the tines into the soil and lightly rock the fork back and forth to create holes that will allow air, water, and nutrients to reach deeper.
But the very best way to combat soil compaction is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
You can do this by:
- Using wooden planks to access your garden when the soil is wet
- Regularly loosening the soil when weeding
- Establishing garden paths or stepping stones
- Making smaller garden beds or using raised beds
- Adding organic matter to your garden periodically
If you wonder how to prevent soil compaction in your garden, be sure to check out my in-depth guide here: How to Prevent Soil Compaction in Your Garden
If your flowers are dying despite watering them adequately, receiving sufficient sunlight, and growing in well-drained soil, it may be a sign of nutrient deficiency.
To remedy malnutrition, fertilize your flowering plants to provide the nutrients necessary for growth. The nutrient boost will help your dying flowers to recover quicker.
However, do not apply fertilizer in excess, as it will result in fertilizer burn, which might kill the plants. So be sure to read the product label and application instructions thoroughly. After feeding your flowers, observe their response to tell if the fertilizer is helping or harming them.
Pests may be attacking your flower garden, in which case the first step you should take to revive your flowers is to get rid of them.
Examples of Pest Damage
Different pests damage plants in different ways:
Caterpillars, Flies, & Beetles
Caterpillars, flies, and beetles destroy the flowers by chewing the leaves and petals. A single cutworm can kill several flowering plants in just one night. Maggots infest the stems, causing them to collapse, while midges bore into the leaves, stems, or flower buds, distorting them.
Leafhoppers, Thrips, & Aphids
Leafhoppers, thrips, and aphids suck the plant juices by puncturing plant tissue. Their feeding process can injure plants by depriving them of nutrients and water, introducing toxic saliva, and transmitting diseases from infected to healthy plants.
Moth Larva & Beetles
The larvae of some moths and beetles bore into the stems and other parts of plants. Certain flowers like Iris, Monarda, Alcea, and Salvia are prone to attack from borers. To keep their population in check, ensure you remove old leaves and other debris from your garden in the fall or before the eggs hatch in spring.
Moles, Mice, Squirrels, & Groundhogs
Moles, mice, squirrels, and groundhogs interfere with your plants’ root systems when burrowing tunnels underground. You should trap and get rid of them before the problem becomes severe enough to cause extensive damage to your garden and plants. Repellents, like castor oil, are great for baiting moles.
How to Prevent and Control Insect Pests in the Garden
Proper soil management and early detection are the best approaches to garden pests—be they insects or other animals.
These tips can help you prevent and eliminate destructive insects in your flower garden:
- Ensure your garden is free of debris and weeds.
- Adjust soil pH based on soil test findings.
- Adequately space plants to allow sufficient sunlight and air circulation.
- Identify the insect pests correctly so that you can use the right pest control strategy.
- Ensure proper spray coverage when applying pesticides.
How to Deal With Slugs in the Garden
Slugs are one of the most common and damaging garden pests. They thrive in cool, damp areas with shade, laying eggs in moist soil, under mulch or rocks, or beneath dead leaves.
Slugs are selective about what they feed on and appear partial to violets, lilies, and hostas. Telltale signs you have slugs in your flower garden include shiny dried slime trails and large irregularly shaped holes in leaves, flowers, and fruits.
Extensive feeding can result in weak or dying plants, so ensure you stay on top of the slug population in your flower garden. Eggs hatch in the spring and early summer, and in the right conditions, slugs can be in your garden throughout the summer and fall.
To save your flowers from slug damage, you need to apply effective slug control methods, including:
- Prune the base of your flowers to reduce the shade and soil wetness.
- Thin and divide the plants to improve air circulation.
- Stake the plants to keep them off the soil and away from the slugs.
- Add compost to your garden to improve drainage.
- Avoid using too many leaves in the mulch since it will encourage the slug population.
- Remove any hiding material from the garden, such as containers, pavers, boards, and flat stones.
- Water plants in the morning to ensure the ground and plants remain dry in the evening when slugs are active.
- Only water the base on the plants without getting the leaves and flowers wet.
- Use drip irrigation and avoid using overhead sprinklers.
- Plant flowers that thrive under the full sun. Examples include tulips, ornamental grasses, daffodils, and coneflowers.
- Grow plants that thrive in the shade but that slugs dislike. They include ferns, tufted hair grass, woodland phlox, bleeding heart, and creeping phlox.
- Scatter slug pellets in the garden to discourage slugs from occupying your garden. I recommend Corry’s Slug & Snail Killer (available on Amazon.com), which are bait pellets that attract and kill slugs. The baits are safe for use on edibles and flowering plants and remain effective after rain.
- Use slug traps.
You can read my other article on the reasons why your garden has so many snails here: 14 Reasons Why Your Garden Has So Many Snails
Growing Your Plants in the Wrong Place
A common reason why plants die is violating the right plant, right place rule. If you grow your flowers in an environment that provides their preferred conditions, they have a better chance of thriving with limited additional input.
For instance, if your garden soil is constantly moist or wet and you’ve planted flowers that need well-drained soil, they’ll likely perish. Instead, you should grow moisture-loving plants like canna, turtlehead, cardinal flower, and Joe Pye weed that will thrive in consistently wet soil. Some will even grow in standing water.
If you suspect your plants are dying because the conditions in your flower garden don’t favor them, the best course of action would be to grow plants adapted to those conditions. It’s that simple, plant the right plant in the right place.
4. Remove All the Dead Leaves and Branches
Having diagnosed what’s killing your flowers and began treating the problem, you need to ensure your plants focus their energy where it matters during recovery.
Remove all dead leaves and branches and cut off any broken stem or branch. Otherwise, the plant will assume it needs to heal these parts, which will result in energy loss that would have helped speed up recovery. As a result, it will take you longer to see improvement in your flowers.
5. Adjust How You Care for Your Plants as Seasons Change
Water and sunlight are crucial for the flowers in your garden as they recover. Unfortunately, even if your garden provides the right light conditions for your chosen flowering plants, there are times in the year when your flowers will receive more sun than required.
When this happens, the leaves will turn crispy and start withering. Since you cannot change the position of your garden regularly, you need to change your care practices. For instance, you will need to water more or mulch heavily in hot weather to prevent heat stress in your plants.
If the leaves of your outdoor plants turn yellow, it may indicate they’re getting too much water. Plants go dormant during winter and hence need less water. So, to avoid overwatering your plants, you should cut back on watering your garden in winter.
6. Patiently Tend to the Flowers Until They Start Thriving
After taking the necessary steps to revive your dying flowers, it will take some time before you start to see an improvement. So whether you’re watering your plants more frequently or taking measures to improve soil drainage, be patient. It could be weeks, maybe months before your flowers recover fully.
Your flowers may be dying flowers due to various reasons. In most cases, it’s usually because of improper care and pest attacks. But the cause may be natural, as in the case of annual flowers, which die in one season.
To revive your dying flowers, you need to find out why they’re dying in the first place. Ensure you make the correct diagnosis in order to devise an effective solution for the problem.