The oyster plant is one of the easiest to grow houseplants. It thrives in warm climates and requires little care, making it the perfect houseplant for growers with little experience.
Also known as Tradescantia spathacea, oyster plants are well-known for their lance-shaped, purplish, and dark green foliage. However, common plant issues can sometimes damage these lovely leaves and make your plant significantly less attractive.
In this guide, we have listed the most common oyster plant problems you might encounter while growing this popular houseplant. Use our list below as a guide to prevent future issues or to help revive your dying plant.
1. Root rot
Root rot is one of the most serious plant diseases and can kill your oyster plant in a matter of days. As the name suggests, it mainly attacks the roots, limiting your plant’s access to vital soil nutrients and water for survival. Without healthy roots, it is almost impossible for a plant to stay alive.
Overwatering is the leading cause of root rot. Unfortunately, many growers make this common mistake, giving their plants more water than they actually need. Oyster plants do not need watering more than once per week unless the weather is extremely hot and the soil dries out very easily.
Otherwise, too much watering will only keep the soil moist for longer than necessary, and oyster plants do not like their delicate roots to sit in waterlogged soil for too long. Additionally, moist soil can encourage the growth of fungal pathogens, one of the most prolific decomposers present in the soil. For this reason, overwatering can actually double your oyster plant’s suffering.
To avoid this mistake, you should consider the following tips:
- Water your plant only when the soil feels dry. In most cases, once or twice a week should suffice, depending on the weather conditions. You should also reduce watering when your plant goes dormant.
- Avoid using pots without drainage holes, as this can cause excess water to stay longer in the soil.
- Make sure that your chosen pot is the appropriate size for your plant. Oversized pots tend to hold more water while pots that are too small can cause the plant to become rootbound.
- Choose the proper potting mix for your oyster plant. As with other indoor plants, well-draining soil is much preferred over gardening soil. Avoid using clay-type soils as they are more compact and less porous, preventing most of the water from flowing out.
2. Pest infestations
Although pest infestations are not so common in oyster plants, they might still fall victim to certain sap-sucking bugs, especially if they lack proper care. Pests can take up residence on the undersides of the leaves and feed on the nutrients in the leaves, severely damaging the foliage.
Some of the common offenders are spider mites, scales, mealybugs, and caterpillars. If you notice white spots or sticky substances on the leaves, then your oyster plant is most likely struggling with an infestation. If you do not intervene right away, the pests will soon cause visible damage to the leaves, weakening your plant and making it more vulnerable to other plant diseases.
Unfortunately, there is no quick solution for severely infested oyster plants. If you spot the problem early enough, you can treat it with insecticidal soaps or neem oil. Make sure to do your research to understand which solutions work best for the particular type of bug that is assaulting your plant.
Lastly, while helping your oyster plant recover, make sure to separate it from the rest of your indoor plants to avoid spreading the infestation.
3. Oyster plant diseases
Oyster plants are generally quite resistant to common plant diseases. However, they can become vulnerable to bacterial or fungal diseases when exposed to certain conditions.
For example, a moist environment can encourage the growth of pathogenic organisms that cause leaf spot diseases. As the name suggests, you will likely notice some brownish or tan spots that look like rings or dark margins on the foliage. Over time, the spots turn into blotches as the disease progresses. The lesions can also become watery and cause a total collapse of the leaf tissue.
The best way to treat leaf spot disease in oyster plants is as follows:
- Remove the damaged stems and leaves to avoid further spread of the infection. Use sterilized scissors or pruning shears to cut away the infected plant parts.
- Depending on the culprit, use a bactericide or fungicide to treat the infected plant. Fungal and bacterial infections can have similar symptoms, so make sure to do your research.
- Avoid misting the leaves and watering your plants at night, and make sure your oyster plant does not sit in waterlogged soil for too long.
- Prevention and proper care are key to keeping your oyster plant healthy and immune to almost any disease, so make sure to provide it with the best possible growing conditions at all times.
- Prune your plant regularly. As mentioned, make sure to clean the cutting tools before using them on your oyster plant.
4. Curling leaves
Oyster plants normally have rigid leaves. If they start to curl, this might signal that your plant is struggling from underwatering. Although these tropical houseplants are forgiving and drought-resistant, that does not mean you can simply plant them and forget them. Oyster plants, like any other plant, need to be watered regularly to maintain their attractive foliage.
To get the timing right when watering your oyster plant, inspect the soil’s moisture level using your finger. If the top two inches of soil feel dry, then you can water your plant. If it is moist, you should delay watering until it has dried a bit more. That said, do not let it get too dry, either – oyster plants can only tolerate dry soil up to a certain point.
Aside from the finger test method, you can also opt for a soil moisture probe which offers more convenience and accuracy. We highly recommend XLUX and ECOWITT if you prefer this route. These devices are moisture-proof and come with a display console so you can easily read the soil’s moisture content. Once you know the plant’s soil condition, you can make an informed decision about the best time to water your plant without the risk of overwatering or underwatering.
5. Brown leaf tips or margins
Brown discoloration on the foliage is typically a sign of a dehydrated oyster plant. Again, this might have something to do with underwatering, or your plant might be struggling with root problems that prevent it from taking up enough water.
Water uptake issues might be caused by one or a combination of the following:
- The roots are constricted within the container. This often happens if your plant is rootbound because the pot size is too small for it.
- You are using sandy soil which does not hold enough water to hydrate the plant.
- The root system is damaged due to a compacted growing medium.
- The soil contains a high amount of salt which is a common result of overfertilizing.
While browning leaves might seem alarming, this issue can usually be fixed quite easily once you have determined the culprit and addressed it appropriately.
Start by investigating the roots – lift the plant from its container so you can see any signs of damage. As mentioned, use a clean pair of pruning shears to remove the damaged parts.
If overfertilization is the culprit, you might need to review your fertilizer dosage. We suggest using a diluted liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season. Do not feed your oyster plant once it has entered its dormant phase.
If your plant has outgrown its pot, it is best to repot it. You may notice some roots growing out from the drain holes under the pot as the plant becomes fuller and bushier. Since oyster plant roots can become dense quite easily, we recommend repotting your plant every two to three years.
6. Drooping or wilting
Direct sunlight exposure can be harmful to your oyster plant. Besides scorching the leaves, the harsh heat can also cause them to wilt or droop.
Although these plants are tolerant of low-light conditions, they do require a few hours of indirect sunlight every day in order to produce their green and purplish-colored leaves. To keep your plant healthy and upright, make sure to keep it in an area that gets sufficient light without being directly exposed to full sunlight.
If you cannot find a good spot with indirect sunlight, you can use artificial grow lights instead. Artificial lights are handy at any time of the year, but especially during winter. Additionally, grow lights provide the same light spectrum as natural sunlight to stimulate plant photosynthesis. For this reason, you might find them a good substitute indoors to help your oyster plant grow and flourish.
Oyster plants are relatively easy to grow under the right conditions. Provide the plant with basic care such as proper watering and sufficient indirect sunlight and it will flourish for many years.
Oysters are also tough plants – they can survive periods of neglect and poor lighting conditions. However, such a lack of care will eventually lead to plant issues. Thankfully, these evergreens can be easily revived if the issues are corrected right away.
Remember that prevention and early intervention are extremely important if you want to see your oyster plant grow to its full potential. Hopefully, this guide has shed some light on how to tackle common oyster plant problems to keep your evergreen lush and beautiful.