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Houseplants Leaning To One Side? Rotate Them The Next Time You Water

Emma Loewe
September 1, 2020
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
person watering a monstera
Image by IRINA POLONINA / Stocksy
September 1, 2020

Houseplants get bald spots, too. If your greenery is placed next to a bright window, you may have noticed it start to grow toward the light over time, leaving little patches of exposed soil behind. This can make plants look lopsided, sparse, and a little sad.

There's a two-second fix for this tiny tilt. According to Rebecca Bullene, the founder of Brooklyn-based plant shop Greenery Unlimited, it's "all about rotation."

Why houseplants lean toward the sun.

Plants orient themselves toward sunlight thanks to a neat process called phototropism. Phototropism is dictated by auxin, a hormone that tells plant cells to grow toward the light. Auxin is often described as the captain of a plant's ship, as it gives the orders and steers the direction of growth. When a plant is outdoors and surrounded by 360-degrees of sunlight during the day, its auxin levels are evenly distributed and it can grow straight up toward the sky.

"When we put plants indoors, the light we're giving them is one-directional," Bullene explains. "It's just coming from the window." This causes auxin to accumulate on the side of the plant that isn't getting as much light, which tells that side to grow longer and longer in the hopes of eventually reaching some sun. Over time, that side's foliage will grow taller and denser than the sunlit side's, causing the plant to droop in the direction of the sun.

How to rotate them.

Leaning plants tend to be exhausted plants since it takes a lot of energy for them to keep growing in this wonky direction. That's why it's important to rotate your houseplants every once in a while to make sure that their auxin is nice and spread out.

"When you're rotating it, you're basically making sure that every section of the plant is getting exposure to sunlight—and that's how you maintain a really beautiful canopy," Bullene explains. She recommends adding rotations to your regular plant maintenance. "Any time I water my plant, I just give it a little quarter-turn. It's part of my normal routine."

It's a simple step that your plant will thank you for with lush, level leaves. If only nailing the rest of your watering routine were this easy...

Emma Loewe author page.
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.