Why is My Plant Growing Sideways? Causes and Easy fixes


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One main environmental factor that can dramatically disrupt a plant’s growth is light. Light can cause a plant to grow abnormally and in many cases, can be corrected using some simple fixes.

Plants grow sideways due to insufficient light. The location of where plants are sited can affect the direction and reduce the quantity of light a plant receives. This triggers a phototropic response in the plant, causing it to lean towards the light and produce abnormal growth.

Other reasons for a leaning or bending plant includes poor soil and windy conditions. There are also plants that require some sort of support to keep them upright.

This article outlines the causes and fixes that can easily get your plant back to a healthy state.

Providing balanced lighting is crucial, and we have found an effective and durable artificial grow light on amazon that provides the right spectrum of light to get the job done. You can find it by clicking here.

grow light

What Causes The Plant To Grow Sideways?

Why do Plants Lean and Grow Sideways

Plants are sessile, meaning they are fixed in one place. They can’t move or tell you directly what they are uncomfortable with. All they can do is give you some visual clues to decipher. 

If your plant is growing sideways or falling over to one specific side, they might be trying to tell you that they are in dire need of more light. 

Another possible cause of this can be soil erosion. Below, we have explained how and why a lack of light and soil erosion make the plant grow sideways. 

Light in Only One Direction

Plants are photo-autotrophic, meaning they strongly depend on light. Most of the natural processes in plants are governed by the ever-changing light around them. 

Light strongly influences the light-mediated development of plants (aka photomorphogenesis) and resource allocation to various parts of a plant including stem, shoots, leaves, and flowers. 

In short, light can affect plant length, flowering process, and lateral branching. In addition, the light quantity, quality, duration, direction, and latitude (day-length) can alter the growth patterns of your plant.

Different houseplants require a wide range of light intensity to grow properly. To struggle against the ever-changing light around them, plants are blessed with many photosensor receptors to detect the source of sunlight. 

As a result, plants adjust their growth pattern and development strategies (e.g., shade avoidance, shade tolerance, or phototropism) according to the source of sunlight.

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Now, what is phototropism?

Well, plants have a special ability where they can change the direction of their shoot growth towards the direction where light is available. This special ability of plants is known as phototropism

When your houseplant does not get enough sunlight for photosynthesis, it starts growing its shoots towards the light source in hope of reaching and getting enough light.

If we talk about young plants in pots, they sprout just below the soil and do not have strong enough roots yet to hold them upright. 

With a lack of light, it is easy for the young plants in the pot to grow sideways or fall to one particular side. 

Houseplants will try to stretch and lean towards the source of sunlight if not met with enough sunlight.

In comparison, plants will grow normally when provided an optimum environment and a sufficient amount of sunlight. 

Otherwise, it will alter its normal growth patterns (e.g, leaning or stretching in case of lack of sunlight) to fight for its survival. 

See our detailed post on what causes a leggy monstera and how porch lights affect plants to better understand the effect of lights on plants.

Soil Erosion

Another possible culprit, causing your plant to grow sideways, can be soil erosion. 

High-speed wind, harsh rains, or other natural agents can gradually wear away the topsoil along with macros/micronutrients in it. 

Thereby disturbing the medium’s structure in which your plant is growing. 

Maintaining soil quality is a pivotal factor in growing healthy plants. Balanced soil organic carbon (SOC) is a significant factor in regulating soil fertility and quality. 

The level of SOC is what regulates the water and nutrients contained in the soil. 

The soil erosion, either by wind or water, can cause topsoil loss along with the balanced soil organic carbon, ruining the fertility and quality of the soil or potting medium. 

In addition to ruining soil quality, soil erosion can also scale down a plant’s water and nutrients uptake. 

Not only that, but it also significantly decreases root depth, shortening the roots’ growth and weakening the stability your plant needs to grow straight up. 

If you are living in rainy or windy climates, soil erosion can become a serious nightmare even for your plants growing in pots or containers. 

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How To Prevent a Plant From Growing Sideways?

To prevent a plant from growing sideways, a reliable and consistent source of light must be provided. The light source should allow the plant to get at least 12 hours of consistent light to all plant parts. 

Rotating the plant as well as using artificial light can help inconsistent growth.

The following ways can help you in preventing a plant from growing sideways:

Place The Plant in an Area Surrounded by Light

As we mentioned earlier in the article, light, be it natural sunlight or light from LEDs, is crucial for snake plants to produce food (photosynthesis). 

Move your plants to a brighter room or area where they can get enough sunlight.

Hopefully, they will start growing thicker straight shoots and leaves in no time. 

Cut off all the leggy, sideway growth of your plants during late autumn. If all goes well, new shoots will start growing straight up and new leaves will shoot up in no time. 

In the case of artificial light, make sure that you use a light that provides the right spectrum of light for optimal growth.

It works best for seedlings but it is not necessary to invest that kind of money for a few plants. You can place simple lights as well near plants as they don’t give off heat.

Rotating The Plant:

If you are growing plants in a pot, make sure that they get enough sunlight. If sunlight is not enough, your plants may start growing sideways or eventually fall over. 

Keep in mind that plants are photo-autotrophic and will always lean toward the light. 

In case you don’t have a garden or open area, place your houseplant pots in a south-facing window where they can get at least five to six hours of bright sunlight. 

To prevent leaves from leaning or bending toward the source of sunlight, keep rotating your plants regularly so that all leaves get an equal amount of sunlight.

Plant rotation is a simple cost-effective way in keeping your plant growing uniformly. See our detailed article on rotating houseplants and the benefits of doing it.

Do it after every three to four days to make each shoot or leaf get the chance to drizzle itself in bright light. 

How To Fix a Leaning Plant?

To fix a leaning plant, proper supports should be put in place for the plant to anchor on. Support mechanisms such as stakes and moss poles provide an easy alternative for climbing plants whereas repotting will work for most other plants with poor soil quality.

If your plant has already started growing sideways, the following methods can assist your plant to revive itself again. 

Propping The Plant: (staking)

Although all plants need light for proper growth, not all plants have the same stature or physique. For example, some plants have weak shoots and long, wide leaves. 

Due to lack of light or soil erosion, your plant may struggle under its weight and eventually fall. 

To prevent your potted plants from falling over we recommend the use of stakes or a moss pole. Stakes are made from wood or metal and can be pressed into the soil from a pointed end near the plants. 

Put the stake several inches away from the stem. Push it in the ground about 3 to 6 inches, enough to make it sturdy. 

You can use a piece of wire or cloth to tie the plants with the stakes so that they could have a spot to grow upward without falling over. 

Make sure that you don’t put it on too tight. Keeping it loose is ideal as the new shoots will grow and you don’t want to injure the plant. One can easily find stakes in a local garden center.

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The Blooming Jungle 24 Inch Moss Pole - 2 Coco Coir Poles

Repotting:

If your plant is growing sideways because the soil erosion has reduced its root depth, repot it into a new pot. 

Your plant is growing to one side because its roots no longer have enough grip to firmly hold it in there. Repotting in the new containers will let your plant grow healthy and strong.  

While repotting your plant, make sure, this time, you bury the stem a little deeper than it previously was. 

Burying the stem of your plant a little deep in the soil will ensure upright growth. The plant will have enough support to stand firmly against windy days.

Furthermore, deep transplantation will also let your plant establish stronger, healthier roots in the soil, giving the plants good support later in the future.

Re-pot in a container or pot and place it under good sunlight. To prevent future soil erosion, simply cover the topsoil with whatever mulch you find good for your plant growth. 

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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