Why Aren’t My Plants Growing? Common Gardening Problems Explained

by GreenStalk Grower on July 16, 2018 7 comments

Over the years we’ve heard from a few customers who are concerned about the growth of their plants. Oftentimes, these questions come from experienced gardeners who have never grown in containers. Container gardening is totally different from in-ground gardening, even though some things overlap, there are unique challenges with both. In this post, we will give specific examples of the most common issues we’ve experienced or helped our customers troubleshoot in the past. It’s important to note that we will not be covering pests and disease. Since that topic is so broad, we do posts specific to a pest or crop. But if you’re not happy with the overall growth of your plants, or just want to find out ways to have more success in the garden – this article is for you!

No Growth

One of the most basic signs of a problem is lack of growth. Annuals and vegetables in the summer should be putting on a good amount of growth every week. The exception is for cool weather crops in low temperatures. They won’t put on much growth at all around the 30 degree mark and that’s completely normal.

Yellow Leaves

Another sign of trouble is yellow leaves. Naturally, most plants have some dying or yellow leaves, but if you plant is entirely yellow or there’s no dark green leafy growth, there’s definitely an issue.

Leggy Plants

Leggy growth is another common sign of unhealthy plants – usually from lack of sunlight. Plants can also be leggy when they are going to seed or bolting. Bolting is a natural process in which the plant produces seed toward the end of its life-cycle. However, if you haven’t gotten a chance to harvest from it, or your plant has recently been planted, then it’s not normal for your plant to be leggy.

The three signs above are good indicators of a problem. But what can you do to fix it?


Growing in shade can be a big problem for vegetables and fruiting plants. Just about every plant that you grow in an edible garden loves sun. Direct sun is a critical factor to a successful garden. If you live in desert areas, it is possible that your plants may benefit from morning sun and afternoon shade, but for all other areas, plan for your garden to be in at least 8 hours of direct sun.

Since the GreenStalk Vertical Planter utilizes a small amount of space to grow the maximum amount of plants, it’s also possible for your plants to get too much shade even if in a sunny area. For example, if you plant strawberries below a tomato plant, the strawberries won’t have access to direct sun. Be sure to grow larger plants toward the bottom and smaller ones toward the top. Or just plant all large plants or all small plants!


Watering your plants can be tricky especially if you’re new to container gardening. Watering too much is just as bad as watering too little. Too much water can lead to leggy yellow plants because too much water washing the nutrients out of your potting soil. As a rule, your plants don’t like to be sitting in puddles of water or be continually wet. Make sure that your potting mix dries out a little between waterings. Plants can wilt from too much water or heat, so you can’t use wilting as an indicator for water. Check the soil daily with your finger until you get a routine down for when you plants need water. Always check the largest plant that consumes the most water to determine if the planter needs water.


The third common gardening mistake is using the wrong potting mix. In our first year growing in GreenStalk Vertical Planters, we had a customer who was very upset that her plants didn’t grow in our containers. We asked her what type of soil she used and she said that she dug up soil from her back yard and watered every day using water from the lake. We can certainly relate to putting a bunch of work into something and being devastated when it didn’t pay off. The soil where we are is heavy clay, so really her plants never had a chance. Potting soil or potting mix are important to the success of any container garden. Some people get REALLY carried away with potting soils. You don’t need to make it complicated. Get a lightweight, high quality, potting mix that’s formulated for containers. Add some slow release fertilizer like crab and lobster shell and/or use a liquid fertilizer like tomato + veg.

Above is a photo a customer sent of their vertical garden. The plants are really small and have yellow leaves. It turned out that the potting soil that she used was poor quality and contained too much mulch – which was stealing nitrogen from the plants. Below are photos from the same customer after she swapped the potting soil. You’ll see a big difference!

So don’t give up! Even if your plants aren’t doing so well, keep going. Oftentimes it’s a simple fix such as moving your planter, adding fertilizer, watering less, or even just using the correct equipment. Its just like farmers with their crops – they won’t grow properly or be ready for harvesting if they’re not carrying out the necessary measures to keep them healthy. It can literally be as simple as searching up Tractors for sale near me just to ensure that extra step in the process is met, and the crops grow properly! Its exactly the same with gardeners. Every gardener struggles with unhealthy plants from time to time. If you can learn from your mistakes, you can grow better next time.

Of course, feel free to contact us anytime at grow@greenstalkgarden.com with questions. We’d be happy to help troubleshoot!

GreenStalk GrowerWhy Aren’t My Plants Growing? Common Gardening Problems Explained


Join the conversation
  • David - February 24, 2020

    How do you ensure that all plants are getting 6-8 hours of sun? Does this u it need to be on a rotating platform or just plant the half with exposure to sun.

    GreenStalk Grower - February 25, 2020

    Hi David,

    Great question! If you are growing in full sun without large structures/objects near by, the plants around the GreenStalk will get a good amount of sun and you don’t have to rotate your planter. But if you are growing in a spot that would make the GreenStalk in the shade for part of the day, you may need to rotate it using either the Spinner or GreenStalk Mover. We recommend rotating whenever you have to water your planter for best results.

  • Larry Hallesy - April 29, 2020

    For the last two years my vegetable plants would stay alive but just not grow, plenty of Sun plenty of water and fertilizer the prior 15 years before then they grew fantastic , don’t know what else to do

  • abdul - June 14, 2020

    hi i tried everything i could to grow my plants in the pots but its not growing or dying. Its brand new, being fertilised and watered regularly, but its not growing, neither is it dying. Please inform me on what else i should do to help it grow properly and quickly.

  • Karina - June 21, 2020

    Hi! I planted 5 bokchoy in one container. The plants in both ends are growing beautifully but the three middle plants are the same size from when I planted it. It isn’t dead just not growing. I’m a newbie in gardening too. I used 1/3 perlite, 1/3 coco coir and 1/3 compost.

  • Sara - August 3, 2020

    Are vegetables are growing but they aren’t producing any vegetables. We don’t know what we’re doing wrong. This is the first year we planted. The bell pepper plant has grown really big but we haven’t got anything from the plants

  • Marina J Boyd - August 10, 2020

    I am having the same problem as others in Southern California. My raised bed garden is on the west side of my yard, with plenty of sun. They are alive, green and healthy (looking), but won’t grow. I didn’t see an answer to this question.

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