What Happens If A Plant Loses Its Leaves? (Explained!)

Have you ever wondered what happens if a plant loses its leaves? We all know that plants depend on their leaves for the production of food through photosynthesis. 

So what happens when plants lose their leaves in some way? Can they live through it, or will they always die?

Usually, plants can easily recover from losing a few leaves if they are healthy. However, if a plant loses most or all of its leaves due to disease or negligence, it can die as it’s already weakened and it won’t be able to photosynthesise. Even so, tough plants with healthy roots can survive loosing all their leaves, especially if they receive good aftercare.

What Happens If You Remove Leaves From A Plant?

Sometimes you might need to take leaves off a plant, perhaps because the leaves are infested with pests, are unsightly, are in the way, etc.

Most plants will happily deal with minor leaf loss, and you may not even notice any difference (besides the missing leaves, of course). 

Plants have many leaves, and they are used to losing them to predators, extreme weather, and other minor disasters. 

Some plants deliberately shed their leaves in certain situations.

As long as your plant is healthy, it should survive if you take some of its leaves away. 

It is best to do so using scissors so that you get a nice, clean cut and don’t damage the plant more than is necessary.

Alternatively, purchase a tool specifically designed for the job. This is what I use for cutting plant leaves, it’s much better than regular scissors

Cutting the dying leaves off a plant can be a good idea. 

It makes plants refocus their energies on their healthy leaves and new growth. It also makes more space for this growth, especially if your plant is getting a bit crowded by old, dead leaves or stems.

Plants shouldn’t mind having some leaves removed, but if you remove all a plant’s leaves for some reason, you risk killing it.

Depending on the species, some plants may recover from this if they are really healthy and strong, but many will die because they cannot produce the food they need or get rid of excess water in their stems.

Why Do Plants Lose Their Leaves?

There are a lot of different reasons that a plant might start losing its leaves. 

For example, if your plant is going into a dormant period, it may drop some (or even all) of its leaves, as oaks and other trees do for winter. 

Some plants will die right back to their roots when doing this.

Other reasons for leaf loss can be more concerning. 

A plant that has been watered incorrectly – either too little or too much – might shed leaves and turn yellow. Unfortunately, the symptoms can be the same for both.

Equally, a plant that is getting too little light may shed leaves, and a plant that is burning may – once its leaves are scorched – drop them too.

Lack of food could also lead to a plant dropping its leaves. If it hasn’t got enough nutrients in the soil, it may abandon older leaves and try to focus on new growth, or may just drop some of the leaves because it can no longer sustain them.

Pests and diseases are another cause of leaf loss in a plant.

Stressed and unhealthy plants are likely to lose their leaves for any number of reasons, and if you think you have a pest infestation, there is a good chance your plant will signal its unhappiness by shedding its foliage.

Although not common knowledge, moving plants often can cause them a lot of stress.

To sum it up, plants lose their leaves for many of reasons, such as:

  • Dormancy.
  • Incorrect watering.
  • Too little light.
  • So much light the leaves burn.
  • Lack of nutrients.
  • Pests or disease.
  • Generally stressed by conditions.

If a plant is losing leaves, it’s usually a good sign that something is wrong.

It can be hard to determine what, because leaf loss is a symptom of so many issues, but spend a bit of time investigating your plant to try and find the cause.

Check the soil moisture, light levels, and think about feeding your plant.

Look for signs of disease or indications of pests. You should be able to find out what’s upsetting your plant, and then you can correct it, hopefully before it loses more leaves!

Can A Plant Survive With No Leaves?

If a plant has lost its leaves due to natural causes such as dormancy, then it should have enough food stored to regrow them when the time comes – and in that case, it will survive without leaves.

However, if the plant has lost its leaves due to stress or other problems, it won’t survive for long, no.

Tough plants might make it, but many plants that have lost all of their leaves will simply die, no matter what you try and do to save them.

Some particularly healthy specimens of sturdy, hard-to-kill plants may manage to come back from their root stock if they have enough food stored up in there.

You can always try investigating a plant’s roots to see if there is a chance. If the plant is already dead, you’ve got little to lose.

Gently dig the roots out of the soil and inspect them.

If they are firm, supple, and have lots of nodes coming off them to tap into the soil, you have a chance of your plant regrowing. You should re-pot the roots in fresh compost (to minimize the chance of pests) and lightly water every few days, allowing them to dry out in between.

Checkout this article to see how healthy roots should look like.

If the roots are very dry and brittle or mushy and rotten, your plant will not survive. If there is any good root left, you can try cutting the rest away and replanting it, but the chances of recovery are slim.

Mushy roots are a good indication that you over-watered, so take note for next time.

If you are going to try re-potting, let the roots dry out somewhere cool and shady before you do so, and only water them very lightly.

Plants will rarely survive losing all their leaves, but you can wait and see if they will recover. 

Make sure you diagnose what caused them to lose the leaves in the first place and address the problem, or your plant has no chance!

How Long Can A Plant Survive With No Leaves?

It depends on the plant and how much food it has stored up in its root system and stem. 

If your plant is going to live, it should start to regrow its leaves very quickly after losing them. 

If your plant still has some leaves, it can survive for a lot longer than if it has lost every single one.

As a general guide, if your plant doesn’t start showing signs of regrowth within a day or two, it is probably going to die, no matter what you do.

If no signs of of regrowth appear, it can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks to die so, in reality, there isn’t really a set period of time that a plant can survive without leaves for.

Tough plants might survive more without leaves, but every day that it does not have them will be sapping its strength and draining its reserves. 

As mentioned, some plants do deliberately lose their leaves at certain times of the year, and these can survive for quite some time without them – usually until the warm weather returns.

However, this is not comparable with a plant that has lost its leaves due to shock or adverse growing conditions. 

Plants that go dormant have stored up food and are adapted to lose and regrow their greenery.

Do Plant Leaves Grow Back?

If a plant is healthy enough, it can grow its leaves back, even if it has lost all of them. 

A plant that has only lost some of its leaves will almost certainly regrow, especially if you remove the problem that caused the leaf loss.

After all, plants are constantly shedding and regrowing their leaves as part of their normal processes. Old leaves are discarded to make space for new, young, healthy growth.

You should watch your plants closely for signs of regrowth. 

You ought to see tiny green shoots coming out of the plant branches, and over the course of a few days, these will start to unfurl. 

A plant will often grow quite slowly for a while when it has lost all its leaves; it will need time to recover.

Make sure you treat your plant gently while it’s regrowing. 

Do not over-water, but make sure it has enough to drink. 

Keep it out of direct sun that could burn the tender new growth, but don’t stick it in a dark corner where the new leaves can’t start doing their job and providing food.

You might think that fertilizing your plant is a good idea, but it will rarely help with leaf loss. 

Your plant will be focused on using food it already has, rather than taking on new food. 

Once it has started to regrow, it is more likely to benefit from fertilization, and can put out new roots to take advantage of the food you’ve added to its soil.

Final Thoughts

If your plant has lost some of its leaves, don’t panic – it may recover! Try to find out what is causing the leaf loss quickly so that you can deal with the issue and restore your plant to its previous health. If your plant is losing a lot of leaves fast, take urgent action.

You may be able to save a plant even if it has lost every single leaf, but it will need strong, healthy roots and lots of careful nurturing to recover.

Same goes for cutting all the leaves off a plant.

If you can’t save it, you haven’t failed; it isn’t easy to bring plants back once all their leaves have gone!

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