If the Stem of a Plant is Bent or Snapped – Can it be Saved? (+ Fixes)
Broken or bent stems can be heartbreaking – for you and your plant. But there are some remedies available depending on the extent of the damage:
- stems that are only bent with no evidence of damage can be saved,
- plant stems that are snapped or crushed are generally unsalvageable.
- In some cases, temporary fixes (below) can be applied to allow the plant to recover.
Welcome to the Garden Bench Top, where today we will be teaching you how to repair bent plant stems.
In this article we are going to help you try to save your plant with an easy and simple to follow process by applying a splint to your plants’ broken stem.
We will also explore the reasons for why plants get bent stems, as well as answer all your FAQs.
Let’s get into it.
Can a Plant Recover From a Bent Stem?
Let’s address the elephant in the room, if the stem of a plant is bent or snapped – can it heal? Can a bent stem repair itself, or should you cut your losses now?
The answer depends on the severity of the damage.
Stems that are simply bending (or drooping) or have a kink with no signs of any damage are repairable. The image below shows a stem that is drooping. The good news is, if you have caught it early enough, we can show you some quick fixes that you can make with everyday household items later in this article.
However, stems that display damage like crushing, are generally beyond repair. Here’s a plant with a stem that is too damaged to recover.
This is because a plants’ stem contains the necessary vascular system that delivers water and nutrients from the roots to every part of the plant, like leaves and flowers. It is similar to how veins deliver blood to our extremities.
Unfortunately, once this is cut off or damaged for an extended period of time, the affected limbs will begin to die.
How to Fix a Bent Plant Stem
There are many ways to repair a bent stem. In this article we will guide you through repairing the bent stem using a splint.
According to Dictionary.com:
a splint is a thin piece of wood or other rigid material used to immobilize a fractured or dislocated bone, or to maintain any part of the body in a fixed position.
In our case, we will use a plant splint to hold the broken or bent plant stem in place, while it heals itself. In doing so, we will also ensure the plants’ vascular system still functions and delivers the necessary water and nutrients.
Steps for Fixing a Bent Stem
- Find a Suitable Splint – When you discover a bent or broken stem, you need to act quickly (why doesn’t Amazon provide instant delivery yet?). For this reason, we have created this guide using everyday items you can source within your house. We like to use icy pole (ice cream) sticks or skewers.
Essentially, you are looking for anything that is strong, long and light. Even a lead pencil will work if you are struggling to come up with ideas.
- Position the Splint – The next step is getting the splint in position. Gently insert the splint into the soil next to the plants bent stem. The splint is going to be supporting the plants’ stem, so make sure the splint is deep enough to hold the plants weight.
- Secure the Stem to the Splint – Use string or wire ties to secure the stem to the splint at the top and bottom of the splint. Make sure the ties are not too tight. You want the ties to be holding the stem, but not strangling it, so you are preventing the vascular system from transporting water (that would go against everything that we are trying to achieve here!).
If you have them available in your house, we love to use soft garden ties. They are perfect for situations like these, because they are bendable, flexible wires with a thick cushioning on the outside that prevents any damage occurring to a plant stem.
There you have it!
You have just performed your own little plant surgery. Is it crazy to think we should open a plant operating theater?
If you like to watch videos, check out Green Love’s ingenious idea of using a bubble cup straw as a sleeve to help stabilize a broken sunflowers’ stem.
Care and Maintenance After the Repairs
Your plant will take some time to repair itself. Generally speaking, you are looking at a healing period of around 2-3 weeks.
We recommend checking in on your plant every few days, and continuing with your usual husbandry chores.
If it has been a while since you last fed your plants, we recommend giving your plant some fertilizer. This will give them the necessary vitamins and nutrients for repairing any damage.
IMPORTANT – Unfortunately, not all bends/breakages will be repairable. Sometimes you may not have caught the breakage earlier enough. And other times, it simply won’t work. You will be able to recognize when this is the case if the section of the plant above the break doesn’t respond and remains withered and lackluster. You will also be able to tell if you inspected the breakage and noticed signs of rot or discoloration.
If you find yourself in this situation after a week into the repair job, we recommend cutting your losses and cutting the damaged portion of the plant. Hopefully, the rest of the plant will survive and reward you with new growth.
Causes of Bent Plant Stems – Why do they bend?
If you have been around the Garden Bench Top for a while, you will know one of our favorite mottos in the garden is ‘prevention is key’. With that in mind, we have listed a few causes that may have contributed to your plants broken stem. The purpose here is, so you can be mindful of the reasons, and hopefully prevent any future broken stems.
Too Little Water
A lot of droopy stems are caused by a lack of water – especially for plants that have fleshy stems (as opposed to woody stems). The key to preventing this is understanding your plants’ water needs and observing your plant as it goes through the process.
We also employ the soil finger test to test when our plants require a top-up of water.
Another common reason for bent stems on plants is that the plant has grown in such a way that it has become top-heavy. Essentially the plants’ stem cannot support the excess of leaves or flowers and has been crushed under the weight.
An immediate fix would be to prune back the foliage above the point at which the stem is broken. Yes that also means the flowers – don’t worry, if you save the plant more will grow! After removing the foliage, we then recommend implementing the splint fix we stepped through earlier in the article.
Lack of Light
Light is essential for a plant to carry out photosynthesis. Without photosynthesis, a plant cannot produce enough food for it to grow properly and be healthy.
This is why you often see plants in dark places growing in weird shapes and forms, just to reach any bit of light they can. The unusual growth often results in improper stem structures, which leads to weakened and broken stems.
Maybe it was your kids playing tag and accidentally running into your favorite orchid. Or maybe it was you carrying a large item, and you clipped your plant you grew from a seedling. Unfortunately, life happens and there isn’t much you can do it about it other than roll with the punches.
Realistically, the only thing you can do is take a deep breath and go to your happy place. To prevent accidents from happening in the future, try moving your plants away from any main thoroughfares or creating a boundary around them to provide ample space for growth.
Frequently Asked Questions for How to fix a Bent Plant Stem
In this section we tackle all the odd questions that may crop up while you are trying to fix your plants’ broken stem.
On a side note – if we don’t answer your question below, please reach out to us via our contact page and we;’ll be sure to respond as soon as we can. We’ll even feature your question in this FAQ section so other fellow gardeners can benefit.
How long does it take for a broken stem to heal?
The time it will take for your plants’ broken stem to heal will largely depend on the extent of the damage. Assuming you have caught the break early and are supporting the healing process, it can take anywhere between 1-3 weeks for your plant to repair itself.
Can I Use Plant Repair Tape to Fix my Stem?
Plant repair tape is a good first step in repairing your plants’ broken stem. However, it will only be effective with minor bends or breakages. We like to think of it like wrapping an ankle or wrist sprain. It provides localized support to the affected area. We recommend using some florist tape as it is sterilized and specifically made to be used with plants. However, scotch tape will suffice if you need a quick fix.