Why Is My Compass Plant Dying? Tips for Rescuing Your Dying Silphium Iaciniatum

The compass plant is hardy and handsome, a tall prairie plant to keep in a bright, hot, sunny window.  

If yours is dying, you are understandably upset.  

But don’t worry. The silphium laciniatum is as easy to nurse back to life as it is hard to kill.  

Please note: Some of the links in my posts are affiliate links. I get commissions for purchases made through those links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases when you buy something from those links.

Let’s get started! 

A Compass Plant Is a Great Choice for Your Home or Office  

Native to hot dry regions known for extended periods of drought, the compass plant is ideal for any home or office with a big, sunny window that faces west.  

A Compass Plant Is a Great Choice for Your Home or Office  

It can create or flow with a western or desert vibe, and it can be a standalone flower among other green plants or a desert flower that stands out in a collection of succulents.  

You can do so much with this pilotweed that if it’s showing signs of dying, you’ll want to restore it ASAP.  

Signs of a Dying Compass Plant  

The compass plant shows the same, most obvious, signs other plants show when they are in distress. Watch for:   

  • Crisping or burning leaves 
  • Yellowing or wilting leaves 
  • Soggy soil 
  • Fungus 
  • Visible pests 
  • Mushy stems  

Common Causes of a Dying Compass Plant  

The most common causes of a dying compass plant are:   

  • Underwatering  
  • Overwatering   
  • Temperature too low 
  • Too little light   

It is unlikely the compass plant will suffer from too much light as it is, after all, a plant used to being out in the open in a drought-ridden desert or prairie.  

Watering Needs of a Compass Plant  

You typically don’t have to worry too much about the watering needs of the compass plant. Your biggest issue will be overwatering. Take a look at this article on watering mistakes that might be killing your plant.  

The standard test for checking your plant to see if it needs water is to stick your finger in the soil.  

For a compass plant, you can wait until you feel the soil is completely dry before watering it again, and then only until the water runs through the pot. You will never need to soak it.  

Am I Underwatering My Compass Plant?  

In the unlikely event you’re underwatering your compass plant, the leaves will tell you. Burnt or crisp leaves are sure signs of underwatering.  

Am I Underwatering My Compass Plant?

Restoring Water to Your Underwatered Compass Plant  

If you notice your leaves are burning or crisping, check the soil. If it is hard packed, you will need to water it thoroughly then be sure to check the soil more often.  

Am I Overwatering My Compass Plant?  

The much more likely case is that you are overwatering the compass plant. The leaves will start to wilt, the stems will be mushy, and your soil might be soggy.  


Restoring Balance to Your Overwatered Compass Plant  

If overwatering is the problem, you will likely need to remove the root system entirely from the plant, cut free any mushy roots, and lay the root system out in the sun on a screen until it fully dries out.  

Then repot the plant in fresh household soil and be sure not to overwater it in the future.  

Also, be sure to place the plant in enough sun that it can dry out.  

Soil Needs of a Compass Plant  

The compass plant needs well-draining, household soil. Further, because of its complex and long root system, this prairie daisy needs a lot of soil. The roots can grow to be 10 feet long, so ensure it has enough soil to thrive.  

Soil Drainage Needs for a Compass Plant  

Place your compass plant in a large, clay pot that leaches water, and you should be fine. If you have a pot that holds water, you will need to repot it.  

Soil Drainage Needs for a Compass Plant  

Resolving Soil Drainage Issues for a Compass Plant  

If you’re having drainage issues with your compass plant, drill more holes in the bottom of your pot and add a thick layer of rocks and pebbles to the bottom of the pot to allow for better drainage. This approach will ensure the roots can stretch out and the water can run through.  

Lighting Needs of a Compass Plant  

The compass plant wants full sun. Remember it is a prairie flower! 

Resolving Lighting Issues for a Compass Plant  

If you notice the leaves wilting or the colors getting less vibrant, and your watering routine is fine, then your compass plant may need even more light.  

Move it to a bright, sunny window, ideally western facing, and ensure the room stays dry and warm.  

Pests or Diseases that Can Cause Issues with a Compass Plant  

The biggest issues with pests around a compass plant isn’t pests at all.  

Pests or Diseases that Can Cause Issues with a Compass Plant  

The compass plant is a pollinator plant, so it will attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. If your large window is open, watch out.  

Further, plenty of small bugs will want to feed on the compass plant, but they are not harmful to the plant, so you don’t have to worry about them. 

If you want to get rid of any small bugs, you can always spray your plant with a non-toxic neem oil that will make the plant slippery and prevent bugs.  

By nature, the silphium is a hardy plant and resistant to disease, so you don’t have to worry about that either! 

Fake Compass Plants May Be an Additional Consideration  

If you still find yourself struggling with a compass plant, you can certainly invest in the artificial version. You may even find yourself collecting from among many members of the Aster family – sunflowers, daisies, and compass plants alike. It can create a whole vibe.  

And if you’re worried that fake plants are not on trend, check out my article on whether artificial plants and flowers are tacky here.  

What do you think? Have you had success bringing a dying compass plant back to life? Tell me about it in the comments.  

Leave a Comment