There are many reasons why the leaves of your houseplants may be turning brown. There are also different ways they turn brown. For instance, sometimes entire leaves turn yellow, then brown, and then they drop off. But sometimes only the tips turn brown, or they develop brown patches.
To determine the cause of your indoor plant leaves turning brown, you need to start by identifying the problem areas. Then you can take steps to ascertain the cause. It may be due to low humidity, inconsistent watering, the quality of the water, too much heat or light, or unsuitable fertilization.
Reasons why the leaves of your houseplants turn brown
Generally, it isn’t common for houseplants to develop diseases. This is because the environmental conditions indoors aren’t usually favorable for the growth of plant pathogens.
Rather, the most common reasons indoor plants develop brown leaves, brown leaf tips, or brown spots on leaves are due to conditions we can control. Mostly, you will find that you can solve this problem by changing your care problem or the position of your plants with brown leaves.
Another factor to bear in mind is that brown leaf tips and brown edges are more common on some species including the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) and cabbage plant (Dracaena). Peace lily leaves also have a tendency to turn brown.
Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum Wallisii) will thrive in dark corners with low, indirect sunlight. If they are exposed to bright, direct sunlight, the lily leaves easily dry out and become scorched.
Other species, including most succulents, do best if they get lots of bright sunlight. So, when you bring a new houseplant into your home, make sure you know what conditions it prefers.
Then, if the leaves of your indoor plants do turn brown, you will find it easier to answer your own question, Why are my pot plant leaves turning brown?
There is no one rule for watering houseplants. In fact, under-watering and over-watering are two of the most common causes of leaves turning brown. Over- watering in particular often causes brown patches on leaves.
Too much water will often kill the roots of plants because the soil becomes waterlogged. If a plant is underwatered, you may notice its leaves turning yellow and then falling off.
The tap water you water plants with can also be a problem, particularly if it contains too much chlorine or fluoride. If you have a tank to store rainwater, it’s preferable to use this to water your plants.
Similarly, there is a danger that your houseplants will develop brown leaves if they get too much light … or too little light, again depending on the species. A happy medium is usually bright, indirect light, but you might find leaves turning yellow if some tropical ferns and other shade lovers get too much sunlight, too often.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to over-feed houseplants. But then, it’s also a problem if you don’t feed them enough.
A fact sheet published online by the Clemson University Extension advises that when the plant’s lower leaves turn brown, yellow, or die, it is often caused by an iron or nitrogen deficiency. Pot-bound plants are particularly susceptible.
Repotting your houseplants regularly in fresh soil and bigger pots will help to avoid this problem. Feeding them fertilizer regularly is also a good idea.
Just be aware that lower leaves tend to turn yellow if the plants become too dry for too long.
Also, if you feed too much fertilizer, this in itself can result in brown leaf tips caused by excess salts in the soil.
When plants mature, their older leaves will tend to turn brown naturally. So, if you find just one brown leaf, or maybe two or three, it isn’t necessarily a cause for concern.
How to deal with houseplant leaves turning brown
If the leaves of any of your houseplants are turning brown, and you think it’s because you are over-watering, tip the plant gently out of the pot and check the roots. You’ll soon see if they are soft and beginning to rot.
Another solution may be to mist your plant leaves regularly rather than pour lots of water into the pot. This is a good way to overcome poor ventilation or cope with an atmosphere that is too dry.
If you think it’s because you are exposing them to too much or not enough light, move the plant to a more shady or brighter spot.
If your houseplants have brown leaf tips or brown leaf edges, you can trim them with sharp scissors or secateurs. This won’t harm the plant, but you do need to address the root cause if you want to prevent new browning from occurring.
How to prevent houseplant leaves from turning brown
Knowing the likes and dislikes of different species is essential if you want your houseplants to thrive. Also, if you know what is likely to make their leaves brown, you have an excellent starting point to prevent this from happening.
For example, to avoid problems with too much water, it is essential to ensure that the pots you use for indoor plants have drainage holes. These will allow excess water to drain away and prevent root rot. Just be sure to empty the water from the saucer or pan under the pot.
It also helps to establish a watering routine. For example, succulents generally like a little drink once a week. You can monitor heavy drinkers, like peace lilies, by checking the soil and giving them a good soaking when the top inch is dry to the touch.
Quick care tips for your houseplant leaves
We’ve covered the main reasons for indoor plant leaves turning brown. We have also discussed how to prevent them from turning brown and what to do when and if leaves turn brown.
But here are a few quick care tips for your houseplant leaves:
- Keep plants away from very cold or hot locations like near appliances or vents.
- If your plants don’t get direct or indirect sunlight, consider growing lights.
- Don’t let pots stand in water.
- Wipe houseplant leaves carefully to keep them clean.
It can be very frustrating when you give your pot plants lots of TLC and then find that their leaves turn brown and drop off. Identifying the possible causes as well as knowing what each of your plant’s needs, is the best way to stop this from happening.