What Causes Brown Leaves

By: Lively Root
May 23, 2019
What Causes Brown Leaves
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Brown Leaves


Dry plants will often yellow then turn brown or crispy at the lower leaves. Alternately, over-watering can sometimes present in the same way. With potted indoor plants, it is important that you only water to meet your plant's needs. Over-watering or under-watering are generally the issue when leaves turn colors. Use a digital thermometer each time you water to check the moisture levels and stay on a consistent schedule and check every 2-3 days until you know the moisture needs of each plant. To keep the watering schedule consistent, keep a calendar reminder on your smart phone so you don’t forget this important garden chore!

Low Humidity

Some houseplant leaves turn brown and crispy on the edges when the humidity is low or the air in your home is too dry like Peacock Plants. This can happen with plants receiving a lot of direct sun, or during the winter when heaters are running and drying out the air. If you notice this, add a pebble tray under your plant and a humidifier to increase the humidity. Grouping your plants together will also help increase humidity levels. Keep a digital hygrometer nearby to monitor the humidity. Your plants like it normally at 50% or above. This also helps you breathe better during winter months when the air is substantially drier than spring and summers. Also, move your plant away from any the direct flow of heater vents.

Browning Leaf Tips

Browning leaf tip tips can be caused by tainted water, a salt build up in your soil, erratic watering (too much, too little, or a combination of both), overfeeding, or a combination of all of these. Plants with longer leaves such as Peacock Plants, Dracaena, and Spider plants are often affected given their leaf size.

Too high of temperatures or too much sun can cause tip browning too. Use our digital thermometer to access the position of your plant adjacent to the light source. If you’re getting bright direct light, you’ll want to move it away from the window so it’s still receiving the light but not on its leaves directly for too long. Morning light is the coolest light and is less of a problem than southern or a western exposure.

Size up your situation and generally one of the above are the culprit so you can correct as necessary. Once the correction is made you can simply cut off the brown tips with clean scissors.

Excessive Fertilizer

If your plant has received too much fertilizer you will often notice browning around the sides and tips of leaves and can also look like it's dry. This is because over-fertilizing damages roots, which in turn affects their ability to take in water, making them act thirsty. You can 'flush water' to leech the any excess fertilizer. Do this process every quarter to make sure your plant’s leaves stay healthy and keeps the soil healthy.

Pests and Disease

Brown spots in the leaf centers are often caused by pests or diseases. There are many pests that can infest your indoor plants such as spider mites that can ghost the plant’s leaves, turning them yellowish or faded. Fungal Leaf Spot can show up dark spots with yellow edges. Remove the leaves immediately and any foliage that’s fallen on the soil. Treat your plant with our Arber fungicide on the leaves and drench the soil surface. Place your plant near ventilation to dry out the leaves and soil surface and help the plant to evaporate the extra soil moisture it’s holding.

Aphids can create a sooty mold that is a fungus growth. This can be common on Gardenia’s. These sap-sucking insect’s droppings have a sugar rich consistency which produces the fungus. Wash the plant off as much as possible, then use our and treat for the aphids with our Arber Organic Bio Insecticide (kid and pet safe).

Signs of over-watering like leaf browning and yellowing can also be from fungus attacking the roots of your plants. You can see most pests with the naked eye. However also look for other signs by keeping an eye out for white fuzzy spots, webbing on and under your plant leaves or brown bumps. Look up close and personal under leaves each time you water. Sometimes they’re easy to miss if you’re not doing a thorough inspection. A preventative measure is to use Arber’s Bio Insecticide as a preventative measure every 10-14 days to play it safe if you have lots of plants hanging out together. Sometimes it's best to dispose of plants that are highly infested as these bugs can spread quickly. Other option we would recommend would be to prune back infected areas or apply insecticidal soap to treat pests and fungal issues.