With their thick glossy striped leaves, the Zebra Plant will stand out in every urban jungle! They aren’t the fussiest houseplant out there but definitely need a certain environment to really thrive and bloom. If your Zebra Plant has started to develop brown leaves, then there is definitely something wrong that needs to change before your plant gives up on life entirely. There are quite a few reasons why a Zebra Plant might display brown leaves, from watering issues, lighting and even temperature problems.
To figure out what is specifically causing the brown leaves on your Zebra Plant, we have put together this extensive guide which goes over how to diagnose the problem, as well as how to treat and prevent the issue from happening again.
Causes of brown leaves on Zebra Plant
Underwatering is a common cause
If you notice that your Zebra Plant is developing light brown spots or dry crispy edges on the leaves, then it is likely that a consistent lack of water has caused the problem. Although Zebra Plants don’t like having really soggy soil, they also don’t like their potting mix being too dry for longer periods of time. They like to have slightly moist soil so watering little but often is the way to go.
The easiest way to tell if your Zebra Plant is being overwatered is by checking the moisture in the soil. If it feels very powdery and the roots are starting to look shrivelled, then underwatering is a likely cause of the brown leaves on your Zebra Plant.
Overwatering can also cause brown leaves
Overwatering is probably the most damaging of houseplant issues and is quite a common reason why Zebra Plants develop brown leaves. As we mentioned above, Zebra Plants don’t like soggy soil as it can cause their root system to rot.
The browning due to overwatering does look a little different from underwatering. Instead of dry light brown edges, an overwatered Zebra Plant will have dark brown and yellow patches throughout the leaf. It usually starts from the base of the plant upwards but not always. An overwatered Zebra Plant will also be quite droopy and the leaves will feel softer than usual to touch.
To figure out if overwatering is the reason your Zebra Plant is turning brown, check the moisture levels in the soil immediately. If the soil is quite waterlogged and clumpy then replace it with fresh dry mix which will allow the plant to start to recover. Trim away the rotten roots and hold off on watering either as much or as often as you did before.
Low humidity levels can lead to brown leaf tips
Alongside watering habits, low humidity can also be a cause of brown leaves on your Zebra Plant. Often our homes can have quite dry air, especially in the winter months when we often have the heating on for several hours or more each day. A lack of humidity in the air can cause the leaves to be a little limp, droop down, and turn dry, brown and crispy (usually starting from the tips of the leaves).
Zebra Plants need a nice boost to the humidity levels to properly thrive. Although low humidity won’t tend to kill your plant, it will still cause quite a few dry brown leaf tips and edges.
Brown spots can indicate Sunburn
Your Zebra Plant may also be turning brown due to it getting too much direct sunlight. This won’t tend to happen during winter as the sun is a lot weaker but during summer intense light can cause brown spots. You’ll notice this happening on the side of the plant that is facing the light. It is best to move your plants a little further away from the window in warmer months to avoid any leaf burn.
Unfortunately, once the leaves have been burnt by the sun, there is no going back. Relocating your Zebra Plant should help it get back to full health and develop new healthy green and white striped leaves.
Drafts and cold temperatures
Cold temperatures and drafts can also be very harmful to your Zebra Plant. Make sure your plant is not placed near doors or windows that may be drafty. Even though the temperature of your home may seem fine, drafts coming in from outside may be colder and cause the leaves on your Zebra Plant to turn slightly brown. You can always pick up a digital thermometer to keep track of the different temperatures in your home.
It’s also important to keep them away from AC vents during summer as this constant flow of cool air will stress your plant out and cause brown leaves that may even eventually fall off your plant completely.
Solutions for brown leaves on Zebra Plants
Adjust your watering habits
In future, to avoid the problem of brown leaves happening again use a moisture meter and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. If you have been overwatering then you want to either water your Zebra Plant less often or less deeply. We prefer to water less often as these types of plants do like a deep watering and then enough time to dry out in between.
Replace any waterlogged soil
If your Zebra Plant’s potting mix is waterlogged then it’s vital to change it immediately, ideally on the same day that you notice it. Whilst you may be tempted to wait a few days for the potting mix to dry out on its own, this only risks more damage being done.
The worse affected your Zebra Plant is, the harder it will be to solve the issue of brown leaves so it’s crucial that you don’t risk any more damage, as this can lead to irreversible problems.
Increase the humidity
Luckily there are loads of simple tips and tricks to boost the humidity for your Zebra Plant. These will also have quite an immediate effect on your plant which will help solve the issue of more brown leaf tips or edges developing.
Misting the plant
One of the simplest ways to increase the humidity for your Zebra Plant is to mist them with a spray bottle a few times each week. This will also help get rid of any dust on the leaves. Win-win!
When misting, it’s important to do it earlier in the day. This leaves enough time for the water droplets to evaporate off the leaves before it gets colder at night. Cold damp leaves can result in leaf rot if the issue persists so make sure to mist them earlier in the day if possible.
Give your Zebra Plant a shower
A quick but short-term solution to boosting the humidity and preventing further brown leaf tips is to give them a quick shower. Simply pop your Zebra Plant in the shower or sink and wash them down with lukewarm water, this will clean off the leaves and give the soil a good soaking.
You want to keep the water pressure relatively low to avoid damaging your Zebra Plant.
Move your Zebra Plant to the bathroom
If you’re lucky enough to have great lighting in your bathroom you can move your Zebra Plant in there to increase the humidity. The running water from your showers means your bathroom is probably one of the most humid in your home. You can also move them to the kitchen if you have a spot free that’s not too close to the cooker. Again, the steam released when cooking makes this a naturally humid room.
Invest in a humidifier (they’re cheap and easy to use)
These affordable little devices make keeping a consistent humidity level so easy! Most will allow you to place them on a timer so they run on a fixed schedule, and some will even have a built-in monitor so they automatically turn on and off to keep the humidity exactly where you want it.
How to prevent brown leaves on your Zebra Plant
Now that you’ve hopefully correctly diagnosed and solved the issue, the hard work isn’t necessarily over. This is because the best way to solve brown leaves is actually to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Luckily there are a few easy things you can do to help stop brown leaves on your Zebra Plant.
Adjust your watering throughout the year
Monitor environmental changes that might have an impact on how slowly the potting mix dries out so you know how to adjust your watering. Factors such as warmth and light level will speed up and slow down how fast the potting mix dries out.
Keeping on top of these changes will help prevent overwatering and therefore brown leaves (and a whole range of other issues that come along with root rot!).
Regularly mist your plant
Try to build misting into your weekly routine, giving your Zebra Plant a spray a few times a week. This will help to give a small boost to the humidity long-term.
We also recommend picking up a humidity monitor (most digital thermometers will also show you this) so that you can monitor changes in the humidity level throughout the year.
Avoid environmental extremes
As we just mentioned with humidity, it’s also important that you keep track of light and temperature extremes. Intense sunlight can burn the leaves in summer so you may need to relocate your Zebra Plant for the sunniest months of the year.
Avoiding extreme hotspots and cold drafts will also help to not only prevent brown leaves but other issues such as a drooping plant or leaf drop.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are the leaves on my Zebra Plant turning brown?
Brown leaves on a Zebra Plant can indicate overwatering, underwatering, sunburn or cold temperatures. If your plant is developing brown leaf tips then a lack of humidity could also be the cause. Check the soil moisture to determine if watering issues are the cause and monitor environmental factors such as sunlight level and temperature to help diagnose the problem.
Is it normal for Zebra Plants to develop brown leaves?
Whilst your Zebra Plant may occasionally develop a brown lower leaf that will fall off the plant as part of the natural cycle, a high rate of brown foliage is a cause for concern. Check the potting mix for signs that you are over or underwatering and monitor environmental factors such as temperature, humidity and light level to spot any extremes.
Can too much sunlight cause Zebra Plants to turn brown?
Yes, intense sunlight can burn the leaves of your Zebra Plant and cause them to develop brown spots and patches. These will most commonly be on the side facing the window and will appear as brown and yellow patches.
Should I remove the brown leaves on my Zebra Plant?
If the entire leaf on your Zebra Plant has turned brown then we do recommend that you trim it away. This will allow your plant to focus its energy on producing new and healthy growth.
How can I prevent brown leaves on my Zebra Plant?
Monitoring the environment to spot any extremes and only watering once the potting mix has dried out are the two best ways to prevent brown leaves, spots or tips from developing on your Zebra Plant.
How do I fix a brown Zebra Plant?
Replace any waterlogged soil if you have overwatered your Zebra Plant and adjust your watering schedule so that the potting mix has time to dry out. You also want to evaluate if your plant is in the right spot or if you can find a better alternative.
We hope that this guide to diagnosing, fixing and preventing brown leaves on a Zebra Plant has been useful. The number one thing that will help you solve the issue quickly is spotting it early. This is why we strongly recommend giving your plants a thorough check-up once a month to spot any early warning signs. This will help you to fix the issue before it has caused irreversible damage to your plant. Monitoring the environment is also crucial to spot any extremes as they happen.
To learn more about how to best take care of your plant, including our secret tips and tricks, check out our Zebra Plant care guide.