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.
Underwatering is a common cause of brown leaves
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.
In future, to avoid the problem happening again use a moisture meter and adjusting your watering schedule accordingly.
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 on 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 cause 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 where 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. Luckily there are loads of simple tips and tricks to boost the humidity for your Zebra Plant.
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!
Give your Zebra Plant a shower
A quick but short term solution to boosting the humidity is to give them a quick shower. Simply pop your Zebra Plant in the shower or sink (depending on size) and wash them down with lukewarm water, this will clean off the leaves and give the soil a good soaking.
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.
Sunburn causes brown spots
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.
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.