Why are my houseplant’s leaves turning brown? Causes and Solutions

Last Updated: May 31, 2022

It’s heartbreaking getting home to one of your beloved houseplants leaves starting to turn brown, we know there’s nothing worse. We always wondered why leaves were turning brown so we did the research and curated a list to check before you start getting too worried. Houseplant leaves can turn brown for a variety of reasons, mainly; Watering Problems, Overheating or Nutrient Deficiencies.

Too much water can cause brown leaves on your houseplant

The most common cause of browning leaves is root rot, as a result of overwatering. It’s important to start off checking the moisture levels of the soil, try pushing your finger an inch into the soil. If it’s very wet it’s best to leave your plant for a couple of days to dry out a little before testing again. Ideally, you’re looking for the soil to be moist (hate that word) but not too wet, if you can’t even break the soil the opposite could be the problem.

If you’re confident that it’s too late and your plant has developed root rot, then it’s time to repot. Bin the old soil and trim down the dead looking roots. Keep on top of your watering and you’ll be good to go from there.

Overheating and humidity issues can also cause brown leaves

Heating is always a difficult one, it’s worth checking out the temperature where you’ve placed your plant throughout the day. As the sun moves around your plant could be getting direct, hot sun for too long whilst you’re away. Remember that the spot you keep your plants throughout winter might not be so great for them year round!

With some species, like tropicals or ferns, humidity is of big importance. There are a few simple techniques to keep the humidity a little higher than normal; you can spray down the leaves with a mist bottle every few days, or maybe sit your plant in a tray with water and some pebbles. These little tricks will help in maintaining more regular humidity, definitely worth giving a try if you’re running any AC.

Brown houseplant leaves can indicate overfertilisation

Sometimes you might need to fertilize or feed your houseplants so that they can continue to grow healthy and green. Your houseplant will let you know when you’re overdoing it with brown leaf tips, really most houseplants will only need feeding during their blooming periods. If you’re spotting these colour changes maybe consider halving the amounts next time you go to give them a feed.

Chemical build up can cause brown leaf tips on your houseplant

Over time build up of excess fertiliser, chlorine or fluoride from tap water can cause issues leaves to start turning brown or black. There’s two really simple ways to fix this. The first is to run water through the pot for a little while to flush out all of the chemical build up. If that doesn’t seem to fix the problem you can always re-pot with fresh soil to fix it up.

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Fungal diseases could also be why your houseplant has brown leaves

If your houseplant is showing a number of small brown spots on the leaves that are progressively increasing in size, the issue might be fungal leaf spot. This can be pretty common in new plants so it’s worth keeping newbies away from your existing plants for a few weeks to check for symptoms as the infection can spread pretty quickly.

Bacterial diseases can also cause brown leaves

Another reason your leaves could be turning brown is bacterial infection. Bacterial Leaf Spot or Leaf Tip Burn will show initially as yellow spots over the whole leaf which will, with time, then start turning brown or black. If you think that bacterial infection might be the problem you’re having it’s best to move the plant away from all others and clean any tools used before using elsewhere, otherwise it can quickly spread around the rest of your plants.

So there’s quite an array of reasons that your houseplants could be developing brown or black leaves, but the most important things come down to getting the basics right. Having your plant in the correct location for good lighting, making sure it has the right amount of water and keeping up with routine maintenance of soil changes and feeding correctly.

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