Why does my Calathea Dottie have brown leaves? Causes and Solutions

Last Updated: April 1, 2022

Loved for their dark leaves and pink brushstrokes, the Calathea Dottie (Calathea Roseopicta Dottie) is nothing if not unique. However, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get the same problems that other houseplants, and Calathea varieties, develop if things aren’t right. If brown leaves have developed on your plant, then this is your plant’s way of showing that it is unhappy with something in either its environment or the care that it’s receiving. 

Below we will go through each of the factors that cause brown leaves so you can begin treating the issue and stopping it from causing any more of your Calathea Dottie’s leaves to turn brown.

Underwatering is a common cause of brown leaves

If the leaves on your Calathea Dottie have turned light brown in colour as well as being quite dry to touch, then you may not be watering your plant enough. Although (like most other plant types) Calathea Dotties don’t like having super soggy potting mix, they do need a bit of moisture in the soil to really thrive. Whilst they will forget the occasional missed watering, a consistent lack of water will start to show through brown leaves.  

With any watering issues, it’s important to be sure that this is the cause before changing anything about your care routine. Giving a plant more water when it doesn’t need it will only cause more serious problems. 

To determine whether or not the brown leaves on your Calathea Dottie are a result of underwatering, take your plant out of its pot to inspect both the soil and the root system. If the soil feels very dry and doesn’t stick to your hands at all then is the probable cause of the brown leaves. You should also inspect the root system as if any of the roots are crispy and shrivelled, then the issue has been going on for a while. 

Once you have established that underwatering is the cause of the brown leaves on your Calathea Dottie, it’s important that you treat it properly. Bathe your plant for about 10 minutes to allow it to soak up some moisture. Don’t leave it in there for much longer as you don’t want to fully waterlog the soil. Instead, continue with small daily waterings for one week to ensure the potting mix is moistened. 

If your Calathea Dottie has turned brown because you have just forgotten to water it, then the fix it easy – don’t forget! However, if you have been watering your Calathea Dottie, then you might need to think about either increasing the amount of water you give it each time or watering your plant a little more frequently.

Dry air can cause brown leaf tips and edges

Like all Calathea types, the Calathea Dotties likes a little boost to the humidity and will struggle to thrive in homes that have dry air. This issue can get a lot worse during winter as central heating and less ventilation will decrease the humidity levels and Calathea Dotties will find it difficult. 

If there is a consistent lack of humidity, over time the leaves will start to turn brown. This usually starts from the tips and edges before moving throughout the whole leaf if the issue isn’t properly solved. 

If it is only the leaf tips that are brown then it means you should have caught the problem pretty early on and it can then be a lot simpler to fix. A good way to get ahead of humidity problems is to get yourself a humidity monitor, this will let you see what’s going on in your room and react before you run into problems!

However, there are also a few other ways you can lift the humidity level and prevent any more brown leaf tips on your Calathea Dottie.

  1. Misting the leaves

    One of the simplest ways to increase the humidity for your Calathea Dottie is to mist the leaves with a spray bottle. We recommend doing this several times each week to prevent more brown leaves from developing on your Calathea Dottie. We love these spray bottles from Amazon because they’re super affordable and look great too!

  2. Give your Calathea Dottie a shower

    To quickly raise the humidity and wash down your Calathea Dottie of any dust on the leaves, you can give them a shower. There are two main things to watch out for when showering your Calathea Dottie. Firstly, keep the water temperature fairly lukewarm as you don’t want to shock or burn the plant. Secondly, keep the water pressure quite low so you don’t damage the stems. The great thing about showering your Calathea Dottie is that it will also remove all the dust from the leaves, leaving your plant looking shiny!


  3. Plant placement is super important 

    Kitchens and bathrooms have naturally higher humidity levels than other rooms in your home as steam is released when you’re showering and cooking. As long as you have good lighting in these rooms, we recommend moving your Calathea Dottie in there as you’ll need to do less work to boost the humidity level.

Fertiliser burn can turn the leaves brown

Calathea Dottie plants don’t need regular fertilisation so if you are overfeeding your plant, or using fertiliser at a strong concentration, then it can lead to your plant developing brown leaves. This tends to be quite a slow-progressing problem, so you will start off by seeing small brown spots, or brown leaf tips and then if the problem gets worse larger parts of the leaves will turn brown. 

As well as reducing the frequency of fertilisation, try to use a diluted water-soluble fertiliser on your Calathea Dottie to ensure that it does not cause any shock or damage to the plant. Remember you can also skip the fertiliser part altogether if you prefer, we don’t tend to add anything to the water for our Calathea Dottie plants and they still produce a lot of healthy growth.

Chemical sensitivity can also cause brown leaves

Most of the time, watering your Calathea Dottie with tap water will be fine, but if you live in a really hard water area, it may be that your Calathea Dottie is reacting to high levels of chemicals in the water and this is what is causing the brown leaves.

This happens because excess chemicals and salt from the water build-up in the potting mix and around the root system which suffocates your plant and prevents it from getting the nutrients it needs. 

To avoid this, use purified, distilled or collected rainwater on your Calathea Dottie and replace the current potting mix with fresh mix and this should prevent more brown leaf tips or edges from appearing on your plant. 

Brown leaves are also caused by cold temperature

Drafts that come through cracks in windows or doors, or cold air that comes through AC vents can be really harmful to your Calathea Dottie. Not only does it mean the potting mix takes longer to dry out (which increases the risk of root rot) but it also slows down enzyme activity and in severe cases can freeze and kill the cells in your plant. 

Make sure to draft-proof any windows or doors that are near your plant, and move your Calathea Dottie at least one meter away from any AC vents. We also recommend buying a thermometer to measure how the temperature fluctuates throughout the day and across the year.

A more worrying cause of brown leaves is a pest infestation

A slightly less common reason why your Calathea Dottie’s leaves are turning brown is a pest infestation. It can happen that pests such as mealybugs, spider mites and scale insects take hold of your plant. This is quite uncommon for plants that don’t ever spend any time outdoors, but it can still happen. 

Get up close to your plant and inspect the leaves using a magnifying glass to help you spot visible pests on your Calathea Dottie. We recommend inspecting the undersides of the leaves closely as this is where they like to chill out. 

If you find pests on your Calathea Dottie isolate it from your other plants immediately and check any plants that were close for signs of pests. They can jump around plants if the leaves are close or touching. 

Then the next step is to remove the worst affected leaves to cut the number of pests on your plant. Then wash your Calathea Dottie down with as much water pressure as it can withstand. You should also treat your Calathea Dottie with an organic insecticide to fight the infestation.

Those are the main reasons why your Calathea Dottie has developed brown leaves. There are quite a few factors that can lead to very similar consequences so it’s important that you closely inspect your plant and monitor its environment to make sure you diagnose the issue correctly. Keeping track of factors such as temperature, light, moisture and humidity mean that you can often stop the problems before they have even had time to harm your plant. 

Check out our Calathea Dottie care guide to learn more about how to care for your plant!

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