Why does my Calathea have brown leaves?

Brown leaves or leaf tips are often an indication that something isn’t quite right with your plant. But don’t worry, this post will help you diagnose and fix the issue.

Why does my Calathea have brown leaves?

Calatheas are a great family of houseplants with incredible leaves. So it’s even more of a shame when we notice that these beautiful leaves are turning brown. Whether it is just the tip or edge of the leaf, or actually the entire leaf, this is an indication that something isn’t ideal in either the care or environment of your plant. This post will help you figure out what the main causes of brown Calathea leaves are, as well as how you can address the issue and prevent them from occurring.


This is the most common cause of brown leaves on a Calathea plant. They don’t like to have super dry soil for weeks and weeks so consistent underwatering will harm your plant.

When underwatered, the leaves on your Calathea will not only turn brown but will be dry to touch and a little limp. If you fear that not enough water is causing the brown leaves then take the plant out of its pot and inspect the soil. If the potting mix is very dry (and almost like powder) then this is definitely the problem.

Your initial thought might be to drown the plant in water immediately to compensate for the lack of it. However, plants get shocked by rapid and sudden changes in their environment. Therefore drowning them in water is actually the wrong this to do. Instead, you want to slowly reintroduce regular watering by giving the plant a little bit once a day for a week. This will slowly add moisture to the soil but avoid any shock or root rot.

Water sensitivity

Another cause of brown leaf tips is fluoride sensitivity. If you live in a hard water area, the chlorine and fluoride in the tap water can cause brown tips. This is because over time the chemicals will build up in the soil and prevent the roots from picking up the needed nutrients. There are a few ways to stop this happening that don’t involve investing in a really expensive water purification system for your home.

Firstly, you can collect rainwater and water your plants with that as the levels of fluoride and other chemicals will be much lower than the treated water out of your tap. Secondly, you can leave a watering can full of water out for around 24 hours. Over that time a lot of the chemicals will evaporate from the water.

This isn’t an instant fix and there may be a few brown leaf tips that develop every now and again but it should stop the problem developing rapidly.

Dry air

Low humidity levels can also cause brown Calathea leaves. This tends to start off as brown leaf tips, but can gradually take over more of the leaf if the problem persists. Calatheas like a little higher humidity than the average home so you need to take some steps to increase this. Here are our top tips:

Mist your Calathea’s leaves

Using a spray bottle, mist your plant a few times each week. Make sure to do it in the mid-morning though as you want to leave enough time for the water to evaporate before it gets dark as the cold air at night will cause damp leaves to rot.

Use a pebble tray

Fill up a tray of pebbles add water to about the halfway point. Place your plant on top and the water will evaporate around the plant slowly. You want to make sure the water level does not reach the pot as the roots will rot if they are sitting in a pool of water.

Wash down your Calathea

Wash down the leaves of your Calathea in the sink or shower. This is a great quick fix but it’s a fairly short-term solution so you’ll want to be doing other things too. Make sure to leave your plant in the shower for about half an hour after washing so the excess water can run off. Otherwise, this may waterlog the soil!

Invest in a humidifier

This is the best long term solution that does need a little bit of upfront spending (although they are very affordable). They can keep quite a consistent level of humidity around your plants so you don’t need to remember to mist or change out the water in the pebble tray.

We recommend this humidifier from Amazon – our Calatheas love it!

Temperature extremes

Hotspots or cold drafts can also cause your Calathea to develop brown leaves. Hotspots can occur when your plant is too close to the window and is receiving a lot of direct light or if it is near a radiator or heating vent. It can be difficult to notice hotspots because the heat disperses around the room and it’ll feel like a normal temperature to you. Make sure you are ventilating the room well and avoid putting your Calathea within 1 metre of any radiators.

Cold drafts are also your Calathea’s worst enemy. A consistent stream of cold air coming in from outside through cracks in doors and windows can be quite harmful to your plant. This is especially dangerous during winter when temperatures can really drop. Make sure you draft proof any doors or windows that your houseplants are close to.

Should I cut the brown leaves off?

Once your Calathea has developed brown leaves there is, unfortunately, no reversing this. The leaves will not return to their original colour or pattern. If it is just the leaf tips then we encourage you to keep those leaves untouched as this will not harm the plant.

However, if the whole leaf has turned brown then it is probably best to cut it off! You don’t want your plant to waste nutrients and energy trying to revive the dying or dead leaves. Instead, you wan to encourage new healthy growth. Plus, aesthetically it’ll look better if you trim away the brown parts of the leaves.

Product Recommendation

How To Care For Your Houseplants (eBook)


Everything you need to know to keep your houseplants happy and healthy.

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