Why does my Chinese Evergreen have brown leaves?

Last Updated: May 29, 2022

Although Chinese Evergreen plants tend to be easy to care for, this doesn’t mean they won’t ever develop brown leaves. In fact, it can be more common than you think as there are quite a few factors that cause brown leaves on these plants. But don’t think that brown leaves mean the end of your Chinese Evergreen as there are quite a few things you can do to solve the problem and stop any more brown leaves from developing. 

In this post, we will be going through the different reasons why brown leaves occur on Chinese Evergreen to help you figure out which fits with your plant.

Too much water can often cause brown leaves

If you notice that your Chinese Evergreen is developing dark brown spots on its leaves, the most common cause of this tends to be overwatering. We recommend a little and often approach towards watering as Chinese Evergreen hate being sat in puddles of water or being bone dry for weeks and weeks so it’s important to get the right balance.

Overwatering can very quickly lead to root rot which is very harmful to your Chinese Evergreen. Alongside brown leaves, it can also cause your Chinese Evergreen to become unstable and not pick up any nutrients. If not solved soon, this can mean your plant won’t survive. If you think you might have overwatered your Chinese Evergreen it’s important to check the soil right away and change it out completely if necessary. Don’t wait for it to naturally dry out as this just risks more damage to your Chinese Evergreen.

Make sure to check the moisture in the soil before you water your Chinese Evergreen to help avoid watering issues causing brown leaves. The easiest way to do this is by digging your finger into the top two centimetres of the soil to see how damp it is. We also recommend picking up your Chinese Evergreen before and after watering as this will help you get a feel for when your Chinese Evergreen might need a little more water.

If you aren’t really sure about how to know if your Chinese Evergreen needs watering, we recommend picking up a moisture meter. They are super affordable and tell you how much moisture is in the soil. We love this one from Amazon!

Too little water can also cause brown leaves

Chinese Evergreens can forgive you for the odd time where you forget to water as they are quite hardy plants, but consistent underwatering can lead to a variety of issues if not sorted; the most common of which is brown leaves that will quite quickly fall off the plant. These will be quite light brown in colour compared to other issues.

Before you start pouring loads of water over your Chinese Evergreen, you need to make sure that this is really the cause of the brown leaves on your plant. As with overwatering, we recommend checking the moisture in the soil before watering, either using the finger method to test how moist the potting mix is or by removing the plant from the pot. If the soil is dry and feels quite sandy to touch, and the roots look a little crispy and shrivelled, then underwatering is likely the cause.

How to fix an underwatered Chinese Evergreen that has brown leaves:

  1. Give your plant a soak.

    Fill up a container with fresh temperate water and place your plant in there for about 10 minutes. Avoid hot or really cold water as this can shock and burn your plant and cause more issues than the initial brown leaves that you’re trying to fix. This method allows the water to soak into the potting mix and your Chinese Evergreen will only take up as much as it needs which helps to avoid overwatering. Often when watering really dry soil, it flows right through and out the bottom of the pot which doesn’t help solve the issue.

  2. Slowly reintroduce watering.

    Sudden changes in the environment can be quite stressful for your Chinese Evergreen and if the potting mix goes from really dry to super soggy quickly, it can cause your plant to go into shock and cause more issues beyond brown leaves (this is why we recommend only soaking for 10 minutes). For the next week or so, slowly reintroduce watering by giving your Chinese Evergreen a little every day before returning to a more normal schedule.

  3. Adjust your watering schedule.

    If you had simply forgotten to water your Chinese Evergreen and that’s why the brown leaves appeared, the fix is easy – just make sure to remember, make a note of it or ask a friend to help you out when you’re away. However, if your watering routine just wasn’t enough for your Chinese Evergreen then going forward make sure you are keeping an eye on when the potting mix is dry so you know when it’s time to water your Chinese Evergreen. Using a moisture meter is a great way to avoid any more brown leaves caused by a lack of water in future.

Extremely dry air can cause brown spots and leaf edges

Chinese Evergreens don’t mind the average humidity level in most homes but will struggle to thrive in homes that have really dry air. 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.

You should be extra cautious of dry air in winter as central heating and less ventilation will decrease the humidity levels which can cause brown dry crispy leaves. 

If it is only the leaf tips that are brown then it means you have caught the problem pretty early on so it’s a lot simpler and quicker to fix which is great! 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!

Here are some of the easiest methods to increase humidity in your home and avoid any further dry brown leaves on your Chinese Evergreen.

  1. Misting the leaves

    One of the simplest ways to increase the humidity for your Chinese Evergreen and avoid brown leaf tips is to mist the leaves with a spray bottle. We recommend doing this a few times a week if the air is really dry. It’s also important that you only mist in the morning to leave enough time for the water to evaporate before it gets dark and cold. If the temperature drops and the leaves are still wet then they can rot pretty quickly and the leaves will turn dark brown and soggy. We love these spray bottles from Amazon because they’re super affordable and look great!

  2. Pebble tray

    Place your Chinese Evergreen over a tray of small pebbles and fill it up halfway with fresh water. You want to make sure that the water level never reaches the pot as the roots on your Chinese Evergreen will rot if they are sitting in a puddle of water all day. Over time the water in the tray will slowly evaporate, lifting up the humidity level. Replace the water every few days to stop it from stagnating. Otherwise, it’ll start to smell pretty bad.

  3. Give your Chinese Evergreen a shower

    To quickly raise the humidity and wash down your Chinese Evergreen of any dust on the leaves, you can give them a shower. Make sure to use lukewarm water as you don’t want to shock or burn your plant. Try to keep the water pressure fairly low as you don’t want to damage the stems or leaves. 

  4. Find a better place for your Chinese Evergreen

    Kitchens and bathrooms have naturally higher humidity levels than other rooms in your home. This is because of the steam from showering and cooking. If you have good lighting in these rooms, we recommend moving your Chinese Evergreen in there and you won’t need to remember to mist or shower the plant and this can help to prevent any more brown leaves. 

  5. Buy a humidifier

    If you want a long term solution to raising the humidity in your home and preventing dry brown leaves on your Chinese Evergreen, then buy a humidifier. They aren’t super expensive and are great at maintaining a good humidity level in your home. They also have other benefits such as better sleep and clearer skin, so think of it as an investment for yourself, not just your houseplants. This is our favourite humidifier from Amazon, it does a great job of keeping some humidity in through the colder/dryer months and avoiding brown leaf tips and edges.

Brown leaves can indicate exposure to direct sunlight

Lighting is always important to your houseplants and Chinese Evergreens are no different, even though they are quite hardy plants. If your Chinese Evergreen is getting too much intense bright light you’ll start to notice the tips of the leaves turning brown as well as yellowy patches throughout the leaf. 

This is due to the sunlight burning the leaves which is unfortunately irreversible. Try moving your Chinese Evergreen into a slightly shadier place, and if the leaves continue to turn brown, move it a little further again until you find the ideal location for your plant.

Pests can result in browning of the leaves

A slightly less common reason why your Chinese Evergreen may have brown leaves is a pest infestation. It can happen that pests such as mealybugs, spider mites and scale insects take hold of your beloved plant.

You can spot pests by either using a magnifying glass to actually see them or by spotting signs such as holes in the leaves, brown dots or white webbing across the stems. If you do spot pests on your plant we recommend giving the whole plant a shower. Keep the shower pressure so as not to damage the leaves, but Chinese Evergreens are pretty sturdy so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue as long as you’re careful. Alternatively, wash down each leaf with soapy warm water and replace all of the soil to get rid of the pests. Alongside these methods, we also recommend that you treat your Chinese Evergreen with an organic insecticide to fight the infestation.

As soon as you spot pests on your plant, isolate them from your other houseplants as pests can jump across the leaves. You also want to check over all of your other plants to see if any others have pests. 

Those are the five most common reasons why Chinese Evergreen plants develop brown leaves. It’s important to look over your plants regularly to spot any warning signs early as this makes reviving your plant and bringing it back to full health a lot easier. If the problem persists and is getting worse, you might want to think about propagating a healthy part of your Chinese Evergreen in case your mother plant doesn’t survive. 

To find out more about how to best care for your plant, as well as spot and treat other issues, check out our Chinese Evergreen care guide.

Fiddle and Thorn is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

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