Why does my Dumb Cane have brown leaves? Causes and Solutions

Last Updated: May 31, 2022

Dumb Canes are very adaptable plants and will thrive in most homes. However, just because they aren’t as fussy as some plant types, doesn’t mean they don’t develop issues when something in their environment or care isn’t as they’d like it. Brown leaves can be quite common on Dumb Cane plants as there are several factors that cause it. In this post, we will be taking a detailed look at each individual cause to help you figure out why your Dumb Cane has brown leaves or brown leaf tips. 

Watering issues is the most common cause of brown leaves

Watering issues is the best place to start off when looking at why Dumb Cane plants have brown leaves. As a plant parent, all we want to do is give our plants all the care in the world. But too much water can cause a whole range of issues, brown leaves being one of them. A lack of water over several weeks and months can also be the cause of the brown leaves on your Dumb Cane. 

Luckily for you, Dumb Cane plants are quite hardy which means they won’t die suddenly if you over or underwater them once in a while. However, consistent watering issues will mean your plant will either start to develop root rot or the roots will crisp up. Either issue will mean your plant won’t get the needed nutrients and the leaves will start to turn brown and fall off. 

If you think that you may have over or underwatered your Dumb Cane, check the moisture levels straight away using a moisture meter.  If waterlogged, replace the soil straight away with fresh potting mix. If underwatered, start to slowly reintroduce water by giving your Dumb Cane a little once a day for a week.

Intense direct sunshine can also cause brown leaves

Lighting is always important to your houseplants but there is such thing as too much sunlight. If your Dumb Cane is getting too much intense bright light you’ll start to notice the tips of the fronds turning brown, this is because Dumb Canes can be pretty prone to burning as their leaves are fairly thin. Try moving your Dumb Cane into a slightly shadier place, and if there’s no improvement and you are still seeing new brown leaves, move it a little further again until you find its perfect spot.

If you aren’t sure how much light your Dumb Cane is getting in its current spot (or any alternative spots in your home) then we highly recommend using a light meter. They’ll tell you what level of light is in your home throughout the day and you’ll be able to monitor how it varies across the year.

Brown leaves can indicate too much fertiliser

Another cause of brown leaf tips on a Dumb Cane plant is over fertilisation. Dumb Canes really don’t need to be fertilised often and you can leave it out altogether if you prefer. If you do want to fertilise your Dumb Cane then use a water-soluble fertiliser at lower than recommended strength every 2-3 months during spring and summer and not at all during the colder winter months. This is because your Dumb Cane will go dormant and not produce any new leaves. 

If you are fertilising your Dumb Cane more often than this, then it may be the cause of the brown leaf tips. Overfertilisation can also be seen through the brown leaves curling at the edges.

Low humidity levels can cause brown Dumb Cane leaves

If the edges and leaf tips of your Dumb Cane are turning brown, then dry air may also be the culprit. During winter, our homes can be drier than in summer as the heating is on and the windows are closed which leaves the air quite dry and stagnant. To help avoid more brown tips on your Dumb Cane you’ll need to increase the humidity level a little. Although it would be impossible and unbearable to reach tropical levels of humidity in our home, there are a few things we can do to help raise the humidity just enough to stop the brown leaf tips from developing on your Dumb Cane.

Spray the leaves regularly

This is a great habit to get into to for a lot of your plants as it is great for their overall health as well as for the humidity level. Mist the leaves using a spray bottle a few times a week. Mist the leaves in the morning so this leaves several hours for the water droplets to evaporate as the cold air at night will mean the leaves are a lot more likely to rot if damp.

Shower your Dumb Cane

Another really easy way to boost the humidity is by giving your plant a shower. It is also a good way to get rid of any pests that may be secretly living on your plant. 

Here are a few things to look out for when showering your plant:

  • Keep the water pressure low to avoid damaging your Dumb Cane
  • The water should be lukewarm so you don’t shock or burn your plant
  • Leave the plant in the shower for 30 minutes after washing to allow for excess water to run off

Pick the right room for your plant

Some rooms in your home will have a naturally higher humidity level than others. The kitchen and bathroom are usually great for your humidity loving plants due to the steam let off from showering and cooking. If you have good lighting in those rooms then we recommend moving your Dumb Cane in there. This should help to avoid any further brown leaf tips!

Buy a humidifier

If you’re after a more long-term solution for your houseplants and don’t want to have to remember to mist them every few days, then buying a humidifier is the perfect option. They are also known to help with getting better sleep so it’s not just a good investment for your houseplants.

This is the humidifier we use from Amazon and our plants love it!

Chemical sensitivity may also be the cause

Over time excess fertiliser, chlorine or fluoride from tap water can build up in your plant’s pot which can cause issues such as the leaves starting to turn brown or black. This isn’t a major issue to fix which will come as a relief. The first method you can do is to run water through the pot for a little while to flush out all of the chemical buildup. If that doesn’t seem to fix the problem then you can do the second method which is re-potting with fresh soil. 

Brown leaves can be caused by a pest infestation

Another cause of brown Dumb Cane leaves is a pest infestation. Luckily these are rare if your plant spends all of the year inside, but it can happen. Insects such as mealybugs, aphids or spider mites can latch onto your plant and suck on their nutrients. This will cause the leaves to turn brown and sometimes develop small holes and fall off the plant.

If you suspect that pests are the cause of the brown leaves on your Dumb Cane, isolate your plant immediately to make sure the insects don’t jump onto any of your other beloved houseplants. Use a magnifying glass to try and spot the pests on the plant. They like to hang out on the undersides of leaves or near the leaf and stem joints so look closely there. If you do spot pests then look over each of your other plants to make sure they aren’t also infected. Then remove the most affected leaves, shower your plant and treat with an insecticide. 

Those are the most common causes of brown leaves on a Dumb Cane plant. This can be one of the most difficult problems to diagnose simply because it is caused by such a range of different factors. We recommend going through each one in detail to see if the symptoms fit what’s going on with your plant. If you have caught the issue early, and there are only a few brown leaves or brown leaf tips on your Dumb Cane then you shouldn’t have too much of an issue bringing your plant back to full health. If a lot of the plant has turned brown then propagating the healthy part might be the best option. 

For more information on how to best care for your plant, as well as detect and treat other common problems, check out our detailed Dumb Cane 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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