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Why are the tips of my houseplant leaves turning brown?

Why are the tips of my houseplant leaves turning brown?

If you’re a plant parent, chances are you spend a good part of your day admiring your green babies. During one of these admiring sessions, you may have noticed the dreaded brown tips start to creep up your houseplant’s leaves. 

Plants with long leaves like dracaenas, snake plants and spider plants tend to be most susceptible to brown tips. Your plants drink water up through their roots, into the stems, and into their leaves. The leaf tips are the last place water reaches, and so are the first place that dries out. For plants with long leaves, water has a longer journey from root to leaf tip, and is more likely to run out on the way.

Not only are brown edges on houseplant leaves unappealing to look at, but it could signal a deeper health issue.

If you start to notice your indoor plant leaves turning brown and crispy, it’s not time to chuck it out just yet. There are ways you can combat, reverse, and prevent the effects of brown tips on your plants.

What’s causing your houseplant leaves to turn brown?

The first step to fixing brown tips on your plants is to diagnose what’s causing the issue in the first place. There are several reasons why your houseplant’s tips might be turning brown.

Inconsistent watering

Improper watering is the most common cause of brown tips on plant leaves. Plant leaves can start to turn brown due to overwatering, underwatering, or simply inconsistent watering. 

Your plants start to get used to a certain watering schedule, depending on the season. Think about how plants grow in nature: some seasons are cold and dry, others are warm and humid. Even though your plants are in an indoor environment, they still grow based on an internal rhythm. 

So in the winter you may notice your plants growing slower and leaves falling at a faster rate. In the winter months you want to adjust your watering schedule to be less frequent than during growing periods.

In the summer, your plants are getting more sunlight, and therefore need water more frequently. No matter the season, always check your plant’s soil moisture with a moisture meter or a chopstick before watering it. When you water your plant, make sure to saturate the soil until you see water draining from the bottom.

Another way to make sure your plant is getting consistent water is to bottom-water it. Simply fill a container with water and plop your plant into it (make sure the planter has drainage holes). The plant’s roots will drink the water from the drainage hole, helping to distribute water evenly throughout. 

When a plant sometimes gets overwatered, then dries out too much before the next watering, but then maybe gets just a drizzle, that's a recipe for brown leaves. With

Lack of humidity

Especially if you notice your indoor plant leaves turning brown and crispy, the culprit could be insufficient humidity.

Many indoor houseplants have tropical origins. Indoor temperatures tend to hover between 70 - 80 degrees F year-round, replicating tropical habitats. Tropical environments have lots of humidity though, which indoor habitats may not always have. 

There are some ways you can artificially increase your houseplant’s ambient humidity. One way is to make a DIY pebble tray. Simply fill a shallow tray with a layer of pebbles (you can get them from anywhere, like your garden or a river). Pour in water until it just barely covers the surface of the pebbles, then place your houseplant on top of the tray. The water from the tray will evaporate into the air, helping to increase the humidity around that plant so its brown tips can recover. 

Improper lighting

Most houseplants thrive in bright, indirect light. That means light that’s either filtered through a curtain or set at an angle so that the light isn’t directly hitting your plant. 

Very few plants like bright direct light. If your plant is exposed to too much direct light, its tips can burn and turn brown.

Research your plant’s needs and move it according to where it will get optimal sunlight.

Salt and mineral build-up

Hard water and fertilizers can case an excess of mineral salt in your houseplants, competing for available moisture and burning your plant’s tissue.

To prevent salt and mineral buildup, switch to distilled or filtered water. If you’ve been bottom-watering your plant, top water it to flush out the mineral deposits. Also pause fertilizing for a bit to help your plant get back its health.

How do you fix brown leaves on plants

Once you diagnose the cause of brown tips on your houseplant leaves, adjust your plant care routine to make sure the brown tips don’t spread and kill your leaves.

Should I cut the brown tips off my plant?

If just the tip of your leaf is turning brown, then you can snip off just the dead part. Try to follow the leaf’s natural shape so it can look as fresh as possible. When you trim off the dead, brown tip of your plant, the remaining green part can stay healthy. 

If your leaf is more than 50% brown, it’s better to snip off the entire leaf. Dead leaves sap your plant of the vital energy it needs to dedicate to the leaves that are still healthy. 

Don’t fear brown tips

Some plant issues like root rot and burrowing pests aren’t always plainly visible, and you may not notice the damage they're causing to your houseplant until it’s too late.

The beauty of brown tips is that they serve as a warning about your plant’s health, and give you a chance to nurse it back to health. So the next time you see brown tips on your plant leaves, say a little thank you to the plant gods helping you adjust your plant care.

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