Why your indoor plant is turning brown and how to treat it

When your houseplant leaves turn brown, it can often feel like there isn’t much hope left for the plant. Browning leaves are the plant’s way of telling you something isn’t right about their environment and they need a bit of a change. So don’t give up! If you notice your indoor plant leaves turning brown, there are steps you can take before getting rid of the plant for good.

A small potted houseplant
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Why are your houseplant’s leaves turning brown?

First you’ll need to identify why your plant leaves are browning before you know which problem needs to be solved. There are a variety of reasons why this happens, including transplant shock, inconsistent watering, the wrong type of lighting, pests, and even natural causes like age. Each of these problems can present in different ways. In order to better identify what’s making your plant unhappy, you’ll want to pay attention to the browning pattern of the leaves.

The leaf has brown spots

Brown spots on leaves can occur anywhere, not just the edges or the middle. They’re often caused by some form of disease or pest infestation. These patches can begin as small circles and will grow over time. If left unchecked, the spots could consume the entire leaf.

The tip of the leaf is brown

In this situation, you’ll notice the tips getting darker and drying out, possibly falling off when you touch them. This is one of the most common problems indoor plants can have, so if this is happening to yours, you aren’t alone! Often browning tips are an indicator of inconsistent watering. Water is taken up through the roots of the plant, eventually reaching the tips of the leaves. When there isn’t enough water supplied to the leaves, the tips will start to turn brown and dry out.

The whole leaf is brown

Occasionally, you’ll notice the entire leaves of one of your indoor plants turning yellow and then drying to a brown color before falling off. This is often not a problem related to care, but one related to the age of the leaf or the plant. A whole leaf turning brown is more common with lower leaves on the plant; however, it can happen anywhere on the plant.

A person caring for a plant
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How to care for plants with browning leaves

Because browning leaves are usually caused by improper care, pests, or natural aging, the next steps you take will be dependent on the issue you’re trying to resolve. Be sure to research the natural/needed environmental conditions of every plant you bring into your home. Not all plants are the same, and you’ll see that some issues are resolved simply by moving the plant from an east-facing window to a south-facing window.

The best way to combat any plant damage caused by over or under-watering is to research the amount each individual plant needs to be watered and follow that care as closely as possible. Every plant is different, which is why having a set day where you water all your plants (although good in concept) can end up depriving a plant of what it actually needs. It’s also important to check the dryness of the soil before watering, too. In colder months, you won’t need to water as often as warmer ones, so checking the soil will be a good indicator of when your plant is ready for another drink.

For pests and disease, one of the most important things you can do is continuously check your plants and treat them as soon as you see something’s wrong. Just because they’re houseplants doesn’t mean they won’t suffer from a pest infestation! There are a lot of things you can do to treat pests and diseases, including fungicide and insecticidal soap.

As far as aging plants go, there isn’t really any way to fix or prevent that natural process from happening. The only thing you can do is to continue to provide your plant with the proper care and continue to help it provide energy to the living leaves.

The most important thing you’ll do, regardless of the cause, is removing the brown leaves. Once they’ve turned brown, they can’t be saved. By trimming them off, you’re allowing the plant to divert the energy it was spending on the dead/dying leaves to fresh leaves and new growth.

Preventative measures to help your plant

You can always keep some insecticidal soap or fungicide on hand so you’ll be prepared if an issue arises, and you can fertilize the plant to help provide it with proper nutrients. The best preventative measures you can take are research and proper care. Researching each plant you have to make sure you know how much water and light it needs will be key for aiding in the longevity of your plants.

The next time you see a brown spot on your plant or a patch of wilting leaves, don’t despair; simply reach for this guide and, using our tips above, diagnose the problem for the betterment of your indoor garden and your home.

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