Plant Leaves Turning Brown – Reasons, Control – Indoors

Introduction to Indoor Plant Leaves Turning Brown

Growing plants indoors is easy to care for and require some conditions. Indoor plants are a fabulous thing to have around. Growing plants indoors not only act as a quick decorating tool but also help clean the environment and air around them. Houseplants can even improve air quality indoors.  Houseplants vary in their light requirements. Some people prefer the strong light found next to a south-facing window. Others grow plants in the soft morning light of an east-facing window. In this article we also discuss the following topics;

  • What are the reasons for leaves turn brown and how to fix them
  • Why indoor plant leaves turning brown
  • Why leaves turn brown in the middle
  • What does it mean when plant stems turn a brown color
  • Different causes brown spots on leaves of plants
  • Why do plant leaves turn a brown color
  • Brown leaves on houseplants
  • Reasons for brown tips on indoor plants
  • What is causing brown leaves in the center of the plant
  • Caring for houseplants with brown leaves

A Step By Step Guide to Plant Leaves Turning Brown

Houseplants brighten the room, they purify the air, and they can even provide a little bit of company. That’s why it can be so distressing to find that houseplant leaves are turning brown. Even with the best care, brown leaves are common on many houseplants. Keep in mind that it might be perfectly natural for the lower leaves on your plant to first turn pale yellow, and then turn brown color and drop off.  There are many reasons why the leaves on your indoor plants turn brown. The reasons are;

  • Under watering/neglect
  • Overwatering
  • Improper potting medium
  • Needs repotting
  • Damaged root system
  • The high salt content in the soil
  • Lack of humidity
  • Pest or disease issues
  • Temperature
  • Lack of light
  • Too much fertilizer
  • Plant diseases like powdery mildew, bacterial leaf spot, and fungal diseases
  • Bad air circulation
  • Not having enough nutrients (calcium deficiency, magnesium deficiency, iron deficiency, and phosphorus deficiency)

Different Patterns of Brown Leaves on Indoor Plants

1. Brown Leaf Tips

In this case, the tips of the leaves darken and dry out, appearing brown in color and papery. The leaves may crumble and fall off when touched. Brown leaf tips are one of the common problems seen in indoor plants and are related to water problems.

Why tips turn brown – Indoor plants naturally use and lose water through their tissues each day. Leaf tips turn a brown color when that lost water can’t be replaced for some reason. Water flows from plant roots through stems until it finally reaches leaf tips last. But when the water’s limited, other parts get served first; tip cells lose out and die from a kind of drought. And, anything that inhibits roots from absorbing enough water can lead to brown tips on leaves. Then, this includes providing the plant with too much water, too little water, or too much fertilizer.

Ideally, water is taken into the roots from the soil and is moved upwards through the plant until it reaches the plant leaves, where it is then used in photosynthesis or lost due to transpiration or evaporation. If there isn’t enough water in the soil or something halts the process of water moving through the plant the leaf tips turn brown color since they are last in line to receive water.  

2. Brown Patches or Spots on the Leaves

This occurs in random spots across the plant leaves, sometimes forming in circles that appear to grow over time or undefined shapes. If left untreated the patches can fill the entire leaf surface. Brown patches or spots on the leaves are related to fungal disease or insect pests. Insects or diseases attack a spot on the leaf, causing the tissue to die and turn a brown color.

3. Entirely Brown Leaves

First, the entire leaf will begin by morphing into a yellow, and then turn brown color and dry out, after which it can fall off the plant completely. It happens to lower leaves on the plant but may occur through the middle or at the top, depending on the cause. Entirely brown color leaves are a natural part of the plant’s growth and aging process, unrelated to the care of the plant. Plant hormones within the cells trigger leaves to begin dying and turn a brown color.

Reasons or Causes to Why Indoor Plant Leaves Turning Brown

Causes to Why Indoor Plant Leaves Turning Brown.
Causes to Why Indoor Plant Leaves Turning Brown

Brown leaves may appear on your plants for a different variety of reasons, some of them based upon the care you’re giving the plant, some upon environmental changes, as well as pests and diseases. Brown leaves also appear naturally and this isn’t a cause for concern. This is partly why it is very important to determine what the cause is before trying to remedy it.

1. Improper Care

Improper plant care is the most common reason why indoor plant leaves turn brown color and should be the first thing you investigate.

2. Watering issues

Water is a critical aspect of healthy plant growth and it’s used in photosynthesis to create food for the plant. Both under-watering and overwatering cause major problems for leaves turning brown. Brown tips on indoor plant leaves are an indication that you need to rethink the way you’re watering the plant.

Under-watering – If you’ll see brown leaf tips on plants because you’re not watering enough. Water is constantly moving through the plant. If there isn’t enough water in the soil, what is there will be taken into the plant roots and used up by the plant before it can reach the tips of the leaves, causing them to turn a brown color.

Over-watering – Just as too little water is a big problem for plants, giving the plants too much water can be just as problematic. If indoor plants are overwatered it pushes the air out of the soil, filling all the pore space with water. Without oxygen, your plant will in essence drown and the plant leaves will start turning brown as they perish. Over-watering can lead to problems with root rot, a fungal disease that result in brown, mushy leaves.

How to Fix Watering Problems

The key to fixing watering problems in plants and preventing them in the future is to know exactly how much water your indoor plants need and then follow an appropriate watering regime. Some plants prefer their soil to be moist at all times, and other plants like the soil to dry out slightly before they are given more water. Use your finger to check soil moisture levels, and only water once the soil has dried out an appropriate amount for the plant you are growing. Then water thoroughly until excess water drains out the container bottom.

3. Lack of Light

One common problem with indoor plants is a lack of light. If your plant isn’t getting enough light, its leaves will start to turn a brown color. Plants are specific in their light needs, ranging from those that need full-sun conditions to those that can thrive in partial to full shade. When exposed to too much direct sun or when they don’t receive enough sunlight exposure leaves turn brown as the plant struggles to grow.

How to Fix Light Problems

Check online or with a local nursery or garden center to determine the sunlight requirements for your specific indoor plants. If indoor plants aren’t receiving the right amount of light first try moving them to a different location within your home.

4. Temperature

Most indoor plants are well suited for the temperature within your home; it is often said that if you are comfortable, your plant will be too. However, extreme fluctuations in temperature can cause stress to your plant, resulting in the leaves turning brown.

How to Fix Temperature Problems

If your plant isn’t in a spot where it may experience cold drafts from windows or doors or is directly affected by the air coming from your vents. This means the heat emitted from a furnace or the cold given off by an air-conditioning system.

5. Salt Build-Up in the Soil

Brown leaf tips can indicate a buildup of salts from fertilizers over time or from softened water. Most potted indoor plants do need a little fertilizer once in a while so they have all the nutrients they need to grow. Even when you’re feeding your indoor plants just the right amount, salts do tend to accumulate in the potting mix. Then, it’s a good idea to repot with fresh soil every couple of years. Softened water can also turn the leaf tips brown color, so consider using distilled or filtered water to keep your plants happy.

6. Insects and Diseases

Browning leaves indicate that plants have insect pests, such as spider mites or scale. These tiny insects hide on the underside of leaves and long stems. Washing your plants in soapy water or using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove the insects will keep the indoor plants healthy. Also, fungal diseases can cause brown spots on plant leaves. Severely affected plants must be destroyed until the afflicted plants return to good health.

Many pests can infest your houseplants, with scale, mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids being some of the most common in plants. Also, the fungus can attack the roots of plants, making it show the signs of over-watering. Most pests can be seen with the naked eye, but keep an eye out for brown bumps, white fuzz, and webbing on and under leaves. Brown spots in the leaf centers are caused by pests or diseases.

How to Fix Pest Problems – The best solution is, disposing of truly infested plants to save the rest of your indoor garden. Also, use insecticidal soap and neem oil to treat minor pest and fungal problems. Prune back any infested branches of the plant and clip off unsightly brown leaves.

Brown Circles Appear On the Leaves

Fungal leaf spot can be found in an outdoor garden as well as on your houseplant.

Preventing Plant Leaf Spot

There are a few easy steps you can take to prevent the problem in your houseplant. Spotted leaves or the causal fungus need two things to flourish i.e., moisture and poor air circulation. In houseplants, spotted leaves can be prevented by watering the soil and not the foliage. Leave enough space between pots for good air circulation.

In the garden, water in the early morning so the moisture will evaporate from the plant leaves. Closely packed foliage must be thinned and always treat pruning and cutting tools with a 1:10 bleach solution after each use. Rake and remove all debris from around your garden plants before the leaves bud each spring.

For indoor plants, isolate the pot immediately to prevent the fungus from spreading. Remove any leaf that has been affected. For organic control, there are several safe and convenient treatments available. Most contain sulfur or copper octanate. Or you can also try a more traditional treatment by spraying with a mild solution of baking soda, using about ½ teaspoon per gallon (2.5 mL. per 4 L.) of water.

Causes for Plants Going Brown in Center

The center rotting out of a plant is always related to the crown or root rot. Most plants can’t tolerate a soggy environment, particularly those with crowns densely covered with leaves, like African violets. When you keep the soil wet all the time, fungal pathogens take advantage of the humidity that develops under the leaves of these low-growing indoor plants, reproducing rapidly. For brown leaves in the center of the plant, you need to check the soil moisture first. Then, allow the top inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm.) of soil to dry between watering and never leave plants soaking in water-filled saucers. Plants with root rot can be saved if you catch it in an early stage. Dig up your plant, trim out any brown, soggy roots, and replant it into a well-draining medium.

Diseases that Cause Plants Leavs Turning Brown

Other reasons why leaves turn brown in middle include fungal diseases such as anthracnose and host-specific rusts. They start along the mid-vein of leaves, either near the center or toward the stem end. Some fungal diseases are aggravated or initiated by humid conditions.

Rusts can be treated early in the disease, but good sanitation is vital to prevent it from spreading further. When tiny, rust-colored spots appear in the middle of the leaves, try neem oil for this problem. Remove any plants that resist treatment and then keep all plant debris cleaned up off of the ground. This fungus creates water-soaked lesions on plant leaves along the mid-vein that soon dry out and brown. Anthracnose disease is difficult to treat, but crop rotation and sanitation are the keys to preventing reinfection.

Several viruses result in vein necrosis, the death of the central leaf vein, and those tissues surrounding it, causing browning. Other symptoms include discolored spots, rings, or bullseyes in a range of colors, general unthriftiness, and distortion of emerging growth. Indoor plants affected by a virus cannot be cured, so it is best to destroy them before other plants are infected as well. Many viruses are vectored by small and sap-sucking insects; be on the lookout for pests in and around sick plants.

Troubleshooting Brown Spots on Houseplant Leaves

It can be difficult to find out exactly what the problem is with your plant. If you have followed all of the steps and still cannot identify the cause of brown spots on plants, take a little time to observe your plant and review its care requirements to ensure you are providing the right conditions.

Recommend doing the following until you know what the problem in plants is;

  • Remove the damaged leaves or foliage.
  • Clean and sanitize all tools between using them on plants so you do not spread the problem.
  • Observe your indoor plant closely to try to identify the problem.
  • To prevent brown spots on indoor plant leaves, it’s important to understand and provide what your plant needs. Make sure the plant gets the correct amount of sunlight, water, humidity, and fertilizer to keep it healthy and happy.

Cutting Off Brown Leaf Tips

You can trim off brown tips without removing the entire leaf. Using sharp plant shears follow the natural shape of the leaf. Then, trim off the damage following the leaf shape and the cut will blend naturally. It’s not uncommon for older leaves to turn brown and die as your plant grows. In some cases, brown leaves can indicate a problem with light, water, nutrients, or disease. If leaves are continually turning brown, make sure your plant is getting enough sun, water, and fertilizer.

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Removing Brown Leaves from Indoor Plants

When indoor plant leaves turn brown, it can be a little disheartening. Once the problem occurs you can’t repair that brown leaf tissue. Then, the only solution is to remove the unsightly leaves.

To remove brown leaves on plants you’ll need to start by finding a pair of scissors that are quite sharp. Sharp blades minimize damage to healthy plant cells in the leaves, reducing the energy the plant should expend to heal the open wound.

Before using scissors, wipe them down with rubbing alcohol. This sanitizes the scissors, reducing the risk of transmitting problems from plant to plant. Depending on the extent of the brown on the plant leaves you can either remove the entire leaf or just trim off the brown tips. If you are removing the entire leaf, use scissors to cut the leaf all the way back to the main stem of the plant, or down to the soil surface depending on the plant type. To trim off the brown leaf tips, use scissors and either cut straight across the leaf tip to remove the dead tissue or make angled cuts to replicate the shape of the leaf tip.

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