Why Does My Plant Have Brown Tips on the Leaves?

Noticing brown tips on leaves of your indoor plants? Solve the problem with proper watering and fertilizing tips from a gardening expert.

Healthy Philodendron Plant With Green Leaves Gettyimages 485582458RFISHER27/GETTY IMAGES
A healthy philodendron plant with green leaves

We’ve all been there before. We’re watering our seemingly healthy houseplant when suddenly there it is: a tinge of brown on the plant’s leaf. Yikes. But what do brown tips on leaves mean for your plant, and what can you do to make them go away? Read on to find out.

Lack of water or humidity

If your plant is sporting crispy, dark, or brown tips on its leaves, it may mean you need to water more often. Check the soil moisture and slowly reduce the number of days in between watering. Watch your plants for signs of improvement.

Lack of humidity could also be the cause. Tropical plants prefer higher humidity levels than we have in our homes. When we turn on the heat in winter, there’s even less moisture in the air. Group plants together so that as one loses moisture through its leaves, the neighbors benefit. Or place plants on saucers or trays filled with pebbles and water. Set a pot on the pebbles above the water. As the water evaporates, it will increase the humidity around the plant, where it is needed.

Looking for more greenery to add to your indoor garden? Check out the best houseplants for low light.

Signs of a nutrient deficiency

Spots and brown tips on anthurium leavesMATUNKA/GETTY IMAGES
Spots and brown tips on anthurium leaves

A lack of key nutrients may be behind the brown tips on leaves of your plant. Burned-looking leaf tips, or old leaves with dark green or reddish-purplish coloring, may indicate a phosphorus deficiency. With a potassium deficiency, you may see yellow or brown along older leaf tips and edges, yellowing between veins, curling leaves, or spotting.

For potted plants, add a slow-release type of fertilizer to the soil mix before planting. Every time you water, a little fertilizer is released, providing a steady flow of nutrients. But depending on the growing conditions and number of plants in the container, a midseason boost may be needed. Stay on top of your fertilizer applications by making notes on a calendar.

Now that you’re familiar with the cause of brown tips on leaves, check out these hard-to-kill houseplants anyone can grow. Yes, even you.

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Melinda Myers
Melinda Myers is a nature and gardening writer whose specialty is attracting wildlife, especially birds, to the garden. She contributes regularly to the magazine Birds & Blooms, and lectures widely on creating gardens that please both human and avian visitors.