10 Reasons for Brown Tips on House Plants


So, you’ve just bought a couple of plants to spruce up your apartment. A couple of weeks ago, they were perfectly vibrant in your living room, and now they’re starting to wilt and look like something out of a Tim Burton movie. You’re probably wondering what exactly went wrong since you assume you’re doing everything right according to your gardening for beginners’ handbook.

Don’t worry! Just like a medical diagnosis, there is a myriad of reasons as to what could have caused these brown tips on house plants. If you want to fix your plant, follow Yoda’s wisdom. “Do or do not! There is no try.” Without further ado, let’s get into the reasons this brownness is caused, and the solutions to get rid of them.

10 Reasons for Brown Tips on House Plants

1. Not Enough Water

The problem with watering plants is that you either overdo it or under-do it. But it takes a little bit of time, patience, and practice to get the water measurements right. Kinda like baking cookies. You burn the first two batches. And from the third batch, you burn them a little less.

Or at least, you aren’t setting off the fire alarm anymore. Check the lower leaves, since browning, crispiness, and dryness all start from here. Both under and overwatering can result in the lower leaves being affected this way.


Snip off the dead stems and leaves, since they’re not coming back to life anytime soon. Water whatever is left, in a mild and measured manner to avoid another brown leaf fiasco.

2. Too Much Fertilizer

If you’re confused about how to identify whether or not you’ve fertilized it too much, check the leaves. If the sides and tips are turning brown, or have flecks of brownness that are becoming crisp and dry by the day…..you’ve identified the problem.

These are the outer appearances that the plant shows as a result of over-fertilization. The roots become dry and they become thirsty, causing the leaves to become brown. Many plants don’t require fertilizer as is during the winter months, so avoid adding any. The fertilizer can start to crust and form a layer on top.


Remove the visible fertilizer from the plant, and run some water over the layers of the soil to leach away the fertilizer. Remove the damaged parts of the plant, and wait for at least a month before adding fertilizer to the soil.

3. Damaged Roots

I feel like this is all I hear the lady at the salon I say when I go for my monthly appointments. “Ooh your roots are dry, try so and so a product which will magically bring it back to life.

I, of course, go back to Netflixing and eating junk food. The trick is in identifying how the soil looks around the roots. If the soil is too compact around the roots, or if the plant has been flooded by water, the roots can become damaged. Compact soil means water can’t enter, and loose soil means overwatering causes brownness of leaves.


In either case, identify the soil problem, and either water more or less accordingly. Slowly prune it back and normalize the water system with the roots. This way, the plant heals itself and begins to grow normally again.

 4. Lack Of Water Retention By The Soil

Living in sandy areas like Texas, Mexico, or Wyoming can be difficult to grow the plants you wish to. But, not entirely impossible. With a little care and insight as to what the plant needs, it’s perfectly possible to grow vibrant plants even in the areas that are super dry.

You may be watering your plant twice a day, but because the soil itself is so dry, the water drains away extremely fast. This causes a lack of water retention by the soil, which means that the soil itself has to be nourished before you try to fix anything else.


Improve the quality of the soil by adding organic material like compost to it. Make sure you don’t add too much, as this can cause a nutrient imbalance in the soil. Too much organic material makes the soil too rich in nutrients, once again depriving it of water. So the key is to keep it balances.

5. Improper Potting Medium

If you’re as lazy as me, and just go to Costco, pick out what’s on sale and dump it into a pot then you’re doing something wrong. Not saying this happens every time I want to plant something.

As long as nothing has died so far, I think I’m doing it right. Still, take a look at your poor plants and pay attention to them! An improper potting medium is also the cause of brown tips.


Your plant may need repotting. When I say may, I mean that you need to check first. If your plant’s roots are so strong that they’re going through your carpet(true story), it’s passed the check test.

Lift the plant up, and if there’s more root and soil to the point where the roots are encircling the soil, you definitely need to start repotting. Repot your plant in a slightly bigger pot. Don’t go all out and plant it in a giant pot, because you’ll end up with brown leaves again because of overwatering.

6. High Salt Content In The Soil

If you’re the type of person who leaves their plant in the same saucer for a few months, letting it sit in the same water that has been through its soil…..jackpot. You’ve found the cause of the brown leaves in your plant. Not saying that I’ve been guilty of this (I’m a really good liar), but I try to replace the saucer of the plant at least once in two weeks. Keyword: try.


Try watering your plants with filtered or rainwater. Also avoid fertilizing the plant for at least one to two months, until it is able to grow normal, green leaves, and all the brownness is gone. You can also do one of two things: repot or flush out the soil.

Keep in mind that repotting is a stressful process for both the human and the plant, so only do this if necessary. Keep the plant under running water until water drains through the pot’s holes. Then set the plant on its draining dish to avoid re-absorption. The running water flushes out all the unnecessary salts, thus freshening the soil.

7. Not Enough Light

If the leaves of your plant are starting to turn brown or yellow, they’re probably being deprived of light. Examine the plant and look at which parts of the leaves have brown or yellow discoloration. If the underside of the leaves are looking discolored, or there are isolated parts of the leaves that are too light and face away from the light source….time to fix it.

Place the plant in a part of your house that receives the maximum amount of light. Whether it is under a skylight, or in front of your huge drawing-room window, look at the plant’s leaves after a week. Make sure you don’t overdo it, because that will cause further brownness and discoloration due to extreme light. Extreme light can also cause leaves to become crinkly before falling off, so increase the frequency of watering.

8. Too Little Humidity

If the browning is only happening on the tip of the leaves, it’s probably because the plant isn’t receiving enough humidity. When you have a plant that isn’t receiving enough humidity, it isn’t something you can totally change. It’s because this is dependent on the building, temperature, and other factors you can’t control.

If the problem was over-watering or under-watering a plant, that’s definitely something you can change. Trust me, we’ve all been guilty of overwatering to the point where half my carpet was soaked before I realized it! Increase the misting so that the plant receives enough humidity.

Unfortunately, this effect only lasts for about 10-15 minutes, because humidity really is a factor beyond our power and control. If it’s possible to use humidifiers, use them to your advantage, especially during the wintertime. You can also group plants together to increase humidity since grouped plants increase the overall humidity.

More often than not, it’s the tropical plants that go through these problems. If brownness of the leaves wasn’t enough to alarm you, it’s possible for the leaves to have black spots. That’s when you’ll know for sure that the plant isn’t receiving the right amount of humidity.

9. The Dreaded Pests!

Kinda like that ex, you can’t seem to get rid of. Although in the case of plants there is a solution. Ah, the dreaded bugs! Just the word sends shivers down my back, making me think of spindly fibers, creepily long legs, beady eyes….the list goes on. If you’re wondering why your previously vibrant plant looks like it’s been taken over by a hostiles species, fret not!

There is a solution. If there are brown patches in the center of your leaves, then also it’s likely that pests have a personal vendetta with your plant. Fortunately, most of the pests can be rid of extremely carefully using a soapy water solution.

Too much of this can cause high salt content in the soil which brings another load of problems to your plant, so be careful. Check the roots of the plant as well, to check for eggs. Yes I know, more shivering and cringing. Unfortunately, you’ll have to check.

If neither of these is possible, then your plant is beyond saving. Or, you can isolate just the affected parts, by once again using the soapy solution carefully. It’s not hopeless, you just need a little patience. Remember, “to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

10. Aging

Sometimes there could be absolutely nothing wrong with your plant, it’s just getting old. But unlike humans who have built nursing homes, plants require a slightly different approach. New growth usually occurs higher up the stem. Older leaves generally tend to shrivel and fall off, which is usually the case with air plants, or philodendron.

If it’s the case where the brown leaves are simply old, then tweak them gently until they fall off. Dead leaves usually come off the stem very easily, so if they show some resistance, there might be a problem. Sometimes due to a sudden drop in temperature, there is a tissue whose development is prevented. Due to this prevention, the leaves turn from green to brown but don’t fall off the stem. Your plant will be just fine, but it’ll take a little longer for the leaves to fall off.

All in all, just because the leaves of your beautiful plant are turning brown, there’s no need to panic. It could be a number of reasons, or it could be the inevitable aging process. Like Thanos says, “I am inevitable.” Identify the plant’s problem, then tackle it in the least invasive way possible.


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