It sucks finding brown leaf-tips on your little plant baby: You know it’s your fault, but you’re not sure what you’ve done wrong, and it’s not like your plant can recriminate you for your failures (it probably wants to though.) If you find brown leaf-tips on your houseplant, you’ll have to do some botanical detective work to get to the root of the matter (get it?), but it’s often a simple-to-solve problem caused by one of the following.
Not watering correctly
Brown leaf-tips can indicate that you are not watering your plant enough, or too much, or not at the right time. You have to get to know your plant’s needs. There’s no one-size-fits all approach: Some like it dry, some wet, but for most, you can tell whether they need water by checking the soil. Bone dry soil means add water. Damp soil means you’re good.
But too much water is bad too: Brown leaves and leaf-tips can also be caused by overwatering. You can quickly diagnose whether you’re giving your plant too much or too little water by noting the overall condition of its leaves. Overwatered plants tend to have limp leaves, while under-watered ones feel dry or crispy.
Even if you’re watering just the right amount, brown-tipped leaves can be caused by the kind of water you’re using. If you’re using softened water, you’re adding a little salt every time you break out the watering can. Try switching to distilled or filtered water instead.
Lack of humidity
Dried out tips on your houseplant’s leaves can also be caused by too little humidity in your home. Maybe the air in your house is dry due to how you’re heating it, or the area you live may be experiencing a dry spell. Either way, you gotta add a little moisture to your plant’s environment. One way to do this is to group it together with other plants, so as one plant is “exhaling” moisture, the others are taking it in. Another solution is to put your plant on a tray, plate, or saucer filled with pebbles and water. The evaporation of the water can provide a localised moisture pocket for your plant to thrive within.
Not fertilizing correctly
If your plants’ leaf-tips look burned, dark green, or reddish purple, they might not be getting enough phosphorus. Yellow or brown along the edges of older leaves, yellowing between veins, spotting, and curling leaves can all indicate a potassium deficiency, and that means you have a fertiliser problem. Adding a slow-release fertiliser when you’re potting is a good solution, but you might need to add a little fertiliser boost occasionally.
Before you just throw in a bunch of fertiliser and hope for the best, know that brown, burned, or discoloured leaf-tips can also be caused by too much fertiliser (make up your mind, plant!). Some kinds of fertilisers add salt that builds up in the soil over time, resulting in tip-burn. If you notice a white crust on the soil, saucers, or on the side of your pot, it could be salt build-up. If so, flush the soil by putting the pot in the sink and watering it until the soil is fully soaked and the water runs through. Repeat this a few times to really wash that salt out of the dirt. Or you could hit the reset button and repot with fresh soil, which you should be doing every 12 to 18 months for most plants anyway.
Snip away the brown leaves
Once you’ve diagnosed the cause of your plant’s discoloured leaves, it’s time to put this unpleasantness behind you and cut away the brown parts. Using sharp scissors, cut along the leaf’s natural shape, leaving a thin brown area around the cut. Once the new healthy leaves grow, it should look as if it was never brown to begin with.
Grow a different plant
If you simply can’t fix your plants’ leaf problems, maybe your reach exceeded your grasp with this species and you should grow something easier. Try growing one of these unkillable plants as you level-up your home-gardening kills.