Brown and Crunchy Leaf Tips & Other Signs of Overwatering
Why Are Those Leaf Tips Turning Brown?
If your houseplant has been getting brown at the very tips or edges of the leaves, there are a few things that may be happening.
The simplest explanation is that you have been overwatering your plant. This is how it works: The roots wick up the water to the plant body. The plant cells fill up, one by one, and attempt to pass the liquid on to the next cell by osmosis. This system works wonderfully until the moisture reaches the cells located at the end of the line. These cells have no place to pass excessive moisture on to, so they continue to fill until they burst, creating crusty brown tips on the edges of the leaves.
Another symptom of overwatering, one that is commonly confused with under-watering, is the appearance of yellow leaves.
- Yellow leaves caused by overwatering will look like a mosaic of both yellow and green. The leaves will still be firmly attached to the plant.
- Yellow leaves caused by under-watering will look solid yellow and will fall off or detach with little to no effort. To learn more, read Why Are My Plant's Leaves Turning Yellow and Falling Off?
Other Things That Trigger a Plant's Leaves to Turn Brown
If overwatering has not satisfactorily explained your problem, then there may be another cause. Many circumstances in a plant's environment can lead to browning leaves. Choosing the proper environment for the plant and adjusting its watering to fit that environment are things that can make or break a green thumb.
- Lack of light: If the plant has less light than it requires to thrive, it will slow down all of its functions. Simply put, it will not use water as fast as it would if it were in the proper light conditions, and this will lead to an excess of moisture.
- Inconsistency: If you have a tendency to neglect your plant to the point of wilting and then overcorrect by giving it a huge drink, a plant will typically force too much water through its cells, creating a similar overabundance in moisture.
- Moving: If a plant has recently been moved from one spot to another, the different elements of the new environment may cause and overabundance of moisture.
- Temperature: Most commonly, cold is a factor in creating a moisture-rich environment for a plant, but hot humid settings can be equally damaging.
Overwatering & Fungus Gnats
Fungus gnats are a houseplant pest that may indicate overwatering.
Chronic overwatering causes root rot and fungal issues that are perfect for supporting a healthy colony of obnoxious fungus gnats. Their appearance can be an indication that you may be overdoing the water. There are some other ways to contract gnats, but overwatering is a very common cause.
Preventing Brown Leaf Tips
Since we know that the brown tips are caused essentially by too much water, the best preventative measure is to properly water your plant. All plants are not created equal; they all have different needs and requirements, and you must be familiar with your subject in order to be a good caretaker. To be able to do that, you must know...
- what kind of plant you have,
- how much light it requires,
- what kind of light it receives (at different times of the day and year), and
- how much water it likes (is it a heavy or light drinker?).
Most plants want a brief drying-out period in between waterings, since they need to get oxygen to their roots as well as water.
There are tools such as moisture probes and meters available to help you, and these can be helpful, especially for inexperienced gardeners.
Remember: Just because watering makes you feel good doesn't mean it is good for your plant.
Questions & Answers
The leaves of my indoor fig tree are turning brown, wrinkling and falling off. What does this mean?
Brown wrinkly leaves most often indicate too little water at some point. If your tree has been prolific prior to this problem, and has a good solid root structure, it will probably regenerate foliage over time once it is consistently receiving enough water.