When houseplants get brown tips on their leaves, it’s generally an indication of poor watering habits. The best way to water a houseplant is to thoroughly flush it until water runs freely out the drainage holes. Shallow watering can cause brown tips on the leaves. But, brown tips are also an indication of lack of humidity.
Many common houseplants are native to jungle conditions so if your home is very dry, you’ll need to mist your plants and give them a shower every few days. Brown leaf tips can also indicate a buildup of salts from too much fertilizer or from softened water. Don’t overfertilize your houseplants and, if you use softened water, buy distilled water to keep your plants happy.
What causes the brown tips?
- Some types are more susceptible, like peace lily, spider plant and dieffenbachia.
- The most frequent cause is a reaction to elements and compounds in the soil that are often introduced through the water. Things like fluorine, chlorine and sodium.
- Avoid tap water treated with chlorine or fluoride. Sometimes allowing water to sit overnight might help, although the effectiveness has been questioned. Reverse osmosis water is good. Water from a mechanical water softener is very dangerous for houseplants. Naturally soft water, like rainwater or melted snow, is great.
- Low indoor winter humidity and dry furnace-heated air currents worsen leaf tip crisping.
What to do if you have brown leaf tips?
- It’s important to understand the concept that once leaf tissue is dead-brown and crisp, there’s no reverting that tissue back to normal. Even Miracle Gro can’t resurrect plant cells from the dead. The only two options are to remove the entire leaf if it’s very ugly, or to scissor-trim the dead tip tissue into a naturally tapered leaf point. Then encourage new, healthy, normal leaves to sprout.
- To avoid newly produced leaves from continually becoming tip-charred on a troubled plant: (1) repot into fresh high-quality potting mix (2) “leach” the plant by placing it in a sink, watering copiously until water drains through, and repeat immediately twice more (3) change the water source (3) fertilize only during periods of active growth in spring through September, while avoiding the non-growth months of winter, except for flowering plants like African violets.
Houseplant Humidity Guidelines
Homes with central heating are dry during fall and winter. The same is true in summer of houses where the air conditioner runs a lot. Cacti and succulents thrive in dry conditions, but most plants don’t. Either you grow plants that like or tolerate dryness, or you raise the humidity in your home.
A humidifier is the simplest and most obvious solution. The added moisture benefits most houseplants. And it benefits furniture and people, too. If you don’t want to buy a whole-house or room humidifier, try setting a small vaporizer near plants.
Grouping plants helps, too, because moisture released by one plant can be picked up by another. Keep in mind that despite their love for humidity, plants need good air circulation to ward off disease. Leaves of individual plants should not touch. This isn’t always possible, but you should try to give each plant breathing room.
Finally, spray your plants frequently with a fine mist of tepid water. Mist both the tops and bottoms of leaves. Mist in the morning so that plants have a chance to dry during the day. Misting at night encourages disease. Besides increasing the humidity around plants, misting also helps deter some insects, especially red spider mites.