Brown Houseplant Tips

Houseplants beautify indoor spaces, whether in a home or office. They also add oxygen to the air, and some even filter potential harmful toxins. Brown tips on the leaves of your houseplant can signify a health problem. Many things can cause this to occur--most are environmental in nature or due to improper care, according to Ohio State University. The good news is that these things are fairly easy to remedy.

Too Little Water

Improper watering is the most common cause of injury to house plants, according to the University of Minnesota. While it's important to water plants only when they need watering, too little water can cause the tips of the leaves to dry out, turning them brown. Different plants need different amounts of water, but in general, water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Flowering houseplants need more water when blooming--keep the soil barely moist at all times. Succulents need less water and should be allowed to dry out completely before watering again.

Flouride Toxicity

Some plants, especially those in the lily family, are highly sensitive to levels of fluoride in the water. As many cities put fluoride in tap water, it is important to water those plants with distilled or rain water. Otherwise, they may develop brown leaf tips.

Low Temperatures and Humidity

Low temperatures can cause the tips of the leaves to suffer cold damage, turning them brown. Most indoor plants are tropical foliage plants and they need consistently warm, humid conditions to thrive. Never place house plants near a cold draft, such as an air conditioner vent or open window. In addition, provide humidity for your plant by misting it occasionally, or placing it on a humidity tray (a shallow tray filled with water and pebbles).

Too Much Water

Just as too little water can cause tip browning, so can over-watering your plant, according to Ohio State University. Over-watering can encourage the growth of soil-borne fungi, which can damage or even kill the roots of the plant. The plant becomes unable to absorb water and minerals and begins to die from the tips inward.

Mechanical Injury

Anything that damages the roots of the plant can cause them to be unable to absorb nutrients and water properly, causing the tips of the leaves to turn brown. This can include severing the roots when re-potting or pruning the plant. Always handle the roots carefully during these times.

Too Much Fertilizer

Over-fertilizing can cause mineral salts to build up in the soil, which can cause the plant to suffer fertilizer-burn. One symptom of this is browning of the tips of the leaves. Use a water-soluble fertilizer formulated for indoor foliage plants and carefully follow the directions for application.

Keywords: brown tips leaves, houseplant problems, brown houseplant leaf

About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. She has worked as an educator and now writes academic research content for EBSCO Publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.