Why are Your Calathea Leaves Browning?

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There is a price you pay if you want to grow wonderful Calatheas. They have the showiest and gorgeous foliage, but keeping the foliage in perfect shape can be challenging. One of the most common issues every owner comes across is calathea leaves browning.

Calathea leaves can turn brown either on the leaf’s edges, on the tip, or in the middle of the leaf as brown dry spots. In some cases, it’s just an issue you can ignore (and can’t really avoid), but it can also indicate a more serious issue.

Why are my calathea leaves browning?

Learn what is causing your calathea leaves to turn brown, how to identify the cause, and most importantly, how to fix the issue and prevent future browning.

There is one benefit to browning leaves on calathea plants – if you spot one in store, you might get a hefty discount.

Why are Your Calathea Leaves Browning?

Calatheas need close to ideal care and perfect conditions if you want your plant to have close to perfect foliage.

Read: caring for calathea plants

A dry brown tip here and there and a small number of brown edges on a leaf or two are hard to avoid, even with proper care.

Brown Tips on Calathea Leaves

If you are noticing brown dry tips on your plant, but everything else is in order, the plant looks healthy and happy, and you see new growth, the most likely cause is low humidity.

Calatheas need high humidity, ideally over 50%; however, some varieties of calathea will require a lot more. The more sensitive the plant, the likelier are the brown tips. If you have more than one type, you will notice some are doing just fine while others struggle.

Brown Tip on Calathea Plant
Brown tip on Calathea Ornata due to low air humidity in winter

Brown Edges and Limited Brown Spots

Browning of the edges is more unsightly than just the tips. The first thing to consider is issues with water.

If you are using tap water for watering your calathea, the water is probably too heavy in minerals and salts. Calatheas are extremely sensitive when it comes to this. Salts, fluoride, chloride, and other chemicals will burn the leaves.

While some homes may have water that is OK, the majority have tap water that is just too heavy for happy calatheas.

If the issue progresses, the leaves of your calathea will become completely brown, curl up and die.

To prevent further browning of the leaves, start watering your calathea with filtered water, distilled water, or rainwater.

Calathea Zebrina with brown edges due to hard water

Calathea Leaves Turning Brown due to Fertilizer

If you are using distilled water, another thing to consider that has a similar effect as hard water is fertilizer.

Overfeeding your plant will lead to mineral and salt buildup in the soil, which will soon show on the leaves.

This can happen too with a moderate fertilizing routine if you water the plant from the bottom. While many plants enjoy watering from the bottom, which can prevent overwatering, it doesn’t flush the salts and minerals building up in the soil. If you are watering from the bottom, it is wise to water from the top occasionally, letting the water run through the soil. This will help remove excess salts and minerals.

If you suspect overfeeding is the issue, flush the soil – let the water run through for a little while. Refrain from fertilizing.

Drop in Temperature

If your plant was exposed to a cold draft, this can too cause the leaves to brown.

Move it to an area where it will be sheltered from drafts.

Underwatering

If you are not watering your plant enough or often enough, it will show it too. One of the signs would be the leaves browning.

You would also notice leaves calathea leaves curling or looking droopy.

When you water these plants, make sure you give them plenty of water. The water should trickle through the draining holes.

Water the plant as soon as the top half-inch/centimeter or so (finger to the first knuckle) starts to feel dry.

Overwatering

You would probably notice other signs first, like the yellowing of calathea leaves, but still, if the top layer of the soil is constantly wet, you are overwatering your plant.

Pests

Always assume pests are the issue with any houseplant trouble. Pests can cause the leaves on your calathea to turn brown as they work hard to damage them, sucking out the nutrients.

Be extra careful if you notice brown spots of any size .on leaves or browning closer to the stem.

Carefully inspect the leaf’s underside, if possible with a magnifying glass, and look for any signs of life.

You should treat your plant for pests if you notice movement, webbing, small dark/black bug poops, silver streaks.

This Calathea Flamestar had spider mite infestation

Should You Cut the Brown Leaves Off Your Calathea?

If the leaf has turned completely brown you can safely cut it off, the plant has no use of it.

If the leaves in your calathea are partially brown, though, and there are many of them, you should be careful. Cutting off too many leaves that are still able to support the plant can stress it out. Aim never to trim more than a fifth of the plant.

As you prune the leaves, new leaves should grow fairly quickly. Once the plant is fuller again, you can cut the remaining leaves you deem should go.

Causes for Calathea Leaves Browning

New Leaf on Calathea Brown?

If you notice a new leaf on your calathea is coming out damaged – already having a part of it brown, something is off or was off as it was growing.

Check for pests (they do love to hide inside a new leaf and will show as the leaves unfurls). A drop of temperature as the leaf was growing is also possible.

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