Why Are My Plants Turning Brown?

Why Are My Plants Turning Brown?

Plants are often thought of as the green lungs of our planet, providing us with oxygen and beauty. As plant lovers, we strive to keep our plants healthy and vibrant. However, sometimes our plants may show browning of the leaves, which indicates that something is not normal. In this article, we are going to learn why our plants lose color and what you can do to bring your plants back to good health.

Insufficient Watering

One of the most common causes of yellowing leaves is improper watering. Both underwatering and overwatering can cause this problem, as plants need a delicate balance of water to thrive. Normally, the water provided to the plant flows from the roots through the stems and waterways and finally reaches the leaf tips. When plants don't get enough water, their tip cells begin to collapse, leading to discoloration and wilting. Browning often starts at the tips and edges of the leaves and progresses inward.

To prevent this problem, you establish a consistent watering schedule based on the plant's specific needs, making sure the soil stays evenly moist, but not waterlogged. Once brown tips appear, those necrotic parts cannot be revived. You can trim the discolored edges to help restore the plant to health.

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Overwatering occurs when the soil does not dry out between waterings and the plant roots are immersed in moist soil for an extended period. Too much water will cause root rot and suffocation. As a result the plant will not be able to absorb water from the roots to the stems and leaves. A sign of dehydration is when the leaves become dehydrated and brown.

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To correct overwatering, it is important to know exactly what the plant's water needs are and then adjust the watering regime appropriately.

For example:

  • Succulents or cacti prefer drier soil between waterings.
  • Ferns just need to make sure the top soil is dry between waterings.

You can test the soil dryness by placing your finger a few inches deep in the soil and using that to determine if watering is needed. Whether you have indoor pots or outdoor landscaping, make sure the drainage system is working properly. Check the drainage holes for blockages and make sure excess water can drain.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Plants need essential nutrients to grow and develop properly. Deficiencies in any of these nutrients can cause yellowing of the leaves, as well as other symptoms.

Nitrogen Deficiency

Nitrogen is necessary for the production of chlorophyll. One of the most common symptoms of nitrogen deficiency is the yellowing of the leaves, starting from the old leaves at the bottom of the plant and progressing upward to eventually turning brown. To solve this problem, apply a balanced fertilizer or add nitrogen-rich organic matter (such as compost or manure) to the soil.

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Potassium Deficiency

Potassium deficiency often causes browning of the leaf margins and tips, as well as yellowing between the veins. To remedy this problem, use a potassium-rich fertilizer or amend the soil with potassium-rich organic matter, such as wood ash or compost.

Pest Infestation

Various pests can cause leaf yellowing by feeding on plant tissue or spreading disease.


Insects such as aphids, spider mites, and thrips can cause browning by feeding on plant sap or spreading viruses. To control insect pests, use insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils, or introduce beneficial insects that prey on pests.

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Fungal and Bacterial Diseases

Fungal and bacterial diseases can cause the browning of leaves by infecting plant tissues. Examples include leaf spot, wilt, and root rot. To prevent and treat these diseases, maintain proper sanitation, ensure adequate air circulation, and use fungicides as needed.

Environmental Stress Factors

Environmental factors can also create stress on the plant growth process, leading to various plant health problems such as the yellowing of leaves.

Temperature Stress

Extreme temperatures, including high and low temperatures, can cause leaves to turn brown. High temperatures can lead to leaf scorching, while low temperatures can lead to frost damage. To prevent temperature stress, acclimate plants to temperature changes gradually, provide shade or insulation as needed, and avoid placing plants near heat sources or cold winds. If your plants still suffer due to temperature stress, it may be possible the plants you have purchased are not suited for the area you live in. Talk to your local nursery specialist before making a purchase to see which plants are best for your area.

Light Stress

Too much direct sunlight can cause sunburn and lead to browning or bleaching of the leaves. Conversely, insufficient light can cause plants to grow slowly and appear brown. To prevent light stress, place your plants in an area with the proper light level for their specific needs and adjust the light as needed. You may also consider using grow lights to supplement natural light for indoor plants.

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Salt Stress

High concentrations of salt in soil or water can cause leaves to turn brown because excess salt damages plant roots and inhibits water and nutrient uptake. To prevent salt stress, use rainwater or filtered water for irrigation, flush the soil regularly to remove excess salt, and avoid using excessive chemical fertilizers.


Occasionally, when humidity is too low, foliage browning can occur, especially in indoor plants. Indoor plants are dependent on the natural conditions indoors, but when the air conditioner or heater is turned on, the conditions for plants to survive to change.

To determine if your plants are browning due to humidity problems, you can check the humidity level in the air with the help of a RainPoint thermo-hygrometer. You can group plants to create a localized area with high humidity. Spraying water, using a humidifier, and placing plants in trays with standing water can also increase the humidity of your plants.

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Transplant Shock

Transplanting plants can cause stress, causing the leaves to turn yellow as the plant struggles to adapt to its new environment. This is especially true for plants with weak or extensive root systems. To minimize transplant shock, transplant at the appropriate season, handle the root ball gently, maintain the original soil level, and provide proper follow-up care such as consistent watering and temporary shade.

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Natural Aging Process

Finally, it is important to recognize that leaf yellowing may be a natural part of the plant's life cycle. As plants grow and age, older leaves may turn brown and fall off to make way for new growth. In these cases, there is no need to worry. Remove wilted or dead leaves regularly to maintain the health and appearance of your plants.


Understanding the causes of leaf yellowing is essential to keeping your plants healthy and vibrant. By identifying the causes of plant distress and taking appropriate action, we can ensure that our plants continue to thrive and bring us joy for years to come.

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