You spend a lot of time looking after your plants. From the moment you plant a seedling, you provide daily care to your plants, ensuring they grow as expected. Sometimes, things do not work out like you hope they do. One example would be plant leaves turning brown. It is most common for the edges and the tip of leaves to turn brown. In some scenarios, you may find entire plant leaves losing their natural green color.
Fear not, as there are solutions to this common problem. We’ll take a look at why plant leaves turn brown and give you a few useful tips to help counter this issue. This will help to restore your garden to its natural beauty and ensure your plants are able to last longer.
Why Do Plant Leaves Turn Brown?
The presence of brown edges on plant leaves immediately creates concern among gardeners. You’ve spent a lot of time attending to the plant. The last thing you want is for the plant to die. With this in mind, your first step to remedying the situation should be to educate yourself on the causes.
Before determining the cause, you should take a closer look at your plant. Consider whether only the tip or edges are affected. There are cases where you may find that entire plant leaves have turned brown, and not just the edges.
The most common browning of plant leaves tends to occur with the edges and the tip. This is usually where the problem starts. If you notice the edges of plant leaves turning brown early on, it’s usually easier to save the plant compared to a situation where entire plant leaves are brown.
Edges turning brown indicates stress in a plant. There are several reasons why a plant may become stressed. Looking at the environment around the plant is a useful way of finding the specific stressors, which also allow you to deal with the problem more effectively.
When it comes to stressors, a lack of water tends to be a common issue. In the majority of cases, plant leaves turn brown because the plant does not get enough water.
It is important to take note of the role that microorganisms play in a plant’s life. One study explains that microorganisms play a role during the entire lifespan of the plant. There are multiple types of microorganisms that can live on plants. The study also describes the important role that water plays in promoting a more beneficial microbe balance on plants – which essentially leads to healthier plants that remain green and live longer.
Below, we outline a few potential problems that you should consider:
- The area you reside in may not get much rainfall. Rain is a primary source of watering for plants. If there is a lack of rain in the area, then manual watering needs to be used.
- Soil that is sandy generally has a lack of water. The sandy texture of the soil causes water to drain quickly. When this happens, water does not remain present in the upper layers of soil long enough for plants to stay hydrated.
- When plant roots are damaged, there is a reduction in the plant’s ability to effectively absorb water from the soil. Compacted soil is a common reason for plant roots to become damaged.
- It is also possible for the roots to become constricted. In this scenario, it would be difficult for the plant to absorb water. This is a very common problem in plants that are grown in a container. There is not enough room for the roots to spread, causing a constriction. Another reason for root constriction would be soil with high clay content.
It should be noted that a lack of water is not the only reason for plant leaves to turn brown. Apart from poor hydration, too much salt in the area where the plant is growing can also cause problems. There are cases where the soil is naturally high in salt. It is also possible that you used too much fertilizer in the soil – this can add an excessive amount of salt.
Can You Save A Plant Once The Leaves Turn Brown?
Plant leaves turning brown is often a major concern among people with their own garden. With this in mind, the first question that comes to mind is whether or not the plant can be saved.
The good news is, you will be able to save the plant in the majority of cases. There are, however, scenarios where you may not have many options available.
The first step is to consider whether the entire plant leaves are brown or just the edges. When the browning affects the entire leaf, it is usually a sign of something more serious. In these scenarios, saving the plant can be tough.
In cases where the edges are brown, you may find that it is significantly easier to save the plant. You will need to start by considering the potential cause and then determine what the most appropriate solution would be.
The duration of the problem needs to be taken into consideration, as well. The earlier you take action, the easier it would be to effectively save the plant and get rid of the brown edges.
A study led by the Gene Discovery Research Group explains that water stress causes problems with the physiology of the plant. When there is a lack of water, the plant suffers a reduction in its photosynthetic capacity.
This ultimately affects the plant’s ability to absorb and produce the nutrients it needs to survive. When the problem continues without any appropriate action, the plant suffers a greater risk of dying.
What You Should Do When Plant Leaves Are Turning Brown
You’ve identified brown edges on your plant leaves and want to take action quickly. After discovering that the problem likely lies in a lack of water, you get your garden hose and want to start spraying all your plants. Before you start watering plants, take a moment to consider why there is water stress. Flooding your plants with water is the last thing you want to do at this point – it could lead to root damage and other complications.
To stop plant leaves from turning brown and reverse the problem, you will have to recognize the cause first. Your most appropriate action largely depends on the reason why plant leaves are not getting enough water or why there is too much salt in the soil.
We want to highlight common causes and then discuss the most relevant solutions to help return your plant to its healthy state.
Low Natural Watering
When there is little rainfall in the area, you’ll need to supplement the plants from your side too. Consider the amount of rain that is acquired and then work out a plan for manual watering. When watering plants manually, it is important to keep moderation in mind. You do not want to drench the plants in water. At the same time, you want to provide enough water for plants to be healthy and grow normally.
You could consider installing a sprayer system. There are some options that come with automated functions. This would allow you to set up a watering schedule without the need to do anything manually. You’ll simply check up on the spraying system from time-to-time to ensure it continues to provide sufficient water to your plants.
The Orbit 62061Z Single-Outlet Hose Watering Timer is a good example of such a device. There are alternative models available that help to regulate two or three outlets too. The device comes with a built-in rain delay function. If it detects rainfall, the automatic spray timer will delay the schedule for the next watering session. This helps to conserve water while also ensuring plants do not get too much water.
If you have a larger garden that requires more coverage, then you can consider the Melnor 65036-AMZ AquaTimer. This digital timer has four zones and has a stainless steel construction – which means no worries about rusting.
Indoor plants require manual watering at all times, of course. If this is the case, you may consider the MoistenLand DIY Micro Automatic Drip Irrigation Kit. This kit allows you to set a schedule for an entire month. It is programmable and helps to provide a drip-feeding effect to indoor potted plants.
There are two main reasons why roots may be constricted. You’ll need to consider the specific reason affecting your plants and then take appropriate action.
A common reason is due to a container or pot being too small. When you add plants to a pot, you need to ensure there is enough room for the roots to grow. Some plants tend to have longer roots than others. Consider the potential size of the plant’s roots, and then choose a pot that will provide adequate space for growth.
When a plant reaches the stage where the pot is no longer big enough for its roots, it might be time to think about replanting. You could transfer the plant to a larger pot. Alternatively, transfer it to your garden, where it is likely to have a much more significant area to grow.
In other cases, you may find that there is too much clay in the soil. This can cause roots to become constricted, reducing water absorption, and leading to other potential problems.
An effective strategy would be replanting. This means you will have to find an area with soil that has a lower clay content. You could decide to buy fertilized soil and work that into the ground. In such a case, it may help to reduce the clay content – but the effects may still be limited. Alternatively, you could consider replanting the plant in a large pot.
Soil With Sandy Texture
The texture of soil plays a big role in whether plants will gain access to enough water or dry out. Even with manual watering, there may still be a lack of hydration when plants are planted in sandy soil.
When the soil has a high sand content, it generally means that water will drain at a rapid rate. The solution to fixing this issue involves two steps.
Start by increasing the frequency at which you water your plants. This is a temporary solution but can help to ensure more water is available for plants to absorb.
The long-term solution would be to get an organic material to mix into the soil. Make sure you buy organic material that can effectively hold onto water. The upper layer of soil should be combined with organic materials. You will likely need to first remove the plants from the soil. The organic material is added, and then the plants are replanted.
When the roots of your plants are damaged, you will need to consider the cause. One of the most common reasons for roots to damage is due to compacted planting. This means you have added the plants too close to each other.
In this case, you will have to do some rearranging in your garden. Consider replanting some of the plants to a different area of your garden. If you have many smaller plants in the garden, you could add a few of them to pots. This can provide an effective strategy to reduce the compactness of plants, which will also help to preserve the roots.
During the recovery process, you need to limit the amount of water provided to the plant. At this stage, the roots of the plant are damaged. This means water absorption is limited – and providing too much water may lead to a reduced healing process.
Reducing Salt Content
People who live in a close perimeter to the ocean will often find that there is too much salt in their soil. This is another reason why plant leaves start turning brown. When there is the excessive salt content in natural soil, it is a difficult one to treat. You will not be able to directly change the salt content of the soil. You can, however, consider adding some organic matter to the soil. This can help to provide a more growable environment for your plants.
In cases where you do not live near the ocean but still find that the salt content in soil is high, you might want to take a look at your fertilization techniques. It is possible to “over-fertilize” soil – and in this case, the result is the high salt content. The salt reduces hydration in the soil and plants. The most appropriate solution in this scenario would be to reduce the amount of fertilizer you use when preparing the soil. You might have to remove some of the current soil, add some organic matter, and use less fertilizer in the process.
When plant leaves on your plants are turning brown, it could be a sign that there is not enough water available in the soil. Understanding why this happens and what you can do ensures you are able to effectively extend the expected lifespan of your plants. Manual watering is an effective option for saving your plants and improving their overall appearance. We also discussed a few additional options that can help to restore plant leaves to their rich green color.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She furthered her gardening education by working on various organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to discuss gardening tips and tactics. Whether it’s succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs, growing and caring for just about anything in a garden gets her excited. She is especially passionate about sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms, hydroponics, urban farming, and indoor gardening.