The Reason Why Your Calathea Has Brown Tips And How To Fix it

Most growers experience this at one point or another, your calathea looks healthy apart from the tips of the leaves which turn brown. A calathea will get brown tips on it’s leaves when it is unable to replace the water it loses every day. This will happen because one of the following reasons:

– Poor watering
– Low humidity
– High temperatures
– Salt build-up
– Too much fertilizer

Your calathea will lose water every day, this is why we need to give them a drink every now and then. When a plant cant replace this water that is lost, it has to prioritise where the water it can absorb goes. The leaves, in particular the tips are the first area in the plant to have their supply cut off, ultimately turning them brown because of the cells dying.

Why do the tips turn brown first?
The tips turn brown first because they are the furthest away from the roots, which is where water is absorbed. The plant which is already in stress from this reduced water intake will look to save energy where possible. By not transporting water to the leaves, it is able to save more energy. Along with saving energy, water is simply more valuable if it in the roots or stems of the plant, especially in a time of stress.

Are brown tips bad for a calathea?

The tips becoming brown wont hurt your plant, however it is a sign that it isn’t receiving an adequate amount of water which can become a bigger issue. Don’t stress if the tips or the entire leaf begins to turn brown, it is just the plant communicating with you that something isn’t right and it needs some more care.

Plants tell us what they need in many ways, you just need to learn to identify what the issue is. So, tips of leaves turning brown is a sign that the plant isn’t receiving enough water, how do you know why this is happening?

Is poor watering making the tips of my calathea leaves turn brown?

Poor watering is the most common reason why calatheas get brown tips. First you need to understand what goes into watering though. It isn’t just all about how often you water your plants. Lots of factors come into play when it comes to poor watering such as:
– How you water your plant
– What kind of water you use
– Size of pot
– Amount of drainage

The obvious reason for your calathea not getting enough water is that you aren’t watering it enough, lets not disregard that fact. So if you think you might not be giving your plant a drink as often as you should, then you’ll need to do some plant specific research and develop a more suitable watering routine.

How to water your calathea if it is getting brown tips?
Shallow watering of your plants can become an issue and lead you to believe that it is getting enough water. You can water your plants often, but if you’re not using enough water, just the top soil will be moist and the soil beneath where the roots are, will remain dry. This can be particularity dangerous because growers believe they are watering their plant plenty, which they are, they’re just not doing it in the right way. If someone believes that poor watering isn’t the issue, they may not be able to help their plant.

A good practice to use when watering your calathea is to put the pot in a sink or bathtub, turn the tap on and leave it for 15-20 seconds or until water starts running out of the drainage holes. This wont harm your plants and it is the best way to water them as it ensures that all of the soil is moist enough for the plant’s roots to absorb water. Don’t be afraid to give your plants a good drink, they will thank you for it.

If you suspect that you’re shallow watering your plants, stick your finger into the soil and see if it is dry below the top layer, alternatively push a pencil down below the surface towards the middle of the pot, if the wood part of the pencil darkens then there is enough water, if it remains light then you need to use more water when giving your plants a drink.

For a more comprehensive watering guide, check out this article we wrote: The Absolute Best Way To Water Your Houseplants And Promote Strong Root Growth

Is low humidity making the tips of my calathea leaves turn brown?

If the humidity in your house is too low, then the tips of your leaves will turn brown. As mentioned before, plants lose water every day, low humidity will increase the rate of which plants lose this water and will also make it harder for the plant to replace this water.

The leaves of the plant offer the most surface area and will be affected by low humidity more than other parts of the plant.

How to increase the humidity around your calathea?
Increasing humidity is actually really easy within your home. Obviously, if you live in a dry, arid climate, you may have to choose plants which cope well with that kind of environment. However there is plenty you can do to raise the humidity around your plants.

Misting your calathea is a common way of increasing humidity. Spraying your plants with tiny droplets of water will quite simply increase the amount of water that is in the air. It also will evaporate before the water in your plants helping to humidify the air and as the air reaches a higher humidity, rate of evaporation from your plant will decrease.

You can mist your plants every day but be careful not to add too much water to the crown (base of the stem) as it can hold water, allowing it to stagnate, creating more problems. Also don’t mist leaves early in the morning if they usually receive a lot of light through the day. This may amplify the sunburn effect.

Grouping houseplants together can raise the humidity. By putting your houseplants near one another they can raise the humidity around them, similar to a rain forest. Just like how humans can group together to share body heat, plants can work together to increase the humidity. Not only will this combat excess evaporation, it looks really good within your home to have a wonderful display of plants.

You can also use an air humidifier in your home to increase the humidity. This is a simple solution and one which is very straight forward. Buy a humidifier, turn it on, and let it do its thing.

Are high temperatures making the tips of my calathea leaves turn brown?

Much like low humidity, high temperatures can increase the rate of evaporation within plants. When the plant is losing water too quickly it may not be able to replace it efficiently which can lead to brown tips.

To combat high temperatures, there isn’t too much you can do aside from moving your plant to a cooler place, possibly somewhere which gets less light. If you are unable to do this you may have to look at getting some houseplants that cope with high temperatures better than others.

Is salt build-up making the tips of my calathea leaves turn brown?

Salt build-up can be a problem for your plants, it can also cause the tips of your leaves to turn brown by preventing the plant from being able to absorb enough water. Too much salt will actually draw water out of the plant.

How does a salt build-up happen in houseplants?
A salt build-up is commonly attributed to using the wrong water. Softened or tap water can carry trace minerals which when used frequently will leave salt deposits around your plant. These can form in the soil, around the roots or even on the plant itself. In large quantities, a salt build-up will take water away from the plant and make it harder to absorb all together.

Not all tap water will cause this to happen, for most of us this will never be an issue. However in some areas tap water can be heavily mineralised. If this is the case for you, to fix the issue you need to change the type of water you use. Alternatives such as distilled water or rainwater will be suitable for your plants and will prevent any salt build-up from happening again.

Is overfertilizing making the tips of my calathea leaves turn brown?

Too much fertilizer can lead to the tips of your leaves turning brown as well. When you overfertilize your plants it can burn the roots. This is because of the chemicals within the fertilizer, when they’re abundant in excess, they burn the roots and reduce their effectiveness in absorbing water, leading to brown tips.

To fix this issue, you need to remove these chemicals from your soil. If it only a mild case, this can be done by giving the plant a really good drink and hold off the fertilizer for a month or two. If this is a more severe case of overfertilization, then you may have to re-pot the plant. Be careful when doing this as the roots are already damaged and the plant is weak.

Should you cut off leaves with brown tips?

Sometimes. Cutting off any stressed part of a plant will allow it to heal more efficiently, but cutting off too much at once can induce more stress. As a general rule of thumb, if the leaf is more than 50% damaged, then cut it off.

The reason why you cut leaves off is to allow the plant to focus on healing itself. If the leaf is more than 50% damaged it will actually take less effort for the plant to regrow that leaf than heal the damaged one. This is an important part of taking care of your plants and it extends to more than just fixing a brown tips issue. For any damage on your plant, if it is severe enough it is better to let the plant regrow from new than making it use all its energy repairing something that is too far gone.

As you can see, brown tips on the leaves of your calathea isn’t the end of the world, it is simply a sign that your plant is losing more water than it is absorbing.

Now you know why your calathea can get brown tips and more importantly, you know how to fix the issue. Prevention really is the best cure though, so reviewing your watering schedule and sticking to it will go a long way to never seeing brown tips again!

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