Coping With Brown Leaf Tips On Houseplants

Is there a remedy for the crisp, brown leaf tips on houseplants? Often the rest of the leaf looks great, but the dead-looking tips detract from the wholesomeness of the entire plant.

What causes the brown tips?

  1. Some types are more susceptible, like peace lily, spider plant and dieffenbachia.
  2. The most frequent cause is a reaction to elements and compounds in the soil that are often introduced through the water. Things like fluorine, chlorine and sodium.
  3. Avoid tap water treated with chlorine or fluoride. Sometimes allowing water to sit overnight might help, although the effectiveness has been questioned. Reverse osmosis water is good. Water from a mechanical water softener is very dangerous for houseplants. Naturally soft water, like rainwater or melted snow, is great.
  4. Low indoor winter humidity and dry furnace-heated air currents worsen leaf tip crisping.

What to do if you have brown leaf tips?

  1. It’s important to understand the concept that once leaf tissue is dead-brown and crisp, there’s no reverting that tissue back to normal. Even Miracle Gro can’t resurrect plant cells from the dead. The only two options are to remove the entire leaf if it’s very ugly, or to scissor-trim the dead tip tissue into a naturally tapered leaf point. Then encourage new, healthy, normal leaves to sprout.
  2. To avoid newly produced leaves from continually becoming tip-charred on a troubled plant: (1) repot into fresh high-quality potting mix (2) “leach” the plant by placing it in a sink, watering copiously until water drains through, and repeat immediately twice more (3) change the water source (3) fertilize only during periods of active growth in spring through September, while avoiding the non-growth months of winter, except for flowering plants like African violets.

Here’s wishing you Happy Gardening, and may all your leaf tips be normal.