One of the problems we often encounter with our indoor plants is the tip of the leaf turning brown and dying. This problem occurs mainly on plants with thin and pointed foliage, such as Dragon tree (Dracaena spp.), Cordyline (Cordyline spp.) And spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), but also on certain plants with wider leaves, such as Marantas (Maranta spp.) and Calatheas (Calathea spp.). Carnivorous plants are also prone to brown tips.
Obviously, it is easy to understand why the tip turns brown: it has dried up because it has not received its share of water. In other words, the sap did not get there. But why? There are many causes:
The 6 most common causes and solutions
The air is too dry
This is a recurring problem in our homes in winter. The air is too dry because it is heated, which reduces its relative humidity. The leaf loses more water through perspiration to compensate. In this case, insufficient water gets to the tip of the leaf, as it is the part of the leaf furthest from the sap transport vessels. As it receives less than its share of water, the tip tends to die.
Solution: Increase the humidity of the air according to the method of your choice. Here are some suggestions.
The plant lacks water
If you do not water enough at once or if you delay watering too much, the leaves will be stressed by the lack of water. And again, the leaves tips turn brown faster being further from the sap transport vessels.
Hanging basket plants are more prone to damage, not only because the foliage of these plants is more exposed to dry air and therefore dries out more, but these containers only have a small saucer that easily overflows, thus we tend to water them less than other plants so as not to cause damage, with the result that the plant constantly suffers from water stress, stress which appears especially on the tips of the leaves.
Solution: Water thoroughly, enough to thoroughly moisten the entire root ball, and repeat as soon as the soil is dry to the touch. If the potting soil used for your indoor plant is dry only 4 or 5 days after watering, it would be wise to repot it in a larger pot. As for the hanging baskets, rather than watering them sparingly, immerse them in water so that the soil can really soak up the liquid.
The plant receives too much water
As bizarre as it may seem, as much a lack of water can cause brown spikes, as much a surplus of water can also do. When the soil is still soggy, the roots begin to die. However, if the roots die, less water will go to the foliage and it is always the tip of the leaf that will dry first causing its death.
Some rare indoor plants prefer their roots to always soak in water, including Papyrus (Cyperus alternifolius). For these plants, excess water is never to be feared.
Solution: Learn to apply the golden rule of watering: always wait until the soil is dry before watering again. To find out, stick a finger in the soil to check the moisture level. If you are concerned that excess water has killed the roots of your plant, unpot the plant, cut off the rotten roots, repot … and cross your fingers. When a plant’s root system is heavily rotted, it is not always possible to save it.
The soil is contaminated
Over time, mineral salts from hard water and fertilizers accumulate in the soil of indoor plants and poison it little by little, killing part of the roots. If the roots partly die, the leaves will also partly die, because they will no longer receive their full share of water. Again, the leaves tips are more affected. Also, its salts tend to accumulate in the tips of the leaves, making the problem worse.
Solution: Wash the potting soil of your indoor plants at least 2 or 3 times a year or put them outside in the summer so that the rain will wash them. And repot regularly, changing the potting soil at the same time.
Plant gets too much fertilizer
If you tend to fertilize a lot, you create a situation similar to a soil contaminated with mineral salts: surplus minerals then tend to go up in the leaves and then concentrate in the tip.
Solution: Fertilize your plants, okay, but never to excess. The usual rule for indoor plants is to apply the fertilizer at a quarter of the indicated rate and only during the growing season.
The foliage is burned by an excess of chlorine
Certain plants, notably Dracaena, Cordyline and Spider Plants, are very sensible to an accumulation of chlorine in the soil. However, if you are using tap water for irrigation, it probably contains chlorine.
Solution: Use irrigation water to which chlorine has not been added: rainwater, distilled water, spring water, etc. Note that letting the irrigation water sit for 24 hours to evaporate the Chlorine is a myth. The type of Chlorine commonly used, Chloramine, does not evaporate.
Too late: My indoor plant’s leaves are already damaged
Once the tip of a leaf is brown (dead), it will not turn green, no matter how you treat the plant. If its presence bothers you, you can then cut the burnished part with pruners or scissors.