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Why Is My Calathea Turning Brown? (Causes+How To Fix)

Brown spots, edges, or the entire leaves of your Calathea turning brown are nothing to be ignored. Not only is this a sign that your plant needs some attention, but there might be an underlying issue that you must address.

Are you not watering your Calathea correctly? Or, fertilizing it more than it needs? These can be the reasons behind your Calathea turning brown. There are numerous other causes as well.

So, in this article we will learn why is your calathea turning brown and how can you fix the same.

Excessive use of fertilizer and poor quality tap water can damage the leaves of a calathea plant resulting in brown leaves. The salt and mineral build over time, damaging the plants. Some other reasons that can lead to brown leaves are low humidity, temperature fluctuations, and pests.

If you don’t want to notice brown leaves on your Calathea, you must prune the damaged leaves and find the reason that is causing the browning.

If your Calathea is turning brown, don’t panic and read this article as we have discussed the causes, how you can identify and fix them.


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Why are my Calathea leaves turning brown and crispy?

If your Calathea turns brown with a crispy texture, you might be making any of the following mistakes.

  • Underwatering
  • Overfertilizing
  • Direct sun exposure
  • The potting soil doesn’t retain enough water
  • Temperature fluctuations

Now let’s get into the details.

Underwatering

Calathea hates droughts, and if you don’t give it sufficient water, it will experience a drought-like condition.

Calathea prefers slightly moist soil at all times, and keeping it thirsty for a prolonged period will lead to brown and crispy leaves and other health issues.

Identification: If you notice that the soil is dry and compact, the leaves are drooping, and the plant looks dull, it is probably due to underwatering.

So, if you notice the above signs along with brown and crispy leaves, you must alter your watering schedule so that your Calathea is not underwatered.

Also read: How Often To Water Calathea? (A Complete Calathea Watering Guide)

Overfertilizing

Calathea needs fertilizer during its growing season, which is spring and summer. But you must not give it a high dose or fertilize it too frequently.

Calathea doesn’t need fertilizer even in the winter season, and if you don’t stop fertilizing in winter, the plant will get overfertilized.

Due to the excess fertilizer application, the leaves will become dry and turn brown and crisp.

Identification: If you think the browning is due to overfertilization, check the soil for any salt buildup as the excess fertilizer gets stored in the soil.

You will notice brown tips and edges if the Calathea is overfertilized.

Take the Calathea out of its pot and check the roots, as the excess fertilizer can also burn the roots.

You will need to figure out the right way to fertilize your Calathea if you want to avoid overfertilizing it and making the leaves brown and crisp.

Also read: Should I Fertilize Calathea? (How Often+Best Fertilizer)

Direct sun exposure

Calathea, like most other houseplants, cannot tolerate direct sunlight. Even in its native land, it was protected from direct sunlight by the large canopies.

However, if your Calathea is placed in a spot where it gets exposed to direct sunlight, the leaves will get scorched and thus turn crispy brown.

Identification: If your Calathea has been receiving direct sunlight, you will notice that the upper leaves are developing brown spots, whereas the lower leaves protected by the upper leaves are unaffected.

If you check the soil, it will also seem dry. It will require more water than usual as the direct sunlight will make the soil dry up faster.

So, if your Calathea is getting dried due to direct sunlight, you must remove the plant from that location.

Also read: Is My Calathea Getting Too Much Sun? (Sunburnt Calathea)


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The potting soil doesn’t retain enough water

I have already mentioned that Calathea requires slightly moist soil, but if you use soil that doesn’t contain enough retaining elements, the water will drain out too fast.

If the soil does not retain sufficient water, your Calathea will not receive enough nutrients or water. It will get dehydrated and will develop brown spots and brown leaves.

Identification: If the soil of your Calathea gets dry very fast and you need to water it very often, then it doesn’t contain enough elements that promote retention.

The plant will have droopy and curling leaves that also become dry and crisp. So you need to change the soil or add elements that will retain water for your Calathea.

Also read: What Kind Of Soil Is Best For Calathea? (Best Soil Mix For Calathea)

Temperature fluctuations

Calatheas require warm conditions. This is the reason it grows the most during spring and summer when the temperatures remain high.

However, if your Calathea is exposed to temperature fluctuations that rise higher or lower than the favorable temperatures, it will face challenges.

Identification: Temperature fluctuations usually cause stress, and you will notice brown spots on the leaves along with a dull plant that shows no signs of growth.

Also read: What Temperature Can Calathea Tolerate? (Ideal Temperature Range)

What do brown tips on a Calathea mean?

Sometimes, you will notice that the leaves of your Calathea plant are developing brown tips. The reasons might be:

  • Low humidity
  • Poor water quality
  • Low light

Let’s understand these in detail.

Low humidity

Calathea comes from tropical regions where it receives high humidity of over 70%. This helps them thrive. However, providing so much humidity might not be feasible indoors.

If your Calathea has not been getting enough humidity, it will become dry. And the beautiful leaves will start developing brown tips.

Identification: If your Calathea is running low on humidity, you’ll notice dried-up and curled leaves.

You might even witness stunted growth in your Calathea as humidity affects the plant’s growth big time.

Also read: Should I Mist My Calathea Plant? (Calathea Humidity Requirements)

Poor water quality

Many of us use regular tap water to water our houseplants, but that water might contain minerals not suitable for the plants.

Calathea is already a sensitive plant that has particular needs. If you water it with poor quality water, it will show discomfort, such as brown tips.

Identification: If your Calathea has brown tips, consider checking the pot and the soil. You might notice a salt build-up on these surfaces if your Calathea is watered with poor quality water.

Low light

Calathea light requirements

Calathea might survive in low-light areas, but that is not the ideal condition for its growth.

If you keep your Calathea in low light conditions for too long, it will not function properly. Its daily activities will slow down, and soon you will find brown tips on your Calathea.

Identification: If your Calathea is placed in a low-light area, you will notice slow or stunted growth, brown tips on leaves, yellow leaves, wilting foliage, etc.

You should consider changing the location of your Calathea if it is placed in a low-light area.

Also read: How Much Light Do Calathea Plants Need? (Calathea Plant Light Requirements)

Why are my Calathea leaves brown and soft?

At times browning of the leaves is accompanied by softness in them. This indicates that your Calathea is overwatered, or you are not watering it the right way.

Overwatering

Overwatering is a common issue that both beginners and expert plant owners face. And since Calathea can be fussy about its water requirements, you can easily end up overwatering it.

Calatheas neither prefer drought conditions nor soggy soil. But if you give it a little too much water, the soil will become waterlogged. This will affect the roots.

Due to staying in the water for too long, the roots get suffocated. They fail to function, and thus, the plant undergoes a lack of water and nutrients.

The excess water cuts the oxygen supply, and thus the roots start to rot. This is called root rot, and it can even kill your Calathea if you don’t fix it on time.

If your Calathea is experiencing overwatering or root rot, you will notice soft brown leaves.

Also read: How To Fix Overwatered Calathea? (Possible Cause, Signs & How To Fix)

Incorrect watering method

Another reason could be that you splash water on the leaves while watering your Calathea. 

This is not the right way to water as the water might remain on the leaves, making them soft and brown. This condition attracts various pests and causes fungal infections.



How do you keep Calathea from turning brown?

Now that you know all the reasons that turn your Calathea brown, let’s find out how to prevent these brown leaves.

1. Correct the watering

Both underwatering and overwatering cause brown leaves, so make sure to water your Calathea correctly to save it from browning.

  • Don’t splash water on the leaves while watering.
  • Don’t use regular tap water. Leave it in a bucket overnight to reduce the mineral content.
  • You can use rainwater or filtered water for watering your Calathea.
  • If you forget to water the Calathea, maintain a calendar that will remind you to water the plant.
  • Water after making sure that the top layer of the soil is dry.
  • Water during the morning so that the soil doesn’t remain soggy and can dry up fast.
  • Use a pot with drainage holes.
  • Make sure that the soil contains both draining and retaining elements.

2. Provide bright and indirect light.

While your Calathea will not tolerate direct sunlight, it will not do its best in low light. So, you need to give it the best suitable light as per its needs.

  • If your Calathea is placed near a window, use curtains to filter the light, so it doesn’t get direct sunlight.
  • Don’t keep your Calathea in the dark as it will not receive sufficient light.
  • Keep your Calathea near a south-facing window where it will get 8-10 hours of sunlight every day.
  • If your house doesn’t get enough natural light, use artificial lights. 

3. Fertilize during spring and summer.

Overfertilizing makes the leaves go brown, so you need to maintain a balance while fertilizing your Calathea.

  • Avoid fertilizing in winter.
  • Fertilize with a balanced 10:10:10 fertilizer during spring and summer.
  • Dilute the fertilizer to make it half-strength to avoid overfertilization.

4. Maintain the correct temperatures and humidity levels.

Temperature fluctuations and low humidity are often responsible for the brown leaves on your Calathea, so you must maintain them correctly to suit the plant.

  • Ensure that the temperatures are between 65-80°F.
  • Don’t expose your Calathea plant to frost, cold drafts, and low temperatures during winter.
  • Avoid placing it near any door or window that is opened and closed frequently.
  • Don’t place the Calathea too near any heating source such as a radiator, fireplace, furnace, etc.
  • Make sure that the humidity levels are above 50%.
  • You can mist your Calathea leaves to provide humidity to them.
  • Install a humidifier to increase the humidity for your Calathea.
  • Group your Calathea with other tropical plants that require high humidity.
  • Place your Calathea in the bathroom if it provides all the other requirements.

Should I cut brown tips off Calathea?

Other than the entire brown leaves, you will notice brown tips and edges on the leaves. You don’t need to get rid of the entire leaf in these cases.

You can cut the affected areas that have turned brown. The leaves will continue to grow from those portions.

But in the case of the entire brown leaves, it would be better to prune them as they will not become healthy again.

Keeping the brown leaves on your Calathea will only stress the plant, whereas removing these will help the plant recover faster and focus more on new and healthy growth.

  • While pruning the brown areas or the brown leaves, use sterilized pruners. This will help avoid all infections and diseases.
  • Always make clean cuts while pruning. Messy cuts often lead to fungal diseases.
  • While cutting only the edges or tips, try to give the leaves their natural shape while pruning.

Final words

Your Calathea turning brown is not unusual. All plants face problems and can develop brown leaves, but if you can identify the issues on time and treat them efficiently, you’ll be able to get rid of these brown leaves.

However, sometimes, leaves might complete their life cycle and turn brown and fall off eventually. This is not something you should be worried about as it is a natural process. But if the browning occurs due to any other reason, you must act fast.

Water your Calathea correctly, provide it 8-10 hours of indirect bright sunlight, keep a check on the drainage system and keep the plant in a warm environment with enough humidity. If you can keep these in check, your Calathea will not develop any issues that lead to brown edges and tips or entire brown leaves.


Source: NCBIUniversity of FloridaWikipedia,  Growing Indoor Plants with SuccessAgriculture, and Natural Resources, University of CaliforniaMissouri Botanical Garden.