Watering Houseplants with Brown Tips of Leaves

Proper watering is essential for houseplant health.

Watering houseplants with brown tips of leaves can be tricky business, since the most common causes of brown leaves on houseplants are over and under watering. Follow these tips to tell what's going on with your plants and how to give them the water they need in order to thrive.

Watering and Brown Leaves

Good watering habits will ensure that your houseplants stay healthy. It is imperative to do some homework when you purchase a houseplant to find out how much water it requires. The more information you have, the better able you will be to develop a regular watering schedule that suits your plant.

Over Watering

Houseplants that develop brown leaf tips may be doing so in response to over watering. Many houseplants that are not kept in direct light need to be watered only once or twice a month.

Under Watering

Some houseplants will exhibit leaf burn if they do not receive enough water. Again, understanding the needs of your particular plant and when to water should help you to avoid this problem.

Type of Water

Some houseplants are very sensitive to the type of water that is used. City water has a high degree of chlorine and other chemicals in it that can cause leaves to turn brown. Water that is softened is also not healthy for most houseplants. To play it safe, use distilled water for your plants. You can also allow tap water to sit for a few hours before using it, giving time for chemicals to evaporate.

Method of Watering

Just as important as the type of water is the method of watering. It is best to water houseplants thoroughly so that the water runs freely through the drainage holes on the bottom. Do not allow your houseplant to sit in water.


Many houseplants, especially those that are tropical in nature, enjoy the refreshment and humidity that misting provides. Fill a spray bottle with distilled water and take the time, once a week, to mist the leaves of your plants. This is also a good practice if you have very low humidity inside your home.

Tips for Watering Houseplants with Brown Leaf Tips

checking soil for moisture

Once you have an idea of what is causing the brown leaves, continuing to water properly can make a big difference in the future good health of your plants.

Know When to Water

Make sure that your plants are getting enough water. A great way to test if a plant needs water is to stick your finger into the soil down to the second knuckle. If you can feel moisture all the way down your finger, you don't need to water.


Clay pots lose moisture more quickly than plastic pots, because the water can evaporate from the sides of clay pots. Most plants do well in pots with good drainage, so make sure your pots have drainage holes. You can also buy plates to hold any excess water that drains out of the plant, protecting your furniture or patio.

No Splash

Don't allow the water to splash up onto the leaves of the plant, because this can allow diseases or insects that are in the soil to get onto the plant. Water thoroughly, so that all the soil looks moist, and make sure you drain off any excess water that drains through the plant to prevent root rot.

Other Causes of Brown Leaves

If watering is not an issue, there are a few other things that may cause the tips of your houseplants to turn brown.

  • Relocation: A change in sunlight, such as if the plant has been moved from one room to another, can cause the plant to drop leaves.
  • Bound roots: Plants that are root-bound often have problems with brown or yellow leaves, so this is one of the first things you should check. If plant roots are growing in circles and look like a big mass or are growing out through the bottom of the pot, move the plant to a bigger pot.
  • Over fertilizing: Sometimes the minerals and nutrients in the soil cause leaves to brown. Chlorine, salt and fluoride can all cause leaves to turn brown. Using too much fertilizer may also be a culprit. Do a soil test if you think one of these issues might be your problem.
  • Pests and disease: Insect infestation and disease can be the root of brown leaves on houseplants. Spider mites and other insects may cause damage to the plant, and blights or other diseases often turn leaves spotty or brown.

Process of Elimination

It takes a process of elimination to determine exactly what's going on with your plants, and each problem requires a slightly different treatment. Make sure your watering is not the cause of the brown leaf tips on your plants before you move on to other potential causes.

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Watering Houseplants with Brown Tips of Leaves