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Calathea Brown Tips (7 Causes and Solutions)

Any variation in the color of your plant should raise a red flag. Your calathea’s brown leaf tips could be an indication of a pest or disease infestation. However, this is not always the case.

The most common causes of brown tips on calathea leaves are dehydration, insufficient humidity, and sunburn. To solve the problem, soak your calathea, increase humidity, or move it out of direct sunlight. Brown tips can also be caused by cold injury, fertilizer burn, poor city water, and pest infestation.

You can remove the brown leaf tips without harming your calathea. However, this will only address the underlying issue that is causing the browning of leaf tips. I’ll show you how to identify and resolve each potential issue.

What is Causing My Calathea to Brown at the Leaf Tips?

The fact that the damage is mostly on the lower leaves leads me to believe that there is a nutrient deficiency. Could it be that it is killing off parts of itself in order to obtain nutrients and energy?

How long has it been since you fertilized it? Also, it appears that the leaf was in direct contact with the soil.

Perhaps the moisture from the soil combined with the humidity harmed the leaf? You can remove the yellowing part and I guarantee you’ll forget about it.

Only be concerned if it continues. Also, keep in mind that plants aren’t perfect in nature. We’re all doing our best to grow perfect plants in our homes, and you’re doing a fantastic job.

The following are a few reasons why your plant might be stressed:

[1] Watering Stress

Brown Tips on Underwatered Calathea
Brown Tips on Underwatered Calathea

Browning at the edges or tips of the leaves is frequently an indication of insufficient, improper, or erratic watering. In other words, your calathea is either receiving insufficient or excessive water.

Underwatering, on the other hand, is more likely to cause brown tips in calathea than overwatering. Dehydration of your plant can occur for a variety of reasons.

The soil structure has been weakened – If this is the case, the growing medium will no longer retain moisture well.

This is especially true if you potted your calathea in a sandy growing medium and let the irrigation water drain too quickly.

As a result, your plant isn’t getting enough moisture, which may explain why the tips of your leaves are turning brown.

Root damage – When the leaf tips and edges turn brown, check to see if the roots have been damaged. If there is a lack of water due to root damage, your calathea’s xylem tissue is unable to transport nutrients, minerals, and food to the extremes of the leaves.

This, combined with tissue dehydration, will cause the leaves to turn brown at the edges. Waterlogged or flooded growing medium can suffocate roots.

Perhaps the soil around the root system has compacted, causing root injury. If the soil remains wet for an extended period of time, your plant will develop root rot.

As a result, the roots will die back and become unable to channel nutrients and water to the plant.

Constricted roots – Inspect the root system to ensure that the roots are not constricted. If the roots are too constrained, they will be unable to seek moisture in the soil.

If your calathea has become root-bound, you will notice this. If the growing medium has become too dense due to an excess of heavy clay content, the roots can become too constricted.

Calathea Roots Constricted
Calathea Roots Constricted

The same thing can happen if you pot your calathea in the wrong size container.

Because of the excessive heat, the soil is drying out too quickly – If the leaves are crisping up and the tips are browning, your calathea is thirsty. One of the most common causes is that the growing medium dries out much too quickly.

In most cases, your calathea may have been parked in an overly bright location. Perhaps it is in direct sunlight. It could also be standing near a drafty heating vent, radiator, or south-facing window sill.

You neglected to water your plant – Calathea is a moist-loving perennial. During the high-growth spring and summer months, you should deeply irrigate it once a week.

If your plant has brown leaf tips, it’s likely that you skipped one or two watering sessions. If you gave it too much water in the previous irrigation, the leaf tips and edges will brown more aggressively.

An underwater calathea will also show the following symptoms:

  • Wilting foliage
  • Curling leaves
  • Bone-dry potting mix
  • Crispy, crunchy, or super dry leaf surfaces
Underwatered Calathea Drooping
Underwatered Calathea Drooping

How to Save a Water-Stressed Calathea

The best way to save your calathea depends on what’s causing the watering stress in the first place:

  • If the soil has become bone-dry as a result of underwatering, irrigate your calathea thoroughly and deeply. Check to see if any water is draining from the bottom drain holes.
  • You can also water your calathea from the bottom. Set its pot in 3-4 inches of water in the bathtub or skin and leave it there for 30-45 minutes. Wait until enough moisture has been absorbed by the growing medium through the bottom drain holes.
  • Consider adding some organic materials to the potting mix if the soil does not retain moisture well. You can also repot your calathea with fresh potting soil and a moist, well-drained potting mix.
  • If the roots are too constrained, repotting is the best option. Change to a pot that is at least an inch larger than the current container.
  • Consider pruning back to 25% of the foliage if there is root damage. This reduces the resources required by your calathea, allowing the root system to recover.

[2] You Have Overfertilized Your Calathea

Calathea Fertilizer Burn
Calathea Fertilizer Burn

The high content of fertilizer salts in the growing medium is another common cause of leaf tip browning in calathea. It’s also possible that you used soil with a high salt content.

However, if the initial potting mix was correct, there’s a good chance that salt buildup caused by over-fertilizing is to blame for the brown tips.

Calatheas are heavy growers, but if the soil mix is already nutrient-rich, they don’t require much fertilizer. You may overfeed it with fertilizer in the mistaken belief that it will grow faster and more lushly.

Unfortunately, overfeeding it can cause more harm than good. If this is the case, the leaves will become soft, floppy, and browned at the tips and edges.

The leaf tips are the first to turn brown. You may also notice some fertilizer salt scabs on the soil’s surface.

How to Fix an Overfertilized Calathea

If you notice brown tips and leaf scorching shortly after applying a heavy dose of fertilizer, the problem is most likely an excess of fertilizer salts in the soil. You must immediately stop feeding your calathea fertilizer.

If the salt buildup is minor, you can alleviate the problem by increasing irrigation frequency for a few weeks.

The best solution, however, is to flush the growing medium with distilled clean water. Repeat until the fertilizer salts have been washed out.

From April to September, feed your calathea a water-soluble liquid fertilizer once a month. Fertilizer should be watered down to half strength before application, and feeding should be reduced when winter arrives. (Source: North Carolina State University)

[3] Poor Water Quality (Chlorine and Fluoride in City Water)

Calathea Tips Brown Due to Water Quality
Calathea Tips Brown Due to Water Quality

Impurities in irrigation water can also be indicated by brown tips on calathea leaves. Most likely, you’re irrigating your plant with water straight from the faucet.

The issue with city tap water is that it often contains high levels of fluoride, chlorine, and deposits. These impurities have accumulated in the soil or on your plant as a result of softened tap water over time.

Brown leaf tips may also indicate a salt buildup from fertilizers or softened water over time. Fluorides frequently damage the leaves and roots of Calatheas. This is common if you only use water from the bottom.

Solution

Softened city water may cause the tips of your calathea leaves to brown. That is why to keep your calathea happy, you should switch to filtered or distilled water.

You should consider watering your calathea from above on a regular basis. This will help flush out any chlorine, fluoride, or other water softener buildup.

It is also a good idea to repot your calathea every 2-3 years in the spring. I usually use African violet-specific potting mixes.

[4] Lack of Humidity

The presence of brown tips on your calathea can also indicate a lack of humidity in the surrounding air.

Calathea, like most herbaceous plants native to the Brazilian tropics, prefers to grow in areas with high humidity. You must ensure that its environment closely resembles the jungle conditions of its native habitat.

As a result, if your living environment is extremely dry, the leaves of your calathea will quickly dry out and turn brown at the tips. Typically, this is followed by wilting and curling of the foliage.

The situation is exacerbated in the winter when central heating or air conditioning is turned on.

Solution

Calathea Plant on Pebble Tray
Calathea Plant on Pebble Tray

Calathea is a humidity-loving tropic. You must boot humidity levels around your plant by:

  • Choosing an area of your home that is humid naturally, such as the kitchen or bathroom
  • Place a houseplant-friendly humidifier (Check the latest price on Amazon here) near your calathea
  • Group your houseplants to help perk up moisture in the surrounding air
  • Set up a shallow tray with water and pebbles. Place your calathea on top of it.

[5] Calathea Burnt Leaves Due to Excess Sun Exposure

Calathea Burnt Leaves Due to Excess Sun Exposure
Calathea Burnt Leaves Due to Excess Sun Exposure

Calathea plants thrive in medium to bright, filtered light. It is quite tolerant of low-light conditions, but it cannot withstand excessive direct sunlight.

If you place your calathea on the windowsill of a south-facing or west-facing window, you are inviting sunburn. The tips of the leaves will become crunchy, dry, and brown.

The yellowing of leaves is usually the first sign of overexposure to sunlight. However, if you move your calathea suddenly outside or to a location with direct sunlight, it may develop scorched tips.

The worst place is the windowsill, because the glass can radiate and magnify heat, causing leaf scorch.

Solution

Move your calathea to a location where it will get dappled light. Make sure it is shielded from direct sunlight, especially during the hottest hours of the afternoon.

Move it three to four feet away from the south-facing window so that bright, indirect sunlight can reach its leaves.

[6] Cold Injury (Drop in Temperature)

Calathea Brown Tips Due to Cold Damage
Calathea Brown Tips Due to Cold Damage

Another common cause of brown tips in tropical plants, including calatheas, is cold damage.

To keep your calathea thriving and happy, you must provide consistent warmth. It prefers warm temperatures ranging from 70 to 85 °F  (21 to 29 °C).

Temperatures below 55°F (13°C) can cause serious cold damage to the foliage. Calatheas are not accustomed to drafty, cold, or frosty conditions, and they will react aggressively to stress caused by a temperature drop.

The symptoms of cold damage, like those of water stress, will appear first in the leaf’s extremities. Both the leaf tips and the leaf edges will become scorched or browned.

Solution

  • Raise indoor temperatures to an ideal range of 70-85°F (21-29°C). 
  • You must relocate your calathea away from cold vents and drafty windows. 

[7] Pest Infestation

Calathea Leaf Brown Tips Due To Spider Mite Infestation
Calathea Leaf Brown Tips Due To Spider Mite Infestation

If pest infestation is the first thing to come to your mind when you see brown tips on your calathea, you could be right. Check your plant for usual suspects like spider mites, fungus gnats, mealybugs, and aphids.

Some of the bugs feed on the edges and tips of the leaves, causing the tissue to turn dark brown. See if you can find any other clues, like sooty mold or a crusty black layer on the leaves.

As soon as you notice signs of pest on your calathea, treat it right away by spraying it with a natural pesticide like neem oil.

How to Get Rid of Calathea Bugs

You should treat pest infestations as soon as you spot them. To get rid of calathea common bugs:

  • Spray your calathea with neem oil (Check the latest price on Amazon here) by following the instructions on the label
  • Wipe down or dub the leaves with cotton swabs drenched in isopropyl alcohol
  • Consider using insecticidal soap spray

Should I Cut the Brown Tips Off My Calathea?

Yes, you can cut the brown leaf tips off without hurting your calathea. Instead, this will encourage your plant to grow new, healthy foliage.