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Brown Spots on Money Tree Leaves (Causes And How to Fix It)

Brown spots on a Money Tree leaves are the way of telling you that something is wrong.

Think of them as your plant’s early warning system. There are several reasons that your Money Tree might be exhibiting these symptoms. 

Each of them has one thing in common – they tell you that there is something happening that requires your intervention.

Because there are different possibilities, I will break them down so that you are better able to identify and address each specific problem.

Overwatering, direct sunlight exposure and pest infestation are the most common causes of brown spots on Money Tree leaves. The majority of them are easily overcome with prompt action. Maintain a humidity level of at least 50%-60% in the spring and summer, and use neemoil or a fungicide to combat fungal diseases and pest infestations.

In this article, we will look at each problem individually and show how to overcome it.

Indoor potted money tree have Brown Spot on leaves
Brown Spots on Money Tree Leaves

Causes of Brown Spots on Money Tree Leaves

Here are the possible causes of brown spots on your money tree leaves. You will find almost same symptoms for most of the cases. You need to be very careful identifying the correct issue before taking any countermeasures.

Money Tree Foliar Blight

This disease is caused by a fungus called Phytophthora palmivola. Don’t worry if that doesn’t roll off the tongue too easily. 

You will be able to identify the problem by brown patches appearing on the leaves that spread very rapidly. They look almost like brown ink has dropped onto the leaf.

The disease is often introduced by transmission in the nursery and may have been a problem that originated from there, rather than as a result of any error on your part.

Solution

  • This fungus can spread very quickly so the first thing you will need to do is to isolate your Money Tree from your other plants to avoid cross-contamination. 
  • Next, you should treat it with a proprietary fungicide available from your plant supplier. These fungicides normally contain copper sulfate. 
  • Destroy any leaves that drop off and don’t add them to your compost. Before purchasing your Money Tree, check its leaves thoroughly to ensure that the problem does not already exist. 
  • The fungus thrives in damp and wet conditions so try not to get any water on the leaves when watering. Instead, apply water to the top of the potting soil. A healthy plant will overcome this problem more easily than one that is weak.

Septoria Leaf Spot

This is another fungal disease but the symptoms differ slightly. The spots start off as yellow botches which gradually turn brown. 

The problem will almost always start with the lower leaves and then gradually spread upwards throughout your money tree. As the infection becomes more acute, the leaves will begin to drop.

Solution 

  • The good news is that though you may not be sure which of the fungal infections your plant is suffering from, the treatment is the same. Spray with a proprietary fungicide. 
  • Fungal diseases are exacerbated by lack of air movement so ensure that the air in the room is not too stagnant. You can do this by simply opening a window for a few hours each day when the weather is warm.
  • Remove and dispose of infected leaves. If you cut the damaged leaves off, be aware that you will have infected your tools. You need to sterilize before using them again to prevent the spread of the disease. A quick wipe with bleach will do the trick.

Edema

This is an issue that can occur if the plant takes up water faster than it can be lost through transpiration by the plant’s leaves. 

What happens is that the excess water trapped in the cells causes them to rupture. You end up with blisters on the undersides of the leaf which turn brown and then become hard like a small scab.

If the problem is not addressed, the leaves may drop and this will affect the overall well-being of the plant.

Solution

  • The first thing to do is to ensure that the soil is draining fast enough. Several things can delay drainage. It might sound obvious, but always ensure that the plant pot has drainage holes so that the water can escape.
  • Don’t leave your plant standing in a saucer filled with water as this will slow the speed with which the water drains away. 
  • Adopt the correct watering regime (see below) and be prepared to reduce the amount you give your plant during times of higher humidity or when it is outside of the growing season.
  • Use free-draining potting soil.

Direct Sunlight

One of the most important things about keeping house plants happy is to find a position which suits them. These plants do not like too much direct sun as it can cause sunburn.

That might sound a little strange, but remember that many house plants grow naturally in the understory of forests where they are shaded by taller trees. What tends to happen is that the leaf margins dry out and go brown and crisp.

Before turning brown the leaves may have white spots due to sunburn.

Solution

  • If you detect these symptoms, then immediately move your plant to a position where it is not exposed to direct sunlight. Once you find the perfect spot the plant should recover on its own over time.
  • Some people like to cut off the burned sections of the leaf. That brown leaf material is dead and does nothing for the plant. 
  • Cutting it off serves purely aesthetic purposes, however. It will not help the plant recover any more quickly and so you will need to decide how much it detracts from the appearance of your Money Tree.
  • Choose the spot where you are going to house your plant carefully. South-facing window sills are generally too bright in the northern hemisphere.
  • Go for east or west-facing window sill instead. If south facing is the only option you have available, then try keeping the plant well back from the window itself.

Temperature Stress

You will be pleased to learn that your Money Tree is very tolerant when it comes to the temperature range that it will happily tolerate. 

Anything between 50 and 90°F (10 – 32°C) will keep the plant in good health. This is one of the reasons that it makes such an ideal house plant. 

It is when things fall outside of that comfort zone, or the temperatures bounce up and down too frequently, that you may experience problems.

Solution

  • Most people who experience temperature stress do so because they place their Money Tree outside during the warmer months and then forget to bring it inside when the weather cools. As soon as the ambient temperature drops to 28° F (-2°C) then the leaves will start dropping as well.
  • Before actually dropping, the leaves will turn dark brown to black and droop noticeably.
  • If you move your plant outdoors in the summer then bring it in before the start of fall. At the same time, you will want to start reducing the frequency with which you water your plant. 
  • When placing Money Tree indoors, consider things like radiators or other heating systems that may cause dramatic temperature fluctuations.

Pest Infestation

There are only a few pests that will happily attack your Money Tree. The two most likely culprits that you might encounter are aphids and mealybugs. 

Both of these are sap-sucking insects who draw out the plant’s juices through their specially adapted mouthparts.

Solution

  • Neither of these two pests is difficult to deal with providing you don’t allow them to become established. If you wipe or spray your plant with a vegetable or insecticidal soap, the problem will quickly be eliminated. Neem oil is another popular non-chemical pesticide.
  • Both of these pests rely on the disguise to prevent themselves from being discovered too easily.  
  • I believe that close examination of your plants is one of the foremost methods of preventing not only pests but also for discovering other health problems as well. Unfortunately, many people are blind to these sorts of problems until it is too late.
  • Get into the habit of examining your plants regularly. One way of doing this is to keep the plant clean by wiping the leaves with a damp cloth. That will both reduce pests, and force you to examine the plant at the same time. Clean leaves are able to transpire more readily.

Fertilizer Problems

There are two issues here. On the one hand, potting soil can only hold a limited amount of nutrients so it is important to supplement this with extra fertilizer. 

On the other, it can be easy to overfeed your money plant in the hope that you will boost growth. 

Too little nutrients will result in a feeble, run-down plant that quickly becomes vulnerable to attack by disease or pests. Over-fertilizing will cause stunted growth and burned leaf margins similar to a sunburn.

Solution

  • If you suspect your soil has become denuded of nutrients, you should use a general-purpose fertilizer for house plants.
  • Feed your Money Plant only during spring, summer, and autumn seasons. I use a fertilizer that is slightly higher in Nitrogen during spring and summer and cut back to a balanced fertilizer in the autumn. Nitrogen is ideal for leafy green growth.
  • I feed my plant once a month and then stop feeding altogether in the winter. If you follow this easy regime, feeding will not be one of the problems you experience.
  • Use a slightly lower dose than the manufacturer recommends. Money Trees do not need to be fed heavily.

Poor Air Circulation

This is one thing that many people don’t really think about, but it is important that the air around your money plant circulates freely. 

If it doesn’t, the stagnant air can promote fungal diseases. This is something that you need to bear in mind in the indoor environment.

Solution

  • If you are experiencing fungal problems then try opening a window for a couple of hours each day. Do this when it is warm outside.
  • Simply being aware of the overall conditions should make this problem easy to avoid. At the same time as thinking about circulation, remember that you also don’t want your plant to stand somewhere where it will be in a regular draught. 

Low Humidity

All plants need a certain amount of humidity and the Money Tree is no exception to this rule.

There are all sorts of home humidifiers available on the market, but for this plant, it really isn’t necessary to purchase one.

If the humidity drops too low the plant will exhibit similar symptoms to those of underwatering. You will find money tree leaves curling and turning yellow or brown.

Solution

  • Water the plant well and put it in a position where humidity is higher.
  • Group plants together to create a small microclimate in which the combined respiration of the plants generates more humidity. 
  • If grouping your plants is not an option, you can layer the plant saucer with pebbles or grit and fill it with water. When the pot is placed on the grit, the roots will remain clear of the water but the plant benefits from the elevated humidity as the water evaporates. Just be sure to top the saucer up every now and then.
  • A method that uses the same principle is to place the pot inside of a pot that is slightly larger. Fill the gap between the two pots with sphagnum moss and keep it damp. As the water slowly evaporates, the humidity will rise. 

Improper Watering

Here we come to the most common cause of house plant demise, and the one that probably lies at the heart of all your Money Tree problems. 

Both too little water and too much water can cause quite similar symptoms. brown spots on the leaves. 

The problems stem from the inability of the damaged or dry roots to transport nutrients to the leaves. This will cause brown spots and eventual wilting in both cases. 

The critical difference is that too much water and the leaves become spongy, too little and they become crisp.

Solution

  • If the plant is too dry you will need to give it a good soaking, but if it is too wet you will need to get the potting soil to dry out. You want to achieve an equilibrium where the soil is just moist but not soggy.
  • Both of these problems can be avoided if you monitor both your plant and its potting soil regularly. Again, there is no need to buy an expensive soil probe. Simply plunge you finger an inch into the soil and you will soon learn to read if it is too wet or too dry. You need to water when the top inch to two inches are completely dry. 
  • To prevent it becoming waterlogged, you must ensure that your plant is in a pot with adequate drainage holes, that the saucer has not become full. Thus stopping drainage, and that the soil is free draining. (See below)

Potting Mix

The Money Tree is very forgiving when it comes to the types of soil that it will tolerate. 

To get the best out of your plant, however, you want your plant growing in soil that is free draining but also able to hold some moisture. 

A free draining mix such as a cactus mix would simply drain too fast for this plant. Your plant would soon exhibit underwatering symptoms.

On the other hand, if the soil were to retain too much water it would become waterlogged and this is one of the most common reasons for both brown spots, and eventually, death of the plant. 

Solution

  • I have found that a potting mix that works really well for me consists of regular indoor plant potting soil with about ten percent coconut coir mixed into it.
  • The coconut coir gives that mix just that little bit of extra moisture retention that you are looking for. It retains moisture, but not to such an extent that the soil becomes waterlogged. 
  • In other words, it slows down drainage just enough to keep the soil moist without it becoming oversaturated. Many growers prefer to use peat instead of coconut coir.

There are many implications for the environment with peat. If that is your preference, then you will need to ensure that you are sourcing from a renewable peat source. 

Potting On

There will come a time when your plant begins to outgrow the container that it is in. This is perfectly normal and is a sign that your Money Tree is thriving under your stewardship. 

Root bound situations reduce the functionality of the root system. Thus, you may see brown spots on your money tree leaves.

Here are three signs that it is time to move your plant into a larger pot.

  • You will be able to tell when you need to pot on because it will become difficult to squeeze your finger into the soil to do your regular moisture test. 
  • The roots start to protrude from the drainage holes or by climbing over the edge of the pot.
  • If the container is plastic and the roots start to make it bulge.

Solution

  • Tip your plant from its pot and examine the roots for any sign of root rot. Healthy roots are white and fleshy. Roots that are rotting go brown and mushy and this is an obvious sign that you have been overwatering.
  • Cutaway any root rot until you get back to clean, healthy plant material. Be sure to clean your features well after doing so.
  • Next, place some of your premixed potting soil into the new container you have decided on.
  • The new pot should not be more than an inch or two larger than the last pot and should, of course, be clean to prevent any disease transmission. 
  • You want the topsoil of your Money Tree to end up about one inch below the top of the pot. Add or remove new soil at the base until you are able to achieve this depth.
  • That extra inch of depth allows you to water the plant without water flooding over the edge. Once you have your plant to the correct depth, gently fill in all around the pot.
  • Finally, firm the soil around the root ball so that you are sure that there are no air pockets. 

Once you have replanted your Money Tree, water thoroughly and then allows all excess water to drain away. This will help to ensure that there are no air pockets.

It can be very tempting to place your plant into a much larger container than the one that it came out of. 

The problem with this approach is that the roots are then surrounded by soil that absorbs water and you risk water retention similar to that faced when the plant is waterlogged.

Watering

As you have probably noticed throughout this article, watering is critical and, just as it is easy to get it wrong. With a little know-how, it is equally easy to get it right. Here is the best way.

  • Ensure that drainage is adequate by using the right potting mix, a pot with drainage holes and that the saucer is not filled with water.
  • Water the plant only when necessary. Poke a finger into the soil and if the top inch to two inches is dry then it is time to water.
  • Soak the soil from the top and without wetting the leaves. Allow the excess water to drain away before placing the pot back in its saucer.
  • Don’t water according to a schedule. Instead, water when you feel that the soil needs it.
  • Water in the morning so that the soil has time to dry out during the day which will help prevent fungal infections.
  • Use distilled or filtered water as chlorine can build up in the soil over time.
  • Use tepid water rather than cold water to avoid shocking your Money Tree. 
  • Remember that you will need to water far less frequently during the cooler months than you will during the growing season.

Read this step by step article to identify, prevent and save overwatered money tree.

Final Words

The Money Tree is a very popular houseplant and one of the reasons for this is that it is so undemanding of the gardener.

Though the discovery of brown spots may alarm you, you now have the requisite information to correctly identify the causes and to deal with them. 

If you are paying close attention to your money tree, you will be able to catch the problems early and take action and that will ensure that those nasty brown spots never get the upper hand.