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8 Causes of Polka Dot Plant Crispy Leaves (And Solutions)

The sudden dryness, crispiness, or brittleness of polka dot plant leaves should raise a red flag. Even if the leaves were healthy, lush, and brightly variegated just the other day, figuring out what’s wrong with your plant can be difficult.

Today, I’ll show you how to fix crispy polka dot plant leaves. 

Excessive dehydration causes the leaves of polka dot plants to turn crispy. Lack of humidity and extreme heat are contributing factors, but underwatering is the root of the problem. Deeply water your plant and never allow the soil to become completely dry. 

Common Causes of Polka Dot Plant Crispy Leaves

Polka Dot Plant Crispy Leaves
Polka Dot Plant Crispy Leaves Due to Underwatering

[1] Underwatering is Causing Polka Dot Plant Leaves to Dry Out

If you notice your polka dot plant’s leaves crisping up and browning, it’s a sure sign of dehydration.

You’ve most likely allowed the soil to completely dry out. The crispy, brittle appearance of the leaves frequently appears first on the leaf edges and tips. 

They will then turn brown before moving on to the remaining foliage.

If you overwatered your polka dot plant in the previous irrigation, the leaves will dry out faster.

Underwatering is a common issue during the hot and dry summer months.

Evaporation is causing the soil to lose moisture at a rapid rate. Furthermore, polka dot plants tend to use more water in hot, dry conditions. 

This is indicated by an increase in the rate of transpiration and respiration in the leaves.

Because your plant can’t absorb any more water from the dry soil, the leaves will scorch and crisp up. 

Underwatering can be exacerbated by a lack of humidity, temperature extremes, and excessive sunlight.

Other revealing symptoms of an underwatered polka dot plant include:

  • Wilting of foliage
  • Yellowing of leaves that eventually fall off if not watered for long
  • Bone-dry potting mix
  • Dust on upper leaf surfaces
  • Slowed, stunted, or distorted growth
  • Curled or wrinkled leaves
  • The pot is lighter than normal

How to Revive an Underwatered Polka Dot Plant

You must maintain a consistent irrigation regime to keep your polka dot plant from dehydrating. As a rule of thumb, irrigate it when the top ½-inch or an inch of the growing medium is dry. Never allow the soil to become soggy or completely dry out.

If the leaves are crispy, it’s evident that the soil is totally dry. You must give your polka dot plant a deep, thorough soak. Here’s how:

  1. Sit your polka dot plant pot in a bathtub or sink. Make sure to remove the saucer first. Then fill it up with lukewarm water up to about three inches deep.
  2. Let your polka dot plant absorb water via the bottom drain holes. It should take 45+ minutes to soak up moisture properly.
  3. It should be adequately watered when the soaking has reached the top half-inch of the potting mix.
  4. If the soil hasn’t become saturated after an hour, consider watering lightly from above. This should help facilitate the saturation.
  5. Drain the basin once the soil is uniformly moist
  6. Allow the pot to stay there for a while so that it drains well.

Replace the saucer and place your polka dot plant back in its original spot. Remember to dump out any liquid that perches on the saucer. 

[2] You Have Overwatered Your Polka Dot Plant

Although it may appear unlikely, your polka dot plant can have dry leaves as a result of both too much and too little water. Overwatering is more likely to kill a plant than underwatering, which most new gardeners are unaware of.

The problem begins when there is too much moisture in the soil. As a result, the potting mix becomes waterlogged, too damp, or soggy.

But that’s not the end of the story. This excess water will clog drainage and deprive the roots of oxygen.

It won’t be long before the suffocated roots wither and die.

As if that weren’t bad enough, excessive moisture promotes the growth of fungal diseases that infect the roots. The next bad thing is root rot!

As the roots suffocate, drown, and rot, the foliage above the soil suffers. Due to a lack of moisture, they will dry out and become crispy.

After all, the roots have been damaged and are no longer able to absorb nutrients and water.

Unfortunately, root rot can be fatal for polka dot plants.

Other common symptoms of an overwater polka dot plant include:

  • Lower leaves become yellowed then turn brown
  • Brown spots on foliage
  • Swollen or rotten stems
  • Leaves are droopy, limped, and wilted
  • Both younger and older news drop off
Overwatered Polka Dot Plant Crispy Leaves
Overwatered Polka Dot Plant Got Crispy Leaves

How to Fix an Overwatered Polka Dot Plant

Overwatering can result from poor drainage, so it’s wise to check:

  • If the container is made of plastic or glazed ceramic. Opt for unglazed ceramic, clay, or terracotta pots.
  • If the pot has enough drainage holes. If not, switch to a porous pot with drainage holes.
  • If the potting mix is well-drained. If not, repot or mix in some perlite or pumice.

It may simply be that you’ve given your plant too much water. In that case, allow the potting mix to dry out before irrigating again.

If it has been affected by root rot, you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands. 

  1. Prune out browned, dark, or mushy roots
  2. Treat the root system using a fungicidal dip plus hydrogen peroxide
  3. Repot using a fresh batch of organically rich growing medium. It should boast good drainage.
  4. Consider propagating your polka dot plant from healthy stem cuttings if the root rot is too severe.

[3] Polka Dot Plant Leaves Turns Crispy from Extreme Heat

Extreme heat is characterized by curled foliage, crispy leaves, and browned leaf tips.

If your polka dot is sitting in direct sunlight or heat drafts, you will notice this. Perhaps a heating vent, radiator, or fireplace is directing heat directly at your plant.

Your polka dot plant could also be cooking on the west or south-facing window sill. This is especially true during the summer’s hottest afternoon hours.

Heat stress causes leaves to crisp up and eventually fall off prematurely. Excessive heat causes soil moisture to evaporate quickly.

The rate of respiration and perspiration will also increase. These heat-related issues, when combined, will cause widespread wilting and browning at leaf edges.

The edges of the leaves will also be brittle and flaky. Your polka dot plant will appear “scorched” or “sunburned” overall.

Polka Dot Plant Leaves Turns Crispy from Extreme Heat
Polka Dot Plant Leaves Turns Crispy from Extreme Heat

Solution

The most important thing you can do right now moves your polka dot plant away from the source of the heat stress. 

Air vents, heaters, fireplaces, radiators, and other similar devices fall into this category.

Remove it from direct sunlight.

When the heat is turned on, make sure to rinse or mist the leaves of your polka dot plant.

Keep temperatures at between 70-75°F (21-24°C). (Source: Cornell University)

[4] Insect Problems Lead to Turn Crispy Leaves around the Edges

Damage from insects can cause your polka dot plant leaves to turn crispy. The affected foliage may also turn brown. Both symptoms are a result of direct leaf damage by the bugs.

You may also notice some irregular yellow or brown spots on the foliage. Prolonged pest infestation may result in holes in the foliage, too.

Blackflies, thrips, spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs are common pests that you may spot on your polka dot plant. Look closely at your plant, mainly the underside of the leaves.

Other telltale signs include a general lack of vigor and discolored foliage.

Some pests may leave a sticky substance that attracts ants. Black sooty mold may also grow on the honeydew.

Mealybugs on Polka Dot Plant
Mealybugs on Polka Dot Plant

How to Get Rid of Bugs on Polka Dot Plants

The most important step is to detect pests as early as possible. It’s a good idea to check your polka dot plant for these critters on a regular basis. Every time you water your plant, perform a quick check.

Inspect the backs, nooks, and crannies of your plant. If you look closely, you can see thrips, aphids, and mealybugs.

Begin by isolating your infested polka dot plant for at least two weeks before attempting to eradicate the bugs.

Pick out some of the larger, more visible bugs by hand and dispose of them safely.

To get rid of the pests, hose down your plant with a strong stream of water.

Treat your polka dot plant with horticultural oil, neem oil, isopropyl alcohol, or a broad-spectrum pesticide every 7-10 days.

[5] Humidity is Too Low

A lack of humidity will result in a variety of changes to the foliage of your polka dot plant. 

Most cultivars will lose their vibrant, variegated appearance. The edges/tips of the leaves will also turn brown and crispy.

In centrally heated homes, too little humidity is a serious problem during the winter. It’s even worse if you’re inside and it’s hot.

I had dealt with this issue the previous winter. I attempted to raise the temperature in my home in order to keep my plants happy during the winter. 

However, this resulted in a significant decrease in relative humidity (RH), which caused some leaves to brown and crisp up.

Tips to Increase Humidity

Polka dot plant on a pebble tray
Polka dot plant on a pebble tray

I highly recommend constantly tracking RH inside your home. I bought a 2-in-1 digital hygrometer (Check the latest price on Amazon here) a few years back, and it has served me well.

Try to maintain an RH of above 50% throughout the year. Note that some polka dot plant varieties require humidity levels of more than 60%.

There are many ways to boost the humidity in your home:

  • Move your plant to the kitchen or bathroom
  • Prepare a shallow pebble tray filled with water
  • Bring your houseplants closer together
  • Use a digital humidifier

[6] Poor Tap Water Quality and Polka Dot Plant

Minerals, chlorine, fluoride, and other salts in tap water are toxic to polka dot plants. In fact, it’s one of the most common causes of crispy leaves.

Papery brown spots on the foliage are another common symptom. Foliage that has been severely damaged may brown, wilt, and drop off.

 Polka Dot Plant Crispy Tips
Polka Dot Plant Crispy Tips

How to Improve Water Quality for Your Plants

You should not water your polka dot plant directly from the faucet. Allow the tap water to sit in an open container overnight instead. Minerals and chlorine will be able to evaporate as a result of this.

You could also use rainwater, distilled water, or a water filtration system instead.

Remember that polka dot plants are sensitive to both cold and hot water. Check that the irrigation water is lukewarm.

[7] Use of Excess Fertilizer Cause Crispy Leaves on Polka Dot Plant

Another likely cause of crispy, brown leaves on polka dot plants is an overabundance of fertilizer. 

You frequently begin with the good intention of keeping your plant fed and happy. However, too many fertilizer salts are toxic to the roots and leaves.

The first signs are brown leaf tips and brown spots on leaves. This is frequently caused by salt damage and stress in the roots. 

Excess fertilizer salts cause the leaves to crisp up and dry out.

If you notice white or brown crusts on the surface of the growing medium, this indicates that you have over-fertilized.

How Not to Over Fertilize Your Plant

You should stop fertilizing as soon as you notice the leaves turning brown.

Repotting your polka dot plant with a fresh batch of growing medium is the best solution. This is frequently the case when using granular fertilizer.

You can, however, flush the current mix with a large amount of irrigation water. This will aid in the dissolution and elimination of excess fertilizer salts.

Stop fertilizing your plant for at least 6 months.

[8] Fungal Issues and Brown Edges on Polka Dot Plant

Powdery mildew, downy mildew, and anthracnose are fungi that can cause the leaves on your polka dot to brown and crisp.

Small irregular brown lesions, patches, or spots on the foliage are frequently the first signs of the disease. They will rapidly spread and expand. The patches will eventually die and turn into dry areas.

How to Control Fungal Diseases

Fungal diseases can be fatal to your polka dot plant if not treated quickly.

First, remove all infected leaves as soon as possible. After each cut, make sure to sterilize the pruning shears.

Sulfur or copper-based fungicides should be used for mild cases.

If the majority of the leaves have turned brown, topical fungicide treatments are usually ineffective. In such a case, simply discard your plant and revert to propagation.

Prevention is usually the best course of control:

  • Avoid over-irrigation
  • Don’t splash water or wet the foliage
  • Avoid overhead irrigation
  • Avoid excessive humidity in poorly ventilated areas