Skip to Content

Why Is My ZZ Plant Turning Brown? (And How To Fix It)

Indoor potted zz plant and the leaves turning brown

Turning brown is a way of ZZ Plant telling you something is wrong with them.

To help them, you must determine why it is happening and take the right countermeasures. This article will cover several possible reasons and easy tricks to fix them.

The ZZ Plant turns brown because of improper watering, lack of light, and humidity. Polluted water and planting in the wrong pot can also compromise their health. Such negligence will lead to nutrient deficiency, turning the leaves brown. Also, pest infestation, diseases, and transplant stress are also responsible for this.

Read on and I will further explain each issue with the easy-to-do ways to resolve them. Upon doing so, your ZZ Plant will eventually thrive again.

Causes of ZZ Plant Turning Brown

Water Quality

Like most indoor plants, the ZZ Plant is sensitive to some minerals. Such harmful substances include salt, chlorine, and fluoride. And these are all possibly lurking in the water.

Frequently watering them, without knowing this discreet fact, is definite wrongdoing. This will lead to a build-up of adverse minerals in the soil that will consequently affect your plant.

It will later show in the plant as leaves will start to turn brown.

How to Fix Water Quality Issue

The steps below got your water quality issue covered. Try these steps to get your ZZ plant growing healthy again.

1. Immediately stop using tap water. Fluoride, a chemical that can compromise a plant’s health, is naturally found in it.

2. Use rainwater or melted snow (for some countries) if your budget is kinda tight. But you can also buy distilled or purified water.

3. Install a water filtration system. This is the best solution if you are looking for a complete remedy that will last.

4. Make sure that you are giving them room temperature water. Who would want a cold or hot shower? No one, even plants.

Inadequate Humidity

Humidity is one of the essential factors to consider when growing a ZZ Plant. Because it affects the plant transpiration or their way of breathing.

ZZ Plants grow at a low relative humidity of less than 50 percent. And this is the reason why they can cope with environments like homes and workplaces.

The problem occurs when the surrounding air gets drier. The plant quickly loses its moisture. And failure to replace that amount of water will result in the wilting and browning of the leaves.

That is why aside from proper watering of the soil ensure that there is an adequate amount of humidity.

How to Fix

No problem! The procedures below will help with the increment of the humidity level. These will also allow the plants to absorb more moisture.

1. Mist your plant regularly. The humidity around the plant increases through this method. The only drawback is its short effectiveness. To improve it, you can frequently spray the plant.

2. Place a humidifier nearby. A humidifier not only benefits humans but plants as well.

3. Get a pebble tray. This works through the evaporation of water from below, creating a cooler environment.

4. Pick a shallow tray or bowl that is large enough for the ZZ Plant.

5. Add a layer of gravel.

6. Keep the plant at the top of the surface.

Regularly water it to maintain its dampness. But make sure that you are putting so much that will make the water overflow.

Sunburn Causes Browning of ZZ Plant Leaves

You can think of the way a plant gets a sunburn similar to humans. Sunburn occurs when we have prolonged sun exposure, and the same goes for plants.

The extreme and direct light will scorch the outermost tissue of the ZZ Plant leaves. Then, it will leave them with light tans or burns.

Then the leaves will turn brown in color. It is because they cannot tolerate intensive ultraviolet rays coming from the sun.

To prevent this, put them only in a shady and cool spot, with bright yet indirect light.

How to Fix

If your poor plant loses some of the leaves due to sunburn, the steps below will help them recover.

1. Reduce watering. Do this for the reason that the number of leaves decreases.  They no longer need the same amount of water as before. Slowly and carefully water the plant until new sprouts develop again.

2. Reduce fertilizing. It is not the amount of the fertilizer, but rather the frequency. Increase it again depending on your plant’s needs if it regains new leaves.

Pot Requirements

Another possible reason why the leaves of your ZZ plant are turning brown is because of the pot. The size and the comprising material of the pot both matter.

When picking your plant’s container, choose the pot that is one that just sizes up. It is because the ZZ Plant grows slowly.

A smaller pot might constrict its root when growing. While a larger pot can cause root rot because there is an excessive amount of water that it holds. These both can lead to the browning of the leaves.

How to fix

Conveniently choose the pot for your ZZ Plant with these quick guides.

1. Get a pot that is one size larger. Skip the smaller and larger ones. Because they will cause root bounding and waterlogging, respectively.

2. Choose a clay or ceramic pot. The clay type is much better to use as it keeps the soil drier than the plastic one. Plus, these two kinds prevent the possibility of tipping over. This is because the ZZ plant might get top-heavy, but these pots will withstand that.

3. Make sure it has drainage holes. Failure to do so will drown your ZZ Plant, resulting in the rotting of the roots.

Improper Watering

ZZ Plant only requires minimal care and tolerates neglect. But they still need proper watering. Severe drought or excessive water can both make the leaves turn yellow or brown.

Drying plants miss the beneficial nutrients from the soil because of water insufficiency. They not only become thirsty but also hungry (for essential substances).

On the other hand, plants that are sitting in a pool of water drown. It is receiving too much amount from what it can only hold.

Then, this will result in the bursting of tissues. And this becomes evident in the blister formation and discoloration of the leaves.

It is also important to note that the amount of water varies depending on how much light the plant receives.

If the ZZ Plant is under less light, it will only require less water. Meanwhile, exposure to an area with more light will make them need more water.

How to Fix

The procedures below will aid you to achieve the proper way of watering the ZZ Plant.

1. Check the moisture of the soil. It is best that an inch deeper from the surface is damp. You can find it out by using a tool or poking your finger below the soil.

2. Water moderately. Check the topmost part of the soil if it is dry before watering again. Giving your plants a drink every 7 to 14 days is also fine in many cases.

3. Make the water flow out. It is essential to always let the water come out of the bottom. This will prevent such problems as root rot from occurring due to soggy and soupy beds.

Pest Infestation

Despite occurring in seldom incidents, plant moms should not underestimate pest infestation. Like the other factors, this is also a potential culprit in the discoloration problem.

Keep an eye for the insects that love to dwell on  ZZ Plants. These include scale, aphid, spider mite, thrips, vine weevils, mealy bugs, whiteflies, and blackflies. They are tiny things that can have a terrible impact on your plant.

These pests secrete a means for mold growth. Then, the mold inhibits the food production process of plants namely photosynthesis.

So, it will result in distortion, premature dropping, and browning of the leaves.

How to Fix

Resolve the agonies brought by the disturbing pests by trying these ways.

For controllable cases, do any of these methods depending on what applies best.

1. Carefully observe if there are pests. Some of them blend well with the foliage, making them unnoticeable.

2. Manually handpicked the pests. This only works if the insects are quite larger.

3. Gently wipe the top as well as bottom surfaces of the leaves with a solution. Usually, it is a combination of mild soap and warm water.

4. For areas that are quite difficult to reach, use a cotton ball dipped in alcohol to remove pests.

You can use the following remedies if your plant is suffering from a more serious and heavier invasion.

Prune infected parts to completely remove the affected area. Do not forget to also disinfect the tool before and after pruning.

Spray appropriate insecticides. This is the best resort if the pests covered the entire plant.

Separate the infested ZZ Plant if it is living with other plants. This is to early prevent the spread of the pests in.

Transplant Shock

Despite growing at a slow pace, an event where the ZZ Plant outgrowing its home will eventually come. This is when repotting becomes necessary.

Aside from the needed pot requirements, the process of replanting it to its new home is crucial.

If replanted incorrectly, the ZZ Plant will suffer from shock and stress. These will show in the foliage that is starting to wilt, discolor, and fall.

Meanwhile, do the transplantation in winter. You can replant the ZZ plant in any season of the year but summer may stress the plant.

How to fix

To ditch the possible danger from an incorrect method of transplanting, try these.

1. If you are just about to transplant the ZZ Plant, do the following:

Acquire the right pot with proper drainage.

Carefully remove the plant from its original pot to avoid damage. Do this by digging the soil using a gardening fork. Then, lift it by holding the base and not the stalk.

Prune the roots if necessary.

Replant it to its new home and water it slowly.

2. If you have already repotted your ZZ Plants and are currently suffering from shock, treat them. The following steps will help:

Make sure that the pot has proper drainage. Remove the excess water in the tray from time to time.

Bring back the plants to their previous location. This will help them recover. It is because they are acquiring the same light, temperature, and humidity.

Feed them plant food so that they will gradually regain their loss.

Cut dying leaves to give room for new growths.

Nutrient Deficiency

Just like humans, plants can also suffer from malnutrition. It is because they are not getting enough amounts of essential nutrients.

Micronutrients are the substances that the plant needs in a small amount. While macronutrients require a larger dose. A combination of these two will help the ZZ Plant to grow healthy and prettily.

Sickly plants have similar symptoms with the other mentioned problems. But you can still verify it through some factors.

Nutrient deficiency manifests in the discoloration and distortion of the foliage. Usually, plants with this condition also have stunted growth and brown leaves.

Since these essential substances are in the soil, the problem lies in the soil as well. It is either because of its moisture, pH, or temperature.

How to Fix

To combat nutrient deficiency, do these methods.

1. Water the plant sufficiently, not less or more. Adequate moisture will help the roots to transport the nutrients up.

2. Using a pH meter, see whether the soil is within the appropriate range or not. ZZ Plant requires a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 to have full access to nutrients. Meanwhile, you can use some products to adjust the level of your soil.

3. Make sure that the soil temperature is within the optimum range for nutrient uptake. Get a typical thermometer used in cooking and push it as deep as possible for an accurate reading.

The soil temperature in which most plants thrive well ranges from 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C).

ZZ Plant Rust

Your ZZ Plant can also acquire plant rust. It is a fungal disease that affects a multitude of plants including the ZZ Plant. ( why you linked the source, it doesn’t say anything about rust)

It reduces growth, vigor, and production. It even kills plants in rare cases.

Just because you are giving them TLC does not exempt them from this threatening disease. Plant rust spreads usually in water and also in wind.

This rust disease is also a potential reason behind the browning issue of your ZZ plant.

How to Fix

While a few gardeners feel at a loss when they find out their plants are in this startling condition, do not lose hope. The following guides will rescue and treat your poor plant.

Initially, identify and confirm whether it is plant rust

At the early stage of this disease, look for white spots. Check the underside of the leaves as this is where they usually appear.

The flecks will eventually turn to color rust, red to orange, and even black. You will notice that the bumps are slightly raised.

Sometimes, plant rust is also associated with leaf distortion and dropping.

Upon confirming, these steps will help to control the further spread of the fungi

Remove all the infected parts, destroy, and throw them away.

Softly wipe the leaves to remove debris that possibly fell.

As much as possible, avoid wetting the leaves when watering.

Feed them with organic fertilizer to help them recover.

Prevent rust disease from happening, as prevention is better than cure

Avoid splashing water in the foliage. Instead of using an overhead sprinkler, you can simply run into a dipper or a hose.

Encourage good air circulation around the plant. If you have plenty of plants, separate and space them.

Spray them with fungicide or dust them with powders like sulfur in an earlier period. This will help them resist the infection.

You May Also Enjoy: How to Get Rid of Mold on Plant Soil: Prevention and Treatment Tips


  1. Why are the leaves of my ZZ Plant dropping off?

The culprit behind this problem is improper watering. It’s either your ZZ Plant is receiving less or more amount. After correcting it, your ZZ plant will get better within a few weeks.

  1. Why are the stems of my ZZ Plant drooping?

Though they are not fertilized often, ZZ Plant needs a little dose of fertilizer sometimes. Also, their stems could droop if they are receiving insufficient or extreme light. Bring them to a bright place without direct sunlight.

Why Do My ZZ Plant Have Brown Spots on The Stem?

The primary reason behind the brown spots in the stem of your ZZ plant is overwatering. Root rot from water logging possibly weakened the plant defenses from infections.

Too wet soil also encourages fungi formation that can move from the roots up to the stem, and infest it.

For the browning of the ZZ Plant’s overall foliage, there are a few reasons to look for.

Make sure that your plant is getting the proper amount of water, humidity, and light. Giving them less or more can lead to problems like root rot, sunburn, and nutrient deficiency.

Requirements for the water and pot are also crucial. Giving them something mediocre will compromise their health.

Moreover, see that they are safe from pests and diseases. Do the proper ways to avoid such conditions as transplant shock and stress.


Now you know the potential reasons behind the browning of your ZZ Plant. Also, you can fix them easily by following the steps. So, you are well equipped to fix yours.

Which among the tips from today’s post did you find helpful? Which will you try first?

Now, let me know by giving your insights in the comment area.

Sharing is caring!