Why Are My House Plant’s Leaves Turning Brown? [6 Reasons & How to Fix]

According to 2022’s House plant statistics, owning and interacting with a potted house plant for only 15 minutes can help reduce anxiety and stress levels while also improving productivity by nearly 15%.

Moreover, the annual percentage of employee absenteeism also drops by keeping potted indoor plants in a workspace or an office.

However, while caring for a potted house plant can do wonders for a person’s mental and physical health, it can also trigger distress, anger, and anxiety if the house plant dies.

Just like a pet, caring for a potted house plant requires knowledge of the plant’s everyday requirements and needs.

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Suppose a person either is unaware of those needs or deliberately chooses to ignore them.

In that case, this will lead to the house plant’s leaves turning brown, curling up, falling off, and eventually, the whole plant dying prematurely.

Hence, if caring for a potted house plant is important to you, knowing what causes its leaves to turn brown is crucial.

Once the majority of the leaves of a potted house plant have already transitioned to a yellow-brown color, it becomes incredibly challenging to save the dying plant.

Continue reading to learn what brown house plant leaves signify and what causes them to turn brown in the first place.

Let’s get started!

Why Do Most House Plants Have Lush Green Leaves?

Almost 90% of potted house plant species, such as money plants, snake plants, string pearls plants, etc., have leaves that usually remain a shade of green all year around.

Plants with yellow or purple leaves usually have different and unique cell chemistries that give them distinctive colors.

What gives a house plant’s leaf its rich green color? The chlorophyll chemical compound.

The cells of a plant’s leaf contain a natural green pigment called chlorophyll that is responsible for the absorption of sunlight.

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Read Types of House Plants with Large Leaves

Why Do House Plant Leaves Need to Stay Green?

When sunlight falls on the surface of a plant’s leaf, the chlorophyll compound begins trapping sunlight, which is used as a catalyst in photosynthesis – the natural process that allows a plant to make its food.

If a plant’s leaf no longer produces chlorophyll, the leaves will lose their natural pigment, and they will trap no more sunlight to produce any plant food.

As a result, all the processes crucial to a plant’s healthy survival, such as water absorption, transpiration, respiration, etc., will be slowed down.

If the situation continues for extended periods, the house plant will eventually die. Hence, the green color of a house plant leaves is critical as it signifies health, growth, and life.

Moreover, any change in the color of a leaf from green to yellow or brown will be a clear indicator that either the house plant is not getting the proper required nutrition and water or that the environment of the house is not suitable for the house plant’s survival.

People who usually pay attention to their potted house plants generally notice when one or more leaves begin to lose their natural green color and turn slightly yellow.

At this point, proper treatment can help restore the leaves’ natural amounts of pigment, which will help perform photosynthesis and save the plant from death.

However, if most of the leaves of a potted house plant have already turned brown, treatment becomes more complicated and almost impossible sometimes.

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Hence, the color of a potted house plant’s leaf plays a significant role in the plant’s long-term survival.

Now that you know why the leaves of your house plant need to be a shade of green, continue reading below to learn why the browning of a plant’s leaves is a problem. 

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Why Is It a Problem When a House Plant’s Leaves Start Turning Brown?

If a person is a dedicated house plant parent who cares to keep their potted indoor plants healthy and alive, they need to be attentive to the color of their house plant’s leaves.

Otherwise, it will take less than a week for most potted house plant species to lose their color and strength to remain upright permanently.

Some problems that may arise if the leaves of a potted house plant turn brown are as follows:

  • If a person likes to be referred to as a plant parent, they probably see their plants as children that need to be cared for.
  • If the leaves of their house plants begin to turn brown and fall off, the event may cause severe mental stress, anger, and anxiety to the person.
  • The negative effect on a person’s mental health may affect their productivity.
  • Caring for a potted house plant can be a form of at-home therapy for many people.
  • If the leaves of their house plants begin to turn brown and die, the caretaker may lose a form of essential therapy.
  • As a result, their everyday lives, perspective, motivation, and social interactions will be negatively affected.
  • Since healthy and lush green potted indoor plants can encourage employee productivity and decrease absenteeism, brown and dead plants can trigger the opposite response in some people.
  • Even if a person has not emotionally invested in caring for the potted house plant, if the plant begins to lose color and dies, it may cause a financial loss to the owner, which can eventually lead to stress.
  • This usually happens when people have purchased extremely expensive and rare house plant species such as fruit-bearing bonsai trees.
  • Their untimely death will undoubtedly trigger an unpleasant response in the owner’s mood.  
  • Even though for many people having a house plant is very different from owning a cat or a dog, they do understand that the plant, being a living being, still deserves to be cared for and kept alive.
  • As a result, the browning and death of a house plant may cause the owner to feel guilty.
  • Most people choose to decorate their living room, restaurant, or office with indoor potted plants to enhance the aesthetics of the space.
  • If the leaves of most of the potted plants are brown, the space will look old, unkempt, dirty, and not at all aesthetically pleasing to look at.

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Hence, due to all the reasons above, one should focus on keeping their house plant green and alive.

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Why Are My House Plants’ Leaves Turning Brown?

Although one in every five American households has at least one potted house plant, the percentage of premature house plant death is even higher.

While it brings great joy and calmness to take care of a potted house plant, failing at keeping the plant alive can also cause an equal amount of distress and anxiety.

However, people need to know that a house plant’s leaves will not turn brown randomly and without cause. Instead, it happens due to a series of different damaging events.

While this information may discourage some people from buying potted house plants, the fortunate thing is that one can avoid it from happening if they can identify the root cause behind it.

Some possible reasons for your house plant’s leaves turning brown are as follows:

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1. You Are Unaware of Your Potted House Plant’s Need

One of the most common reasons your house plant’s leaves keep turning brown is that you are unaware of the plant’s unique needs.

This happens when you are unsure about what house plant you have, how its requirements are different from any other house plant, and what needs to be avoided to keep the plant alive.

This lack of information leads to mistreatment and poor care, resulting in the house plant’s leaves turning brown.

When the majority of the leaves of most house plant’s leaves turn brown, which usually takes less than a week considering how sensitive indoor plants are, saving them from premature death becomes very challenging.

2. You Are Underwatering the Potted House Plant

A common misconception that all potted house plants need very little water to survive often leads to the browning of the plant’s leaves.

Although the information is accurate for some indoor plant species such as cactuses, classic snake plants, or air plants, it cannot be generalized to all house plant species.

On the contrary, many potted house plant species need even more water than some outdoor plant species do.

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If you unknowingly continue to underwater a house plant that thrives on high amounts of water, its leaves will turn brown. This is how the process will go:

  • Due to insufficient water in the soil, the roots cannot push enough water up the stem of a plant.
  • The little amount of water that gets pushed up is used up before it reaches the leaves of the house plant.
  • Since photosynthesis cannot be carried out without water molecules being part of the equation, no more plant food is produced.
  • As a result, due to insufficient food, chlorophyll production is affected, and the plant begins to lose its green color and turn brown.

Read How Often Should I Water a Houseplant?

3. You Are Overwatering the Potted House Plant

While underwatering can cause the leaves of some potted house plant species to wilt and turn brown, overwatering can do the same for some other indoor plants.

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This is what happens when you overwater a potted house plant that needs very little water to survive:

  • Since the plants’ cells have minimal water storage capacity, the roots do not take up excess water in the soil.
  • As a result, the water accumulates in the house plant’s pot or vase.
  • Standing water and soil nutrients create an ideal environment for fungal growth.
  • If the fungus is not removed, it penetrates the soil to the house plant’s roots, causing them to rot.
  • The rotten plant roots can no longer take up any water at all, and hence the leaves stop photosynthesizing plant food.  
  • Consequently, with little or no food, the plant leaves eventually lose their ability to stay green, and the plant dies.
  • Another problem caused by standing water is the arrival of fungal gnats.
  • These small, winged insects thrive in standing water and eat the decaying roots of the house plant.
  • When the house plant no longer has any roots at all, all its leaves turn brown, and the plant dies. 

4. The Soil of the Potted House Plant Lacks Sufficient Nutrients

House plants are extremely sensitive to the soil they are grown in.

If the soil either has fungus or fungal gnats consuming most of the nutrients, the plant will eventually start wilting, and the leaves will turn brown.

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5. The Potted House Plant is Getting Too Little Sunlight

Just as people assume that all potted house plants need very little water, they also believe that indoor plants need no sunlight.

While darker environments do suit some house plant species, others do need some exposure to sunlight.

Photosynthesis can no longer be carried out when the potted house plant is not getting enough sunlight. As a result, no more plant food can be processed.

Eventually, with less food, the plant can no longer produce chlorophyll and trap any light. After a few days, the leaves of the potted house plant turn brown and begin to curl up.

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6. The Potted House Plant is Getting Too Much Sunlight

Some potted house plant species grow better in darker places and usually die when exposed to too much sunlight. This is how it happens:

  • When a house plant is left under the sun for too long, its internal temperature rises.
  • To bring down the plant’s temperature, water starts evaporating out of the holes present on the surface of the leaves.
  • Moreover, any water in the soil evaporates, causing the soil to dry up.
  • With less available water, the house plant can no longer photosynthesize food. This eventually leads to the leaves turning brown and falling off.
Why Are My House Plant's Leaves Turning Brown
Why Are My House Plant’s Leaves Turning Brown

Final Thoughts

Caring for a house plant is never easy, especially when you are unaware of what species of plant you have. Without any proper knowledge, any efforts that you put into caring for your plant may be futile.

Eventually, when the house plant’s needs are not properly met, its leaves will be the first ones to indicate poor care, distress, and weakness.

Hence, to be a dedicated plant parent and not a frequent plant murderer, you must learn about your plant’s unique needs to prevent the house plant’s leaves from turning brown.

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