When we parade around offices and commercial spaces with all of our gear for taking care of the indoor plants in the space, people get really interested in what we're doing. We often field a bunch of questions, which we are happy to answer of course. One of the most common questions we get asked is...
"What is wrong with my plant? Its leaves are turning yellow/brown, and I don't know what I'm doing wrong."
After a series of follow-up questions, we can often pin-point what the problem probably is, and a solution to that problem as well.
To help you out with your plants at home, here are...
6 Reasons Your Indoor Plant Leaves Are Turning Yellow Or Brown
1. Watering Issues: Over or Under Watering
This is probably the most common reason the average plant parent is struggling with brown or yellow leaves on their plant. Although it might seem like this is a big mystery, plants are really good about telling you when they are ready to be watered. If the leaves are turning yellow, are soft to the touch and drooping, often they are getting too much water. The solution to yellowing leaves is NOT to water it more. Oftentimes, the solution is to let that plant dry out to prevent the roots from rotting out. On the other hand, if you feel your leaves and they feel crispy, dry, and are brown or turning brown, chances are your plant might not be getting enough water. This means it's time to give your plant a drink.
This is not foolproof of course. Your plants' leaves can also turn yellow when they aren't receiving enough water as well, so it's best to figure out how often your plant likes to be watered. There are a few ways to do this...
You can pick up the pot and see how heavy it is. If it feels heavy, most likely the soil is saturated with water. If it feels really light, that means it's dry and needs some water.
You can use a water meter stick that tells you how much moisture is in the soil. This will also tell you when you need to water your plant. Keep in mind though, you'll have to have researched your plant a bit to know what type of watering conditions it likes first. Does it like to go dry between waterings? Or stay evenly moist? These are things you must know beforehand.
We like to use a wooden stick as a gauge for how wet or dry a plant is. Think of it like a long wooden skewer. We stick that stick all the way to the bottom of the plant and then feel the stick to see how wet the plant might be. Using this method, we can also tell how far down the water line is. Some plants like to dry out completely before watering. You cannot tell this from touching the top of the soil, so sticking the wooden stick to the bottom of the pot tells us if there is moisture in the bottom. If so, we will wait to water that plant until next time.
There are also apps out there that can help you come up with a watering schedule for your plants according to type of plant, etc. Check out this article listing 7 Apps to Keep Your Plants Alive & Well.
So... If you have a plant with yellow or brown leaves, it's best to start here. Too much or too little water? That might be the solution to your problem. If not, here are some more possible reasons...
Plants, much like humans, don't much care for their environments being changed suddenly. They get cozy in their pots, their space, their light, and their temperature. When they get moved to a new space, like your home or an office, they can get a little upset and be a bit overly dramatic. They sometimes push out yellow leaves, brown leaves, drooping leaves, and even drop leaves. This often puts a plant parent into a frenzy thinking they've done something wrong. But honestly, if you wait a while, the plant will settle into its new space and will be happy once again. So sometimes, you just need to be patient and understanding as it goes through its acclimation period.
3. Nutrient Deficiency
We all like to eat, right? Well, so do plants. Most likely, when you first get your plant, there are nutrients in the soil and/or even fertilizer in the soil that has been placed there by the growers or sellers. But after a while, the plant will deplete all of the nutrients in the soil and will need additional nutrients to thrive. Just like we do, plants need to be fed. So, if you've had the plant for quite a while, let's say over a year, and its leaves are starting to turn yellow or brown, chances are you need to fertilize it and all will be right in the world again.
4. Wrong Temperature
Again, just like us, plants like to live in certain temperatures. Most indoor plants are tropical plants. Keeping that in mind, freezing, frigid temperatures in its space will not be conducive to a happy plant. Take a look around the plant. Is it near a vent, a heat source, or in a very drafty area? This might be the culprit causing the yellow and/or brown leaves on your plant. Simply move the plant to a more neutral area in the space and wait for the plant to thrive again.
5. Low Light or Poor Air Circulation
Although some plants do very well in low light, most plants do not. They typically want some sort of indirect sunlight or fluorescent lights like in an office space. If you have a plant that does not characteristically like low light in a space without enough sunlight, it will not thrive, and it will certainly let you know.
In addition, air circulation, or better yet, lack thereof, can also be a major problem for plants. If there is not proper airflow, or if a plant is jammed against a wall or a piece of furniture, it may not be getting enough air flow. If there is a fan around, you can make sure you have that on. If it is an issue of being pressed against a wall or furniture, simply turn the plant from time to time to give relief to the part of the plant facing the wall or furniture. We like to give plants quarter turns on a regular basis for this reason and others. Give it a try yourself and see if that helps your leaves.
6. A Natural Process
Last but not least...
There might be absolutely nothing wrong with your plant. Sometimes plants just shed leaves, just like we shed hair and skin cells. Usually it will be the lower leaves that yellow, then brown and shed. This can actually be something to be celebrated. It could be a sign that your plant is growing taller. Assuming all 5 of the previously mentioned issues are in check, you can assume that your plant is healthy and following its natural procress. As it loses leaves, it will push out new growth, and that's always exciting to see happen. So leave it alone, and enjoy its natural beauty.
Once you get the hang of it, indoor plants really aren't as challenging as they may seem. Each one is a bit different, and has different needs, just like us or our pets. Harness the joy of figuring out each plant and then enjoy the reward of the refreshing joy it it brings to your space.
We love partnering with you to make your space beautiful. Contact us to get a FREE Consultation and quote for plants and maintenance in your space. We are excited to help.