Calathea Brown Edges – Causes and Easy Fixes

Wondering how to deal with calathea brown edges? Don’t worry; you’re not alone.

Almost every calathea owner has a love-hate relationship with their plant. Their foliage is stunning, but you have to fight to keep it looking good. 

One of the problems you might encounter with your calathea is browning. Brown edges are common among all types of calathea and prayer-plants.

These plants are pretty sensitive, and any slight change in their care routine or environment will lead to browning right away.

The best thing to do to protect your plant from getting brown edges is to learn their causes and deal with them.

In this article, you’ll find all the information you need about calathea brown edges. So, keep on reading!

Calathea Brown Edges

Calatheas sometimes engage in a praying-like movement called Nyctinasty. This means that the leaves do a rising and falling action responding to light.

calathea leaves with brown edges

The expressive nature of the calathea leaves makes them more sensitive than other types of plants. This is why calatheas are vulnerable to browning.

We all know that it’s nearly impossible to entirely prevent brown edges when it comes to calatheas. However, browning could be an indicator that there’s something wrong.

What Are the Causes of Brown Edges in Calatheas?

The best thing to do to avoid brown edges is to understand their causes. Here are the common reasons for calathea brown edges:

Water Stress

The first thing that should come to your mind when you notice browning on your Calathes’s edges is water stress. Water stress here doesn’t only mean underwatering. It also means overwatering or using poor-quality water.

However, underwatering is the most common of them to cause brown edges. This is because calatheas thrive in moisture, and if they don’t get sufficient amounts of water, it’ll show on their leaves in the form of brown edges or brown spots.

Other indications of underwatering are wilting foliage, curling leaves, dry soil, and dry leaf surface. Overwatering can also cause browning.

Yes, calatheas love moisture, but too much water isn’t good for them. Soaking, wet soil might cause the roots to rot, which will show on your beautiful plant’s leaves.

Lastly, watering your calathea with poor water quality might be what’s causing the brown edges. If you’re a beginner calathea owner, this might be surprising to you.

Calatheas cannot handle fluoride and chlorine in tap water. These chemicals build up in the soil and prevent the roots from absorbing the nutrients in the ground.

If you’ve been watering your calathea with tap water, then you know now what’s causing the browning.

Low Humidity

Calatheas are tropical plants native to Brazil. So, they need high humidity levels to live happily. When they’re subjected to dry air, they start showing browning on the tips.

However, it doesn’t stop there if they’re kept in low humidity levels for an extended period. The browning can take over the entire leaf, and you might also notice curling and wilting.

Over Fertilization

Fertilization can be tricky for new calathea owners. You might think that by regularly fertilizing your plant, it’ll grow faster and bigger.

But calatheas don’t need much feeding, especially if the initial potting mix is rich in nutrients. As a result, fertilizers can do more harm than good to calatheas.

Overfertilization causes salt to build up in the soil, causing brown tips. Besides brown tips, you’ll notice the leaves are getting soft, yellow, and floppy.

Excess Sun Exposure

Calatheas are among the best houseplants because they tolerate low light conditions. However, they’re not tolerant of sun exposure.

If you’ve been keeping it near a window that gets bright sunlight, then your calathea might be sunburnt. These plants require a medium to bright, indirect light. Very low light conditions or bright sunlight exposure aren’t good for them. 

Cold Temperatures

Calathea plants cannot handle cold temperatures. These plants thrive in temperatures between 65°F to 85°F.

calathea leaves on the ground beginning to have brown edges

So when the temperature drops below 65°F, the plant reacts aggressively to it. Don’t forget your calathea plant is a tropical plant.

It’ll show brown edges and wilting if placed near a vent or exposed to a cold draft. If the temperature gets below 55°F, it can cause severe damages to the foliage of the plant.

Pest Infestation

A pest infestation might be the first thing to come to your mind when you notice anything wrong with your house plants. You’re probably right in this case.

Browning can be a symptom of pest infestation, especially if your plant starts browning after introducing a new plant to your collection.

When the pests get on your plant, they feed on the sap in the plant’s tissue, sucking out all of the nutrients. This, of course, shows in the form of brown edges or brown spots.

Spider mites are the most common pests to attack calatheas. Look for webbing on the underside of the leaves or the stems.

Also, look for any movement, silver streaks, small white or reddish pests. If your calathea stops closing at night, it’s another clue for a pest infestation.

What to Do About Calathea Brown Edges and How to Avoid Them?

Now that we understand the common causes for calathea brown edges, what can we do about it? Here are some solutions for the above-listed reasons:

For a Dehydrated Calathea

If you’re a couple of days behind your watering schedule, then you just need to water your calathea thoroughly. However, if you’re behind for more than just a few days, then soaking it might not work.

The soil might become hydrophobic, and using a watering can as you usually do might not do the job. In this case, you need to submerge your calathea in a bucket with water or in the sink for about 10 to 20 minutes.

When you feel like the soil has absorbed enough moisture, take the pot out and let the excess water drain from the drainage holes. After that, place the calathea in a cool, shady location, and it should be fine the next day.

For an Overwatered Calathea

In case of overwatering, you need to inspect the roots looking for any signs of root rot. If there is, remove the damaged roots.

Next, repot your plant, but make sure to use a well-draining potting mix and a pot with drainage holes. If you have to prune many of the roots, you need to prune the same amount from the foliage.

Now, place your pot in a location with bright, indirect light and humidity above 60%. Remember the next time you water your calathea, not to get the soil wet. Instead, it should be damp.

For Tap Water Problems

It’s better to switch to using distilled or filtered water when watering your calathea. Also, constantly water it from above to flush out any built-up chemicals in the soil caused by watering with tap water.

For Low Humidity Problems

The easiest way to improve humidity levels for your calathea is to place it in the kitchen or bathroom, where it’s always humid. You can also buy a humidifier.

A humidifier will provide the plant with the ideal moisture levels and avoid oversaturating the air, which can cause complex problems like fungus infection.

For an Over-Fertilized Calathea

Increasing the irrigation frequency for a few weeks should be able to flush the excess fertilizer out of the soil. However, this should only work if the problem is minor.

If there’s a lot of salt build-up in the soil, you need to remove as much build-up as you can from the soil. Be careful not to remove more than 25% of the soil at once, as this can stress your plant.

After that, you need to water your plant thoroughly and make sure there’s adequate drainage. You might need to repeat these two steps for a few days to make sure all the excess fertilizer is removed.

Finally, don’t fertilize your calathea for at least a month after this. Avoid over-fertilizing your calathea and only fertilize it once a month in the summer, and the fertilizer should be diluted to half of its strength.

In the winter, reduce the feeding frequency or avoid it completely.

green leaves with brown edges

For a Sunburnt Calathea

Move your calathea right away from its location and place it in an area with shade. Make sure that it’s shielded from direct sunlight.

You also need to check the soil for signs of dehydration. If this is the case, thoroughly water the soil. Avoid fertilizing your plant when it’s under heat stress.

For Cold Temperature Problems

You should relocate your calathea away from any vents or windows that allow drafts. Your calathea should be fine and happy again in a few days after these solutions.

In winter, bring it inside if you can, or at least cover it at night. If it’s already inside away from any drafts, then raise the room temperature above 65°F.

For a Pest Infestation

As soon as you spot a pest infestation, you’ll want to move fast. The first thing you need to do is to isolate your infected plants to prevent the infestation from spreading to your healthy plants.

Next, you need to cut off any dead or heavily damaged leaves with clean scissors. Then, spray your plant with neem oil according to the instructions.

Repeat these steps every four to seven days until it’s free from any pests. Make sure to spray the upper and lower sides of the leaves.

You can also use insecticidal soap sprays or diluted Castile soap. A cotton drenched with isopropyl alcohol might do the job as well.

Final Thoughts

You should know that once the leaf has turned brown, there’s no way to turn back to green. However, you can manage the problem and work on taking care of your plant the best way.

You have the option to trim the brown edges with a sharp pair of scissors, or you can just leave it if it’s not spreading. Don’t forget that calathea brown edges are possible even if you’re doing the best for your plants.