By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
There are number of reasons the foliage on a houseplant can turn brown. Why do prayer plant leaves turn brown? Prayer plants with brown tips can be caused by low humidity, improper watering, excess fertilizer or even too much sun. Cultural conditions are easy to change and soon your beautiful houseplant will be back to its glossy glory. Take a good look at where your plant is situated and how you care for it, and you can unlock the riddle of why you have brown leaves on prayer plants.
Prayer plants are beautiful tropical foliage plants. They naturally live in the understory of Brazilian tropical forests and need moderate light and high humidity. This makes them perfect houseplants for most conditions. However, if you say, “my prayer plant has brown leaves,” you need to ask if you are providing those conditions. Prayer plants with brown leaves may be trying to tell you that the cultural conditions aren’t correct for this glossy leaved plant with a habit of folding its leaves together at night in worshipful prayer.
The foliage of prayer plant is spectacular. The broad oval leaves have glossy green coloring with windowpanes of lighter green to white. The veins are a bold red with red to maroon coloring on the undersides of the leaves. The plants are prized for this dimension of color in the leaves, which means brown leaves on prayer plants mar the perfection of the foliage.
Ideal conditions for prayer plants are indirect light, medium to high humidity, moderately moist soil and well-draining containers and medium. If you notice edges turning brown on prayer plants, any one of these conditions may need to be addressed. The plant needs light but can burn in a southern window. Heated homes tend to be dry so a humidifier or misting can help add extra moisture to the air. Good potting soil and a moisture meter can keep the soil wet enough without getting soggy.
So you have all the correct conditions for your plant, yet you still see the edges turning brown on prayer plants. Why? It may be the type of water you use or fertilizer salt build-up.
If you have considered and corrected all these possible causes, and you still say, “My prayer plant has brown leaves,” you may need to look through a magnifying glass to identify the culprits. Several sucking or chewing insects may have hitchhiked into your home and are damaging the tissue of the leaves, which will die and brown.
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We have this prayer plant in a large pot and it was doing well for a couple months. Then leaves started to go brown. Bit by bit, most of them are dying. We water 1-2 times a week, although we also paused watering for a while thinking that could be the problem. Any ideas?
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Maranta leuconeura is the most popular variety. A low-growing perennial, it has patterned green, two-toned leaves that grow to form a large clump from rhizomes, or creeping root stalks. The leaf blotching pattern becomes more vivid with maturity, and the leaves grow up and outwards, overlapping each other.
Leaves’ undersides are a reddish color, and at maturity the Maranta leuconeura will grow to around 12 inches tall. If you look carefully in summertime, you may see the small white flowers that emerge on slender stems. The Latin term “leuconeura” means white-veined: the leaves also show this subtle characteristic.
The “Herringbone Plant”, otherwise known as “M. leuconeura erythroneura”, is another popular variety of this slow-growing evergreen. In this species, leaves have strong red veining on dark green leaves, with a pale yellow-green midrib. The undersides of the leaves are a brighter, deeper red which contrasts perfectly when folded up at night.
This is a really stunning variety, particularly effective when used in hanging baskets or planted en masse.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Another good variety is the Maranta “Rabbit’s Foot Plant”. This one is also known as “M. leuconeura kerchoveana”, which is bit of a mouthful. The mid-green leaves on this particular variety are marked with dark brown blotches spaced between deep green leaf veins. In summertime, intermittent white-mauve flowers appear on long slender stems.
There are numerous varieties of Maranta: I’ve only named the best few in this article. All of these varieties are distinguished by their leaf patterns and coloration, and each one has a distinct personality. If you’re aiming to add a few to your own space, it’s best to have a look for yourself and determine which are your favorites.
I recently got a beautiful prayer plant, but for some reason it is not folding its leaves at night. It raises them, as if it's preparing to do so (see pics) but doesn't actually roll them up. I heard that's a sign that the plant is stressed and I'm worried. It also has some brown tips here and there, but I can't tell why. And the weird part is, it's got a few new shoots just in the past week - so it's growing - which is good, right?
Plant lighting conditions - it's at the top of a bookshelf in the corner between a south and west windows. The south window nearby is blocked by a tightly closed blind and also filtered with a sheer curtain - I know prayer plants don't like direct sunlight. Some brown tips are on the south side, where there is a blind. The west side is all clear however.
Humidity - on average it's around 60-70% on top of the bookshelf. Temperature is between 70 and 80 degrees F. I also put the pot on a bed of pebbles and poured water on the pebbles that would evaporate and keep humidity higher.
Watering: I recently watered it, I made sure it drained well, although the soil is very nice and moist. This is my first plant, though, so I may be missing something, but it doesn't seem to be overwatered or standing in still water.
Again, some leaf tips are brown, but what's weird is that although it's not folding leaves, it's sprouted a couple new shoots just this week. Should I be worried about my plant? What am I doing wrong, if anything? It's my first plant, ever, and I really don't want anything to happen to it.
I was recently given a prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura). It was very full and beautiful. Now the bottom leaves look okay with some withering at the edges, but all the inside and top leaves are withered and brown. I do notice new sprouting. What should I do?
Start by adjusting your watering schedule and techniques. Too much or not enough water can cause the symptoms you describe. Water the plant thoroughly so the excess water drains out the bottom. Water again when the top few inches are only slightly damp. Do not let the pot sit in excess water that collects in the saucer. Place a few pebbles in the saucer to collect the excess water, keep pot elevated above the water and increase the humidity around the plant. Keep the soil slightly moist, use distilled water, rain water or water from the dehumidifier to reduce brown edges caused by chlorine and fluoride in the tap water. Trim off the brown leaf edges to improve the appearance.
There is something seriously wrong. I don't think it is watering necessarily. Did you transplant this plant? Did you use sterilized potting soil? Is there a hole at the bottom of that pot? Did you put rock or gravel below the soil?
Need to know what you've been using for fertilizer as well as soil. There are indications of high salts usually from tap water.
If you've used soil from the garden that all by itself would contribute to irregular water access by the roots of your plant.
I would most certainly use those shears and cut off clean out all of the dead material. If you've used garden soil, I would transplant into bagged potting soil, NO gravel below the soil.
Make sure that pot has a drainage hole. Lift bottom of pot off surface using 1/4 inch pieces of tile. Only water when your plant and pot feel light to lift. Never go onto some 'schedule'. once per week might be perfect, once per month might work as well. Only water when that plant and pot feel light to lift. It is a very obvious difference.
I would also try to find distilled water or a friend's well water to water your plant (s).
After you get rid of the dead material please take another picture to send. Tell us everything you've added you've done for this plant. Nothing is too small. My gut feeling is that you watered too much and by reducing the water you've save a chunk of your plant. You need to pull it out of the pot, look at the root condition. Brown? Slimy? Starting to curl around the inside of the pot?
Tell us the soil you've used, how long ago did you transplant or up pot this plant, what fertilizer you've used, how much, what type of water you use, does this pot have a drain hole, did you put rock below the soil and most importantly did you use sterilized potting soil.