Image by Quinn Dombrowski
By Heather Rhoades
Anytime anything unusual occurs on a plant, this gives gardeners a reason to be concerned about their plant. When a plant gets brown edges on leaves or brown leaf tips, a gardener’s first thought may be that this is a disease or pest that is attacking the plant. This is not always the case.
What Causes Brown Edges on Leaves of Plants?
When there are whole brown leaves on a plant, this can indicate several dozen problems; but when just the sides or tips of the leaf turn brown, there is only one problem – the plant is stressed.
Most commonly brown leaf tips or brown edges on leaves are caused by the plant not getting enough water. There are several reasons why this may happen.
- There may be too little natural water falling. If this is what is causing the sides of the leaf to turn brown, you should supplement the rainfall with manual watering.
- The roots are constricted and unable to reach out for water. This cause of brown leaf tips happens most frequently with container grown plants, but can happen with plants in the ground in particularly heavy clay soils that may act like a container. Either increase watering or replant the plant so that the roots have more room to grow.
- The soil does not hold onto the water. If you live in an area that has sandy soil, the water may simply be draining away too fast and this may be causing brown edges on leaves. Improve the soil with organic material which will hold onto the water better. In the meantime, increase the frequency of watering.
- The roots may be damaged. If the area where the plant is has been flooded by water or if the soil around the plant is too compacted, this can cause root damage. When the roots become damaged, there is not enough of a root system for the plant to properly take up enough water. In this case, correct the problem that is causing the root damage and then prune back the plant some to reduce its water needs while the root system recovers.
Another reason for the sides of a leaf to turn brown is a high salt content in the soil. This can either be natural in the soil, such as from living close to the ocean, or this can happen through over fertilizing. If you live near a source of salt water, there will be very little you can do to correct the problem. If you suspect that you have over fertilized, reduce the amount of fertilizer and increase the amount of watering for a few weeks to help wash the salt away.
While brown leaf tips and brown edges on leaves can be alarming, it is, for the most part, an easily fixed problem.