The Q&A Archives: Brown Leaves On Tropical Plant

Question: My Hawaiian Thai plant has chalky leaves that are brown tipped. I would like any advice you could offer. Currently I mist it and water it daily, it is placed in a warm spot (near the radiator, as poor insulation), with indirect sunlight.

Answer: I think you are referring to a ti plant (Cordyline terminalis). It will take low light, so indirect sun should be fine. However, I wouldn't locate it near a radiator, as that would be drying, and they prefer humidity. Misting is okay, but you shouldn't need to water daily. Water slowly and deeply to wet the entire root ball, but then just water as the top inch of soil dries. When leaves brown around the edges, the problem is often salt burn. Salts in the water and in fertilizer build up over time. Browning usually occurs on the old leaves first. This excess salt accumulates in the leaf edges, where it kills the tissue and the leaf dries out and turns brown. It's important to water deeply and slowly. At least once a month, water deeply enough to "leach" or push salts well below the root zone. Frequent, light "sprinklings" allow salts to accumulate in the top layers of soil, where the roots are, which is bad news. Similar symptoms occur when too much fertilizer has been applied. Always water plants thoroughly before and after applying fertilizer to help prevent burn. To further increase humidity, set the pot on a shallow tray of water on top of pebbles to keep the water from soaking into the pot. The water will evaporate around the plant and raise the humidity.

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