The Q&A Archives: whats wrong?

Question: I have a plant in my front room looks like a lilly plant but Im not sure, The leaves are simular. about a month ago the leaves started turning brown on the edges. started with one now alot of them have it. dont what it is or how to treat HELP PLEASE. Thanks Kathy White

Answer: I really can't identify your plant by your description, but what you describe sounds like a common malady of houseplants everywhere. This problem can be caused by a number of factors, which I will list below. Try to determine which of these factors might be affecting your plant.

Either over- or under-watering are the most common causes. Changing the plant's location, or changing the container or watering schedule may also cause the problem.

Over-watering causes leaves to turn yellow and then brown. Always check the soil before you water. Stick your finger in the soil. If it is wet, wait before watering. Some plants like the soil constantly moist while others need to go dry between waterings. Check plant requirements to determine how dry the soil should be when you water.

You can reduce the risk of over-watering by growing plants in containers that have drainage holes. This allows excess water to flow out of the pot. Pour off excess water. Or, fill the saucer with pebbles so the excess water collects in the pebbles. This saves you the work of pouring off excess water. If you tend to over-water, use unglazed clay pots. These dry out faster and reduce risk of over-watering.

Under-watering can also cause leaf edges to brown. Wilted and limp leaves mean you let the soil get too dry. Check soil moisture more often, and increase watering frequency to eliminate leaf browning.

Pot-bound houseplants are also more subject to brown leaf edges. The soil in a root-bound houseplant is filled with roots. This reduces the amount of water that can be held in the soil. This lack of water can also cause brown leaf edges, so increase the watering frequency or repot the plant into a larger diameter container. The larger container and new soil mix will reduce the frequency of watering. Check the soil to determine how often you need to water your newly transplanted houseplant.

Chlorine, fluoride, and water softening salts can also cause brown leaf tips and edges. Avoid using softened water for houseplants. Prevent tip burn on draceanas, spider plants, prayer plants, and other sensitive plants by using rain water, melted snow, or water from your dehumidifier on these sensitive plants.

Over-fertilizing can also cause leaf browning. Fertilize no more than once or twice a month from March through November. Use a very diluted solution of fertilizer if you fertilize more frequently. Plants grown in a soil-less mix benefit from frequent fertilization since the soil-less mixes do not hold on to the nutrients. Check the fertilizer label and needs of the plant to develop a fertilization schedule.

You can reduce further damage caused by over-fertilizing by leaching the soil to wash out excess fertilizer. To do this, place the plant in a laundry tub or bathtub, then water the soil until the excess runs out the bottom of the container. Wait 20 minutes and water again. Repeat this procedure 1 or 2 times. Leaching will wash out excess fertilizer.

Feeding activities of insects and spider mites can cause leaves to turn brown. Check the stems and undersides of leaves for signs of insects. Diseases can also cause leaves to turn brown. Spots, blotches, and blighted areas on leaves are often caused by disease organisms. You can control many disease problems by removing infected leaves as they appear and by using proper watering techniques.

Hope this information helps you determine just what might be causing the problems with your plant.

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