African violets have a reputation for being delicate, but they’re actually quite hardy when grown in the proper conditions. However, if something is off in your plant’s environment, it will quickly start to send visual cues. Changing leaf colors are one of the first (and most common) indicators your plant needs a little TLC. This beginner-friendly guide takes a closer look at why African violet leaves turn brown, and how you can help your plant get back on track!
Let’s take a closer look at the following 5 common culprits causing your African violet’s leaves to turn brown.
1. Natural Aging
African violets grow from the crown outward, meaning their oldest leaves are the ones closest to the soil. When these leaves reach the end of their natural life cycle, they turn brown and will eventually detach from the plant completely. Don’t panic! This is completely natural.
If only the bottom layer of leaves are turning brown and the remaining foliage looks healthy, natural aging is probably the culprit. You can either remove these leaves yourself or let them fall off with time—either way, your plant will be just fine!
Houseplant Pro Tip: African violets can develop a trunk-like, exposed neck if they drop their lower leaves. Over time, this can make your plant vulnerable to toppling over. To prevent this, repot your plant and bury it up to the lowest layer of healthy leaves, covering the neck.
2. Water Leaf Spotting
FAQ: What causes brown spots on African violet leaves?
One reason why African violet leaves turn brown is due to their extreme sensitivity to water. In the wild, these plants are protected from heavy rain and direct sunlight by the forest canopy. Unfortunately, the conditions in your living room are (usually!) quite different than the jungle floor, so you’ve got to take extra care to protect your plant’s leaves from sun and water. If exposed to sunlight while wet, their delicate leaves will burn and develop brown spots.
How to Prevent Leaf Spotting
- Bottom-watering is the easiest way to avoid accidentally getting your plant’s leaves wet. This handy guide to watering your African violet will help you perfect your bath-time routine.
- If you get water on the leaves by mistake, remove as soon as possible with a soft, dry towel.
- It’s good to periodically clean your plant’s leaves to prevent dust and debris buildup, but always use a soft, slightly damp towel. No water should be left behind.
- If your plant develops water spots on its leaves, they’ll need to be removed. Don’t worry, your plant will survive (just make sure to let it know it’s still pretty!)
3. Soil Issues
Soil is an essential component of your plant’s health. Unfortunately, unless you have X-ray vision, it’s hard to tell if your plant is struggling below ground. Often, the first place your plant will send up the SOS is through leaf changes. Let’s take a closer look at three reasons why soil issues can make African violet leaves turn brown.
- Overwatering: Too much water causes your plant’s soil to become saturated with the water it can’t absorb. Over time, this will choke its delicate roots and cause its leaves to brown—eventually leading to the death of your plant. Use a soil moisture meter to determine when it’s time to water.
- Dense soil: African violets need fluffy, well-aerated soil to thrive. Conventional soil is much too heavy for your plant’s delicate roots and retains too much water for adequate levels of oxygen to permeate. Remedy this issue with specialty African violet potting mix.
- Old soil: Over time, your plant will deplete all available nutrients for the soil. Although you can replenish the nutrients with fertilizer, eventually you’ll need to replace the exhausted soil with fresh potting mix. If you’ve eliminated all other reasons why African violet leaves turn brown, it might be time for a soil refresh!
4. Leaf Scorch
Just like you, African violets will sunburn if exposed to the sun for too long. This can cause your plant to develop dry, brown spots on the tips of its leaves. In the most severe cases, overexposure to sunlight can be deadly, so you’ll want to move it to a more suitable location as soon as you notice these symptoms.
How to revive an African violet that has been overexposed to sunlight
First stop: Shade! Place your plant in a well-lit room away from the window. Avoid sunny window sills and opt for mantles, dining-room tables, or anywhere your plant is protected from harsh, direct rays. Unfortunately, sun-scorched leaves won’t recover and will need to be removed. Your plant, however, should bounce right back!
5. Too Much Fertilizer
The final common reason why African violet leaves turn brown is overfertilization. If your plant’s leaves are brown and crispy around the edges, this might be the culprit. Examine the pot for salt buildup on the soil, the leaves, or near the rim. If you identify buildup, gently flush the soil with room-temperature water (avoiding the leaves!). Withhold fertilization for one month before slowly resuming your normal schedule. We recommend using a liquid, urea-free fertilizer to give your plant a steady, gentle dose of nutrients every time you water.
Our African violet fertilizer FAQ tells you more!
There are many reasons why African violet leaves turn brown. If you have additional questions—or simply want to add your two cents!—join the conversation in the comments section below!
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