African violets have green leaves and bright flowers when they are healthy and growing well. These plants are native to the rainforests of Tanzania, where they grow in very specific conditions that may be hard to replicate in other parts of the world. Because the U.S. climate is too unpredictable to grow African violets properly, they are only grown indoors here.
If the leaves on your African violet are turning brown, it is because an environmental factor is causing the plant stress, and the stress is causing the leaves to discolor.
The most common causes of browning African violet leaves are overfeeding, low humidity, poor air circulation, and overwatering.
In this article, we will look further into each of these causes, and discuss how to remedy your plant’s browning leaves.
What causes African violet leaves to turn brown?
One of the most common mistakes made by African violet growers is giving their plant too much fertilizer. These plants are very sensitive to the effects of fertilizer, so you should use it sparingly, or at least use a gentle solution.
The most obvious symptom of overfeeding is burnt the leaf tips, or the browning of the leaves’ edges.
You may also notice the buildup of mineral salts on the plant itself, as well as on the soil and the rim of the pot. The leaves will eventually become wilted and brittle, and if the buildup reaches toxic levels, it can kill the plant.
Remedy the situation by repeatedly flushing the soil in the pot with lukewarm water until the excess water flows out from the bottom of the pot. When about five cups’ worth of water has drained from the bottom of the pot, that should be enough.
Repeat this procedure every couple of months to remove any mineral salt buildup from the soil.
Avoid fertilizing the plant for a few months until you are sure that you have removed most of the buildup. The next time you fertilize it, dilute the fertilizer in water to less than half-strength so that the possibility of build up is reduced.
2. Low humidity
Because the African violets’ natural habitat is the Tanzanian rainforest, they are accustomed to relatively high humidity. Low humidity and dry air are these plants’ mortal enemies, and they need humidity between 70 and 80 percent to remain healthy.
They can tolerate humidity levels in the 60s, but never go below 50% because this will be detrimental to the plant.
When the plant is surrounded by dry air, it will use up the moisture in its leaves faster than its roots can absorb water to make up for this. This will cause the leaves to dry out and turn brown.
Remedy the situation by increasing the ambient humidity around the plant. You can do this by grouping the plant with other plants that also like high humidity. If these plants are close to one another, they will create a microclimate that benefits all the plants in the group.
You can also use a pebble tray filled with water and place it underneath the plant’s pot. As the water evaporates, it will slightly moisten the soil in the pot and will be absorbed by the plant’s leaves.
Alternatively, if you have the money to spare, you can buy a humidifier to increase the humidity in the room where you keep your plant.
3. Poor air circulation
Another reason your African violet’s leaves are turning brown may be poor air circulation.
This goes hand in hand with humidity, because humid conditions require good air circulation to prevent the fungal growth that is encouraged by the moisture in the air.
Remedy poor air circulation around the plant by moving it to a spot where the air flow is better and more consistent. If you prefer the plant to stay where it is, you can improve the air circulation by opening doors and windows near the plant for several hours a day.
Make sure the drafts entering the house are not too strong, or too cold or hot. These drafts can also cause browning and curling of the leaves.
When the soil in the plant’s pot is too wet, it will cause brown spots and drooping leaves on your African violet.
Letting the plant stand in waterlogged soil can cause the roots to die and decay. The compromised roots will become easy targets for opportunistic pathogens, causing the rot to spread faster to the rest of the plant. Once the stem is affected, the leaves will become soft and mushy and the plant will die.
There are many factors that can lead to overwatering. You may be giving the plant more water than it needs every time you water it, watering it more frequently than it needs, using soil that is too dense and poorly-draining, using a pot without drainage holes, or watering the plant at night when the soil takes longer to dry out than during the day.
Save an overwatered African violet by changing the soil and the pot, and removing any rotten parts of the roots.
Also learn how to tell when you should water the plant. Touch the soil first, and if it is dry, water the plant. If it is still moist, wait one or two days before checking again.
The leaves on your African violet are turning brown because there is a change in the plant’s living conditions that is causing it stress, leading to the browning of its foliage.
The most common causes of browning African violet leaves are overfeeding, low humidity, poor air circulation and overwatering. The sooner you correct these problems, the faster your African violet will recover from this leaf discoloration.
Image: istockphoto.com / Nadya So