Monstera plants are extremely popular in the United States, loved for their beautiful leaves which are split into patterns that give them a truly unique look.
In fact, these plants are so loved that the image of the leaf has become a staple of interior design, such as wallpaper, soft furnishings, and artwork.
Monstera plants are native to tropical rainforests, which means they have a specific set of preferences when it comes to their ideal living conditions.
One of the most common problems encountered by monstera owners is when their plants’ leaves turn brown. This is an indication that one or more environmental factors are causing plant stress, and you will have to determine the exact cause in order to fix the problem.
The most common causes of browning monstera leaves are not enough water, too much water, too much sunlight, temperature changes, fungal diseases, low humidity, too much fertilizer, transplant stress, and damage to the plant.
If you are currently experiencing this problem with your own monstera and want to learn how to resolve the problem, keep reading.
Why are my monstera’s leaves turning brown?
Not enough water
Thanks to its natural ability to climb and grow on tree trunks, the monstera can withstand periods without rain. Other mechanisms, such as its aerial roots, aid in the collection of moisture from the surrounding environment.
However, since soil nutrients are water-soluble, water is also an essential component of the plant’s nutrient uptake. Following the absorption of nutrients by the root system, the xylem tissue of the plant transports those nutrients to other parts of the plant.
Without water, this entire process would be impossible and the plant would be unable to carry on its normal physiological processes. In your monstera, this can cause cells in the plant’s leaves to die, making them more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Browning and curling monstera leaves are common signs of soil dehydration. In this case, the potting soil will be completely dry, and the pot will feel much lighter than normal. The leaves may also be drooping.
A thorough soak in water is necessary if your monstera has been chronically underwatered. Place the pot in a sink half-filled with water and allow the soil to soak up the water through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Another method is to thoroughly water the pot and watch to see if the water drains through the drainage holes at the bottom. Continue to water the soil until it is completely saturated, and then only water the plant again once the top two inches of soil have dried out.
Too much water
If you notice dark brown spots on the leaves of your monstera, it is likely that you have overwatered it. Approximately 80 percent of all monstera problems are caused by overwatering, which occurs because growers have difficulty correctly estimating the precise water requirements of their plants.
Most people make the mistake of sticking to a rigid watering schedule, rather than paying attention to their plants and checking the condition of their soil. The amount of water required is determined by a number of environmental factors, which can change according to the time of year and the climate where you live.
Monsteras are not great fans of being forced to sit in wet soil. To avoid overwatering, use pots with drainage holes to ensure good drainage and chunky soil that is light and airy.
If your plant is overwatered for too long, it can develop root rot. The compromised roots will be less able to absorb nutrients and moisture from the soil, which can cause the plant to become dehydrated, resulting in browning leaves or leaf edges.
A severe case of root rot can kill your plant if left untreated.
If you suspect root rot in your monstera, you will have to remove it from its pot to check the roots. Once the plant is unpotted, remove as much soil as you can from the roots, as gently as possible – overwatered roots will be fragile and can get damaged very easily.
Inspect all of the roots and look for sections that have turned brown or black. These roots are rotten and you will have to remove them. Use a sterile knife or pruning shears to do this, until only the healthy, white roots remain.
Lay the plant on a dry surface to allow the roots to air-dry for a few hours, and half-fill a new pot with a fresh potting mix. Place the plant in the middle of the pot and cover the roots with more potting mix. Then, place your plant in a spot where it can get bright, indirect light and good air circulation.
A simple solution to avoid overwatering your monstera in the future is to always check the soil before watering it. If you usually water your plant on a weekly basis but you find the soil is still moist on watering day, just skip the watering for that week.
Too much sunlight
Bright but indirect sunlight is ideal for your monstera. If exposed to direct sunlight, it can become sunburnt.
Plants grown in a southern room are the most likely to get sunburnt. The intense heat causes the moisture in the leaves to transpire too rapidly, drying them out. This leads to browning leaf tips initially, and the rest of the leaf eventually, the longer the plant is kept in these harsh lighting conditions.
It is not necessary to remove the brown, sunburnt leaves; they will not regenerate, but you can prune them off if you wish to maintain your monstera’s green appearance.
Place your plant near a north- or east-facing window to give it the best lighting throughout the day. If the only windows in your home let in harsh light, keep the plant five to six feet away from the window or hang a sheer curtain to help diffuse the light’s intensity.
Artificial lighting can serve as a great alternative for your monstera if you happen to live in a place where sunlight is scarce during the colder months.
Monsteras are tropical plants that are accustomed to warmer climates. If you live in a place with cold winters, you will need to keep your plant comfortable in temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
A monstera that is exposed to sudden temperature changes, whether hotter or colder, can develop brown leaves due to temperature stress. The longer the plant is kept in either temperature extreme, the more damage it will suffer.
Keep your monstera away from radiators or heating vents in your home, because the heat and warm drafts can dry it out quickly. Likewise, air conditioning vents and cold drafts that filter through window and door cracks can also dry it out.
If you think your monstera’s leaves are turning brown because of temperature changes, move it to a space with a more stable temperature. Even plants that are well-adjusted to temperature changes outdoors still need to be taken indoors before the frost starts.
Leaves that are damaged from temperature stress will not revert to their vibrant green color, so if their presence bothers you, prune them off using sterile pruning shears.
Fungal diseases can also turn the leaves of your monstera brown.
One example is anthracnose, which is a fungal disease that attacks via open wounds on the plant’s surface. An infected monstera’s leaves will turn yellow and eventually brown.
Another fungal disease is eyespot, caused by the Spilocaea oleagina fungus. The first symptom of eyespot in monsteras is the presence of brown spots on the leaves that have yellow borders. There may also be reddish, white, or yellow spots on the leaves.
If you think that the browning of your monstera’s leaves is due to a fungal infection, prune off the affected leaves using sterile pruning shears.
If a leaf only has a few spots, you can forgo pruning it and treat it instead with baking soda spray. To make this, mix a teaspoon of baking soda into a quart of water and spray this solution on the affected leaves.
To prevent fungal diseases, avoid overwatering your plant and make sure the humidity around it is not too high. Fungi favor a wet, humid environment, and depriving them of this is key to disease prevention.
Monsteras like more humidity than most houseplants. If you live in a climate with low humidity and where the air is dry, this might be why your monstera’s leaves are turning brown. In dry climates, the plant’s leaves lose moisture more quickly and will easily turn brown because of this.
When a monstera is dehydrated because of low humidity, the symptoms will be similar to those of an underwatered plant: the edges and tips of the leaves will curl up and turn brown.
Ideally, you should try to keep the humidity in the plant’s room at around 50 to 60 percent.
If you think that the brown leaves on your monstera are due to low humidity, there are some measures you can take to help it out.
First, you can mist the plant’s leaves with water every once in a while. When done correctly, misting can be an easy solution to the problem, but it can be tricky to perfect because overdoing it can lead to fungal growth.
You can also place the plant in a humid part of the house, such as the bathroom. The damp environment of the shower instantly makes this space more humid.
You can also place the plant’s pot over a tray filled with pebbles and water, so that as the water evaporates, it can moisten the leaves as well as the soil in the plant’s pot.
If you have other plants that like humidity, try placing these close to the monstera so that they can all create a microclimate around each other.
Lastly, if you have the means, you can buy a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity in the room where you keep your monstera.
Too much fertilizer
Overfertilization can also cause brown monstera leaves.
Too much fertilizer in the soil will cause damaging mineral salts to form around the plant’s roots. This prevents your plant from effectively absorbing nutrients and water from the soil, and the result is symptoms such as yellowing or browning leaves.
To correct overfertilization, use a large amount of water to flush the soil and remove the excess fertilizer and mineral salts. It is best to use distilled water or rainwater to do this. Keep pouring water into the pot until all of the soil is soaked, and then wait for the water to drain out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Repeat the process four more times to make sure that most of the fertilizer has been flushed out.
Flush the plant’s soil again when the top two inches of soil are dry to the touch. You are basically combining watering and flushing, so make sure not to flush the soil before the plant actually needs to be watered. Keep flushing the soil for as long as it takes for the plant to make a full recovery.
After this, avoid fertilizing your monstera for three months to give it enough time to use up any fertilizer that might still be in the soil.
Monstera leaves can also turn brown because of transplant stress. This typically happens when the plant has just been brought home from the store.
Remember that the plant has been growing in the store’s nursery for months and has become accustomed to that specific set of living conditions. The moment you take the plant out of the store, it is immediately exposed to different temperatures, humidity levels, and light intensities. This is stressful for the plant, and it will need a few days to adjust to its new environment. A stressed monstera will display its discomfort through the drooping, yellowing, or browning of its leaves.
The best thing you can do in this situation is to try to simulate the plant’s ideal living conditions in your home. This will make the transition a lot easier and it should be able to bounce back to its normal vibrancy in a matter of weeks.
Damage to the plant
Physical damage to your monstera can also cause its leaves to turn brown. It may be damaged through improper handling during transport or repotting; its stems and leaves can break or tear if you are not careful.
Your pets can also damage the plant while playing near it or by intentionally destroying it out of boredom or curiosity. The same can be said about small children that may be drawn to the monstera’s foliage.
Exercise caution whenever you need to move your monstera. Try to limit physically handling the plant unless necessary, especially when it is quite young.
If you have small children or pets, keeping the plant out of their reach is not only for the plant’s safety but for that of your children and pets. Monsteras are mildly toxic to both humans and animals, so maintaining a safe distance is important.
If your monstera has broken a stem below a node, you can place this broken section in a glass of water and wait for new roots to grow from the node. You will be able to grow a whole new plant with it. If the stem breaks above a node, you cannot use it for propagation, but could still use the stem and leaf as a part of a flower arrangement in a vase.
Monsteras are some of the most popular houseplants in the United States, thanks to their beautiful, large leaves, patterned with uniquely pretty slits and fenestrations. They are native to tropical climates and therefore have a preferred set of living conditions that could make it difficult to grow them in a different climate.
One of the most common problems that monstera owners encounter is when the leaves of their plants turn brown. This is an indication that there is at least one environmental factor causing plant stress.
The most common causes of browning monstera leaves are insufficient watering, too much water, too much sunlight, temperature changes, fungal diseases, low humidity, too much fertilizer, transplant stress, and damage to the plant. The sooner you can pinpoint which of these is the cause of your plant’s discolored leaves, the sooner you can nurse it back to full health.
Image: istockphoto.com / twinsterphoto