Purple waffle plants, as the name suggests, are special due to their purplish, waffle-textured leaves. They are also known by several other names, such as metal leaf plant, red flame ivy, waffle plant, and red ivy. Their cascading foliage makes for great indoor or patio decor, whether grown in a hanging basket or as a tabletop plant.
But, when their leaves begin to look crispy with browned tips or edges, these plants are clearly not in their best shape. There are many possible reasons your waffle plant might begin to look like it is dying, with underwatering being the leading cause.
Read on to learn what causes purple waffle plants to develop crispy leaves, and what you can do to help your plant bounce back to health!
Purple waffle plant care basics
If you are looking for a tropical plant with exotic beauty to improve your living space, then you might find the purple waffle plant a good option. What most gardeners love about this tropical perennial is its unique oval leaves, which spread beautifully in different shades of purple. At first glance, you might consider the crinkly texture of their leaves similar to that of a waffle, which is how these plants got their nickname.
The bold, purple color and exotic texture are the greatest features of this plant that make it so special. But do not feel intimidated by this unique appearance – these plants are actually quite easy to care for.
The number one thing you need to understand when caring for these tropical beauties is proper watering. Purple waffle plants love moisture, but they do not like overwatered soil. Growers are advised to test the top two inches of soil with a finger or a soil moisture meter to determine its level of dryness and avoid under- or overwatering. Under normal weather conditions, these plants are happy with once-weekly watering. However, during dry periods, you may need to increase your plant’s hydration to protect it from dehydration.
And what about sunlight? Yes – purple waffle plants need a bit of sunshine, but they generally do not do well in full, direct sunlight. Hence, they are best placed on a patio or in any shaded area in your home to protect their delicate leaves from burning.
The soil type and quality matter, too! Like most houseplants, purple waffles prefer a moist, well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. Avoid using compact or sandy soil; neither of these will be appropriate. Additionally, keep your fertilizer application and watering habits in check! To enrich the soil, you can add fertilizer and compost several times a year – particularly during the plant’s growing season.
Purple waffle plant crispy leaves – common causes
Brown, crispy leaves should never be taken lightly. Not only are they unsightly; they are also signs of distress in your plant, indicating either extreme moisture loss or injury which requires your immediate attention.
To troubleshoot the crispy leaves of your purple waffle plant, check out the most common causes summarized below:
When it comes to caring for tropical perennials like the purple waffle plant, adequate watering is really important. These plants are used to living in warm, humid conditions, and this means they grow best in moist soil.
Issues will arise if your plant does not get sufficient water, particularly during the dry season. When the soil becomes extremely dry, the roots will not be able to cope with the plant’s moisture requirements. The elevated temperatures during this season cause the leaves to lose a lot of moisture through transpiration, and because the roots are unable to replenish the lost moisture, the leaves will turn brown and crispy from dehydration.
The leaves of an underwatered purple waffle will also droop and wilt as the plant tissue loses turgidity. In the long run, the affected plant will stop growing to reserve its remaining resources for survival. If the neglect continues, it will eventually die.
Usually, it is easier to revive an underwatered plant than an overwatered one. All you need to do is increase your watering, particularly during the hotter seasons. Also keep an eye on the soil – does it look crumbly and very light in color? Then it is probably bone-dry. To solve this, give the plant a good soak in a sink full of water, until all of the soil has been saturated. Once done, make sure that any excess water can drain out, to prevent any standing water around the roots.
From then on, make sure your purple waffle plant receives about an inch of water every week. During the dry season, you might need to increase this amount and give your plant a drink every two days or so. But make sure never to overwater it – purple waffles do not like to sit in overly saturated soil. As mentioned before, assess the soil visually or feel the top two inches with your finger to know whether it is dry or damp. Using a soil moisture meter can also help to give you a more accurate reading.
2. Using terracotta pots
Terracotta pots are classic containers with neutral colors and elegant shapes. However, you need to keep in mind that these pots are porous and can quickly absorb moisture from the soil, making them the ideal option for plants that prefer dry soil. However, moisture-loving plants like the purple waffle might not appreciate the breathable features of these pots.
Instead, consider using plastic or ceramic pots, as these containers help the soil retain more moisture. Just make sure your pots have enough drainage holes to prevent standing water and root rot.
3. Low humidity
If the air in your growing area is too dry, there is a chance that your plants will turn brown and crispy. Purple waffle plants prefer a bit of humidity to thrive, just like in their native tropical environment. Unfortunately, achieving and maintaining the right humidity for your plants can be challenging, especially during the winter months.
Plants that are exposed to less-than-ideal humidity will lose moisture daily. Similar to underwatering, symptoms like wrinkling, browning, and wilting will start to manifest.
To solve this issue, a little help from a humidifier will usually suffice. Simply adjust the humidifier to achieve the optimal humidity level in your indoor space. You can also move your purple waffle plant to your bathroom, as this is the most humid room in the house. Another alternative you might consider is misting. However, of all these methods, using a humidifier is the safest and most effective to improve your indoor climate.
Lastly, do not place your purple waffle plant near heat sources like furnaces, heating stoves, or unit heaters. Plants that sit too close (about nine feet or less) to a heating device will develop brown leaf tips and dry foliage. As much as possible, we need to protect their delicate leaves from heat stress and dry air to prevent dehydration.
4. Too much sunlight exposure
Purple waffle plants like partial or indirect sunlight to maintain their bushy foliage. Too much sunlight can harm their leaves, causing them to turn brown and dry out. This issue is commonly known as leaf scorch.
Leaf scorch is a physiological issue that affects purple waffle plants due to unfavorable growing conditions. When your plants are unable to absorb enough water to keep them hydrated in the intense summer heat, the leaves lose their moisture and become vulnerable to injury. Unfortunately, once the leaves have turned brown and died, they can never be revived or return to their healthy color.
To revive a purple waffle plant with papery leaves, you first need to remove the dead sections to encourage new growth. Most importantly, transfer the plant to an area with more filtered sunlight. If it is planted outdoors, you might need to consider transplanting it to a shadier location.
Leaves that have turned brown and crispy are a clear sign that your purple waffle plant is losing too much moisture. Your priority is to identify and address the underlying issue to save the plant from dying – whether the cause is long-term neglect or more recent drought. Hopefully, this guide can help you get to the bottom of the problem in time to nurture your dying plant back to perfect health!
Image: istockphoto.com / Roman Tiraspolsky