Ask the Expert: What to do about browning leaves I have a Peace Lily plant, which is about 10 months old. I do have it sitting in front of a window in the center of my family room. The leaves are starting to droop and many of the leaves are turning brown. How do I revive this plant and should I cut off the leaves that are brown, and if so, where should I clip them? Sharon
First, we must determine the cause of the browning leaves. Light, water and fertilizer can all be a factor in the browning of peace lily leaves. Exposure to direct light can cause the leaves to turn yellow; showing a burnt appearance. Water, whether too much or too little, can cause peace lilies to wilt and the leaf edges to turn yellow or brown. Over-fertilization or too heavy a concentration of fertilizer can create leaves with brown spots that will eventually cover the entire leaf.
All of these factors can be overcome. Start by trimming the brown leaves off,follow the leaf stem to the base of the plant and cut off.
If light is causing a problem, move the plant at least a foot away from the light source. The new leaves should emerge green and stay green – problem solved.
If water is causing the problem, we need to determine whether it is too much or not enough. First check for drainage – if the drainage holes are blocked and the plant has been setting in water – then over-watering is the culprit. Clean the drainage holes and drain the excess water, then back off the watering until the plant is slightly dry. Water the plant so that the soil is moist but not soggy.
Easy water test – Stick finger in soil down to the second knuckle and put out a small amount of soil – soil is too dry, if you can not roll it into a ball – soil is too wet, if you can roll it into a ball and squeeze water from it – soil is just right if you can roll into a ball, but can’t squeeze water from it. You can, also, purchase a houseplant moisture meters at your local garden center to help with your watering.
If the plant has been too dry, the soil will be dry and will have pulled away from the container. Simply water the plant; making sure not to over-water it. It is important to keep the plant evenly moist. Plants that are exposed to the extremes of both conditions are more susceptible to diseases and insects.
If the peace lily has been over-fertilized you can flush it with clear water – be sure not to cause an over-watering problem. You can, also, re-pot the peace lily into fresh unfertilized soil. Either way, it will take a few weeks for the peace lily to rebound. Be sure not to fertilize during this time.
Whatever the reason and the solution, the peace lily will need a little time to recover. You might want to read our Caring for Peace Lilies page; it contains a lot of useful information. Good luck.