Why are my plant's leaves turning yellow and brown???

asia122January 2, 2008

My housplant's leaves are turning yellow and brown. I do not know the cause and need some advice.

Here are some pictures of the plant:

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Asial, I think your plant is the "aspidistra" elatior...the cast iron plant. This plant, true to its name is a tough plant to do harm to because it stands up to adversity much better than most. It takes low light situations but demands higher humidity. In the place you have it, it does seem to be where humidity is not its strong point.

It is also hard to tell--the bottom of the pot isn't shown in your pictures...cant tell whether you have something there to catch drainage. Possibly the pot is of plastic make up which does hold moisture longer than say...clay.

It would serve you better to tell us in what kind of exposure...i.e. in what kind of light you have it...from what direction.
While Aspidistra can take low-light...it has to have SOME light and when the sun is as low as it is at this time, it may be crying out for more sunlight.

The conditions suggests possible causes for the browning of leaves. Overwatering is the one most often cause of what you see. The plant, as suggested, looks like it doesn't drain well. Plants must drain, otherwise, water builds up in and around their roots which in very short time starts to rot and once that starts, there's hardly any plant that can stand up to it. Leaves are the first sign.

Your plant should be kept on the moist side...but that doesn't mean it can be kept wet or soggy. That begets rotting roots.
Moist just means it is watered more often keeping the soil a little damper than usual....but it must drain properly.

The water should not be cold. From out of the tap, water should be allowed to gain room temperature before applying.
That can be easily accomplished by lett it sit overnight. Your plant doesn't need fertilizing in winter....feed it only when it begins to grow in spring. Water a houseplant first before fertilizing.
Sometimes when water has a too-high concentration of salts, that can also cause browning tips and edges. The overnighting can help in this.

If you give it more light by putting it closer to a window, you can try giving it a northern exposure which is very low at this time. As sunlight improves toward February, draw it back from the light. Give it a position behind curtains but yet allows good light.

Your plant's leaves can be clipped back with a sharp pair of scissors. Any dead or dying leaves can be removed.
The brown tips can be improved with the giving it of some humidity. A pebble tray...that is, a tray with gravel that you add water to just below the top of the gravel to which you then set the plant on. The bottom of the pot must not make contact with the water. The heat of the room will cause moisture to rise.
A once in a while misting of the plant can be done to also supply some moisture content to the room which, with the furnace on, can be very dry.
Sometimes, where heat vents are close by, the high nightime temperatures of the room can cause yellowing of leaves.
Keep the plant out of drafts....away from heat vents or doors that are constantly opened and closed. If its possible, to give it more light at this time, raise it.
Put it on a table or pedestal.

If, as I suspect, your plant has been overwatered due to poor drainage, you must correct that. The condition of the plant might warrant a look-see at the roots to make sure they are not rotting. This normally calls for the plnnt to be unpotted. If the soil there is unusually damp or wet, you can place the blame at the feet of your watering habits.
A complete change of soil may be called for in which case you can use any good potting soil or potting mix.
Do see to its good drainage. Water it well, let it drain and don't let the plant sit in the drainage water much longer than 10 minutes before you dump it.

If you suspect it is not a watering problem, then look to possible invasion of pests and treat accordingly.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 9:44PM
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The plant is a Dracaena fragrans massangeana (corn plant). Aspidistra is a whole different thing.

My guess would be that the plant is too wet, but it's very hard to say because you don't tell us anything about the conditions they're in. How much light are they getting? Window or artificial? If a window, which direction does it face? How do you decide when to water? How often do you wind up watering? Are you feeding the plant? How often? Is it in a draft, or a heating vent? What's the usual temperature in this location? Has anything in the plant's environment changed in the last month or two? How long have you had the plant? Etc.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 10:36PM
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This plant is Dracaena fragrans with a watering issue.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 10:38PM
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I agree with mr-subjunctive it is not a Aspidistra. It is so far from a Aspidistra it isn't even funny. It's definately a Dracaena aka corn plant.
Overwatering is the number 1 cause of dying houseplants.
Yellow leaves are a symptom of over and underwatering.
It appears the soil may not have any perlite or other course material to allow it to drain so the roots are always wet.
Check the roots to see if rotting, they will be brown and mushy. If so, repot it in proper soil and do not fertilize until it recovers and the leaves aren't droopy.
The less light the plant gets the less water it mostly likely will need.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 11:00PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Definately a Dracena, I couldn't say which, but no way Aspidistra.

I grew this a very long time ago, never saw this problem. Looks more to me like underwatering or too dry. I too would cut off the damaged leaf tips, if you can picture it, cut it back just past the damage, trying to cut & shape like the original leaf silhoutte.

If it were mine, I'd unpot it to see what's going on w/ the mix, is it drying up & hardening off, is it losing roots?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 1:50AM
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maidinmontana(Zone 5 Billings MT)

I have one of those but mine is full all the way down to the soil level in the pot. It doesn't get watered as often as my other plants, but I never let it get really dry either, when I do water it it is just enought to dampen the soil, not make it spongy. Mine is in a ceramic pot which doesn't dry out as fast and gets decent sunlight in the morning. I swear it grew 3' this past year. I just wish the stalks would get big like yours.

I noticed it looks like it is setting at the bottom or landing of a stairwell, could be a light issue, how long have you had it there? Yellowing to me has usually meant over watering but your soil looks to be on the dry side. Maybe it is an overdose of fertilizer?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 4:50PM
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I'd say the problem is either being kept too wet or too dry and maybe the light is too low as suggested.

Here's a link to an "Aspidistra" plant below.
As you can see, the dracaena fragrans (corn plant) plant in question, has long leaves and long tree like woody trunks and can grow as tall as the ceiling.

Billy Rae

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 5:28PM
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The leaves look shinny-I hope you aren't using a product to do that. I used to have a corn plant years ago. I too think over watering could be the problem. My helpful hint would be less is best. Check the plant with a magnifying glass to look for bugs. Make sure it gets some light and water it only after it is dry way down in the soil. Pick the pot up after you water it. In a week or 10 days lift the pot again. It should feel alot lighter if it needs water. Sometimes I have had to poke extra holes in the bottom of my planter to make sure the water is draining out. If your plant doesn't have drainage you will probably need to repot-but not in a bigger pot. Good Luck

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 10:42PM
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Mentha(9 CA)

I'm with toots,
Look for spider mites. It also looks like fertilizer burn. The soil doesn't look too moist, but with the glazed pot, it could be down further. I'd do a flush with water and give it a nice warm soapy shower and see if it perks up a bit. Then let it dry before watering again. I'd also get a moisture meeter if you're going to keep it in a glazed pot, to make sure ti dries out between waterings.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2008 at 12:42AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

I'm fairly certain your corn plant is suffering from overwatering - the brown tips with the yellow stripes suggest that. Underwatering tends to make a faded, pale yellow leaf that is more evenly yellow, not just at the end. This plant needs to get almost completely dry all the way down in the pot before you water again, every time.

It doesn't look like spider mites or other pests. Could be fertilizer burn - I have discovered that plants moved from bright light to low light often show symptoms of fertilizer burn from existing fertilizer in the soil, even if you haven't added any more.

It also looks like it could use more light, if that's possible for you.

You can take a sharp scissors and recut the tips of the leaves into a point if you want to improve its looks. I wouldn't worry about the leaf shine - it's not a big issue. I personally don't like the water meters - I find that using your finger is much more accurate.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2008 at 11:50PM
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asia122, I see three stalks; the tallest appears to be without the symptoms. Whatever the condition, I expect that this stalk will eventually show symptoms.
Examine the shoots that show the symptoms. Are they firm if you try to gently twist them in any direction? If you are in doubt, do the same with the shoots on the 'healthy' stalk for comparison. Is the 'neck' of these shoots constricted rather like pencil-necking of outdoor queen palms? Again use the healthy stalk or any healthy 'Mass. cane' stalk for comparison. Is there any (especially black) discoloration? Any of these symptom can indicate that the shoot is dying. From there, go to the stalk to which the shoot is attached. Try to determine whether the bark is firm or separating. Lightly grip the stalk and twist/massage it and you will feel the bark wanting to slip or slide over the stalk. If any of this happens, it might indicate that a rot has set in; sometimes this appears to be moving downward and the stalk can sprout healthy shoots lower down or you can induce this by cutting back the stalk to healthy tissue. The cut surface should be sealed with wax. If the rot is moving upward, there is little hope for that stalk. Someone posted that a black spot may be observed on the stalk when the rot has set in. I have not seen this on the 'Massangeana' or other cvs. of D. fragrans. I have seen a black band on the stalks of D. marginata and D.deremensis which later turned out to be a forewarning of bad things to come.
If no rot is indicated, then over watering should be an issue of interest, if not a prime suspect.
The plant appears to be 'direct planted' in a container that does not drain (I cannot be sure if there is a saucer under the container). Every instinct tells me that this is not good for the plant. You want to make sure that the potting mix is "dry enough" throughout the full depth. Use a dowel rod or similar probe to determine the condition right down to the bottom of the container. If there is evidence that there is water collecting in the bottom, that needs to be corrected yesterday. If it is only that the mix is merely 'wet', then you can ameliorate the condition by replacing some of the wet mix with dry mix. Scoop carefully from the top and work downward. You do not want to disturb or destroy the roots. They are probably six or more inches down but be careful. Replace with dry mix in small doses and firm down before adding more. The objective is to encourage the dry mix to 'suck up' the excess moisture from below. You will most likely be able to save that tall stalk if not all three.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2008 at 8:34AM
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I was having an issue with mild growing on the soil due to overwatering. To kill the mold and dry out the soil I made the mistake of placing it outside in direct sunlight. Needless to say the leaves are now burned and the green pigmentation is gone and the leaves are all yellow. Can I save this plant and return it back to it's healthy state?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 8:54PM
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@Spencer Florida Sounds like my plant is in the exact same condition,cant seem to find out if it can be returned to original state.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 3:22PM
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Just by looking at your picture I'm guessing its because of lack of light and heat. First of all that isn't a Iron plant as one person said. That is from dracaena fragrans family, common name "Corn Plant". Lets keep it simple. I don't think its from over watering just by looking at the soil. Its planted in pure peat moss by the look of it. I don't see perlite or vermiculite or a heavier soil that may hold the moisture. Straight peat moss has really no nutritional value and it doesn't hold moisture long or well. Most ceramic pots like you have in picture usually have a hole in bottom but no worries if it doesn't, that's easy to fix. You have it on the landing where your stairs are.It looked like you have it parked on a landing where natural light isn't getting to it. Do you have a heat register on one of the stairs that are blowing on the plant? If so there lies the other problem. In the winter the air is so dry already , but to have furnace blowing on it ta boot good thing it doesn't grow corn or it would be popping.
Solutions. It looks like it was planted recently and if it has no drain hole that's ok. Open a garbage bag and Take the plant out and empty the pot of soil. Put 3 or 4 crushed pop cans or pieces of styrfoam on the bottom of pot, fill 1/4 way. add some soil then your plant. dump remaining soil around plant until stable. Your plant now has drainage no roots rotting there. This plant thrives in North East North west windows.As long as its not direct sun its fine. Water once every three weeks. Not sure if it needs wate?, Stick your finger down in soil,if its moist don't water yet. Let it dry out between watering. Dirty finger verses overwatering, yyyaaa I have soap. The only time the plant does well in a draft is from mother nature not the monster that's blowing heat from downstairs. Advise is like a butt. Everyone has one and some just don't seem right.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2014 at 9:36PM
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four years latter and...............

    Bookmark   December 30, 2014 at 6:34PM
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I just read through this thread. It was kind of horrible. There was no consensus, except on the type of plant. Everybody said different things. And the OP never came back on to answer any questions or reply. Why was this thread resurrected? And why three times? And Michelle, in what way can we say about butts that some 'just dont seem right'? That doesnt even...I mean...it just, doesnt make sense. o_o

This post was edited by Lauraeli on Wed, Dec 31, 14 at 12:33

    Bookmark   December 31, 2014 at 12:31PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I would prolly explain why I disagree with almost all of the recent advice offered, BUTT the post is so old it has dinosaur poop on it.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2015 at 5:38PM
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Why three times you ask ... Why not ?

Seems first impresions count when read by the OP Example They ask a question they got a bunch of related info but nothitng really usful information including a plant ID debate to how warm it is when they water , how old a living dino is

Sometimes some folks followsensable directions someone else had given that ( WE as others) never got to read. A responce VIA private email may have helped or they read from the houseplants search or send a private email to someone else

Keeping peoples egos in check the original poster understood that It's not manditory nor is it required to respond directly to the forum regarding any plant growing results.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2015 at 2:00PM
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