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Are your leaves turning brown or yellow?

We all long for those lush green leaves, we want to be the envy of every plant parent there is! We scroll through social media and see pictures of these perfect plants that never incur pests and are always shown at the perfect angle. We all ask, what is their secret? Well let me tell you, there is no secret! Plants believe or not will turn brown or yellow at some point. But what causes that? Let us take a dive into the different scenarios of the ever-changing colors of the leaves.

How about we first look at root of the problem. We will do this by checking the root system. The root of all your plants problem (pun intended) tends to start there. We tend to forget about the roots as we do not often see them. The natural reaction is to water them which in turn can cause more problems. Different plants speak to us in different ways. Would you believe me if I said that some roots prefer to be in tighter more dense spaces than others? Take the Spathiphyllum (Peace Lilly) for instance. This is a plant that loves a tight space but is prone to becoming rootbound.

Rootbound occurs when there is not enough space inside the pot so the roots travel upward to find more lighting and spaces. In some cases, the roots will travel through the hole or holes at the bottom of the pot. This causes the leaves to turn yellow and droopy. Healthy roots are twined together in a circular shape or the shape of the pot.

Other issues can be Root Rot. This typically occurs when a plant has sat in water for too long which usually ties into over watering. As stated before, us plant parents will see a problem and naturally think that watering the plant will solve it. Roots hold water, some plants like the Zanzibar Gem (ZZ) have a water bubble specifically to release water at the proper time to prevent over watering. Root Rot can sometimes (not often) occur from bottom watering. Bottom watering is when you pour water into the dish and allow the roots and soil to soak up the water to nourish the plant from the bottom up. Not all plants prefer to be watered in this way. Some plants that are slow to catch the water will cause them to sit in the water. Or in some cases, they will not soak up all the water from the pot. Without noticing, we will water the plant from the top which will add to the already water this plant has been sitting in for days. Before soon we will see leaves starting to yellow.

As for brown leaves, this happens often when they receive too much bright direct sunlight. As much as we love to shower our plants with sun, too much for too long causes the leaves to burn. On average, about four hours a day of full sun is all a plant need. Depending on your region and time of year, typically the sun is at its highest beginning around 10am or 12pm and lasts for about four hours until the sun settles. This time can change with the seasons as well. Now that we have identified some possible reasons as to why your leaves are turning brown or yellow; what are some tips to combat the browning and yellowing of the leaves?

First, check the soil to see if it is wet or dry. The top 2-3 inches are the first to dry out. The middle and bottom portions hold the most water. If your top 2-3 inches of soil are dry, try sticking a long wooden object down into the soil. I prefer chopsticks, I eat a lot of Thai food, so I collect them 😉. It works as your personal dipstick! Once you pull the chopstick out, if the soil on the stick is wet then hold off on watering. If the soil is dry, it might be time to give your plant baby a bath. Remember to slow water and not dump a load of water on it. Going from completely or partially dry to being soaked can send the plant into shock.

Second, check the root system. We first learned that your plant could be asking for more space. If giving the plant the proper amount of water does not solve the problem, your plant may be looking for a new pot. If the plant is rootbound you want to start by loosing the roots. Gently pull the roots a part and careful not to force them. You will notice that the more bound the roots are, the less soil is in the pot and the more difficult it is to loosen them. Once you have loosened the roots, place the plant in a pot only two sizes larger than the previous pot. When repotting a plant, we repot based off root size and not leaf size.

Third, be sure to trim any brown or yellow parts of the leaves. The longer a yellow or brown leaf sit, the plant will force its nutrients to that leaf. Our plants are very thoughtful as they want to heal the dying leaves. We want the whole plant to receive these benefits. Trimming may cause the leaf to have a different shape. This is fine as you do not want to completely cut a leaf that stills has a relatively lively stem and roots.

And last, be sure to understand your plant. Each plant requires a different watering schedule, lighting conditions and pot size. I find it helpful to journal and keep a schedule of my plants needs. This allows me to care for each plant as needed and time for me to stop and genuinely enjoy the fruits of my labor. Do not feel weird to talk to them, you will find that if you are enjoying your morning coffee or tea, or even your wine or champagne, a little conversation goes a long way! If you aren't confident in caring for your plant babies, book a consultation with me! I enjoy reading about your experiences, like, share and comment below about how you deal with yellow or brown leaves. Don't forget to subscribe ;-)

~ Happy Haute Planting xoH2!

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