They look beautiful.

The plants in your garden are your pride and joy.

But you see brown tips on some of the leaves. And you don’t like what you see.

“Why is this happening?” you ask. You feel you have been treating your plants well.

You wonder, “Should I cut the brown tips?”. The plant should look better, right?

You should cut brown tips off your plant if you want to improve aesthetics. These brown tips don’t harm the plant. You should find the reason for the browning such as overwatering, underwatering, too much heat or fertilizer, lack of nutrients, or transplant shock. Use sharp scissors or pruners.

In this post, I’ll show you how you can cut the brown tips off the plant if you want to do so. I’ll help you figure out what is wrong with your plants and how you can fix the root cause that creates such brown tip problems in the first place.

Let’s help your plants. Together.

How do you cut the brown tips off the plant?

Brown tips are harmless to the plant, but they are symptoms that something is wrong. The issue could be overwatering, underwatering, lack of nutrients, over-fertilization, transplant shock, or pests and diseases.

So there is no purpose to cut the brown tips off the plant that benefits the plant. The only reason you may wish to do so is if you don’t like the look of the brown leaves. Or, if the leaf has turned more than 50% brown where it’s best to prune the entire leaf off the plant.

To cut the brown tips, make sure to use sharp scissors or garden shears. The sharp tool will help the plant heal faster.

If the tips are very brown remove the entire leaf as soon as possible, snipping it off close to the stem, but only if 50% or more of the leaf is brown. Cutting off the entire leaves allows the rest of the plant and the remaining healthy leaves to receive more nutrients and improve the plants chances. If there is less than 50% of the leaf that is brown I would advise keeping them on and give the plants a good feed and water. – Paul Davis, The Garden Warrior

I would recommend cleaning the tool with rubbing alcohol before each cut. This protects the plant from diseases that may infect the plant.

You can snip close to the brown edge rather than on the green part if you want to avoid stressing the plant.

If you want to keep the cut aesthetic, you can try to trim the brown edge in the tapered shape of the leaf. This may take some practice before you can create a perfect leaf shape.

I asked fellow gardeners whether they cut off brown tips leaves or leave them alone.44% preferred to cut the tips while 33% would investigate the root of the issue.

survey for cutting brown tips off plants

Why are the tips of my plant turning brown?

1. You are overwatering your plant

The most common reason for the brown tips is because you are overwatering the plant. The roots absorb moisture and send it to the foliage.

The moisture will reach the end of the leaves at the last. If the moisture is insufficient in the soil, the tips of the leaves will turn brown.

The danger with overwatering is the symptoms are the same as underwatering. So you need to identify the problem correctly and take suitable measures.

The simplest way to do this is to dig into the soil and check the roots. If they appear moist, soggy, and black with smell, they are suffering root rot. This is a common fungal problem when the roots are facing overwatering.

If a few roots face this issue, you need to take the plant out and cut off such roots. Then put the plant in another location or container with fresh soil.

To prevent overwatering, make sure to give just the proper watering to the plant. You should do this every day as you check your plant condition.

Check the surface of the soil for dryness. Stick your finger 1-2 inches into the soil and check if it’s dry. That’s the time to give the soil a good watering.

The most common reasons your plant leaves are turning brown is either because the growth has slowed down, which can be caused by lack of sunlight or too much fertilizer, or because you are overwatering. The brown tips on the leaves will also appear when the roots cannot take up water anymore, and this causes root rot (if that’s the case, you will notice wilting). – Stephen Webb, Founder, Garden Whisper

2. You are underwatering your plant

Underwatering will cause the same issue as overwatering, where the roots cannot send the required moisture to the leaves.

The difference from overwatering is that in this case, there is less moisture in the soil, and so the roots don’t get enough.

This is a problem but less severe than overwatering as the roots are not facing death. You need to water the plant well, and it will return to health.

To prevent underwatering, make sure to give just the proper watering to the plant. You should do this every day as you check your plant condition.

Check the surface of the soil for dryness. Stick your finger 1-2 inches into the soil and check if it’s dry. That’s the time to give the soil a good watering.

holy basil wilting
My holy basil plant that was wilting due to underwatering

3. The plant is getting excess sunlight

If the plant gets more sunlight than it needs, the tips of the leaves can turn brown.

Every plant needs a certain amount of sunlight to grow food. Some plants can grow in the shade without sunlight. Some need partial shade. Fruit and vegetable plants may need 6-8 hours at least.

If the plants get more sunlight than they are supposed to, the leaves may turn brown at the tips.

The solution is simple to avoid this. Grow the plant in a location that gets the required sunlight. Grow shade-loving plants in the shade. Grow partial shade plants in partial shade. And grow fruits and vegetables in full sunlight.

 4. The plant is facing a lot of heat

This problem may go together with the plant getting a lot of sunlight. The heat may be too much for the plant, and the leaves may start getting brown.

This could also happen if you water the plants when the sun comes out. The moisture on the leaves will heat up and end up burning them.

Even if the plant needs full sunlight, it may be too much during periods of intense heat. It’s best to cover the plant with landscape fabric to protect it from the heat.

If the plant is in a container, you can move it to a location that has some shade during the afternoon heat.

5. The plant is suffering transplant shock

You may start seeds indoors and grow a seedling, or you may purchase a seedling from a nursery or garden center. You then transplant the seedling outdoors in a container or garden soil.

If the plant is weak, it may not find it easy to adjust to outdoor conditions. This stress may cause the plant roots to absorb less moisture causing brown tips on the leaves.

You should make sure to harden the seedling before transplanting it outdoors. This means keeping it outdoors for a couple of hours every day for a few days. And only then moving it entirely to an outdoor environment.

Make sure to give the seedling a good watering after moving it outdoors, whether growing in soil or a pot.

6. You are using poor soil for the plant

This is another common problem we face as beginners growing plants. If the soil we use for growing plants is poor, it can cause a lack of moisture and brown leaf tips.

If the soil contains too much clay, it will retain moisture for a long time. This can lead to overwatering that damages the roots. And less moisture is available to the plant.

If the soil contains too much sand, it will lose moisture quickly. If you don’t provide sufficient water to the soil, it will lead to underwatering. So less moisture will be available to the plant.

The solution to this problem is to use loamy soil with the right balance of sand and clay. This has the right texture to retain sufficient moisture but drain out the excess.

7. The plant faces pests or diseases

Some pests and diseases may cause browning of the leaves, and you need to check if that’s the problem.

Pests like aphids, mealybugs, thrips, or whiteflies will suck the sap out of the leaves. If there are a lot of them, this will cause a lack of nutrients and moisture, causing browning. There are fungal diseases that may affect the leaves, causing them to turn brown.

Ants farming aphids on my pepper plants
Ants farming aphids on my pepper plants

The best thing to do is check on your plant every day to see if these pests or diseases are present. You can take action as soon as you find the problem and avoid significant infestation.

You can get rid of the sap-sucking pests by spraying water and getting them off the leaves. You could also use a spray of neem oil to get rid of them and keep them away. The neem oil can also help prevent fungal diseases and get rid of some of them.

8. You are using too much fertilizer

If you use too much synthetic fertilizer for your plants, it can cause root burn. This damage to the roots means they can’t supply moisture to the leaves, showing signs of brown tips.

I don’t recommend using synthetic fertilizer, which is one reason you need to be careful or end up damaging the plants.

It’s much better to use organic fertilizer as those are slow-release and gentle on the plant. You have less risk of burning plant roots due to over-fertilization.

You could also use organic liquid fertilizer and spray it on the soil and foliage every few days if you’re looking for a faster way of fertilizing your plants.

Salts and other minerals in fertilizer can block roots from absorbing enough water. Excessive fertilizer often shows up as white residue on the inside or outside of the container — or in the saucer below. If you suspect this is the case, flush the pot thoroughly 3-4 times and don’t fertilize again for at least a month or two. – Christy Kelly, Patio Garden Life

9. The water contains a lot of minerals and salts

If you water your plants using tap water or hard water, there will be lots of minerals and salts in them. It could also contain chlorine and fluoride.

These salts and minerals build up over time in the soil. The plants will start to dehydrate as they don’t realize the lack of water. This will cause the tip of the leaves to turn brown as a sign.

The simplest solution is to flush the soil periodically so the salts and minerals are out. You can give the soil a good watering using distilled water or rainwater. You may need to do this a few times to get most of these elements out of the soil.

10. Your plant lacks the required nutrients

Lack of nutrients like calcium, potassium, and phosphorus can cause brown tips on the leaves of your plants.

This happens when you don’t prepare the soil with good nutrients before growing the plant, whether in soil or potting soil. This may also occur later when you don’t provide plants with nutrients.

I recommend you at least add some compost or vermicompost to the soil when preparing it. You should also add this compost at least every month to your growing plants.

Compost I used for my potted plants

If you see this problem and figure it’s due to a lack of nutrients, you can immediately add some organic fertilizer rich in these elements.

Organic fertilizer like bone meal is rich in calcium and phosphorus. You can prepare a solution using banana skin or puree and spray it on the leaves to give them a good amount of potassium.

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