African Violets are native to tropical East Africa and thrive in the warm conditions of most households.
They come in a wide variety of cultivars and their colorful flowers and furry dark green foliage make them a popular houseplant.
While African Violets are not too demanding, they do require the right temperature, soil, water and light conditions.
If the leaves of your African Violet have begun to turn brown, you probably need to adjust one of these environmental factors in order to restore it to health.
Why are my African Violet leaves turning brown?
African Violets’ leaves turn brown when they have been overfertilized or have been kept in air that is too dry or doesn’t have good circulation. They will also turn brown if they are in soil that is too damp or have been burned by the sun.
African violets are fairly sensitive to fertilizers. The most common and obvious symptom of overfertilization is leaf tip burn, in other words, that the plant’s leaves become brown around the edges.
Further symptoms of overfertilization include orange crystals on the ends of leaf hairs, leaves with lesions from resting on the edge of the pot, wilted leaves and brittle leaves. In severe cases, overfertilization can be toxic and lead to plant death.
How to fix it: If your African Violet has brown leaves from being overfertilized, use lukewarm water to wash away any concentrations of fertilizer salts. Allow between three to four cups of water to drain from the pot. Repeat this treatment again in two to three months.
If you have been overfertilizing your African Violet, you can give it a long rest––preferably for several months––before beginning to feed it again.
In the tropical Usambara Mountains of East Africa––the native habitat of the African Violet––relative humidity is between seventy and eighty percent.
While African Violets do not need the humidity to be quite this high to survive, anything below fifty percent is too dry for them, because they will transpire at a faster rate than they can absorb water, with the result that their leaves will begin to dry and become brown.
How to fix it: There are several ways to increase the humidity levels around your plant. One option is to invest in a humidifier. Alternately, you make a humidity tray by filling a drip tray with pebbles and water and placing your African Violet on top of it.
Make sure that the plant cannot soak up the water by placing a board or plate between the plant and pot and the pebbles.
Alternately, you can keep your African Violet in a nursery pot and a decorative pot with no drainage hole. As the water evaporates, it will rise up and increase the humidity of the air around your plant.
You can also create a microclimate by placing several African Violets next to each other, which will also increase the humidity levels between the plants.
Bad air circulation
A related problem that causes leaves to turn brown is poor air circulation around the plant. Because African Violets require high levels of humidity, they also need an environment with good air circulation in order to prevent the growth of fungi, which can also turn leaves brown.
How to fix it: Move your plant to an area with better air circulation. If you can’t do this, try keeping the doors and windows in your house open. That said, take care not to allow cold drafts in, as these can cause leaf curl in African Violets.
Soil that is too damp will result in brown spots and drooping leaves. If an African Violet is sitting in water-saturated soil for too long, its roots will suffocate and it will die.
This problem can be made worse if the soil your plant is in is too dense.
African Violets prefer a fast-draining soil. You can purchase a specific African Violet potting soil or add perlite to normal houseplant soil to achieve the right amount of drainage.
How to fix it: If you suspect your African Violet leaves are turning brown because the plant is getting too much water, try watering it less––only re-watering once the top of the soil has dried––and see whether the plant improves. If you think your potting soil is too dense for an African Violet, try re-potting it using a faster-draining soil.
Leaf scorch and water on the leaves
African violets need a good amount of bright light, but it should be filtered or indirect. Direct sunlight will cause their leaves to scorch and turn brown.
This problem can be exacerbated if the leaves have water on them when they are exposed to sunlight.
How to fix it: Make sure your plant is getting indirect or filtered light and avoid getting water on the leaves of your African Violet. If the leaves cover a large part of the soil and it is difficult to avoid them, try watering your plant from the bottom by placing its pot in a drip tray full of water and allowing the plant to soak up the water until the surface of the soil is damp to the touch.
Frequently asked questions about brown leaves on African Violets
How should I fertilize my African Violet in order to avoid getting brown leaves?
African Violets are happiest if they are fed a diet of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium at a ratio of 14:12:14 (7:9:5 for miniature violets) once every month during spring and summer. They prefer a fertilizer that uses ammonium nitrate instead of urea as a source of nitrogen, because urea is more likely to burn plant roots and leaves.
Why do the lower leaves on my African violet turn brown even though the rest of the plant is healthy?
It is natural for the lower leaves of African Violets to turn brown and fall off and this does not mean the plant is in bad health. You can either snip off the browning leaves or allow them to fall away naturally.
Taking care of houseplants and gardening are my greatest passions. I am transforming my apartment into an urban jungle and am growing veggies in my indoor and outdoor garden year-round.