Monstera Leaves Turning Brown | How To Diagnose and Treat

There are several common Monstera species grown as houseplants, the most popular being the Swiss Cheese Plant or Split-Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa) and the Adanson’s Monstera (Monstera adansonii). If you consider yourself a houseplant aficionado, I’m willing to bet money you own at least one of these beauties!

Part of what makes the Monstera plant so popular is that it’s fairly easy to care for. When problems do arise, they typically show up in the form of discolored foliage, with your Monstera leaves turning brown or yellow.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to diagnose and treat Monstera leaves turning brown before the problem gets any worse.

Why Do Monstera Leaves Turn Brown?

Brown leaves are a natural response to stress. This response is sometimes unavoidable — a Monstera leaf might turn brown after being physically torn or due to old age — but can also be a critical sign that something else is wrong with your houseplant.

In most cases, the foliage turns brown when it loses moisture and the leaf tissues die off. There are a number of things that can cause this, including the aforementioned physical damage and old age but also dehydration, disease, and temperature shock.

How much of the leaf (or leaves) are affected can tell you a lot about the underlying problem. For example, I generally won’t stress about a single brown spot if the plant is otherwise healthy. But anything more should be taken seriously and diagnosed right away.

damaged monstera leaf
Damaged Monstera leaf with brown tips

How To Fix Monstera Plant with Brown Leaves

I always say that the first step in treating any houseplant is to diagnose the underlying issue. The reason I say this is because it’s very, very true!

Not only will determining the actual problem inform you of the best course of treatment but it can also prevent you from accidentally doing more damage to the plant. Blindly treating brown leaves that you don’t know the cause of is a terrible idea and should only be done as a last resort. 

As you read through the scenarios below, remember to take symptoms other than leaf discoloration into account. Changes in your Monstera’s appearance, growth habits, or overall environment may hold the secret to what’s causing its brown leaves.

Monstera Leaves with Dry Tips and Margins

The browning that begins on the tips or margins (edges) of the leaves is almost always caused by the Monstera being too dry. If you touch the brown part of a leaf, it will also probably feel dry and crisp compared to healthy pieces of the plant.

Brown leaves caused by a lack of moisture are usually accompanied by curling leaves which can occur when the plant is trying to preserve moisture. This is usually the result of several environmental factors:

Underwatering

The most obvious cause of your Monstera’s brown, dry leaves is that you’re simply underwatering the plant. Without access to water, the plant is unable to replace any moisture naturally lost from its leaves.

According to an article from Reader’s Digest, Monstera typically likes to be watered every 1 to 2 weeks. But this can vary a lot based on soil type, container size, and light and temperature conditions. Also, keep in mind that Monstera often needs less water during the winter months. I recommend sticking a finger into the soil and watering it whenever it feels dry.

Underwatering can also occur if the plant is watered frequently but not thoroughly enough. It’s best to soak the soil completely — be sure to let all excess water drain out — each time.

Low Humidity

A less obvious reason could be that the air within your home is very dry. Dry air essentially sucks moisture from plant leaves, leading to the symptoms described above. This phenomenon is only made worse by the Monstera not getting enough water on a regular basis.

As tropical plants, Monstera enjoys humidity levels of about 60 to 80%. This is higher than the average residential home, so you might need to supplement the air around your Monstera to keep it happy. A simple household humidifier or pebble tray works well. 

Heat Stress

The last potential cause of brown, dry tips and margins I want to cover is heat stress. While Monstera are adapted to relatively warm climates, they are still vulnerable to damage from intense heat sources. 

I’ve seen this happen when a Monstera is placed too close to an indoor fireplace, radiator, or heat vent. Direct sun exposure can also cause heat damage in some cases.

Monstera Leaves Yellow with Brown Spots

Monstera Leaves Yellow with Brown Spots
Monstera leaves turning brown and yellow

While a Monstera with yellow leaves and also brown spots are most likely caused by excess moisture, you still need to narrow down the actual source:

Overwatering

Monstera performs best when the soil is left to dry out between waterings. Irrigating more frequently will suffocate the root system and eventually hurt the plant as a whole.

Some gardeners opt to use moisture meters to monitor their Monstera’s soil. However, I think the finger test is much more reliable.

Poor Drainage

Like most houseplants, Monstera requires well-draining soil. In other words, you don’t want the soil around your Monstera to hold onto any more water than it actually needs at a time.

Using the right soil will go a long way in ensuring good drainage. I recommend a ‘tropical’ potting mix or any high-quality soil containing materials like perlite, coco coir, and orchid bark.

Another key element of drainage is your container. All Monstera should be grown in containers with drainage holes. Avoid placing a tray under the container that will collect standing water (let the extra water drain into a sink or tub instead).

Monstera Leaves with Scorch or Burn Damage

Do the brown spots on your Monstera leaves resemble scorch or burn marks? If so, they’re likely caused by too much sunlight or fertilizer. This type of damage can appear almost anywhere on the plant but — in my experience — is most likely to develop near the leaf margins.

There’s no treatment for pre-existing sun scorch but you can prevent new damage by moving the Monstera so that it receives bright, indirect light. 

Prevention is also the best strategy when it comes to fertilizer burn. Feed Monstera with a balanced, liquid fertilizer formulated for indoor plants. I like to dilute the fertilizer even further in plain water to protect the root system.

If visible signs of fertilizer burn appear, you can flush the soil to prevent any additional damage. This just involves deeply saturating the soil with clean water and letting it all drain out to remove any fertilizer buildup.

Monstera Leaves with Small Brown Spots All Over

The appearance of many small brown spots on a Monstera normally signals the presence of an infectious disease or pest infestation. 

Disease

There are several houseplant diseases that cause brown spots on Monstera leaves. The most common are:

Rust — Characterized by small red-orange or brown spots. Fungal.

Eyespot Disease — Characterized by brown spots with yellow halos. Fungal.

Anthracnose — Characterized by yellowing that quickly spreads and turns brown. Often occurs when the leaf is splitting. Fungal.

Leaf Spot Disease — Characterized by very small yellow, brown, or black spots on the leaves. Bacterial.

Pest Infestation

If pests are to blame, you should be able to find physical signs of their presence — e.g., webs, eggs, or the bugs themselves. According to the University of Wisconsin, common culprits include scale, aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites.

Most infestations can be managed by physically removing the pests with a hose spray or wet towel. Check other nearby houseplants for signs as well. You can prevent new activity by applying Neem oil or insecticidal soap.

FAQ Monstera Leaves Turning Brown

Should I Remove Brown Monstera Leaves?

Brown Monstera leaves won’t turn green again, so you can safely cut off damaged foliage to improve the plant’s appearance. If you think that the damage is caused by a fungal or bacterial disease, it’s best to remove the affected leaves right away to prevent any further spread.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.