7 Causes of Brown Calathea Musaica Leaves to Watch Out for!

Leaf browning in Calathea musaica, also known as the network plant, could quickly destroy your perfectly designed indoor garden’s ambiance. With its defined mosaic-like pattern, any signs of browning or wilting are just simply unacceptable. So knowing the causes behind this is key to maintaining a beautiful garden!

In general, Calathea musaica leaves turn brown for a variety of reasons, including 1) underwatering, 2) saturated soil, 3) dry air, 4) direct sunlight, 5) inferior water quality, 6) mineral and salt buildup, and 7) insects. These causes, however, can be easily avoided and/or resolved.

But don’t worry, I am not going to abandon you with just the causes of brown leaves in Calathea musaica alone! I have liberally sprinkled tips and tricks throughout this article for you to discover. So grab your pen and paper and let us dive in!

1. Underwatering

Extremely dry soil can indeed deprive network plant foliage of water, thereby preventing biological mechanisms from taking place. With far less water than ideal, the leaves will dry up and turn brown.

Watch Out: Wilting is usually the first sign of a water shortage in Calathea plants. The leaves will eventually turn brown if exposed to this environment for an extended period of time. Drooping and curling leaves are other signs to watch out for.

What to Do: Check the top 1-2 inches of soil when caring for Calathea musaica. Give your Calathea musaica plants abundant water if the soil appears to be dry. Repeat this step until the bottom of the soil is saturated. After that, you can limit your watering to every 2-3 days.

On the other extreme, if you are concerned about overwatering, I have devoted an entire section below for this. So let us move on!

2. Saturated Soil

Having highly saturated soil can cause root rot which attacks the immune system of the Calathea musaica plants. This induces yellowing and browning of the leaves.

Watch Out: If the upper portion of your soil is almost always moist, you are overwatering your plants. You should not get to this point since a wet environment fosters the growth of pathogenic organisms.

Pathogens like bacteria and fungi may grow and invade the roots of a network plant that has been overwatered. When these microorganisms attack the roots, the entire plant is at risk.

Stems and leaves may also exhibit disturbing symptoms such as having yellow streaks, browning of leaf tips, and, eventually, wilting.

Overwatering Network Plant
Overwatering Network Plant

You must strike a balance between retaining your soil’s moisture and preventing it from becoming muddy. Allow the upper 2 to 3 inches of your growing medium to dry before watering it again.

If the roots are already contaminated with root rot, it is advisable to check them first. Your roots are rotting if they are brown and stink!

What to Do: If there is just a relatively small amount of rotting in the network plant’s roots, trim it out and repot your plant with brand new soil. Above all, never let your Calathea musaica plant sit in too much water.

3. Dry Air

Network plant leaves can absorb water not only from the soil but even from the air. When the air is too dry, the leaves do not have an adequate source of moisture. Without an abundant supply of water, the leaves will become dehydrated and eventually turn brown.

Calathea musaica is native to Brazil and requires a lot of humidity in its growing environment. Considering this, it is important to maintain the relative humidity of network plants at 50% or more.

What to Do: To make your indoor garden humid, use a diffuser or humidifier. Fill it with distilled water instead of essential oils.

On Amazon, you can find an essential oil humidifier that you can use in your indoor garden.

This humidifier available on Amazon may be the best option if you have a lot of plants in a large room.

Misting sprays may seem like a good alternative but they are not recommended since they produce larger droplets that can serve as breeding places for fungi and bacteria.

4. Direct Sunlight

Network plants do not grow optimally in extreme direct sunlight. Direct sunlight elevates soil surface temperature, which decreases the amount of moisture in the soil even more. In effect, the plants may show chlorosis, wrinkling, browning, and withering.

Keep in mind that Calathea musaica plants flourish in bright, indirect natural light, making them suitable houseplants.

Watch Out: Intense sunlight can cause leaf sunburn in Calathea musaica and lead to browning.

Network Plant and Direct Sunlight
Network Plant and Direct Sunlight

What to Do: Place your network plants near a west-facing window. It will get the bright afternoon sun from that position. Do not put them anywhere near a south-facing window (the light will be too tough) or a north-facing window (light might not be enough).

5. Inferior Water Quality

When watering network plants, avoid using tap water because it may contain chlorine, fluoride, and other elements which can accumulate in the soil. When this occurs, water can not efficiently move throughout the plant. The browning of its leaves will eventually be observed as a result of water scarcity.

Watch Out: Several elements can accumulate in your garden soil if you use tap water. Besides tap water, it is also not recommended to use soft or hard water. These water types contain minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

   Learn more about water in our article explaining the different water types.  

What to Do: Use distilled water instead of tap water when watering network prayer plants. This is because the distillation process removes naturally occurring contaminants such as minerals, which will prevent the browning of Calathea leaves when used for watering.

6. Mineral and Salt Buildup

The network plant (Calathea musaica) is highly sensitive to inorganic fertilizers. When given an enormous quantity of nutrients, the leaves turn brown due to mineral, salt, or fluoride stress.

Watch Out: Water struggles to move when there is an overabundance of fertilizer in your soil. This is due to the accumulation of salts and minerals, which prevents water from reaching the plant roots. With too little water, the leaves dry out and end up turning brown.

What to Do: When utilizing synthetic fertilizer, begin with a weak mix by thoroughly watering down your fertilizer. If your network plants do not respond badly (i.e. yellowing and browning), stick to that fertilizer concentration.

Furthermore, you can also use natural fertilizers, such as worm castings, kitchen wastes, and compost. This is because organic fertilizers are not abundant in salts and minerals like synthetic fertilizers.

   Learn more about the contrast between these two in our article organic vs inorganic fertilizers.   

7. Insects

Insects such as aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs can also induce leaf browning by sucking nutrition from the Calathea musaica leaf tissues.

Watch Out: The aforementioned pests typically infest the undersides of Calathea musaica leaves. White webs, silver smudges, and dark bug droppings are all indications that insect pests are present and living in the leaves.

What to Do: If any of these symptoms appear, you can mist your Calathea with neem oil, a natural pest management agent.

Below is an effective neem oil spray that is available on Amazon.

No products found.

This is something I’ve been using ever since the first time I noticed white webs developing under my network plant leaves, and it works great!

Plant Rescue: Calathea musaica


Why are my Calathea leaves crispy?

Underwatering is indicated by crispy Calathea leaves. This symptom typically begins at the leaf edges and progresses inward to affect the entire leaf. Give your plant a lot more water if this takes place. If the crispy texture continues, you could already slash that specific leaf to encourage new leaf growth.

Should I remove the brown leaves from my Calathea plants?

Removing the brown leaves of Calathea plants is a convenient option to boost their pleasing appearance as well as their overall growth. When these leaves are cut, the plant redirects its resources, such as water and sugars, to the development of new leaves. Keep in mind to trim down the damaged leaves to their bases.

What is the ideal temperature for Calathea plants?

Calathea plants should be grown in temperatures ranging from 64-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Consistent exposure to cold temperatures induces leaf browning by slowing down physiological processes in Calathea leaves. Hot temperatures, on the other hand, negatively impact factors such as surface soil temperature, water availability, and humidity.

Summary of 7 Causes of Brown Calathea musaica Leaves

Leaf browning in Calathea musaica is caused by seven factors: underwatering, soggy soil, dry air, direct sunlight, inferior water quality, mineral and salt buildup, and insects.

Browning prevention measures include watering only every 2-3 days, keeping the humidity high using a diffuser, placing the plant in a west-facing window, using distilled water in watering, using organic fertilizers, and spraying neem oil when insect pests are observed.


  • “Home Doctors – Calathea Makoyana-Peacock Plant” by Arakelyan, H.S. in ResearchGate
  • “Micropropagation of an Exotic Ornamental Plant, Calathea crotalifera, for Production of High Quality Plantlets” by Rozali, S.E. in The Scientific World Journal

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