Why Do Calathea Ornata Leaves Turn Brown? (Easy Solutions)
The Calathea ornata, prominently known as the pinstripe plant, is more prone to having brown and crispy leaf edges compared to other varieties of Calathea. It is not a secret that leaf browning absolutely devastates the purple, white, and green accents that support the decorative purpose of your Calathea plants.
Generally, leaf browning in Calathea ornata is caused by 1) underwatering 2) overwatering, 3) mineral and salt buildup, 4) low humidity, and 5) insects. On a brighter note, these factors can easily be resolved by simple means.
Along with every reason, I am giving a list of solutions that you can do easily. What is the best water for Calathea ornata? How about the ideal relative humidity? We will be answering these and more today. So prepare your notes because it will rain ideas, tips, and tricks!
Underwatering of Calathea ornata plants results in dry soil over time. When this happens, water deprivation will slow down biological processes, making the leaves turn dry and brown.
Have you ever gone on a long vacation and come back to soft or wilting garden plants? That is the exact thing that happens to Striped Calathea when you underwater them.
Remember that water is the major element that makes plants rigid. Thus, a lack of water will result in dry and brown leaf portions. Wilting will eventually occur. Drooping or curling leaves can also be observed.
If these signs and symptoms are observed, you can jump into doing the following steps.
- Touch the top 1-2 inches of your garden soil.
- If it is too dry, give your Calathea ornata plants plenty of water. (Note: Perform this step until the lowest portion of the soil is already wet.)
- Stick to watering your Calathea ornata plants every 2-3 days.
This time maybe you are wondering if watering your Calathea ornata plants regularly is a better remedy. I will give you a quick answer—NO! You will know why as you read further.
Root rot is the result of overwatering which can weaken the plant immune system of the Calathea ornata. With too much water, leaves start to experience chlorosis, which is general yellowing, and further, turn brown as a sign of cell death.
As a golden piece of advice, always check the condition of your soil. Feel your soil frequently because if its top part is too moist or cakey, you may be overwatering your Calathea ornata plants.
Remember, moist environments are favorable for microbial growth. Bacteria and fungi may develop, reproduce, and harm your plant roots. After infesting the roots, the stem and leaves of your Pin-Striped Calathea will eventually be attacked.
To balance the moisture in your soil, allow the top 2-3 inches of your soil to dry out before watering again.
When you feel like you are overwatering your Calathea ornata plants, do the following:
- Check the roots if they are already infected with root rot. What to look for: brown and smelly roots.
- If only a small portion is affected, you may opt to cut that part.
- Dip the roots in food-grade hydrogen peroxide for 15 minutes.
- Repot your Calathea ornata plant with new garden soil.
- Stick to watering your plants every 2 to 3 days and never allow your Calathea ornata plant to sit in water.
3. Mineral and Salt Buildup
Synthetic fertilizers and tap water are prominent sources of minerals and salts that lead to buildup. Due to this, stress may occur. Since the plant roots are hindered by too many minerals and salts to access enough water from the soil, leaf browning eventually happens as a result.
In the Calathea world, lack and excess are unfavorable plant growth concepts. An abundance of inorganic fertilizer makes it hard for water to mobilize. With a lack of water access, the leaves turn out to be dry and browning occurs.
Similarly, tap water is another known source of minerals and salts. Fluoride, chlorine, calcium, and magnesium are some of the elements that can hinder the mobilization of water in the soil.
To prevent your Pin-Stripe Calathea’s leaves from becoming brown due to mineral and salt accumulation, you have three options.
1. Dilute the Fertilizer
Begin fertilizer application with a diluted solution. When doing this, try to observe the first few fertilizer feeding.
If the Pinstripe plant responds well (meaning it does not dry or wilts), continue using that diluting to that ratio.
2. Go for Organic Options
A much cheaper choice is to use organic fertilizers like worm castings, fermented fruit juice, and fermented plant juice that you can DIY.
This strategy will not introduce heavy minerals and salts since organic fertilizers are not as strong as inorganic fertilizers. Plus, they can be decomposed into the soil.
To know more about the differences between fertilizer types, check our article about organic vs inorganic fertilizers.
3. Change Your Water
The safest water type to use in watering Calathea ornata is distilled water. Through the filtration and distillation processes, minerals and salts are removed from the water.
Considering this, I also recommend refraining from using soft and hard water.
Explore more on the topic of water in our article explaining the different water types.
4. Low Humidity
The ability to absorb moisture from the air is a unique characteristic of houseplants, including the Calathea species. Thus, with low humidity, Calathea ornata leaves receive less moisture. When this situation persists, the leaves become dehydrated and turn brown.
Calathea ornata needs high humidity considering that it is native to the American tropics. Maintaining a relative humidity of 50% or higher is the best level to maintain for optimum growth.
A low humidity environment can be observed during the winter—when indoor spaces are exposed to heaters to balance out the cold temperature outdoors.
When faced with this circumstance, you can use an essential oil diffuser to create a humid environment for your indoor garden. Instead of essential oils, fill your diffusers with distilled water.
For my Calathea ornata plants in my bedroom, I use this diffuser available on Amazon.
However, if your Calathea ornata plants are situated in a more spacious room, this humidifier might be the best choice.
Avoid using normal garden sprays because they release bigger droplets. These water droplets could also house bacteria and fungi that can further cause plant diseases.
5. Insect Infestation
Insects—namely mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites—produce brown spots as they feed on nutrients from the Calathea ornata leaves.
Usually found under the leaves, these little critters leave white webs, silver streaks, and dark poops. These are also sure signs that your Striped Calatheas are infested with harmful insects.
Neem oil was found to be effective in countering the effects of insect infestation in Calathea ornata. As an organic pest control measure, neem oil does not pose any risk for your plants.
Another advantage of neem oil is that it can be used generally for all indoor houseplants! Indeed, a must-have item!
Here is a neem oil spray on Amazon that I have been using ever since.
Is cutting brown leaves of Calathea plants advised?
Removing the brown Calathea ornata leaves enhances the plant growth and development for your plant. Not only does it improve its decorative purpose, but it also optimizes the plant’s biological energy spending by allocating more resources to develop new leaves.
Where should I cut my brown Calathea leaves?
It is recommended to cut the affected leaves, not just at the end of the leaves themselves, but down to their bases. By doing this, you are allocating space for the new Calathea leaves to grow. Moreover, if the cause of brown leaves is a disease, this strategy is advantageous since you are removing the whole leaf which is the house of the plant pathogen.
Why are my Calathea leaves crispy?
When you observe that a Calathea plant’s leaves are becoming crisp, it is a sign that the plant is being underwatered. This phenomenon commonly begins from the leaf edges and tips. It eventually spreads inward through the whole leaf. Leaf crispiness is more common in Calathea ornata, Calathea orbifolia, and Calathea lancifolia.
Is direct sunlight good for Calathea plants?
A west-facing window is the best location for Calathea plants as they are not a fan of direct sunlight. When exposed to direct sunlight, leaves are burned and the water supply is lessened due to evaporation. This is eventually followed by yellowing, curling, browning, and wilting.
What is the best room temperature Calathea?
A room temperature between 64 to 75 °F is optimal for Calathea plants. Both hot and cold extremes are harmful to your Calathea houseplants. Low temperature slows down biological processes for Calathea leaves; while high temperatures cause evaporation of water resources—leading to browning.
Summary of Brown Leaves of Calathea ornata
Underwatering, overwatering, mineral and salt buildup, low humidity, and insect pests are the most common causes of browning in Calathea ornata. Availability of water resources is deemed as the top concern to maintain the purple, green, and white accent of Calathea ornata leaves.
Underwatering produces dry soil which dispossesses the plant roots of water that leads to leaf drying and eventual browning. By contrast, overwatering may lead to root rot that can make the plant soft and brown through time. Synthetic fertilizers and tap water also contribute to mineral and salt buildup as they contain chlorides and fluorides.
Having the ability to absorb moisture from the air, Calathea ornata, requires a high relative humidity of at least 50% to thrive indoors. Browning can also be attributed to insect pests like mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites since these organisms feed on the leaf saps. When damaged, Calathea leaves turn dry and brown.
- “Home Doctors – Calathea Makoyana-Peacock Plant” by Arakelyan, H.S. in ResearchGate
- “Effect of Growth Regulators on In-vitro Shooting of Calathea ornata for Commercial Cultivation” by De Silva, D. in ResearchGate
- “Cultural Guidelines for Commercial Production of Interiorscape Calathea” by Chen, J. and McConnell, D.B. in University of Florida