ZZ Plant Turning Brown & 9+ Reasons Why

The ZZ plant turning brown is perhaps the most common issue with this highly resistant plant.

ZZ plants are highly resilient but not entirely immune to health issues
ZZ plants are highly resilient but not entirely immune to health issues

These ZZ plants are champions of endurance, thriving even through neglect!

But even tough survivors like them can face some challenges.

From near-death experiences to patches of discoloration, their struggles can be confusing.

But worry not! This guide unravels the secrets behind ZZ-browning and empowers you with solutions to bring their vibrant green back to life.

10 Reasons ZZ Plant Turning Brown

Browning leaves are a common indicator of stress in this plant
Browning leaves are a common indicator of stress in this plant

The browning of leaves on ZZ plants can result from various factors.

Common culprits include over-watering, under-watering, excessive sunlight, temperature stress, poor water quality, diseases, nutrient deficiency, transplant shock, low humidity, and pests. 

The ZZ plant is adapted to thrive in arid conditions, which is why the most common reasons for browning leaves are often related to a disconnect between their natural habitat and their treatment in indoor environments.

Let’s explore these issues and discover how you can bridge that gap to restore your ZZ plant’s former glory.

1. Over-Watering

Reason 1 - Overwatering: This plant doesn’t need daily watering; at most, you may only have to water it twice a month
Reason 1 – Overwatering: This plant doesn’t need daily watering; at most, you may only have to water it twice a month

Brown leaves on ZZ plants are primarily caused by overwatering, despite their hardy nature.

ZZ plants, in fact, do not require as much water as one might think (I mean, they are famous for being hardy plants for a reason).

Over-watering can result in root rot, posing a significant threat to the plant’s health.

Indications of over-watering include brown and floppy leaves, along with consistently wet soil. To address this issue:

  • Reduce watering frequency and allow the root system to dry out.
  • ZZ plants require watering only every 2-3 weeks, perhaps even as infrequently as once or twice a month.
  • If the problem persists, consider repotting the ZZ plant in well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes.

2. Under-Watering

Reason 2 - It’s Thirsty: Especially in drier air and harsh sunlight, the ZZ plant might require more frequent hydration
Reason 2 – It’s Thirsty: Especially in drier air and harsh sunlight, the ZZ plant might require more frequent hydration

Recognizing whether you might have overlooked your ZZ plant’s hydration needs can be challenging, considering its natural ability to thrive with minimal water supply.

However, extended periods without sufficient water may lead to brown leaf tips or edges.

Moreover, changes in the environment, such as a drier climate and intensified sunlight, can alter its usual water requirements.

Allow me to share my own experience—I was confident that my ZZ plant wouldn’t require much water until I noticed its soil drying up much faster during the unusually harsh summer of 2023.

It was such a strikingly challenging season for most of us!

Once you are certain thirst is the reason behind your ZZ plant’s depression, here are what you can do:

  • Give your ZZ plant a thorough soaking by watering it from the base.
  • Place the pot in a tub of water with the drainage holes submerged.
  • Allow the soil to absorb the moisture it needs to prevent and address brown leaf issues effectively.

3. Poor Water Quality

Reason 3 - Chlorine in Water: Chlorine and fluoride intake can pose harm in the long run. Consider using filtered water to hydrate your plant
Reason 3 – Chlorine in Water: Chlorine and fluoride intake can pose harm in the long run. Consider using filtered water to hydrate your plant

Tap water, commonly containing chemicals like chlorine and fluoride, poses a potential threat to ZZ plants as these chemicals can accumulate in the leaves over time, leading to damage.

Additionally, hard water with mineral salts can contribute to brown leaf tips and edges. 

To counter these issues:

  • Allow tap water to sit overnight to facilitate the evaporation of chlorine.
  • Consider using a filter jug to reduce harmful chemicals.
  • Alternatively, collect rainwater for watering your ZZ plant, providing a natural and chemical-free source of hydration.

4. Pest Infestation

Reason 4 - Pests: While it's generally resistant, ZZ plants can succumb to mealybugs and spider mites
Reason 4 – Pests: While it’s generally resistant, ZZ plants can succumb to mealybugs and spider mites

If you’re sticking to your ZZ plant watering routine like clockwork, it’s time to put on your detective hat and keep an eye out for potential pest invaders.

Now, ZZ plants are generally tough cookies, thanks to those glossy leaves of theirs.

However, don’t be fooled – sneaky pests like spider mites and mealybugs can still stir up trouble. 

Keep an eagle eye for these signs:

  • Spider mites might leave behind blotchy brown patches.
  • Mealybugs? They’re the culprits behind brown leaves, starting from the tip and working their way down.
Inspect the undersides of the leaves under bright sunlight to ensure, and treat with suitable insecticides
Inspect the undersides of the leaves under bright sunlight to ensure, and treat with suitable insecticides

So, what’s the game plan for dealing with these unwanted guests?

  • Grab some neem oil and give your ZZ plant a good wipe-down.
  • Don’t stop there – check out your neighboring plants too. Pests are known globe-trotters, and they can hop between plants like it’s a bug carnival.

Now, let’s talk prevention:

  • New plants? Keep them in quarantine for a bit before letting them join the ZZ party.
  • Make it a habit to inspect your green gang regularly.
  • Oh, and good hygiene? That’s the secret sauce to keeping pests at bay. It’s all about the basics.

5. Too Much Direct Sunlight

Reason 5 - Sunlight Overload: ZZ plants only require 6 hours of sunlight exposure per day
Reason 5 – Sunlight Overload: ZZ plants only require 6 hours of sunlight exposure per day

ZZ plants are champs in low light conditions, but be cautious—excessive direct sunlight can result in a sunburn scenario.

This shows up as significant patches of brown, dried-out areas on the side of the plant facing the light source. 

Here’s the game plan:

  • Be cautious of direct sunlight and relocate your plant if necessary.
  • Alternatively, position it in an east-facing window to dodge the harsh afternoon sun.
  • ZZ plants thrive with a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight daily. If you observe them soaking up 7 to 8 hours under the light, it’s a clear sign that some adjustments and covering-up are in order.

6. Lack of Humidity

Reason 6 - Insufficient Humidity: ZZ plants thrive in environments with average moisture levels
Reason 6 – Insufficient Humidity: ZZ plants thrive in environments with average moisture levels

Optimal for ZZ plant growth is in an environment with average humidity (40 – 50%).

In case of insufficient moisture in the air, you may observe browning sides on the leaves.

To address this:

  • Increase humidity around your plants using a pebble tray or an electric humidifier.
  • Avoid misting your ZZ plant, as it can leave marks on the leaves and doesn’t provide a long-term solution.
  • Monitor the humidity levels in the environment, especially during winter when indoor heating can dry the air.

7. Nutrient Deficiency

Reason 7 - Nutrient Deficiency: Insufficient nutrients can lead to discoloration on the leaves
Reason 7 – Nutrient Deficiency: Insufficient nutrients can lead to discoloration on the leaves

Nutrient deficiencies can lead to brown leaves on ZZ plants. If you suspect a deficiency, the following steps can be taken:

  • Repot your ZZ plant with fresh soil and fertilizer.
  • Use a balanced, diluted fertilizer during the growing season.
  • Follow recommended application rates to avoid over-fertilization.
  • Regularly clean the ZZ plant’s leaves with a damp cloth: this helps remove dust and debris, promoting better photosynthesis and preventing potential issues caused by blocked pores.

8. Temperature Stress

Reason 8 - Temperature Changes: Sudden or extreme temperature fluctuations can manifest in the color changes of ZZ plant’s leaves
Reason 8 – Temperature Changes: Sudden or extreme temperature fluctuations can manifest in the color changes of ZZ plant’s leaves

ZZ plants thrive in temperatures between 65-90°F (18-32°C).

Maintaining the right temperature is crucial to prevent issues such as yellow leaves from cold temperatures or crispy, brown edges from prolonged heat. Consider the following guidelines:

  • Avoid exposing it to drafts or extreme temperatures.
  • Refrain from placing the ZZ plant near drafts, air conditioning, or heating vents.
  • Implement gradual acclimatization to new conditions, which can help prevent temperature-related stress.

9. Transplant Shock

Reason 9 - Transplant Shock: It requires time to acclimate to its new home. The plant will soon recover on its own
Reason 9 – Transplant Shock: It requires time to acclimate to its new home. The plant will soon recover on its own

Although a fresh pot promises long-term benefits, ZZ plants can go through a temporary adjustment phase called transplant shock.

It’s their natural response to environmental changes during repotting, often showing brown leaves as stress signals.

If your recently rehomed ZZ sports brown patches, fear not!

This shock is normal, it is only a temporary hiccup.

Just give it space, resist watering urges, and let it recover.

10. Disease

Reason 10 - Fungal or Bacterial Diseases: Sometimes, these problems can kill your plant, so make sure to treat them as soon as possible
Reason 10 – Fungal or Bacterial Diseases: Sometimes, these problems can kill your plant, so make sure to treat them as soon as possible

ZZ plants are typically hardy and resistant to diseases, but occasionally, fungal rusts and bacterial leaf spots can make an appearance.

These issues might be linked to factors like overwatering or environmental conditions.

If you notice your ZZ plant’s leaves turning brown due to fungal rust or bacterial leaf spots, here’s what you can do:

For fungal rust:

  • Treat it with a copper-based fungicide.

For bacterial leaf spots:

  • Quarantine the affected plant.
  • Provide optimal care to help the plant recover.

How to Keep A ZZ Plant Healthy

With the right principles and care, I hope you will soon revive the beauty of your ZZ plant
With the right principles and care, I hope you will soon revive the beauty of your ZZ plant

A thriving plant craves the gentle touch of caring hands guided by the right principles.

With these simple ZZ care guidelines, you’ll become your plant’s best friend, cultivating a joyful partnership that blooms with lush and verdant beauty.

  • Water the plant only when the soil has dried out.
  • Use well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes for good drainage.
  • Maintain temperatures between 65-90°F (18-32°C).
  • Provide enough light, preferably bright indirect light.
  • Regularly observe your ZZ plant for any changes in leaf color or texture. If you notice early signs of stress, adjust care practices promptly.
  • Recognize that ZZ plants may exhibit seasonal changes, such as decreased growth during winter. Adjust your care routine accordingly, reducing watering frequency and providing appropriate conditions for dormancy.

By incorporating these tips and improvements, you can enhance your ability to keep your ZZ plant healthy and minimize the occurrence of brown leaves.

Conclusion

Happy gardening!
Happy gardening!

Brown leaves might have once marred your ZZ journey, but look how far you’ve come!

Armed with understanding and care, you’ve witnessed a transformation, nurturing not just lush foliage but also a deeper connection with the life force of nature.

As your ZZ thrives, let it be a reminder that even small acts of care can cultivate vibrant beauty and enrich your own well-being.