Brown Tips on Houseplants Might Indicate This Problem

A newbie plant mom, I’ve been fretting endlessly over my rattlesnake plant since I brought it home a month ago. I had carefully chosen it for its preference for indirect light; my apartment is bright, but sunshine never really pours through the windows. I put it in a pretty ceramic pot, set it on my window sill, and proceeded to diligently water it once a week. But one day, not too long after that, I noticed a few of the leaves were brown and crispy at the ends. I promptly panicked. Was I killing my very first plant baby?!?!

If only I had talked to Christina Stembel, Chief Farmgirl (a.k.a. founder) of online flower and plant delivery service Farmgirl Flowers, beforehand. “One of the biggest mistakes that you can make with a houseplant is to overexpose it to sunlight,” she says. How could that be my problem, given my aforementioned living situation? “Most windows magnify sunlight by three times!” No wonder my indirect-light–loving plant was struggling. It lived on the damn windowsill.

I had a lot to learn, apparently. “Unless a plant specifically calls for direct and sustained light—and very few do!—start your plant off no fewer than three feet from a sunny window,” says Christina. “Even plants typically associated with warmer weather—like a cactus!—generally live their best lives when kept in indirect light.” I know, this is mind-blowing stuff. A windowsill, the seemingly natural spot to put a cute little houseplant, is actually a secret plant killer.

In case you’re not at the crisis stage yet, here are the signs to look out for, according to Christina: wilting foliage, yellow leaves, and browning leaf tips. Surprise, surprise: Since I moved my beloved rattlesnake plant to the dining table, it suffers from zero of these symptoms.