Why Are My Hibiscus Leaves Turning Brown? (Causes+Fix)


Hibiscus plants with brown leaves or spots can be alarming. Being a resistant plant, Hibiscus will rarely have this kind of problem. But, what can you do to restore the plant’s old form? Let’s find it out.

The primary reasons for brown leaves in the hibiscus plant could be poor watering habits, lack of nutrients, extreme heat, and pest infestation. To fix the issue, provide adequate care to the plant, occasionally inspect for the pest, and take the necessary steps to get rid of them.

Sometimes, the leaves turn yellow and then brown, and sometimes, the leaves become yellow with brown spots.

To understand which problem is causing brown leaves or spots on your Hibiscus and how to solve them, read this article till the end.

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Hibiscus brown leaves

Why are my Hibiscus leaves browning?

Let’s understand all the reasons that might be making your Hibiscus leaves go brown.

Poor watering habits

Too much or too little water can turn the Hibiscus leaves brown.

When the soil remains too dry, the plant fails to receive the moisture it needs to be healthy.

As a result, the leaves turn yellow due to dehydration. 

The yellow leaves will have brown spots, or the tips will turn brown. 

Slowly the whole leaf will become brown.

When you water too much without letting the soil dry, the roots get suffocated due to excessive water.

The roots fail to pass the moisture to other plant parts, including leaves. 

Therefore, the leaves will again turn yellow or brown.

You should know that Hibiscus enjoys consistently moist soil, neither too much nor too less. 

How do I improve my watering habits?

  • The best way to improve watering habits is to perform a finger test on the soil. The plant is ready to take water when the top 1-2 inches are dry. If you cannot feel the moisture properly, use a moisture meter. Water the plant if the meter shows a result between 1 and 3.
  • When you find brown leaves, check the soil. If it’s wet, wait for some more days to water the plant.
  • Don’t let the whole soil dry out. It needs to be slightly moist below 2-3 inches from the top. 
  • In the summers, water Hibiscus regularly. Sometimes, it might require 2 times watering per day if the weather is too hot. The main thorough watering should be done in the early morning.
  • Check the soil and water deeply if it’s dry. Remove the discolored leaves.
  • In the winters, Hibiscus grows slowly and so absorbs water slowly. Due to this, the soil takes time to dry out. It is best to water Hibiscus once a week. Don’t forget to check the moisture level.

Also read: How To Water Hibiscus Plant? (How Much, How Often & More)


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Extreme heat

Hibiscus high temperature

Though Hibiscus plants are sun-loving plants, extreme heat can cause severe damage to the plant.

When the temperature outside is extremely warm and dry, the soil dries out faster than normal.  

Due to the frequent dryness, soon the leaves will turn yellow or brown due to dehydration.

In some cases, the leaves fall off the plant.

Lack of moisture weakens the leaves and seizes the plant’s energy to hold the leaves.

How should I save the Hibiscus from the heat?

Hibiscus should receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.

But, also maintain some shade, especially during the summer afternoons.

  • Protect the plant if the outside temperature rises above 95 to 100°F. Shade the plant and increase the watering frequency.
  • If the top 1-inch frequently gets dry, water the soil with 1-2 inches of water to maintain moisture consistency.
  • Shower the plant weekly to keep the plant cool.
  • Remove the discolored leaves so that the plant can concentrate on making more new leaves instead of wasting the energy behind the discolored ones.

Also read: Hibiscus Temperature Tolerance: Ideal Range+USDA Zones

Nutrient deficiency

Hibiscus yellow leaves

Hibiscus plants are heavy feeders.

It would be best to feed them from time to time during the growing season.

They are not much demanding, but you have to be careful about certain things.

If you find that the leaves have yellow or brown leaves despite proper watering and sunlight, it could be due to nutrient deficiency.

Recall the last time you fertilized them, and you will get your answer behind brown leaves.

Without proper nutrients, the leaves will suffer from chlorosis, where the leaves become yellow, and the veins become dark green.

Over time, the leaves will slowly turn brown and fall off.

Insufficient nutrition also stops the plant from having any blooms.

How can I correct the nutrient deficiency?

  • If you have not fertilized the plant for a long time, mulch your soil bed with compost to increase the soil nutrition. Since the plant is experiencing under-fertilization, starting immediately with chemical fertilizers can be risky.
  • Once you use compost and find any result of progress, start fertilizing them after 1-2 months with liquid fertilizers. Apply them every 2 weeks during the spring and summer. 
  • If you are using slow-release, use every 3 to 6 months. Avoid during the winters.
  • If you are unsure about using chemical fertilizers, try organic fertilizers like compost, eggshells, banana peels, coffee grounds, Epsom salt, etc.
  • Note that Hibiscus grows best when they consume a huge amount of potassium. The fertilizer should have medium nitrogen, low phosphorus, and high potassium, for example, a fertilizer with an NPK value of 17-5-24.

Also read: What Is A Good Fertilizer For Hibiscus Plants? (Ideal Ratio+Best Pick)

Fertilizer burn

NPK fertilizer

Fertilizer burn is the most common cause of brown leaves.

The browning starts from the tips and edges.

Slowly it spreads inwards and turns the maximum portion of the leaf brown.

It occurs when you apply excessive fertilizers in the soil or when you apply them directly on the dry ground or wet foliage.

The fertilizers contain a lot of salts.

These salts make the fertilizer soluble and help add nutrients to the soil. 

Salts can absorb enough moisture from the plant. 

Salt accumulation increases in the soil when you apply excess fertilizers. 

As a result, the salts will absorb the maximum amount of moisture.

The plant will have very little water to pass on to the leaves for this moisture loss.

Excessive fertilizer can damage the plant’s roots, resulting in brown leaves or spots. 

The direct application of fertilizer to dry soil or wet leaves also burns the roots and leaves. The browning is a sign of burn.

It is a common problem in Hibiscus because it requires regular feeding. 

That is why it is easy to over-feed them during the wrong time in the wrong quantities and frequency.

How do I fix an overfertilized Hibiscus?

  • The salt accumulation remains on the soil surface when you fertilize too much. You will find white crusts on the top. Remove these crusts by scraping the soil.
  • You need to flush the soil by running water thoroughly. Repeat 2-3 times.
  • For the next few days, continue washing the soil to eliminate the remaining fertilizer. Avoid fertilizing for 2-3 weeks. Water the plant slowly to let the water seep down into the soil and wash away the accumulated salts.
  • If you are using liquid or water-soluble fertilizers, mix only 1/3 cap of the fertilizer with 2 gallons of water to apply it to the grounded plants. 
  • For container plants, add 1 teaspoon of the fertilizer with one gallon of water. 
  • Don’t use fertilizers during the winter seasons. Since they rest, they won’t absorb the provided nutrients. 
  • You can apply liquid fertilizers every 4 weeks in winter if the plant does not stop growing indoors. Never use slow-release fertilizers in winter. 
  • If you have applied fertilizer to the leaves, they will burn. Wipe it off immediately before it dries out.
  • Don’t apply fertilizer to the dry soil. It can burn the roots. Always water the soil and then apply.

The grounded plants rarely suffer from this problem because:

  • Mostly slow-release is used.
  • If you apply less than the recommended amount, there are no chances of overdose. 
  • And for suffering over-fertilization, grounded plants will frequently need lots of fertilizers.

Pest damage

Hibiscus bugs

Brown leaves are sometimes the reasons for pest infestation, especially Hibiscus mites.

It is a rare and uncommon problem, but knowing every detail is better if you want your plant back to green. 

These mites enter the Hibiscus leaf and damage it from within.

The mites are invisible once they enter the leaf.

But the good thing is that you can identify the problem by looking at the condition of the leaves closely.

The leaves will become brown or have brown spots, curled edges, and deformation.

Be careful while noticing the spots.

They can either be black or brown or a mixture of the two colors.

How can I deal with pest damage on my Hibiscus?

  • Use a Hibiscus-friendly pesticide to treat the problem. The product won’t harm the plant.
  • Try a normal organic pesticide, but it doesn’t show fast or strong results. The pests don’t leave your plant so quickly.
  • But, still, you can try using an organic pesticide as a first resort or if the infestation is small. One example is PyGanic Gardening 8oz Botanical Insecticide Pyrethrin Concentrate for Organic Gardening.
  • Go for homemade treatment with soapy water. Add 3 tablespoons of the mild liquid dish wash soap to one gallon of water. 
  • Mix the ingredients well and transfer the mixture to a spray bottle. Spray onto the leaves only and not the soil. 
  • After application, wipe the leaves to remove the eggs.
  • If the problem is not resolved, you must use chemical pesticides like Bayer Rose and Flower or Bayer Advanced 3-in-1.
  • Don’t overuse chemical pesticides. Use as advised in the label instructions. Over usage can shock the plant, causing severe problems like defoliation. Besides, if the excess amounts drip onto the ground, it can cause other issues which you don’t want to happen.

Also read: How Do I Get Rid Of Bugs On My Hibiscus? (Common Bugs+Fix)

New leaf growth

When the Hibiscus plant grows new leaves, it will naturally stop providing nutrients to the older leaves.

As time progresses, the old leaves will not get any nutrition.

The old leaves will have brown tips or spots.

Slowly, the browning will spread inwards and turn the whole leaf brown. 

Ultimately, these leaves fall off. 

It is a completely natural cycle, and there is nothing to solve here.

It usually occurs during the late winter or early spring.

The plant will give signals when new leaves are about to grow.

There will be new leaf buds.

If you don’t like the sight of brown leaves, you can prune them.

It is unnecessary, but you need to be careful while doing it.

Make sure that the reason is new leaf growth.

Also read: How Fast Do Hibiscus Plants Grow? (Hibiscus Growth Rate )

Brown leaves or spots accompanied by yellow leaves

In certain situations, the yellow leaves get accompanied by brown leaves or spots.

Sometimes, the leaves first turn yellow and then brown.

It is a natural process.

When the leaves turn yellow, it is a single problem like overwatering or underwatering, nutrient deficiency, etc.

Over time, the yellow leaves turn brown.

If the leaves are yellow leaves with brown spots, and slowly the browning spreads, it is a sign of fertilizer burn.

The tips and edges will also become brown and spread inwards.

How do I prevent Hibiscus leaf browning?

Keep a check on the following to prevent brown leaves on your Hibiscus:

Factor Care Requirement
Light Hibiscus needs 6 to 8 hours of sunlight and a 65-75°F temperature range. Protect Hibiscus from excessive sunlight and temperature heat to avoid browning. Fix shading nets and shower the plant weekly to keep them cool.
Water Water the plant every 4-5 days. Increase the frequency and consider daily watering if the temperature is very hot. Decrease frequency in winters. Water the plant when the top 1-2 inches are dry. Don’t let the whole soil dry. 
Fertilization Don’t forget to fertilize during the growing season. Avoid winter fertilization. If you are confused about the amount or frequency, start with lower amounts and frequency. Or, try organic fertilizers like compost, eggshells, banana peels, Epsom salt, coffee grounds, etc.
Pests Observe the plant daily to watch for signs of mite infestation. Take action whenever you find any sight of them. Hibiscus mites go invisible once they enter the leaves. If you see brown leaves, spots, or distorted and curly leaves, it is due to the mite. Apply soapy water and organic and inorganic pesticides to kill them.

Final thoughts

Brown spots or brown leaves don’t mean your plant is on the verge of death. It means they are going through some problems. With proper treatment, your plant will come back.

The brown leaves will fall off the plant. But the leaves with brown spots may live if the problem gets resolved. Removing the discolored leaves is unnecessary because they fall off on their own. 

But you can remove it in some cases to stop the plant from wasting energy to restore it and encourage it to focus on growing new leaves.

Take care of your plant to avoid browning, and take action when you find any issue to prevent it from spreading.


Reference: WikipediaASPCALouisiana State University Agricultural CenterAmerican Society for Horticultural ScienceTropical Hibiscus by Texas A&M UniversitySciencedirect.

Richa

Hello everyone, My name is Richa and I am here to make you a better gardener by creating an in-depth and helpful resource for all the fellow gardeners out there. If I could help even a few people understand their plants better then I call it a success for my efforts.

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