What's up with my plant? Chapter 2: The bummer of browning edges
I feel like everyone has experienced this, even if they think they are doing everything right! Some plants are more finicky than others, and some plants will show signs of suffering if recently moved to a new environment, and let's face it, all of us don't have a climate as ideal for a tropical plant as the nursery it came from. Even if you think you're giving your plant everything it needs, it might need just a little extra TLC if you are seeing the edges of your leaves or new leaves browning.
Unfortunately, the biggest cause of browning on leaves is usually due to neglect or improper care. D:
However, with leaf discoloration, there is always the possibility of additional or alternative issues, such as pests, sunburn, infection, or over-fertilization (all which can also be due to neglect or improper care). If you have a plant with brown edges, be sure to inspect the plant and check the soil, it is also good to find out what direction your windows are facing- some plants can't handle the long hours of direct sun, so it's good to exclude that as the issue also.
But if you're doing things right, and the plant is otherwise healthy, you might be wondering WHYYYY is this happening to me?
If you are an experienced plant parent who constantly monitors the soil, knows how many footcandles your plant prefers, and fertilizes sparingly, I'm betting that you can solve your edge-browning problem with increased humidity.
In my experience, monitoring the soil moisture and adding more humidity will help make sure that this doesn't happen. Most popular houseplants are native to tropical, jungle regions which are constantly warm and humid- plant nurseries are often made to mimic these conditions to grow lush, happy plants, but most of our homes don't offer the same benefits. If the conditions in your home can't give the plant what it needs, it will begin to show signs of distress, like crisping or browning of leaves.
Why does humidity make a difference?
Plants are constantly utilizing the water they are given, each day the water the plant has access to is absorbed by the plant and its tissue. If for some reason that water cannot be replaced the leaf tips may begin to brown and crisp. Water travels from plant roots to its stems through a process called transpiration until it reaches the leaves. Understandably, the last part of the plant to receive water from the roots is the tips of the leaves. If moisture is scarce or water insufficient, the plant's leaves may not receive enough water as it may all be utilized by the rest of the plant. This leaves nothing for the cells in the edges of the leaves to absorb, allowing these fringe cells to die, essentially from drought. The first step I would take to combat these crispy brown edges is to up the humidity, either with daily spritzes with a spray bottle, pebble trays, or a humidifier- this was my issue on more than one occasion. As soon as I up the humidity for the plant with the issue the new growth comes in lusher and the browning stops. It could be that simple!
Anything that compromises a plant's ability to absorb water through its roots quickly & efficiently (essentially, "drink") can cause brown tips on leaves, so the most likely reason your plant is crisping up is, that the plant is thirsty! Although it may seem counterintuitive, overwatering can also cause this problem, because it can actually waterlog the soil, making the plant suffocate, and unable to absorb the water it already has.
So, if you are a bit of a houseplant novice, you'll want to consider all other possibilities as the source of the issue, but upping the humidity first is always a good test to see if the condition improves (unless, of course, you are prone to overwatering, then I would check the soil or perhaps unpot to check the roots before adding more moisture to the equation). If you are just bad at monitoring your plant's soil, underwatering, or just don't really know how to tell what your plant wants- I highly recommend adding more humidity to the environment and testing the soil yourself, prior to watering. Most plants want to dry out a bit before you water it again, and if your plant is potted without drainage and you are having these issues, think of repotting it or just invest in a moisture meter!