How to Prevent Browning Leaves on Your Indoor Avocado Plant


Growing an avocado tree from a seed can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to understand that avocados are not well-suited for the average home environment. While they may initially thrive, they often struggle to maintain their attractiveness, especially during the fall and winter months. One common problem that avocado plants face is browning leaves, which can be attributed to dry air. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind browning leaves on indoor avocados and provide practical tips to prevent this issue.

Understanding the Conditions Avocado Trees Prefer

Avocado trees (Persea americana) naturally thrive in tropical environments, where they enjoy full sun and high levels of humidity. Unfortunately, indoor conditions rarely replicate these ideal circumstances. Avocado plants typically demonstrate their displeasure during the fall and winter months, as the dry air caused by heating systems can lead to the browning and drying of leaf edges.

Dry Air: The Main Culprit

Avocados originate from humid tropical climates, where the atmospheric humidity ranges from 70% to 80% and sometimes even higher. Indoors, however, the relative humidity drops significantly, often falling below 30% during the fall and winter. This dry air increases evapotranspiration, causing avocado leaves to lose water faster than they can replenish it. As a result, the cells in the leaves begin to die, resulting in the characteristic browning.

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Avocado Leaves

Humidity: Your Avocado’s Best Friend

To keep your avocado’s leaves healthy and vibrant, it is crucial to increase the humidity in its surroundings. One effective method is to use a humidifier, which can help maintain a humidity level of 45% to 55%. Although this falls short of the avocado’s preferred humidity range, it can significantly reduce browning on the leaves. Additionally, a humidity tray can be beneficial for shorter plants, although it may not reach the lofty leaves of tall indoor trees like avocados.

Contrary to popular belief, spraying the leaves with water does not effectively increase humidity. This common gardening myth has persisted despite being ineffective in addressing dry air concerns.

Ideal Growing Conditions for Avocado Trees

For optimal avocado tree growth with minimal leaf browning, creating a humid greenhouse-like environment or using a large clear plastic bag can be beneficial during the fall and winter months. By sealing the plant inside the bag, the humidity can be maintained at 80% or higher, which is ideal for avocados. However, be cautious of excessive condensation, as it can lead to other problems. If condensation occurs, open the bag for a few hours and then reseal it.

It’s important to note that increasing humidity will not reverse the damage done to already browned leaves. Instead, it helps prevent further browning, allowing new leaves to grow without discoloration.

Additional Suggestions for Healthy Avocado Growth

First and foremost, ensure that your avocado plant is potted in suitable soil. While many people begin by rooting the pit in water, it is essential to transplant it into a terrestrial environment once root growth is visible. Regular and deep watering is crucial to prevent the root ball from drying out, as complete dryness can also lead to leaf browning.

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Avocados prefer a slightly acidic soil without excessive minerals. Tap water can be problematic, as it may be hard and contain chemicals that increase its hardness. Hard water, combined with dry air, can exacerbate leaf browning. Ideally, the water used for watering should have a calcium carbonate concentration of less than 60 mg/l. If your tap water is considered hard or very hard, using alternatives such as rainwater, dehumidifier water, or distilled water is recommended.

Embracing the Seasons

If you choose not to intervene, rest assured that your avocado tree’s condition should improve naturally as the seasons change. In the spring and summer, indoor air tends to be more humid, which benefits the new leaves. Fresh, healthy leaves will replace the damaged ones, culminating in a healthier-looking plant. Keep in mind, however, that the problem may resurface during the next heating season.

Avocados may be fun to grow from seeds, but they are not the most suitable houseplants. Dry air remains a persistent challenge, and providing them with the ideal conditions they crave can be difficult indoors. By understanding the causes of browning leaves and implementing measures to increase humidity, you can help your indoor avocado plant thrive and retain its beauty. For additional guidance and a wide variety of avocado-related information and products, you can visit the Ames Farm Center.

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