Polka Dot Plant Leaves Turning Brown [Causes & How to Fix]

Polka Dot plants are leafy, evergreen household plants that feature beautiful pink and purple patterns on the leaves. However, you may have noticed your plant’s leaves turning brown and losing their pattern. So what does it mean when your Polka Dot plant’s leaves turn brown?

A Polka Dot plant’s leaves turning brown indicate that the plant is sick or dying, and the causes include improper watering, improper exposure to sunlight, or disease. To fix this, you should maintain proper water and sunlight exposure and re-pot the plant if necessary.

In the rest of this article, I will talk about the causes of leaf browning in polka dot plants and explain how to treat them so you have your healthy, beautiful plant back.

Two Fairy Garden Hypoestes Confetti, Red Polka Dot Plant Only From Jm Bamboo

Causes of Polka Dot Leaves Turning Brown

When they’re healthy, the most common variety of polka dot plants has deep pink leaves with green patterns and dots decorating them. Other varieties can have leaves that are purple, white, or red. 

The healthier your plant is, the deeper the patterns and their colors. However, sometimes polka dot leaves can turn brown, which indicates that they’re sick or dying.

Typically, polka dot plants are relatively easy to maintain. All they need is a warm and humid environment. However, if your polka dot leaves turn brown, it could be because of mistakes made in taking care of them.

Below are some of the most common reasons polka dot leaves turn brown.

Overwatering Your Polka Dot Plant

Overwatering is the most common cause of polka dot leaves turning brown. Polka dot plants only need moderate moisture in the soil, but many new owners might accidentally water them too much or too often.

Watering your polka dot plants too often can cause root rot, a condition in which the roots lack air due to the excess water in the soil. This constant moisture causes the roots to decay and is the most common killer of polka dot plants.

If your plant’s leaves are turning brown, losing their patterns and dots, and becoming soggy or squishy, this indicates root rot and overwatering.

Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) Live Indoor Houseplant, 4 Inch Nursery Pot (Diameter)

Also read, How To Propagate Polka Dot Plant

Underwatering Your Polka Dot Plant

When polka dot leaves turn brown and become dry and brittle, it could indicate a lack of adequate moisture in the soil. The lack of water causes your plant to dry out.

Here are some signs that your polka dot plant is not getting enough water.

  • The plant has dry, brittle leaves.
  • There is browning around the edges or tips of the leaves.
  • They show a loss of color and pattern in the leaves.
  • The plant has withered and curled leaf edges.

Your Polka Dot Plant Has Too Much Sunlight

If you live in arid, sunny places like Arizona or Nevada, you’ll need to avoid exposing your polka dot plants to excessive sunlight. Overexposure to sunlight can cause the leaves to dry out and turn brown and brittle.

Polka dot plants grow best in bright, filtered, and indirect sunlight. They might be able to tolerate direct sunlight for up to a few hours, but continuous exposure burns the leaves and makes them brittle and thin. 

If your polka dot leaves are turning brown, check their placement. If the area where you keep them regularly receives harsh, direct sunlight, you’ll need to keep them somewhere with more shade.

Your Polka Dot Plant Requires More Sunlight

In the same way that overexposure to sunlight can cause problems for your polka dot plants, underexposure is also an issue. A lack of adequate sunlight results in a loss of pattern in the leaves, and over time the color might fade until the leaves turn brown.

If you notice the color of the leaves becoming faint, that could be the first sign that your plants aren’t getting enough sunlight. Shifting them to a new spot with a slightly brighter light source could solve that problem.

Pink Polka Dot Plant - 3'' from California Tropicals

Read How Much Sun Does a Polka Dot Plant Need?

How To Fix Leaf-Browning on Polka Dot Plants

Thankfully, a polka dot plant’s leaves turning brown can be fixed. All you have to do is follow these steps.

  • Determine the root of the problem.
  • Create a proper watering routine.
  • Maintain adequate lighting conditions.
  • If necessary, re-pot the plant in new soil.

Let’s see how to make your polka dot plants healthy and fix the problem of their leaves turning brown.

Determine the Root of the Leaf Browning Issue

The first thing you need to do is determine what caused the leaves to turn brown. Here’s a quick recap of identifying the cause of leaf browning.

  • Dry, brittle, and brown leaves indicate excessive sun exposure or inadequate moisture retention.
  • Soggy brown leaves and dark brown or black roots indicate root rot caused by over-watering.
  • Fading patterns or leaves turning green with brown edges indicate inadequate sunlight.

Before you begin treatment, it’s essential to identify the root cause of the problem. Once you have determined the problem, you can use the following steps to fix the issue.

Red Polka Dot Plant - 3'' from California Tropicals

Read Polka Dot Plant Dying

Maintain Adequate Water Levels for Your Polka Dot Plant

Generally, polka dot plants require only a small amount of water and soil with proper drainage. Issues with these two conditions could cause your plant to dry out.

If you’re not watering your plant enough or live in an arid climate like in Arizona, the moisture in the soil will either drain out or evaporate. This drying becomes a recurring issue because parched soil lacks proper water retention, so it will keep draining even if you add more water.

Generally, you should only water your polka dot plants when the top inch of the soil has become dry. How often this happens will depend on the temperature, season, weather, and soil type. 

For example, in dry places like Las Vegas and Phoenix, you might need to water the plant a little every day. However, in warm, humid places like New Orleans or parts of Florida, you may only need to water the plants every few days.

Read Why Is My Polka Dot Plant Flowering?

Ensure Your Polka Dot Has Proper Exposure to Sunlight

Polka dot plants are picky about getting the proper amount of sunlight. Whether you keep them indoors or out in a garden, you’ll need to carefully select a spot that allows enough sunlight to reach the plants without burning them.

If you’re keeping the plants indoors in a container, you should select an area with enough natural light but no direct sunlight. For example, you can place your plant near windows facing away from the general position of the sun. 

If you don’t have such a place, fix an awning or window shade over the window to block most of the direct sunlight.

If you’re keeping your plant outdoors, find a place with a decent amount of shade from the sunlight. This spot could be near the house or a tree or awning that provides shade. 

Whether you’re planting the polka dot directly in the soil or keeping it in a container, you’ll need to place it out of direct sunlight. If you live in sunny places like Nevada or Arizona, it’s best to keep the plants indoors.

Before you plant polka dots, it’s best to check the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zone Map to know whether your area is suitable for these plants. Polka dot plants typically thrive in the USDA zones 10-11.

Thorsen's Greenhouse Pink Splash Plant, Live Indoor Plant, Hypoestes phyllostachya, Polka Dot Plant, 6 Inches, Biodegradable Pot (Natural)

Ensure Proper Soil Maintenance for Your Polka Dot Plant

The last thing to take care of is ensuring that the soil used is suitable for growing polka dot plants. Polka dot plants require slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH 6.1-7.3) with moderate moisture and good drainage. 

The drainage ensures that the soil doesn’t retain too much water, which would lead to root rot in your polka dot plants. If the soil you use retains too much water, you can crush some pumice in your soil to increase the drainage.

On the other hand, you don’t want the soil you use to be too dry either. Extremely dry soil doesn’t retain moisture well. So no matter how much you water your plant, the water will simply drain completely, leaving nothing for your plant to use.

One way to fix that is to provide water from below instead of watering from above. You can do this if your plant is in a pot.

  1. Fill a container with water. The water level should be approximately level with the middle of your plant’s pot.
  2. Remove the bottom of the pot containing your plant and place the entire pot into the water container. The water will soak into the soil slowly from the bottom.
  3. Replace the water in the container as needed. As the soil absorbs the water, you will notice the water level in the container dropping. Keep adding more water as needed.
  4. Once you moisturize the top inch of the soil, you can remove the pot. Replace the bottom of the pot and keep it back in its usual place.

If the above method doesn’t work, you might need to replace the soil and re-pot the plant.

The local soil may or may not be considered adequate depending on where you are. In this case, you might need to buy soil from elsewhere. 

Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix - All Natural Potting Mix For All Indoor & Outdoor Containers Including Herbs & Vegetables. For Organic Gardening, 8qt. bag. Pack of1

I recommend this Espoma Organic Potting Mix (available on Amazon.com)  for your polka dot plants. This soil contains all the needed nutrients for a polka dot plant to survive, and it has peat moss, perlite, and sphagnum, which ensure the perfect amount of drainage to prevent root rot.


Polka dot leaves can turn brown for multiple reasons. The main reasons include improper watering and improper sunlight exposure. To mitigate this issue, you’ll need first to determine the cause of the leaves turning brown. 

Then, maintain a proper watering schedule, use the right soil, and ensure adequate sunlight to make your polka dot plants healthy again.