How to Revive Ivy Plants with Brown Leaves

Why is my ivy turning brown

Ivy leaves turn brown and crispy at the edges if the humidity is too low. Dry air saps too much moisture from ivy leaves, causing them to turn brown and die back. If the potting soil is too damp, then the ivy roots begin to rot which turns the ivy’s leaves yellow and brown with a dying appearance.

Keep reading to learn why your ivy leaves are turning brown (or brown and yellow) and how to implement the solutions to revive your brown, dying ivy plants.

Ivy Leaves Turning Brown and Crispy (Low Humidity and Underwatering)

  • Symptoms. Leaves turning brown, crispy and dying back.
  • Causes. Low humidity, underwatering, high temperatures from indoor heating and air currents from air conditioning or forced air. Too much sun can also be a contributing factor.

English ivy is a climbing vine that grows in temperature European woodlands with relatively humid air, in rich, well draining moist soil composed of decaying leaf litter.

Indoors, ivy grows best with a temperature range of between 60°F (15°C) and 80°F (27°C) and prefers a night time temperature that is approximately 10°F (6°C) cooler then the daytime temperature.

As ivy is adapted to growing in high humidity (of up to 50%) and moist soil and can suffer when indoors as the air is typically too dry, particularly in Winter with indoor heating sapping moisture from the air.

Indoor heating can also raise the temperature in the evening significantly higher then the daytime temperature which is contrary to their natural conditions. This contrarian temperature cycle can contribute to the leaves turning brown.

If the humidity is too low indoors then this saps moisture from the ivy’s leaves more quickly then it can be drawn up through the roots which results in a dry and crispy appearance around the edges of the leaves.

Ivy also requires the soil to be consistently moist, yet well draining which is a balance that is achieved by potting it in compost with some added grit or perlite (around 25% grit by volume) which retains moisture yet also lets excess water drain efficiently.

If the soil dries out completely then the ivy leaves start to turn brown with a dying appearance.

The soil can dry out due to not watering often enough, watering the soil too lightly or because the pot is too small and dries out too quickly.

If the soil dries out completely then it can become hydrophobic which means it repels water off the surface of the soil and down the side of the pot, without infiltrating the soil properly and reaching the roots.

Ivy naturally grows under the canopy of a woodland and prefers bright, indirect light. If it is in too much direct sunlight the leaves can scorch yellow and brown.

How to Revive Ivy with Brown, Crispy, Dying Leaves

  • Increase the humidity by misting the leaves or using a humidifier. By misting the leaves you can counteract the dry air indoors effectively by reducing the rate of water loss from the leaves. How often you should mist them depends on your climate and conditions. In Winter with indoor heating I recommend misting the leaves every 2 days.
  • Submerge the pot in a basin of lukewarm water for 10 minutes. This allows the soil to properly absorb the moisture if it has become hydrophobic. Once the soil has had a good soak then the structure of the soil alters and it should be able to absorb water properly when it comes to watering it again.
  • Water the soil thoroughly, so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot. By watering thoroughly you can ensure the soil is evenly moist and the ivy’s roots can draw up the moisture they require to prevent the leaves from turning brown.
  • Keep the ivy’s pot on the other side of the room from any sources of heat. This ensures more stable temperatures and mitigates the risk of the soil and leaves drying out too quickly.
  • If the ivy is in a small pot then repot it to a pot that is one size up. A larger pot has more capacity for soil and therefore more capacity to retain moisture. This prevents the soil from drying too quickly and reduces the risk of the leaves turning brown and dying. Avoid repotting to a significantly larger pot as the soil may dry too slowly and cause root rot.

Once you have addressed the causes of the leaves turning brown then the ivy plant can begin to revive.

Ivy leaves that have turned brown do not turn green again so use a sharp pair of pruners to cut the vines back to health growth. Pruning the vines periodically is recommended to stimulate bushier growth.

(Read my article, how to water ivy plants).

Ivy Leaves Turning Yellow and Brown

  • Symptoms. Leaves turning yellow and brown and dying back.
  • Causes. Overwatering, slow draining soils, pot too large, too much direct sunlight.

Ivy leaves turning yellow and brown if the soil is consistently saturated from overwatering, slow draining compacted soil or pots without drainage holes in the base.

Ivy needs to grow in soil that is consistently moist in the Spring and Summer during active growth, but it does not tolerate boggy soil.

Overly damp soil excludes oxygen from the ivy’s potting soil which prevents root respiration. If the roots cannot respire then they cannot draw up the nutrients and moisture that is required to keep the leaves green and healthy.

Growth of English ivy plants slows significantly in the Winter which reduces it’s demand for water.

Therefore the soil is likely to stay moist for longer which can increase the risk of root rot which turns the leaves yellow and brown.

It is also important to note that ivy needs porous, aerated soil, so that excess water can drain efficiently.

If the soil has been overly compacted when potting then this too can excludes oxygen from the soil and cause the leaves to turn yellow. Compacted soil also retains moisture for much longer.

Saucers, trays and decorative outer pots can also cause excess water to pool around the base of the pot which keeps the soil in a consistently boggy state resulting in yellow and brown leaves.

Too much direct sunlight can also scorch the leaves yellow and brown. Always locate ivy plant in bright, indirect light.

How to Revive Ivy Plants with Yellow and Brown Leaves

  • Scale back the watering in the Winter so that the top inch of the soil dries out between each bout of watering. The best method for this is to use your finger to detect when the top inch of soil feels dry before watering. This ensures that the ivy has enough moisture without risking root rot. Keep in mind that the soil can dry out more slowly in Winter.
  • If the soil is compacted or draining slowly then repot the ivy in a soil mix of 75% compost and 25% horticultural grit or perlite. This potting mix retains the moisture that the ivy needs with the right proportion of compost yet also has the the proper drainage characteristics required to mitigate the risk of root rot and yellow/brown leaves.
  • Ivy should always be repotted in a pot that is just one size up from its original pot. If you have recently repotted the ivy into a much lager pot, then it retains too much moisture and this is likely the reason the leaves are turning yellow and brown. Ivy grow accustomed to the potting soil drying out at a certain rate and in a much larger pot the rate is a lot slowly. Find a pot that is of similar size to its original pot and repot it with some added horticultural grit to improve the drainage.
  • Always empty any saucers, trays or decorative outer pots of excess water regularly to prevent boggy soil. Good drainage is the key to avoiding root rot.

Once you have addressed any overwatering or drainage problems the ivy can start to recover. Trim back any vines leaves that are significantly discolored yellow and brown as these leaves do not turn green again.

If the ivy has been in boggy soil for too long then it is likely the roots have rotted and the plant dies back.

(To learn more, read my article, how to revive dying ivy plants).

Key Takeaways:

  • Ivy leaves turn brown and crispy due to low humidity and underwatering. The air indoors is often too dry for ivy to tolerate which causes the leaves to loose water faster then the roots can uptake moisture which causes them to dry out, turn brown and die back.
  • Ivy leaves turn yellow and brown because of root rot due to overwatering and slow draining soils. Ivy needs porous aerated potting soil that retains moisture yet excess water drains efficiently. In consistently boggy soil the roots rot and cannot uptake moisture or nutrients which turns the leaves yellow and brown with a dying apprearance.
  • To revive ivy that is turning brown, recreate the preferred conditions of its natural environment by misting the leaves to increase the humidity and plant ivy in a well draining potting mix amended with horticultural grit. Only water ivy when the top inch of potting soil is dry.

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