Plant Care

Podocarpus Leaves Turning Brown: 7 Surprising Reasons

Correctly identifying why Podocarpus leaves are turning brown is not always an easy task. Leaves can turn brown for many reasons, such as poor handling, lack of nutrients, environmental factors, diseases, and pests.

Next, we will discuss the main reasons why Podocarpus leaves are turning brown and the best way to fight this problem.

1. Incorrect Watering

Overwatering or underwatering can cause stress to the podocarpus tree, leading to browning leaves. Overwatering can lead to waterlogged soil and root rot, which can cause the leaves to turn brown and drop off, while underwatering can leave podocarpus dehydrated, leading to brown, dry, and brittle leaves.

To keep Podocarpus trees (Podocarpus macrophyllus) also called yew plum pine healthy and lush, some care is needed. One of the essential rituals for this is watering, which seems simple, but also has its secrets for achieving better results.

Plants need water to develop fully, helping both the absorption of nutrients from the earth by plants and the performance of photosynthesis.

In the case of over-watering or in soils with poor drainage, which retain a lot of water, they will create waterlogged areas that cause the podocarpus roots to rot, making oxygenation difficult and contributing to the appearance of fungi and disease.

When provided with a low supply of water, the Podocarpus tree will dehydrate, slow its growth, and start turning its leaves brown.


Even with general watering recommendations, it is worth remembering that each species has a specific need for the amount of water and humidity of the substrate.

This requirement must be followed, otherwise, the podocarpus leaves may start to turn brown:

SeasonPodocarpus Watering FrequencyAmount of Water
SpringOnce a week1 inch of water
SummerTwice a week1-2 inches of water
FallOnce a week1 inch of water
WinterOnce every two weeks1 inch of water

Check your podocarpus tree every other day. If you put your fingers in the substrate and the part below the surface is dry, it’s time to water.

It’s unnecessary to wet the leaves, as moisture can cause disease. During watering, wet the base of the podocarpus plant.

The secret is to water slowly, stopping when the water starts to seep into the soil.

Some recommendations are general and vital in keeping the podocarpus shurb in good health:

  • The best times to water your podocarpus are early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
  • Avoid watering the plants at the hottest times of the day.
  • Watering at night is also not indicated, as water absorption is lower.
  • Ensure to water the plants with water at room temperature to avoid thermal shocks.
  • Ensure to use soil with good drainage.

2. Thermal Stress

Environmental StressEffect on PodocarpusTreatment
Extreme TemperaturesExposure to extreme heat or cold can cause leaf browning. Protect the plant from extreme conditions by providing shade during hot summers or using frost covers during freezing winters.Provide shade during hot summers and protect from frost during freezing winters.
High WindsStrong winds can cause excessive transpiration, drying out the leaves and leading to browning. Consider planting windbreaks or providing protection, such as installing a barrier or placing the plant in a more sheltered location.Plant windbreaks, install barriers, or provide sheltered locations to protect from strong winds.
Air PollutionPollution, such as emissions from vehicles or industrial activities, can negatively impact the health of Podocarpus leaves, causing them to turn brown.Use filtration methods or consider relocating the plant to an area with better air quality to reduce the impact of pollution on leaf health.

Stresses are external factors that exert disadvantageous influences on plants. Thermal stress is nothing more than the negative effect of thermal conditions, that is, the ambient temperature, on plants.

It’s natural to think about high temperatures and how they can stress plants; low temperatures are also a form of thermal stress.

Whether high or low temperatures, the duration of the stress is also essential: when the period of stress is too prolonged, the podocarpus (yew plum pine) will feel its effects, reflecting on their appearance and causing leaves to turn brown.

Plants grown under heat-stress conditions have poor, suboptimal development. In addition, these plants will be more susceptible to diseases and pests.

Podocarpus is a hardy plant that does well in a wide range of temperatures (57 to 89 °F). But this does not mean that it cannot suffer from thermal stress.


Because we cannot control the climate, it is hard to handle this factor. Some strategies can be adopted to reduce the effects or the occurrence of thermal stress in podocarpus trees.

It is vital to take the first steps against thermal stress before planting. Ensure that in the region where you will keep podocarpus, the temperatures are within ideal parameters for the species.

Make temporary shelters to keep your podocarpus tree in the worst weeks of heat or cold.

Acquiring seedlings from farmers in the same region where the plant will stay is a great way to buy plants already adapted to that climate, humidity, and altitude.

In gardens and outdoor areas, soil management, with the application of organic compounds and soil correctives (organic and inorganic) and other agricultural techniques (cover crops, mulching, etc.), can also promote the reduction of thermal stress in plants.

3. Improper Light

Light ConditionsEffect on PodocarpusTreatment
Sun ExposureExcessive exposure to direct sunlight can cause leaf scorching and browning. Provide shade or partial shade if the plant shows signs of sunburn.Provide shade or partial shade to protect from intense sunlight.
Improper LightInadequate light or too much shade can stress your Podocarpus and result in browning leaves.Adjust the plant’s location to receive the optimal amount of light.

Many of the more popular plants, including Podocarpus, can’t be placed in full sun for a long period of time because they don’t acclimate to it.

While Podocarpus generally thrives in full or partial sun, excessive exposure to direct sunlight, especially during intense summer months, can cause leaf scorching and browning.

If Podocarpus doesn’t have the right lighting conditions, it can show its discomfort by dropping some of its leaves, turning them brown, and sometimes just dying.

Also, direct sun or wind exposure can cause the podocarpus leaves to become dry, brittle, and eventually turn brown. This is particularly harmful to podocarpus plants cultivated in hot, sunny areas.

Sunburn happens when a plant is exposed to an excessive quantity of UV radiation, which can cause cell and tissue damage. Damage to the leaves might appear as yellow or white discoloration, brown or black areas, or a general browning.


Plants have specific light needs, ranging from those that love it to those that thrive in full shade. Check which lighting suits your podocarpus plant.

See if the podocarpus tree is receiving light at the required intensity. If necessary, move it to an environment suited to its needs.

Try to create a shady atmosphere, especially in the summer days by placing it against a wall or structure, or by using shade cloth or growing other tall plants nearby.

Uncover the reasons behind yellowing Podocarpus leaves and learn how to revive your plant’s health with our expert guide – click now to restore your garden’s beauty!

4. Insufficient humidity

In this case, the signs are similar to those that occur with insufficient watering. Your podocarpus withers, the tone drops, the leaves fall, and the tips turn brown. It is necessary to increase the humidity in the air.

We have repeatedly written and once again we will remind you: 50% humidity is enough for people and most plants. In ordinary panel houses, there is no such humidity. Therefore, it must be artificially created by air humidifiers. 

5. Incorrect Fertilization

Incorrect fertilization can be one of the causes of brown leaves in Podocarpus. Many nutritional deficiencies are expressed in the leaves, and some cause the progressive appearance of the brown color.

Deficiencies in macronutrients (such as potassium) and even micronutrients (such as boron and magnesium) just like overfertilization can start causing the plant’s leaves to turn brown in a short time.

Magnesium deficiency

When the tips of a Podocarpus leaves begin to turn brown and dry out, it is almost definitely magnesium deficient. The most effective strategy to avoid and treat this is with fertilizer, which contains magnesium, nitrogen, and sulfur.

It is sprayed early in the morning or in the evening, according to package guidelines.


Carry out the necessary fertilizations for the plant to develop healthily. Use macronutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. Micronutrients such as magnesium, boron, zinc, and iron, among others, must be administered periodically.

When fertilizing, follow the manufacturer’s instructions correctly. That way you fertilize the podocarpus correctly, without the risk of causing the leaves to brown.

6. Too much salt in the soil

Another reason the sides of a podocarpus leaf turn brown is the high salt content in the soil. This can be natural in areas near the ocean or near a saltwater source. In this case, it is excessive parallel fertilization.

Over time, salt from the water accumulates in the soil and, accordingly, in the Podocarpus shurb. Salts can accumulate from fertilizers or from minerals in the water. 

Excess salt is absorbed by the Podocarpus and deposited at the tips of the leaves, turning leaves to a brown color and drying it out.


Water the plant regularly with distilled water to get rid of excess salts.

Reduce the amount of fertilizer and increase the amount of watering for a few weeks to flush out the salt.

Nettle manure is a harmless fertilizer, prepare it yourself. Although brown leaf tips and brown leaf edges can be alarming, for the most part, this is an easily fixed problem.

7. Pests and Diseases

Many insects and other pests can cause damage to podocarpus plants. One of the symptoms is browning on the leaves. Depending on the species and size of the pest, the proportion of damage may vary.

Pests and DiseasesEffect on the Podocarpus TreeTreatment
Spider MitesTiny pests that suck sap, causing yellowing and browning. Look for fine webbing on the undersides.Use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to control infestations. Prune heavily infested areas and dispose of the affected plant parts properly.
Scale InsectsSmall, raised bumps that attach to leaves and stems, sucking sap and causing yellowing and browning.Apply horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to affected areas, ensuring thorough coverage. Prune and discard heavily infested branches.
Podocarpus AphidsSmall, soft-bodied insects that feed on sap, leading to curling, distortion, and browning of leaves.Use a strong jet of water to dislodge aphids from the leaves. Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil spray for severe infestations.
Leaf Spot DiseasesFungal infections causing circular or irregular spots on leaves, leading to browning and yellowing.Remove and destroy affected leaves. Apply a fungicide specifically formulated for leaf spot diseases as directed on the label.
Root RotFungal disease resulting from overwatering or poor drainage, causing browning of leaves.Improve drainage by amending the soil with organic matter. Reduce watering frequency and ensure the soil is well-drained.
Phytophthora Root RotSoil-borne pathogen causing root rot, leading to brown and wilted leaves.Improve drainage and avoid overwatering. Remove and destroy infected plants. Avoid planting Podocarpus in areas with a history of the disease.
Fusarium WiltFungal disease affecting roots, causing browning, wilting, yellowing, and stunting of leaves.Remove and destroy infected plants. Avoid overwatering and maintain proper soil drainage.
Botrytis BlightFungal disease affecting flowers, but can impact leaves, causing browning, wilting, and decay.Remove and discard infected plant parts. Improve air circulation around the plant. Avoid overhead watering.

For this reason, it is necessary to worry about effective pest control in plants. The ideal is always to check the leaves in search of insects and symptoms.


Researching the main diseases, pests and symptoms that affect podocarpus is the best way to notice and combat symptoms quickly.

For this, there are some types of methods that can work, depending on the type of pest that is being faced. Among the various approaches, we find some main ones.

Biological control

Biological control methods aim to use the natural enemies of agricultural pests to eliminate them. In this process, it is possible to use beneficial insects, parasitoids, and predators, among others.

Physical Control

Another way that can also be used in pest control is physical methods. They involve tasks such as the manual collection of insects, burning the ill leaves, flooding, drainage, etc.

Chemical Control

In chemical control, specific medicines and poisons are used to combat the pest or disease in question. This method can be dangerous, and should only be performed by industry professionals.

Will Podocarpus Brown Leaves Turn Green Again?

It is not possible to turn a podocarpus brown leaf back to green. Brown leaves are a sign of damage or stress to the plant, and they will not recover on their own. You need to correct the condition that is affecting your podocarpus to prevent the rest of the leaves from being affected. To do this, you must identify the problem by observing your plant very well.

By removing the brown leaves cleanly, you can keep the disease from spreading.

Podocarpus shrub is never dead as long as the stem is green, or even as long as the roots are still green. It’s worth going to the trouble of trying to save her. You will be happy to see that the following spring its flowering will resume.

Should I Remove Brown Leaves from My Podocarpus?

Brown leaves from podocarpus must be cut because it is unfortunately too late and they will not turn green again. Only remove the entire leaf if most of it is brown.

Leaves with small brown areas along the edges or tip still produce energy for the plant through photosynthesis. However, if a podocarpus leaf is almost completely dry and brown, it no longer serves this purpose and can be removed.

Never cut off more than the brown part, otherwise you will inflict a fresh wound on the plant, which can cost it additional energy. However, if the entire leaf is discolored, you can remove it.

You should use scissors to trim the tips and dry edges, carefully not to damage your large and broad leaves, it is best to follow the edges of the damaged areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are the leaves of my plant brown?

Indoor plants with brown leaves have not received adequate water. When the sap can no longer reach the ends of a green plant, it becomes brown. If the sap is not draining sufficiently, it might be due to a shortage of water.

How do you green up Podocarpus?

Nitrogen is the fundamental element for the green and luxuriant growth of our podocarpus leaves. Nitrogen deficiency starts with older leaves starting to turn yellow or have reddish spots.
To green the foliage of your podocarpus, use a mixture of four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to two liters of water. Water your plant once a week with this mixture

What to do when Podocarpus leaves turn brown?

Quick remedy for magnesium deficiency: Dissolve magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) in water (max. 20g/l water) and spray on the needles, but not in sunshine. Repeat spraying after ten days.

Andreea Tapu

Andreea TAPU is a passionate gardener with over 5 years of experience in cultivating a wide variety of plants and flowers in her garden. As the author and creator of, she is dedicated to sharing her knowledge and expertise with others, providing practical tips and advice to help gardeners of all levels achieve success and enjoyment in their gardening pursuits.