Updated: July 2, 2023

The Zig Zag plant, also known as the Calathea zebrina, is a popular houseplant known for its unique zebra-like pattern on its leaves. However, one common issue that many Zig Zag plant owners face is the appearance of brown spots on the leaves. These unsightly spots can be a cause for concern, but understanding the underlying reasons behind them can help you address the issue and ensure the health of your plant.


One of the most common causes of brown spots on Zig Zag plants is overwatering. The roots of these plants are sensitive to excess moisture, and prolonged periods of being waterlogged can lead to root rot. When the roots are damaged, they are unable to absorb nutrients properly, resulting in brown spots on the leaves.

To prevent overwatering, it is important to ensure that the potting soil is well-draining and that excess water can easily escape through drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Additionally, only water your Zig Zag plant when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. This will prevent water from accumulating in the pot and causing root rot.


On the other hand, underwatering can also cause brown spots on Zig Zag plants. When a plant does not receive enough water, it struggles to perform important functions such as nutrient absorption and photosynthesis. As a result, the leaves may develop brown spots as a sign of stress and dehydration.

To avoid underwatering your Zig Zag plant, make sure to check the moisture levels regularly and water it thoroughly whenever the top inch of soil feels dry. It is important to strike a balance and provide adequate hydration without overdoing it.

Low Humidity

Zig Zag plants are native to tropical regions where they thrive in high humidity environments. When these plants are grown indoors with low humidity levels, they may develop brown spots on their leaves. This is because the lack of moisture in the air causes the plant to lose water more rapidly through transpiration, leading to stress and dehydration.

To increase humidity for your Zig Zag plant, you can use a humidifier in the room where it is located. Alternatively, you can place a tray filled with water near the plant or mist its leaves regularly to create a more humid microclimate around it.

Temperature Stress

Extreme temperatures can also cause brown spots on Zig Zag plants. Exposure to cold drafts or temperatures below 60°F (15°C) can damage the leaves and result in discoloration. On the other hand, excessive heat can also cause leaf scorching and brown spots.

To protect your Zig Zag plant from temperature stress, make sure to keep it away from drafty windows or doors. Additionally, avoid placing it near heating or cooling vents that can subject it to sudden temperature changes. Maintaining a temperature range between 65-75°F (18-24°C) is ideal for this tropical plant.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections are another common cause of brown spots on Zig Zag plants. Overwatering or high humidity levels can create a favorable environment for fungi to thrive. These infections often manifest as circular or irregular brown spots on the leaves, sometimes accompanied by yellow halos.

To prevent fungal infections, ensure proper air circulation around your Zig Zag plant by avoiding overcrowding with other plants. If you notice signs of fungal infection, such as discolored spots that spread rapidly, consider using a fungicide specifically formulated for houseplants to treat the issue.


Pests such as spider mites and mealybugs can also cause brown spots on Zig Zag plants. These tiny insects feed on the sap of the leaves, leading to discoloration and eventually browning of affected areas.

To eradicate pests from your Zig Zag plant, inspect the leaves regularly for any signs of infestation. If you spot pests, you can manually remove them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or use an insecticidal soap to control their population.

Nutrient Deficiencies

In some cases, brown spots on Zig Zag plants can be a result of nutrient deficiencies. These plants require a balanced supply of nutrients to maintain vibrant foliage. Lack of essential nutrients such as nitrogen, magnesium, and iron can cause discoloration and browning of the leaves.

To address nutrient deficiencies, consider using a balanced houseplant fertilizer that contains the necessary micronutrients. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package and feed your Zig Zag plant regularly to ensure it receives an adequate supply of nutrients.

In conclusion, brown spots on Zig Zag plants can be caused by various factors including overwatering, underwatering, low humidity, temperature stress, fungal infections, pests, and nutrient deficiencies. By understanding these potential causes and taking appropriate measures to address them, you can keep your Zig Zag plant healthy and vibrant. Remember to monitor the moisture levels, provide proper humidity, maintain suitable temperatures, prevent fungal infections, control pests, and provide adequate nutrition. With proper care, your Zig Zag plant will continue to showcase its beautiful zebra-like pattern without any unsightly brown spots.