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why do plant leaves turn yellow and brown

By Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Just like people, plants are known to feel under the weather now and then. One of the more common signs of ailment is yellowing leaves. When you see leaves turning yellow, it s time to put your Sherlock hat on and do some sleuthing to find the possible cause and solution. Among the reasons why plant leaves are yellow are environmental conditions, cultural reasons, pests or disease, and even the medium in which the plant grows. There are many conditions that affect plant growth. Plants are susceptible to temperature variations, sensitive to chemicals and excesses of nutrient, require specific soil compositions and pH levels, have varying lighting needs, are prey to certain pests and diseases, and many other factors influence their health. Yellowing leaves on plants can be a sign of any of these out of balance or even certain nutritional or chemical influences. Plants don t have facial expressions so they, therefore, can t express discomfort or displeasure the way we can. What they can do is show dissatisfaction with a condition by signaling with their leaves. So when you find out why plant leaves turn yellow, you can start triaging your ill plant and nurse it back to health. Yellowing leaves on plants may often be a sign of or or nutrients which can affect plant performance. Your plant may also be located in too much light where it is scorching, or too little light where it is fading due to an inability to properly. Yellowing also occurs due to blatant physical damage. Age is another cause when plant leaves are yellow. It is quite usual for many types of plants to lose the older leaves as the new ones arrive. Older foliage will turn yellow and often wither before it drops off. is another condition with which most are familiar that makes yellow plant leaves.

Of course, yellow plant leaves may not be the only hue experienced, as autumnal displays of red, orange, bronze and rust are common sights. Because of the closed environment in container plants, the conditions must be carefully controlled. There is a limited amount of space, area to store moisture, nutrient in the medium, and lighting and temperature must be considered for each species of potted plant. Our houseplants often have leaves turning yellow due to nutrient deficiency or excess salt in the soil from too much fertilizer. It may be necessary to change the soil or with large amounts of water to correct the balance. Of course, changing the soil can trigger a condition called, which also causes yellowing and dropping leaves. Indoor plants are often tropical in nature and something as simple as changing the plant s location can produce yellowing leaves on plants which drop off the specimen. This is often due to stress but can also indicate low light or exposure to a draft. The pH may also be too high, causing a condition called. It is a good idea to use a pH meter in potted plants to ensure the correct growing conditions. Overhead watering is yet another cause for yellow water spots on plants like, and several other species of plants with slightly furred foliage. Pinpointing the causes of yellowed leaves can be quite difficult due to all the potential causes. One thing we haven t gone over are pests and disease. Sucking insects attack plants inside and outside. These encompass: Many of these insects are too tiny to see with the naked eye and are identified by the plant s response to their feeding activity. The insects are robbing the plant of its sap, which is the life blood of the plant. The plant s response is a reduction in overall health including stippled and yellowing leaves. Leaves may crinkle at the edges and fall off.

In most cases, repeatedly washing the plant to remove the insects or using a or can combat these little pirates. Root diseases are often found in or in. Any attack on roots can limit the ability of the plant to uptake moisture and nutrients, severely affecting its health. Roots may simply rot away, leaving the plant with minimal ways to sustain themselves. Withering, fading leaves are a common sight when roots are under attack by or even. As you can see, there are many causes for yellowing foliage. It is best to familiarize yourself with your plant s specific needs so you can consider each cultural condition carefully and unearth possible causes. It takes patience, but your plants will love you for it. It happens to all gardeners. One day you wake up and realize your tomato plant s leaves are yellow and you have no idea why. Don t panic! We are here to help you answer that daunting question of why are my plant s leaves turning yellow? Use the infographic below to understand what your plant might be trying to tell you through different types of yellow leaves. After the graphic, we ll explore a little more in depth of why leaves turn yellow and brown, and how to give your plants the nutrients they need to stay green. This work is licensed under a. 1) Waterlogged vs. Dehydration: The most typical reason your plant s leaves turned yellow is because of water, but it s tricky to understand whether you are over-watering or under-watering the plant. Often the leaves of plants that are under-watered will be crispy with a slight curl to the leaf while over-watered leaves will be limp. However, the plants leaves could be deceiving. You might be watering your plant enough but the water just isn t getting to the root, which would show signs of dehydration. This often causes gardeners to waterlog their plants, harming it even more.

Take action by improving soil drainage with sand or replant to a raised bed. 2) Lack of Sunlight: Since plants differ on how many hours of direct sunlight they need, lack of sunlight is another common reason leaves turn yellow. If you know you re watering your plant correctly, it might be time to adjust the location of the plant if possible. 3) Pest Problems: If your plant s leaves are yellow with holes or pieces of the leaf missing, you have a plant eating pest on your hands. Easily eliminate the bug without harming your plant by using or an. It s Not That, So Why are My Plants Turning Yellow? If you ve knocked out the above possibilities then it s time to take a closer look at your leaves. While it s not mentioned on the infographic above, sometimes plants can turn yellow because of fungus or disease such as early blight or septoria leaf spot. Use one of our to prevent and stop fungus growth on your plants. Plants require 13 essential minerals that they absorb through the soil. The yellow pattern on your leaves could indicate which vital nutrient your plant is missing. The nutrients plants need most are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Secondary nutrients required by plants include calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Many of these or compost that you can apply to the soil of your plants. Calcium and magnesium are also found in lime. Plants need a small amount of boron, copper, iron, chloride, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. These trace elements are often found in grass clippings, tree leaves and other organic matter that you can compost and later add to soil once again. The best thing to do when your plant s leaves get yellow spots or turn yellow, brown, or black is to get your soil tested to determine which nutrients your plant is missing.

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