Nutrient Burn

Last updated: November 19, 2021

What Does Nutrient Burn Mean?

In horticulture, nutrient burn refers to the physical manifestation of symptoms that occur in your plants after providing them with too much fertilizer. It is also called fertilizer burn or root burn, and results in dead, dying, or drying plants that should otherwise be healthy.

Nutrient burn can manifest in a couple of different ways. Leaf scorch is the most obvious, and can be seen as drying spots on the leaves of affected plants. Root burn is another symptom of overfertilizing. This includes drying edges on plant leaves, as well as a browning of the roots accompanied by slowed down growth.


Maximum Yield Explains Nutrient Burn

Plants need nutrients in order to grow, thrive, and produce. Most growers find that their soil is deficient in one or more nutrients required for healthy plant growth. Plants require significant amounts of nitrogen, and smaller amounts of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and more.

Amending the soil or grow medium requires that you add nutrients to it, often in the form of salts (nitrogen salts, for instance). This will provide your plants with the right amount of nutrients needed for healthy growth. However, overfertilizing the garden can harm your plants. Too much of a good thing is still too much.

Accurate soil testing prior to fertilizing will help ensure that you’re applying the right amounts of each nutrient needed for health plant growth. Accurate application methods are also important. If you suspect your plants are suffering from nutrient burn, stop fertilizing them immediately. If possible, move them to another area (transplant them).

Soil that contains too many nutrients should be leached two times by watering with twice as much water as the volume of soil in which the plant was being grown. For example, a plant grown in a gallon-sized pot would need two gallons of water added. The excess water flows out of the container, taking with it the excess nutrients. This is also referred to as flushing your plants. In-ground plants must have the soil moistened past the point of root growth.


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