Small Space Gardening
Brown Tips on Leaves: Salt Damage in Houseplants
An Often Overlooked Problem Can Damage Your Houseplants
Sometimes even when you're careful not to overwater your houseplants, you start seeing brown tips on the ends of the leaves. Maybe whole stalks are dying. How could this be? You feed regularly, yet the plants fail to thrive. The problem? It's probably salts.
Who Put Salt in the Plants?
Besides the white stuff on your dinner table, there are all kinds of salts in your water, soil, and even potting mixes. Some salts occur in plant food, too, since they play an important role in plant health. But salts can build up in soil, and get absorbed by plants. Salts eventually accumulate in leaf tips and too much salt kills plant tissue, making plants look like they're dying.
How to Tell if the Problem Is Salt
Besides dead leaf tips, salt leaves other clues. If you see a white crust along the sides of your pots or over the surface of the potting mix, you have too much.
How to Get Rid of Salt
You'll need to flush your plant's potting mix. But first, wipe off the insides of the pot, without letting anything fall into the soil. Then put your plant in a bath, sink, or patio, and water it until you see seepage coming out of the drainage holes. Let the pot drain and then do it again. Don't worry about overwatering - as long as the pot drains, the plant should be fine. If the plant still doesn't recover, repot in fresh potting mix and a new container. Soak and scrub the old pot before you use it again.
How to Avoid Salt Problems
Salts become a problem when you don't water thoroughly, or use too much plant food. Make sure you're using a quality potting mix, such as Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Potting Mix. When it's time to water, add water until it runs out the drain holes, and then empty the saucer. And, feed your plants once a week with Miracle-Gro® Indoor Plant Food.