Having indoor plants, and caring for them is the most satisfying when the plants in our care are healthy and well. It sometimes happens that your beloved plants start to look dull and faded, in a way that the leaves change color. The reason for discoloration or dullness may differ and so will the solution. This article deals with the common causes of leaf discoloration and looks into how to make plants green again.
How to make plants green again
Both professionals, as well as home gardeners, are aware that there is no one reason why plants lose their luster and color. If you look for a broad classification for the reason why leaves lose color they are
- Nutrient deficiencies: nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, iron, manganese, oxygen (from waterlogging)
- Toxicities: phosphorus, pesticides, over-fertilization
- Other causes: wrong light, root rotting, pot bound, high temperature, naturally pale new shoots.
How to make plants green again by treating Nutrient deficiencies
All said and done when it comes to zeroing on the causes of discoloration or dullness in the leaves of plants, a thorough diagnosis needs to be made. This is not something that can be done in a day, it requires careful examination of the plant and an understanding of the conditions in which the plant is growing.
External conditions like over or under watering are easier to detect as compared to mineral deficiencies. Most discoloration happens when leaves lack a chemical called chlorophyll, this chemical is vital for photosynthesis. The minerals required for the production of chlorophyll are present in the soil and absorbed by the roots.
It can so happen that some minerals in the soil are missing. This is when the right amount is not absorbed and the plant cannot produce enough chlorophyll. This is when discoloration takes place.
Here is all you need to know about the different minerals in the soil and how a deficiency can cause leaves to lose color.
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How to make plants green again by treating nitrogen deficiency?
Nitrogen as an element in the soil has the greatest impact on the color of leaves. This is one mineral that is required in substantial quantities but in most soil types is always missing. This is the reason most fertilizers come with a higher quantity of nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential in the production of proteins, enzymes, and chlorophyll.
Nitrogen deficiency starts in the older leaves. These start to turn pale green eventually turning yellow with or without a red tint. The overall growth rate is reduced and the plant seems dull.
Nitrogen deficiency in the soil can be tested by using home testing kits available at local stores and over the internet. If you are skeptical of getting a test done at home the local extension office offers testing services at a small fee. You can get them to come in and test your soil.
After testing and getting positive results of deficiency there are two ways in which you can tackle the problem. One is by going the organic route and the other by choosing a non-organic solution.
Organic correction of the nitrogen levels in soil takes time and results in a more even distribution of nitrogen in the soil. Some methods of increasing the nitrogen level in the soil organically include
- Adding compost manure to the soil
- Planting green manure crops such as peas, beans, etc.
- You can also add a coffee ground to the soil
Non-organic methods of increasing the nitrogen content of the soil is faster and can be achieved almost instantly. When choosing fertilizers to boost nitrogen content look for those that have a high first number.
The contents of fertilizers are numerically represented in the form of a ratio for example 10-10-10 is the NPK ratio. A higher first digit means a higher composition of nitrogen in the fertilizer.
Note: Non-organ fertilizers act fast and boost the level of nitrogen level of the soil almost instantly but also fade away quickly. Reapplication is advised in most cases.
How to make plants green again by treating phosphorous deficiency?
Phosphorous like nitrogen is important to plants for photosynthesis. The role of phosphorous is to capture, store, and convert the sun’s energy into biomolecules.
This process goes on from germination to maturity of the plant and hence and deficiency in the phosphorous levels in the soil causes an overall decline in the health of the plant.
Visually you can identify phosphorous deficiency when the leaves are abnormally dark green or reddish-purple along the edges.
Phosphorous is mainly used in flowers, fruits and for seed production, a deficiency will normally show as a purple hue on leaves. This is normally on the oldest leaves they will eventually turn yellow. The plant will also have a stunted growth
This is normally noticed in colder temperatures, in early spring for example places where the PH of the soil is below 5 you see a deficiency of phosphorous. Dry soil can also induce a deficiency in younger plants.
Other factors that contribute to phosphorous deficiency are soil compaction, herbicide injury, insect pressure, and poor soil health.
The phosphorous levels can be tested in the same way you would test nitrogen, using a home testing kit or getting an official test report.
Once positive you can add organic manure, this can take time to act on the soil but will provide a wholesome solution to plants. If you prefer a non-organic solution you can look for fertilizers that have a high phosphorous content.
How to make plants green again when they suffer from potassium deficiency?
Potassium is another major mineral that is present in most fertilizers. The reason this mineral is important is that it helps plants absorb nutrients from the soil required for optimal growth.
In comparison to the other two, it is not very important to plants but its deficiency can be noticed almost immediately.
When testing for potassium deficiency you can combine it in a single test by getting an in-depth analysis of the soil. You could also get a self-testing kit that gives you results in minutes.
If you notice that the mature leaves of your plants are yellowing around the edges and nitrogen infusion is not doing the trick. It probably is time you give the soil a potassium boost. This can be by adding organic manure or kelp meal or greensand. You could also look for non-organic fertilizers with a higher potassium content.
You will not need to do much as the addition of potassium will eventually happen when you feed the soil with other fertilizers.
When it comes to planting discoloration due to minerals, other than the major 3 we have other minerals. These not only cause the plant to lose color but also stunts growth. Here is how to make plants green again when the soil lacks minerals. Here is what you need to look out for and how to deal with it effectively.
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How to make plants green again based on symptoms?
#1 Older leaves of the plant begin to turn yellow. This is generally at the bottom of the plant the other leaves will turn pale green. Slow, you will notice a spindly growth.
When you notice that the bottom leaves of the plant are starting to turn yellow, it is indicative of the fact that the soil lacks nitrogen. If this is the case it can be treated naturally by adding blood and bone manure, and organic fertilizers containing nitrate, ammonium, or urea. This will increase the nitrogen content and make the plant green again.
#2 The leaves of the plant turn yellow between the veins and the plant suffers from slow growth.
When the leaves of your plant start to turn yellow between veins it is indicative of the fact that the plant lacks magnesium. These are considered to be secondary nutrients needed for plants in large quantities.
When there is a deficiency of magnesium in the soil younger leaves begin to show yellowing first. The veins of these leaves remain green but are faint.
The best solution for this situation is to spray the plant with a manganese chelate solution. If this does not reduce the symptoms, you could also try an iron chelate spray.
As far as home remedies are concerned you can try Epsom salt and dolomite. These help increase the amount of magnesium in the soil making plants green again.
#3 Leaves turn dark red-purple with older leaves looking burnt at the tips and poor fruit set.
When the leaves of your plants start to turn red-purple and this is not the normal color, your plant is suffering from Phosphorous deficiency. This can be reversed by organic manure and bone meal. You can also add phosphate to the soil along with fertilizers that contain phosphorous supplements.
#4 Yellowing between leaf veins, plus scorched and curling leaf edges and pulpy fruit.
When the leaves of your plants are scorched and curled and are yellowing between the veins it is indicative of the fact that they are lacking potassium.
Potassium like other minerals helps the plant absorb nutrients from the soil. Manure is a good way to reverse symptoms you could also add seaweed extracts and sulfate of potash.
#5 New growth is distorted and can turn yellow and die, and fruit is afflicted with blossom end rot.
New growth is generally indicative of the overall health of the plant. In most cases, this is green and lush, and a hope that the plant is well after all. In some cases, you will see that the new growth is turning yellow and coming to an untimely end.
This is indicative of the fact that the plant is lacking calcium. Calcium is not only beneficial for humans but is also important for plants to grow lush. If you see that the plant is starting to show signs of calcium deficiency treat it with lime, gypsum, dolomite, and crushed eggshells.
#6 New leaves of the plant are pale between veins to light green, yellow or white.
When you see a defect in the new leaves of a plant you need to pay extra attention to the overall health of the plant. When the veins of new leaves start to change color it is indicative that the plant lacks iron. Iron is a micronutrient that is needed in small quantities, this is generally caused when the PH of the soil is too low or too high.
To treat this, you can start by spraying the affected plants with an iron chelate solution. You could also check the total alkalinity of the water. You can use seaweed extract; iron chelates and ammonium sulfate. You can also add compost to lower the pH if you see that it’s too high.
#7 Bands of yellow on leaves of the plant
When the leaves of your plants develop bands of yellow between the veins. Zinc deficiency may be the cause. As zinc is a vital part of the plant when it comes to the production of chlorophyll. Bone-meal supplements increase the pH and increase plants calcium content which helps the plant absorb zinc better.
These are some of the ways in which you can better the health of the plant especially when it lacks certain minerals.
In the next section, we will look at other reasons why plants lose color. This includes Toxicities like phosphorus, pesticides, over-fertilization, and Other causes including wrong light, root rotting, pot bound, high temperature, and naturally pale new shoots.
Leave tend to change color ranging from a light yellow to burnt brown especially if the plants are overfed. This generally happens when too much fertilizer is added to the soil or when the salts in the soil are not washed off completely.
This may happen when you do not estimate the size of the pot and add in too much fertilizer or use it too many times in a garden. Either way, this causes the leaves to burn and wilt.
Over-fertilisation in some cases can cause paleness in the youngest leaves and tender parts of the plant. You will also notice the tip burning of older leaves.
The only way to make this better is to reduce the amount used and wash out excess.
The same is the case with pesticides. As we know it pesticides even the ones marketed as organic come laced with chemicals. They are used to keep insects and pests off the plant but while doing so they also form a layer on the leaves of the plant.
When you do not wash them off or use fertilizers that are too strong, they burn the leaves causing brown to black patches. This can be controlled by watering down the chemicals and at the same time keeping an eye on the ingredients and staying away from harmful chemicals.
Other factors that can cause discoloration in plants include
Overwatering plants cause oxygen deprivation. This in all senses is a recipe for disaster. When the plant does not receive enough oxygen it starts to turn yellow. This is a greater concern when you have potted plants and the mix used is not light enough or you do not have drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Overwatering or waterlogged soil not only reduces the amount of oxygen the plant receives but also increases the chances of root rot. This will eventually cause the plant to discolor and wilt over time.
Plants require sunlight to grow, in some cases, this can be substituted by artificial lighting. This being said plants require a certain amount of light. Too much or too little will cause dullness and wilting.
If the plant is exposed to direct sunlight you will also find brown spots on the leaves caused due to burning. If the plants are left in the shade for long it will cause the plant to turn yellow and leggy.
Hence it is important to see that the plat receives an adequate amount of light for optimal color and health.
This is a common problem faced by potted plants. When plants are left in pots for long they tend to outgrow it. If not changed in time the roots grow too tight and this causes the plant to appear pale and suffocated. For this, all you need to do is repot the plant in the ground or find a pot that is big enough to accommodate the roots.
When growing plants, we look after them and put in all the effort required to see that they grow well, but in time they start to appear dull and worn out. There have been speculations about the use of Epsom salt.
A lot of research has been conducted on the topic and most findings show that Epsom salt is helpful in bettering the looks of plants as well as making them appear greener and fuller.
How to make plants green again with Epsom salt?
It may so happen that plants lose their lustre and shine in the due course of time. This may be due to a change in temperature, a decrease or increase in the humidity levels, or a change in the pH levels of the soil. These can be corrected by adding Epsom Salt to the soil.
Most gardeners may it be indoor or outdoor swear by including Epsom salt to their plant care routine. This is a conflicting remedy but there are more arguments for than against it and hence we have decided to include it in this article.
When plants are fed well and cared for there are times when they lose their shine this can be reversed by throwing in a few handfuls of Epsom salt.
When the plant is watered the salts penetrate into the soil and provide the plant with the extra boost they require. This is not an instant solution and gardeners need to understand that this will take time.
Unlike normal salt Epsom salt will not burn the plant, hence it is considered as one of the safer options when it comes to bettering the health of plants.
You can use this regularly to give plants the much-needed boost to better their overall health and make them green again.
Online forums are flooded by questions on plant health and the most common one is on how to make plants green again. We have put together a list of questions that appear on several sites. These will help bring into perspective common concerns about growing plants and keeping them lustrous and green.
What causes a plant’s leaves to turn yellow?
Plants are lovely and green until something goes wrong and they start to discolor. Just as sun and fertilizer burn causes the leaves to go brown there are things that cause leaves to go yellow and eventually die, they are
Overwatering is the number one cause of leaves turning yellow. Leaves turn yellow when they are under stress and the biggest stressor in the case of plants is water.
When you have an influx of water the leaves are under tremendous pressure which causes them to turn yellow.
In most cases, overwatering also causes root rot. If this is the case all you can do is re-pot the plant and follow a proper watering schedule to see that the plant is not overwatered. This is not a reversible condition but in most cases, new leaves will be green and healthy.
Just as too much water is bad for plants so is too little. Plants that are not watered enough can turn yellow and then brown. Following a proper watering schedule is key to lush green leaves.
The leaf is old
This is the most common reason why leaves turn yellow, probably it is just too old and at the end of its life cycle. In this case, you cannot do much as this is completely normal.
Do not stress too much if the other leaves look good this one is just too old. Older leaves are the ones at the bottom of the plant and are smaller as compared to other leaves.
You can clip these leaves off with a pair of sterile scissors or let them be and fall on their own.
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A nutritional deficiency
If the leaves are turning yellow and it’s not really time for them to do so it’s probably because they are lacking nutrients. This is explained in detail in the previous section. If this is why your plants are losing color a good fertilizer will do the trick.
Lack of light
Light is plant food. Too much or too little will cause the leaves of the plant to turn yellow and brown if the plant is left in scorching heat for long.
Lack of humidity
As the right amount of light, humidity is also important for plants to grow. Make sure that the plants receive enough humidity, crispy edges can be stopped if plants receive enough moisture. The key is to keep an eye on the plant and act fast.
The most important factor to keep the plant in good health and looks is misting. This is when you spray the plant regularly. Misting not only provides plants with moisture but also washes away dust and possible insects.
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How can you prevent yellow leaves?
Yellowing of leaves can be caused due to the age of the plant and also disease, mineral deficiencies, and other reasons. The leaves also turn yellow when they grow old, hence it is important to first understand why leaves are turning yellow in the first place. Is it the normal life cycle of the leaf or are they turning yellow due to other reasons?
If you are looking for ways to prevent leaves from yellowing you can start by paying attention to the plant and checking if the plant is in the right spot in terms of receiving light. It needs to be in a spot where it receives just the right amount of light not too much or too little
Secondly, check the amount of water the plant receives. Over or under watering will cause leaf discoloration.
- Humidity also needs to be kept in mind when it comes to the overall health of the plant.
- Keep the plant dust-free by wiping it regularly
- Inspect the plant often to detect disease or bug infestation early on.
- Water plants with room temperature water – too hot or too cold water will cause the plant to go in shock.
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How can I tell if the leaf is old, or if the plant is dying?
This is a tricky question as it is sometimes difficult to understand if the plant is really sick or if the leaf had reached the end of its life. In order to have a better understanding, we have put together a few things you can look for.
#1 old leaves are generally at the bottom of the plant and are often smaller as compared to other leaves.
#2 when you see a big leaf dyeing it is a sign of water stress.
#3 older leaves have a deeper color as compared to newer and younger ones in due course of time these leaves go from a deep green to yellow to orange to brown.
These are some ways in which you can determine older leaves but all said and done you will need to observe your plant. Pay attention to details and overall health. If this is done you will not have trouble determining if the plant is falling ill or growing old.
If I find the cause of the leaf losing color will the leaf go back to being green again?
This is a wish that most of us have that when we get to know what the issue is we resolve it and everything goes back to normal.
In the case of plants and them losing color, we can say that there are times when leaves that have lost color come back to their original color but in most cases, they don’t. as seen in the article there are a number of reasons why leaves lose color.
There are chances that you will be able to find out the exact reason and rectify it and maybe in some cases be able to infuse chlorophyll in the leaves.
This being said finding the problem and reversing it takes time. By finding a solution you can be sure that other leaves will not change color but in most cases, the ones that have will eventually die. When we find plants that have an overall dull look where the leaves are just dull there is a higher possibility of them gettering better with a solution.
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To sum it up it is not a herculean task to keep plants in good health. This article focused on how to make plants green again assuming that they have been under stress due to reasons like over or under watering, inadequate exposure to light or sun, overuse of fertilizers and insecticides, and nutrient and mineral deficiency. These can be corrected by paying attention to the plant, understanding its needs, and acting promptly.
I’m Elsa, and I love gardening. I started GardeningElsa.com as a resource for other gardeners, and I offer expert advice on gardening topics such as plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetable gardening. On my website, I share my latest tips and tricks for creating beautiful gardens. When I’m not working on my website, you can find me in my own garden, tending to my plants and flowers. Read more about me.