8 Causes of leaves with dry and burnt tips

8 Causes of leaves with dry and burnt tips


Photo: Raquel Patro

8 Causes of leaves with dry and burnt tips, One of the most common problems that afflict beginners to advanced gardeners is the dreaded burnt ends. Leaves that appear with dry, curved margins and that end up with an initially yellowish appearance that evolves to brown and black, now lifeless. Often, even young leaves already have the problem. And unfortunately, plants don’t have the power to regenerate bruised and injured parts like we animals. However, they can always produce new leaves, as long as they recover from the initial cause that caused the burns.

8 Causes of leaves with dry and burnt tips

In this article, I want to help you identify the possible cause that is burning the leaves of your plants. Note that most of the time the causes are not as obvious as they seem and in many cases there is more than one factor involved harming the plant. So don’t rule out one possibility when you’re sure of another.

And while we can’t regrow the lost parts, we can do a lot to eliminate these causes and promote healthy new growth in our plants so they look beautiful again. Come on?


The first, and one of the most important causes of leaf burn is salinity. And it can come in many different forms, as we will see below. Salt, whether in the air, in the substrate or in the water, impairs the osmotic balance of the plant and the diffusion of sap. The absorption and transpiration of water is reduced, and the plant ends up suffering from the accumulation also inside its cells. It’s like giving sea water to our plants to drink. Instead of hydrating the plants, we are dehydrating them. And one of the first symptoms is precisely this burn on the tips and edges of the leaves.

The. sea ​​air: Those who live in coastal regions suffer doubly. The salt arrives through the air, through the sea winds, and also through the rain that comes loaded with salt from the ocean. A huge variety of plants are not bothered by this salinity. And for that reason we can see beautiful plants all along the coast. However, an even larger portion of plants will suffer from this much salt coming from the sea, and there is nothing we can do about it. The right thing is to give up torturing plants and start choosing species for our garden that are known to be resistant. A good look at the neighborhood, and even at the neighboring beaches, will give us valuable clues about what to plant in the seaside garden. You may have some suggestions in the article: Landscaping on the Beach

B. Over fertilizing:

This is for sure one of the most common causes. We carelessly fertilize our plants, and with that we end up salinizing both the vase and the substrate. So, be careful with the application of chemical fertilizers, especially those rich in nitrogen. The most common fertilizers, of the NPK type, are saline and contain many saline impurities. If you suspect this could be one of the causes of burnt ends on your plants, swap your fertilizers for organic fertilizers, premium quality soluble fertilizers (Peter’s, PlantProd) or simply cut back on fertilizer for a while. This will help with the recovery of the plants (see also topic f).


Begonias are frequent victims of burnt ends.

ç. Brackish or hard water: What is not always so obvious, a water rich in mineral salts can be harmful to our plants. Have you ever heard that we can’t use mineral water in the coffee maker? we cannot because salt crystals precipitate and clog the ducts of the coffee maker. So, if you water your plants with very hard mineral water (rich in calcium, magnesium and other salts) your plants can suffer. Test your water with kits for aquarists, and if necessary, change to filter or rainwater that has less salts.

d. Very rich substrate: It seems a lie, but an excessively humus substrate can be harmful to our plants, especially when they have just been replanted. When replanting your plants, be careful not to use pure substrates, even if they are “ready for planting”. Prefer to mix a part with common garden soil and sand, so that it doesn’t get “so strong” and burn the new roots that are forming. Delicate roots, dipped in a very rich substrate is a common recipe for burnt ends and plants that paradoxically stop developing.

and. Aged and compressed substrate: Over time, even with a lot of care, the substrate of our pots will become compacted, losing the organic matter that keeps it airy and drainable, and will accumulate fertilizer salts. The obvious signs are leaves with burnt tips, and even a whitish accumulation (of salts) on the substrate and on the walls of the pots (porous cement, clay and ceramics). So, prevent the problem, replanting your plants every one or two years, to renew the substrate and pots.


f. Insufficient watering:

It is very common for plant growers, especially indoors, to end up adopting insufficient watering. These waterings are those that do not completely wet the substrate, and do not let the water flow through the drainage hole. Water drainage is essential to remove excess salts, otherwise they begin to accumulate and harm plant development, as we have already seen. So, whenever you water your plants, water mercilessly, until it drains through the drainage hole. After 5 minutes, water a little more so that the water reaches the entire substrate well (often in the first watering, it ends up running down the sides without penetrating the root of the plant). This tip even works for succulents. Re-water the plants when the substrate dries out superficially (test with your finger). For succulents, wait for the pot to dry completely before watering.

g. Capillary irrigation:

Self-irrigating vessels are in fashion, and they use capillarity as an irrigation system. Be careful and drain the system with a regular watering, thus avoiding the accumulation of salts. These vases are very practical and help keep plants hydrated, take care not to harm your plants. In addition to self-watering pots, be careful with watering through the “little plate”. Common to African violets, this watering tends to accumulate salts as well. Remember to wash the substrate every three waterings, doing a regular and abundant watering on top, without the dish. Letting the substrate drain off excess salts.

2. Air humidity


A room humidifier is an indoor gardener’s best friend.

Indoors, the most common plants are tropical, originating from warm, humid forests. These species are the most adapted to the low light conditions that we have in our homes. So we can grow anthuriums, violets, ferns, palm trees, philodendrons, begonias, aglaonemas, and a multitude of lush, moisture-loving, broad-leaved, glossy plants. However, indoors, the humidity doesn’t even come close to what is found inside the forest. While in the interior of the forest, the humidity ranges from 60 to 90%, in our homes it is around 20 to 40%. And how can we resolve this?

The. Room humidifier: These electrical appliances raise the humidity in the air. They can be placed next to plants and will improve the air quality for our lungs as well. Just be careful to maintain good ventilation in the place, avoiding the appearance of mealybugs and fungal diseases.

B. Wet towels: Put your towels to dry next to plants, or grow your plants in the bathroom (if it’s well lit)

ç. Plate with stones:

Provide a wide plate and cover it with stones. Keep it with water and place your pots on it. It is not necessary for the pots to be submerged. The natural evaporation of water will humidify the environment. Wash every two days to prevent the proliferation of the dengue mosquito.

d. Companion plants: The transpiration of many tropical plants together naturally raises the humidity of the air. So, put your plants together with species with abundant and broad leaves, such as ferns for example.

and. Turn off the heater and air conditioner: These appliances dry out the air and may be incompatible with growing tropical plants. If possible, reduce your use, or switch your plants to shade succulent species.

3. Cold:

The cold can also cause burns and dry ends, especially in tropical plants. Protect your plants indoors during the cold winter, or when frost threatens. Also be careful that the leaves of the plants never touch the cold window glass.

4. Winds:

Tropical plants are also the victims here. Inside the forest the wind is a cool, gentle breeze, but in our backyards, the wind can easily dry out delicate leaves. Even indoors, if we place the plants in places subject to currents (piped winds), we will be causing their dehydration, even if the soil in the pots is always kept moist. Plants need ventilation, but anything in excess can do them harm.

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5. Heat:

As well as cold, heat will be dangerous especially for plants in temperate and subtropical climates. Plants like this often do not manage to sweat enough to eliminate excess heat and end up suffering. Avoid planting them in a north position (all day sun), especially near walls or walls that heat up during the scorching sun. Choose species best suited to your climate, and don’t insist on growing plants from very different locations. They may not be able to adapt and will suffer, many may not even bloom, due to differences in photoperiod.

6. Potassium deficiency:

As we saw in the first part of the article, excess nutrients and salts are more related to burnt ends than lack of nutrients. However, in the absence of the nutrient potassium, many plants will have burnt margins. If this is the case for you (rule out the previous causes first), supplement your plants with sources rich in potassium, such as ash (without salt), banana peel, potassium chloride and other fertilizers rich in this nutrient.

7. Too much fluoride:

Tap water is treated with fluoride in favor of our oral health, and some plants such as dracaena, chlorophytum and palm trees can have the tips of their leaves burned due to this element. Chlorine in water is not a problem for most plants. In this case, instead of using tap water, prefer to irrigate your plants with rainwater or filtered water that is fluoride free.

8. Excessive Watering:

Another great villain, which like the compacted soil will cause burnt ends. When we water too much, or the substrate doesn’t drain perfectly, the water in the pot does not allow the roots to aerate. This aeration is essential and in the absence of it, the roots rot. As a result, they cannot absorb water, despite over-watering. The result is wilted and diseased plants. Repot or reduce watering so they recover.

To cut or not to cut?



And now that my plants are burnt, how can I make them look better? The vast majority of people make the serious mistake of cutting off the dry parts of the plant, thus forming new wounds that, when they heal, end up dry too, requiring recurrent cuts, especially when the cause has not been eliminated. First of all, eliminate the cause of the problem that caused the burns. Then, if you want to make your plants look better, cut off the burnt ends, at a point within the burn area, so that the cut doesn’t hit the still living parts of the plant. The result is not perfect, but it is healthy, it will not harm your plants and this care will certainly make them more beautiful.


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