Overfeeding harms plants more than it helps. How do we keep our plants healthy? You should be aware of the common signs of too much feeding so you can take corrective measures and prevent the problem from worsening.
Overview: The Signs Of Over Fertilizing
We tend to overwater and overfertilize plants most often. It has the noble motivation of providing our plants with the best possible care, but over-caring our plants can actually harm them.
Despite the opaque nature of the process, it is easy to overfeed plants since their nutritional requirements don’t match those of humans. Plants produce most of the nutrition they need through photosynthesis, not through fertilizer. This is why plants do not need additional food in general.
Why Over-fertilization Is So Easy To Do?
We usually overfertilize plants when they don’t require as much as we think they do. Plants produce all of their own nutrients and do not require photosynthesis; they physically consume very little compared to animals.
It’s easy to become blindsided by a problem between the soil and the plant. In time, slow release or excess fertilizers can build up and damage the plant. When your plant develops a problem without any change to your routine, it can be confusing.
Because overfertilization can have symptoms similar to those caused by other factors, it’s easy to overlook it. You need to look deeper into the issue to determine its cause.
Why Overfeeding Plants Is Harmful?
Plants that receive too much fertilizer suffer three negative effects: they lose moisture, poison the soil, and are vulnerable to stress-related diseases and pest infestations.
Because fertilizers contain salts, they can slow water flow into roots and reduce moisture levels in foliage, so overfeeding often leads to problems with leaves.
An excessive amount of fertilizer inhibits biochemical reactions and damages enzymes in plants.
Besides opportunistic infections, stressed plants are susceptible to illnesses due to the stress. Weakened plants are also more susceptible to pest infestations.
Causes Of Overfertilization
When you overfeed livestock, it usually happens because of too much fertilizer. However, overfeeding can also occur because of these things:
- If multiple applications of fertilizer are not removed from the soil, they can build up.
- It is difficult to measure the amount of slow-release fertilizers correctly and they can easily be overdosed.
- Fertilizer residue is retained in the soil because of poor drainage.
- The amount of fertilizer required by a plant can be restricted in dry conditions.
- Fertilizing the plant after it goes dormant or the growth conditions change can result in excessive feeding.
Signs Of Overfeeding Plants
The symptoms of overfertilization may vary depending on the plant species and its environment. You may see more than one symptom at once.
Other factors, such as overwatering or low lighting, can also cause these symptoms. If your plant exhibits these signs, review your gardening practices.
In cases where you’re unsure whether or not overfertilization is the cause of a problem, soil tests can offer more certainty.
Crusted Deposits On The Topsoil
Overfeeding caused a white or yellow crust on top of the soil, which is one of the first signs that the plants are overfed. These salts are an excess of fertilizers that the plant has not absorbed, and if left unattended, they can create toxic soil conditions.
Especially in heavy mixes that require only a small amount of watering in order to avoid puddling and sodden soil, the problem is more likely to occur. It is not typically seen on open, fast-draining soil that has been thoroughly soaked at watering time to flush out salts.
The crusted deposits can be removed by rinsing the soil thoroughly and watering it thoroughly.
Drainage may need to be improved by repotting into a looser mix.
Burned Leaf Tips and Margins
Besides overfeeding, other factors may contribute to fertilizer burn, such as watering issues, low humidity, and sunburn, but the symptom occurs rapidly. If your plants’ leaves develop brown tips or edges after applying fertilizer, you can pretty well be sure that the fertilizer is the problem.
It appears that plants with long leaves are especially vulnerable to this issue. Unfortunately, the damage can’t be reversed, but you can clear the soil to stop its progression. As soon as the excess fertilizer is removed, new foliage should grow healthily.
Leaf Yellowing And Wilting
Loss of moisture from overfeeding can result in the foliage turning yellow or wilting. Lower leaves are especially susceptible.
Underwatering, root rot from overwatering, and lack of light can also cause yellow leaves. Undernutrition can also cause yellow leaves.
Before taking any action, consider the overall status of the plant and the recent care. Flushing the soil may alleviate wilting if overfertilized, but root rot might prove fatal.
A plant’s leaves may become curled or misshapen if they have been overfed with nitrogen. This is an indicator of overfeeding.
Other factors, including overwatering, too much light, or pest infestations, can also contribute to this symptom. When the tips of the plants begin to curl, it’s best to spot the issue early and flush the soil if the soil has been overfertilized.
Plants will grow normal growth, even though the foliage remains deformed. Once the issue is addressed, the plant won’t be doomed.
Limp, Browned Or Blackened Roots
Our experience so far has dealt with superficial symptoms, and such symptoms should not be detrimental to the plant if taken care of, but root problems may be more serious. The root system is what starts foliage distress, and it can actually kill it.
If you are having problems with this plant, you should go looking for problems. Unpot the plant gently and inspect the roots for firmness and flexibility. In the case of black, limp roots that smell like decay, your plant may have root rot. Because the diseased roots are only in a minor location, you can simply cut them away. The problem is complicated because rot pathogens thrive in moist environments, so flushing out fertilizer can exacerbate it.
If you are sure that the plant is fed excessively, it might be necessary to waste the medium. However, make sure it dries out as quickly as possible. To do this, remove the plant from the pot or use a fan.
If you have to flush the soil with toxic soil, finishing it with peroxide might be worth it. Pro Tip: Some growers soak the soil with hydrogen peroxide to kill rot pathogens.
The loss of foliage, flowers, or fruit is a sign that plants have been overfed. If this problem is present, then leaf damage usually precedes it. However, some plants are easily triggered by stress to drop their leaves.
Overfertilization can cause leaf loss in almost any plant if it is under other stress factors. This is why it’s not a good idea to feed a plant right after repotting or moving. Fertilizing a sickly plant can make its situation worse.
Symptoms can be dealt with the same way as other symptoms: remove all visible fertilizer residue, flush the pot thoroughly, and allow it to drain well. If new, healthy growth appears, you’ll know that your plant is on the mend.
Slow or No Growth
A plant that is stalled and doesn’t seem to want to grow may require patience. The tricky part is that this sign can either be the result of too little or too much fertilizer.
Besides low light and cold weather, improper watering practices and even being rootbound can also cause plants to stall out in their pots, so rule these out as well.
It might be worth reevaluating your recent fertilization schedule. If you’ve been fertilizing regularly, I would recommend holding off on the servings for a while.
You should proceed carefully if you determine the plant is undernourished. If it is growing season, apply fertilizer at a quarter of the label’s recommendation and observe the plant’s response. It should brighten up if that was the problem.
Rapid, Spindly Growth
Too much nitrogen can also cause your plant to produce thin, weak stems. This is one way too much fertilizer can affect your plant. Weak overgrowth is more prone to pests and other problems, including sucking insects that prey upon this kind of delicate greenery.
Treatment involves flushing the soil, but consider giving the plant a little more light as well. Some plants will recover better than others, but it’s probably a good idea to cut the spindly overgrowth back to encourage new growth.
Lack Of Flowers
Plants overloaded with nitrogen or other nutrients also produce foliage too quickly, preventing them from entering the blossoming or fruit-setting phase, resulting in delayed or no flowers or fruit.
The best solution is to flush the soil and use a balanced blend in the future. You can sometimes correct the direction by dosing the plant with a formula with less nitrogen, but this is somewhat guesswork.
Overfertilization is generally more of a problem than underfertilization, so always take care when feeding your plants. Look for specific signs to help identify the cause, whether it is overfeeding or another form of care issue.