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House Plant Leaf Problems
by Diana Roberts
Category: Indoors
Growing house plants is not as easy as it looks. Instead of growing in their natural habitat in the outdoors, the plants are in small pots and dependant totally on what you give them. In the great outdoors, plants will send their roots far and wide in search of food and water to stay healthy.
Leaves falling
Letís say you have an indoor tree which was absolutely beautiful when you brought it home from the store. You did as the tag said when it came to watering, and kept it in the proper light but there was nothing on the label about fertilizer. So you fertilized as you would any other plant and things went well for a while. One day you noticed that some of the leaves were bending outward in kind of a curl and others were slowly turning yellow. Before you knew it, the yellow leaves were falling to the floor. Some of the other leaves were taking on an eerie look as the leaves turned light green and the veins stayed dark. Slowly your beautiful tree took on a stark look with only about half the number of leaves that were originally on the tree.
What happened to cause such destruction of a beautiful tree? You did everything you were supposed to but nothing worked. Donít give up, just do a little homework and find out what was the cause of this change in your tree. Is it possible that your plant is just lacking in nitrogen? After all, when lawns look pale all you have to do is apply nitrogen and it greens up beautifully. In this case, nitrogen probably wonít help because with nitrogen deficiency, the older leaves turn pale and the veins will normally be a reddish color. Any new growth will be stunted.
The next nutrient which we all know about is phosphorus, so maybe thatís it. Probably not. With a deficiency of phosphorus, the whole plant will look purplish and the veins will be red or purple. So if itís not these two, then it must be a lack of potassium. No, thatís also not the case, because a lack of potassium shows on the edges of older leaves which will look purplish and the leaf tips will be brown.
Trace elements
Now itís a puzzle because those are the three main nutrients which you feed most plants. On the fertilizer container, it may say 20-20-20 (nitrogen, phosphorus & potassium). Alright, so there are some other nutrients which plants need in much smaller doses. Normally they are not a problem, but it can become one especially with plants grown indoors. So what are some of the other possible lacking nutrients? There is calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc, all of which are needed by plants but in tiny amounts.
Magnesium and zinc
So maybe itís a lack of magnesium then? Nope. If it was deficient in magnesium, the older leaves will turn a spotted tan or yellowish color. Now a zinc deficiency is rare, so itís probably not that but we better look at it anyway. When your plant has a zinc deficiency, it will look much like a magnesium deficiency but the leaves will also be twisted. The leaves of this tree are kind of twisted, but they are not spotted tan or yellow, so that pretty well lets zinc off the hook.
It could be a lack of calcium. Back in the 1970s and 1980s it was popular to put egg shells into your plant water but that seems to have gone by the way side. When there is not enough calcium, the young leaves have dead spots on them and the tips die back. That is not the problem, so chances are there is enough calcium.
The last nutrient to look at is iron, so hopefully that will be it. When a plant is lacking in iron, the young growth is stunted and pale but the veins stay green. Well, maybe this is part of the problem! The leaves are fairly young, but when full grown, the veins are dark green while the leaves are pale. Thatís got to be the problem.
Fix it
Now, how do you go about getting the required iron to the plant? Itís probably not a good idea to grab an iron tablet from you medicine cabinet to feed your plant, as you may give it too much. A better idea is to buy some Miracle-gro and feed your plant as specified on the label. This mix contains not only the normal three fertilizer ingredients, but also many of the trace elements which plants need. You could also try spraying your plant with liquid seaweed or chelated iron.
Now that covers most of the problem, but some of the leaves are curling funny, so what do you do with that? Itís sometimes hard to figure everything out but if you use Miracle-gro, keep an eye on your plant to see if this also helps the curling leaves. Fertilizer mixtures for house plants contain most of the nutrients your plants could need, just be careful not to over-fertilize, and give your plant a few weeks to get better before you decide your cure did not work.

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