P&PDL Picture of the Week for
August 23, 2010

Fertilizer Burn

Mike Mickelbart, Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, Purdue University

This hydrangea was fertilized with a high rate of fertilizer and is showing classic symptoms of fertilizer burn. Excessive fertilizer in the root zone can cause burn for two reasons: 1) water uptake into the plant is disrupted because of the high salt concentration in the root zone, and 2) high concentrations of ions (for example, calcium) are deposited in the tips and margins of the leaves, resulting in the typical tip and margin burn exhibited in these plants. Fertilizer burn is more common in containers than in plants in the ground because the water status of the root zone of container plants is much more dynamic than those in the field. Also, field soils act as better buffers of high ion concentrations than container media. However, excessive fertilization to plants in the field or landscape can also result in these symptoms.


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Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service