The Q&A Archives: Avocado Leaves Turning Brown and Brittle

Question: My avocado "tree" is about 3 feet tall...It is a little over a year old, and recently the tips of the majority of the leaves have turned brown and brittle. I've been using regular fertilizer and letting the soil dry out between waterings. Can you suggest a "cure" for this? Or is it normal?


Browning leaf tips are often a sign of salt burn, caused by a salt build up in the soil. Salts in the water and in fertilizer build up over time. Browning usually occurs on the old leaves first. This excess salt accumulates in the leaf edges, where it kills the tissue and the leaf dries out and turns brown. It's important to water deeply and slowly. At least once a month, water deeply enough to "leach" or push salts well below the root zone. Frequent, light "sprinklings" allow salts to accumulate in the top layers of soil, where the roots are, which is bad news. Similar symptoms occur when too much fertilizer has been applied. Always water plants thoroughly before and after applying fertilizer to help prevent burn.

Also, if plants are in too much direct sunlight, foliage can yellow and then turn brown, as it is basically "burning."

I'd start by flushing your plant with water under a hose or faucet and let the water run out the bottom to leach away possible salts. Then examine the plant's environment for appropriate lighting and watering. I'd hold off on fertilizer for a month to see if there's any improvement. Fertilizer "forces" a plant to grow, which can be stressful if the plant isn't healthy.

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