The Q&A Archives: Leaves Turning Brown On Corn Plant

Question: We have a corn plant appx 4ft tall. The leaves are beginning to turn brown. We have never fertilized it, should it be fertilized, and with what?

Answer: When leaves brown around the edges, the problem is often salt burn. Salts in the water and soil can 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, although since you haven't used any this is unlikely. Also, if plants are in too much direct sunlight, foliage can yellow and then turn brown, as it is basically "burning." I'd recommend putting the plant under a faucet and letting the water run through slowly to leach it out. You didn't say how old the plant is. If it's been in the pot for a couple years, you might want to repot into fresh soil, and ensure that the rootball isn't wrapping around itself. After transplanting, let it be for a month or so, and then you might consider fertilizing with a balanced product such as 10-10-10. Always water plants thoroughly before and after applying fertilizer to help prevent burn.

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