Avocado Leaves Turning Brown and Brittle - Knowledgebase Question

Yarmouthport, MA
Question by simmonseb
January 26, 2001
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?

A comment from DaveGreen
August 28, 2017
I have exactly same thing happening with both my 'mature' Avocado plants. They both look v different to each other, one being tall and very leafy, the second being a very delicate or Petite looking plant( compared to the rather male looking tall leafy plant). I was reading the answer about salt build up, and was thinking part of my problem could be roots of weeds that I allow to grow in the same pot could be holding the moisture holding salts up with the Avocado roots!. So I'll stop being silly and pull all the weeds etc out of the pot. Then give it a good flush through with water, would boiling and cooling water remove salts? I wonder, cos kettles do get a build up inside them of Limescale, perhaps salts is trapped in the Limescale?

A comment from GwenJewel
November 3, 2018
This is happening to my immature plants. I threw two avocado pits into a bin of worm vermicompost and forgot about them. A few months later I had two different trees growing up over the top of the bin. I pinched the top leaves off to encourage bushy growth and they leaves grew larger but I noticed that the oldest leaf is now brown. I want to take it off but waited to see what the problem is first. I have not potted them. they are still in the rich worm poop. My worms are working over time and I ended up with more compost that I can handle. I want to repot the trees now in potting soil.

Answer from NGA
January 26, 2001


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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