How To Treat Fertilizer Burn on Plants (Gardener’s Guide)

Fertilizer burn can be frightening to experience, especially if you’re new to the gardening world. Luckily, there are ways to mend your plants with a recovery process. All it takes is a little bit of knowledge, patience, and the right tools.

Here are some steps to treat fertilizer burn on plants:

  1. Identify which plants have experienced fertilizer burn.
  2. Scoop out extra fertilizer in the soil and stop fertilizing.
  3. Check the condition of your plant’s roots.
  4. Water your soil thoroughly without over-soaking.
  5. Check the condition of your plant’s roots and leaves.
  6. Water your soil again, if needed.
  7. Have your plant’s soil tested.
  8. Resume regular fertilization and care for your plant(s).

Whether you’re a new gardener or experienced, learning how to treat fertilizer burns on plants can make a difference. Plants can recover easily and quickly with the proper mending process, which this article will discuss.

1. Identify Which Plants Have Experienced Fertilizer Burn 

Healthy plants thrive in a million ways, while unhealthy plants, unfortunately, do not. Many gardeners can tell when their plants are suffering from a lack of nutrients or something such as fertilizer burn.

Luckily, plants display many significant signs when experiencing fertilizer burn. Although fertilizer burn begins in the soil, it can impact the roots, leaves, and plant production.

It is worth noting that not all soil in a plot or field is impacted by fertilizer burn. Some plants can become tainted from over-fertilization, while other nearby plants can remain in excellent condition. 

Gardeners should check on their plants often for signs and symptoms of fertilizer burn. Here are a few:

  • You may notice that the leaves on your plant are discolored. Having yellow or brown leaves is a common symptom of fertilization burn. Leaves may also begin to curl inward and wither away. In more extreme cases, the leaves will be too far gone to repair. If all you notice is the tips of your leaves as brown or yellow, you can trim them down, and new growth will occur. 
  • You may notice that the roots of your plant are brown or black. It’s never good if your plant’s root is decaying. Sometimes, this can be a sign of rotting. If you can, check the soil around your plant’s root and focus mainly on this area of your plant. You can also check it from time to time throughout the mending process.
  • You may notice that there is visible fertilizer lying in the soil. Extra fertilizer is especially common if you’ve used dry fertilizer or a granular one. You can remove the excess you see to prevent any further damage to your plants. 

2. Scoop out Extra Fertilizer in the Soil and Stop Fertilizing

Once you determine which plants are over-fertilized, you can begin the mending process.

First, it is vital to check the soil around the plants you’ve located with fertilizer burn. Most times, there’ll be extra fertilizer in the ground. Finding additional fertilizer, as mentioned earlier, is most common if you’ve used a synthetic fertilizer or a dry and granular option.

Fertilizer will also remain around the root and on the top of the soil. It should be easy for gardeners to see. Gardeners shouldn’t have to dig too deep into the ground to find it. Most remaining fertilizer will be easy to spot and remove.

When scooping, it is best to be careful of your plant’s roots. Plants with fertilizer burn are delicate, and moving and breaking up the soil too much can cause damage.

Remove as much excess fertilizer as you can before you start watering down your soil.

3. Check the Condition of Your Plant’s Roots

As all gardeners know, the roots of a plant are essential. They supply the rest of the plant with nutrients and strength to thrive and blossom throughout each season.

The state of a plant’s root is vital before beginning the mending process. Checking their condition can help gardeners gauge the health of their plants before watering down the soil.

Additionally, some roots are too damaged to repair, and gardeners may need to re-plant. When roots begin falling apart between your fingers with little pressure, it may be too late to mend. Trying to mend damaged plants that are rotted is a dead-end, unfortunately. 

Here are a couple of valuable traits to look for in your plant’s root:

  • Check to see what the color of the root is. Sometimes, the root will not show any signs of color, which is a good sign. Gardeners may find, however, that their plant’s root is brown and black. If so, it is important to monitor the root throughout the mending process.
  • Evaluate the condition of the root. Even though sometimes the root is discolored, you can usually save your plant through the mending process. But, there’s the possibility that your root is rotted, and the mending process will be useless, as mentioned above. Before beginning, make sure to double-check the condition of your root to save yourself time and effort.
  • Examine the soil’s texture around the root. Fertilization can cause soil to crust and lack vibrancy. The soil is most important around the root of the plant. Before beginning the mending process, check the soil in this area. You can even have it tested, as mentioned prior.

4. Water Your Soil Without Over-Soaking

This next step provides magic for your plants. Water is the cure-all medicine that can help your soil and plant mend and recover from fertilizer burn

While this step is essential to remove excess fertilizer in your garden and treat fertilizer burn on your plants, it can lead to some environmental problems as some chemicals may be leached off into the groundwater and contaminate it.

That is why it is essential to water down your plants only when you are certain that your plants’ symptoms are due to fertilizer burn.

Over a week’s time, gardeners should water down the soil of their plants. This is only necessary for the plants in your garden suffering from fertilizer burn or over-fertilization. When watering your soil down, it’s important to do it correctly. Drenching your soil can cause more harm than good. 

Here are a few suggestions to follow:

  • Fill your soil full without over-soaking. Soil can absorb a great amount of water. It’ll properly soak into the ground, and any excess will drain and leach the fertilizer deeper if your soil has good drainage. However, it’s possible to pour too much water into your soil, overflowing it. Your soil will appear soggy and the surface will start to pool.
  • Have patience with the process. Fertilizer burn, unfortunately, shows up a day or two after application. But, the mending process is not that quick. Remember that the mending process for your soil and plants takes time. Water down your soil accordingly and avoid overdoing it. Over-soaking will not speed up the process and instead just worsen it and lead to other problems.
  • Continue watering down your soil even if you see improvement. If your plant begins to grow or mend in a positive direction, this is a great sign. This may be true for your soil as well. Many gardeners may want to stop when they see a small result. However, your plant and soil still need the water to continue recovering. It’s best to continue watering for five to seven days.
  • Avoid creating toxic runoff. Toxic runoff can occur when you over-soak your soil. The fertilizer will spread throughout the soil, contaminating other plants. This suggestion is especially helpful if you’re mending plants that are in the ground rather than in a container or pot.

5. Check the Condition of Your Plant’s Root and Leaves

After a week of watering down your soil, most of the fertilizer should’ve drained out. If successful, your plants will begin to thrive and return to normal health.

This can vary from plant to plant because some plants receive heavy amounts of fertilizer burn while others don’t. Have patience with your garden, and know it’ll heal in time.

After seven days of watering down your plant, you can begin to check the soil. Most likely, your soil will feel different because it has been hydrated.

You may also want to check the condition of your plant’s roots and leaves. The discoloration of your plant’s leaves may change. But, if they’re brown and beginning to wither, it’s best to just trim them.

Trimming can help rid the plant of decay, and encourage new growth to occur. Healing fertilizer burn will not mend the burnt parts of your plant that have begun to decay.

The main reason to check your plant after the first week of watering is to see if any of the symptoms have improved. Here are a few things to check:

  • the color of your roots compared to before
  • the color and condition of new leaf growth
  • the texture and appearance of the soil compared to a week ago before the watering down process
  • the health condition of nearby plants

Although the best results can be seen after a week of mending, it is best to check the following items mentioned above daily for any sign of progress.

6. Water Your Soil Again, if Needed

Although not entirely necessary, you can proceed towards watering your soil again. This can be helpful for plants that have had heavier amounts of fertilizer burn.

A week usually will suffice with the watering down process, but you can continue to water down your plant’s soil after a week if you feel it needs that.

If you choose to do so, watch over your plants. See how they respond. It’s only recommended to water for a couple of days after the first week rather than an additional week and to halt any fertilizer application.

Sometimes, your plants need the time and space to recover rather than lots of water. If you notice any signs of improvement, you can reduce the amount of water and the frequency of application.

7. Have Your Plant’s Soil Tested

Once your plants and soil have begun to mend, it’s time to test your soil. Gardeners can take a small batch of their soil to their local gardening store for a professional test or order an at-home test. 

Although a soil test may not feel necessary after watering the soil, it can help give further information. Soil tests will tell you about the following: 

  • Soil tests will tell you how acidic your plant’s soil is. Most plants do well with a slightly acidic to neutral pH levels of 6.0 – 7.0. Some plants may do well with a bit higher pH. Before testing, you can research what acidity your plant does well with. This can help you determine if your soil has the right pH level
  • Soil tests will tell you the nutrients available or lacking in your soil. Plants receive nutrients from their soil. Similar to pH levels, you can research the correct dosage that your plants need. The test will tell you proper N-P-K levels as well as others. 
  • Soil tests will tell you information for fertilizing in the future. Soil tests tell you about what the soil has and what it does not. When you compare this to the plant that is rooted in this soil, you can plan and fertilize accordingly. Scheduling and finding the right fertilizers is important for plants, especially when recovering from fertilizer burn.

8. Resume Regular Fertilization and Care for Your Plant(s)

After completing these steps, your plants should be on track towards a healthy recovery.

Although the symptoms may take a moment to show, gardeners can usually return to their normal care routine. However, gardeners may want to adjust their caretaking routine to better assist the health of their plants that have just recovered from fertilizer burn.

Most times, fertilizer burn happens because plants have been over-fertilized. Returning to the same fertilizer or fertilization schedule can be fine, but there might be a few things to consider first.

  • Determine the root cause of fertilizer burn. Fertilizer burn can occur in a few different ways. It could be a random spill or something that’s more intentional and/or an accident. If you return to the same schedule without evaluating the prior gardening mishaps, the same thing might happen again.
  • Check the ingredients of your fertilizer. Sometimes, plant fanatics tend to use recommendations without consulting with a professional or conducting research. If you give your plant fertilizer with the wrong dosage, it can cause harm to your plants. This can also happen if your fertilizer is great at first but not so great months later.
  • Evaluate your fertilizer choices. Organic and synthetic fertilizers can give plants the nutrients they need. Many choose to use synthetic options because of the quick results. But, if you’ve experienced fertilizer burn, you may notice that a synthetic option isn’t always best for your plant.
  • Consult with a professional and change your schedule. Talking with a professional can provide you with the knowledge you may not have had access to. Additionally, they can help you design a new fertilization schedule to help your plants mend and heal. They can also provide you insight into your soil test and the fertilizer you have chosen for your specific plant(s).

Final Thoughts 

Fertilizer burn isn’t fun for anyone. It can cause your plants to decay completely when left undiagnosed and unresolved. Luckily, the right knowledge and skill can make the mending process a whole lot easier. 

Consult with professionals, soak your soil, and watch how your plants react to their surroundings. It can make a huge impact for everyone involved.

If you wonder how to fix over-fertilized soil, you also could check this article out.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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