The Effects of Salt Water on Plants

While most plants require salt as part of their diet, too much salt can result in an imbalance and in many cases may be toxic. Plants feed by pulling water through their root systems and distributing the water up the stem and out to branches, leaves and blooms. If there is too much salt--or other nutrients, such as nitrogen or phosphorus--present in the available water supply, the plant will struggle to pull the needed water and nutrients out of the soil and may display symptoms similar to drought. Soil salinity differs in regions across the country and can be difficult to change.

Burned Leaves

On some plants that have been exposed to too much salt water, the leaves may appear burned or dried out. The leaves turn brown around the edges and look as if they are suffering from drought.


Plants that are watered with salty water may droop or wilt. Stems with blooms or leaves may become almost rubbery and fall over from the weight of the bloom or leaf, or in some cases, the entire plant may wilt and eventually die.

Yellow Leaves

An overabundance of salt in the water may cause a plant's leaves to turn yellow, and eventually appear burned. The yellowing will first be noticeable on the outer edges of the leaves, though the coloring of the whole leaf and stem will eventually change. If the salinity of the soil is not changed, the yellow leaves, which may initially appear healthy other than the change in coloring, will dry out and turn brown.

Keywords: soil salinity, drought-like symptoms, salt water plants, effect salinity plants

About this Author

J.D. Chi is a professional journalist who has covered sports for more than 20 years at newspapers all over the United States. She has covered major golf tournaments and the NFL as well as travel and health topics. Chi received her Bachelor of Arts in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University and is working toward a master's degree in journalism.