Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

Why Does Over-Fertilization Kill Plants?

...
Santy Gibson/Demand Media

Fertilizer, any product that adds nutrients to plants, may sound like an ideal addition to your collection of gardening products. But more often than not it is unnecessary and sometimes detrimental. Over-fertilization is a common -- and sometimes fatal -- mistake; too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

Adding Salts

...
Santy Gibson/Demand Media

Among the most common issues with over-fertilization is fertilizer burn. Fertilizer often works by supplying nutrients to the plant in the form of soluble salts. Although salts dissolve easily in water, too much salt cannot dissolve. Instead, the water evaporates and the salts stay in the soil, causing a major disruption in the makeup of the soil. Salts can burn the tender, young roots -- and sometimes stronger, mature roots -- of landscape trees, shrubs, perennials and vegetables. When the salts burn the roots off, the plant is unable to absorb water and other nutrients from the soil. The lack of water often results in scorched-looking leaves, stunted growth and plant dieback. Fertilizer burn is more severe in drought-like conditions. Too many salts can alter the pH of the soil, making nutrients unavailable to plants. Iron chlorosis and other issues may result from altered soil pH.

Boosting Growth

...
Santy Gibson/Demand Media

Boosting growth may sound good at first, and sometimes it is; however, a big boost in growth can also kill your plant. This is particularly the case with too much nitrogen. The nitrogen gives a strong boost toward plant growth, allowing your plant to grow longer stems and leaves. Unfortunately, the young, tender and underdeveloped root system cannot support the flush of new growth caused by the fertilizer. This poor root structure will stunt the development of flowers and fruits.

Attracting Pests

...
Santy Gibson/Demand Media

Unsupported growth isn't the only plant killer resulting from a surge in growth; many insect and arthropod pests -- and sometimes mammalian pests -- prefer the tender, young growth of leaves, buds and stems as opposed to more mature parts of a plant. When your plant starts shooting off tender stems and leaf buds, more insects become attracted to the plant and start feeding more voraciously. Aphids and mites are among those that prefer to feed on the lush, tender growth of over-fertilized plants.

Consider This

...
Santy Gibson/Demand Media

Before applying fertilizer, throw away the notion that plants need it to survive. Fertilizer is designed to supply plants with nutrients that are lacking in your soil. Most plants don't require any fertilizers at all if they are rooted in healthy soil. Before applying fertilizer, acquire a soil-testing kit from a reputable nursery or online diagnostics lab and perform a soil test. These tests are designed to tell you your soil pH and the amounts of nutrients in the soil. Only apply fertilizer if your soil test proves your soil is lacking. Over-fertilization can wreak havoc on your natural ecosystem, especially overuse of nitrogen and phosphorous.

Related Articles

How Do Different Amounts of Fertilizer Affect Plant Growth?
How Do Different Amounts of Fertilizer Affect Plant...
The Effects of Miracle Gro on Plants
The Effects of Miracle Gro on Plants
What Nutrients Do Flowers Need to Survive?
What Nutrients Do Flowers Need to Survive?
How Do Different Fertilizers Affect Plant Growth?
How Do Different Fertilizers Affect Plant Growth?
The Effect of Fertilizers on Radish Growth
The Effect of Fertilizers on Radish Growth
What Happens to Roadside Plants When Salt Is Used to Melt Ice on Roads?
What Happens to Roadside Plants When Salt Is Used to...
How Ironite Plus Fertilizer Works
How Ironite Plus Fertilizer Works
What Does Potassium Do for Plants?
What Does Potassium Do for Plants?
How Does Miracle-Gro Work?
How Does Miracle-Gro Work?
What Chemicals Can Affect the Growth of Plants?
What Chemicals Can Affect the Growth of Plants?
Can Gatorade Make Plants Grow Faster?
Can Gatorade Make Plants Grow Faster?
The Effects of Mineral Water on Plants
The Effects of Mineral Water on Plants
Chemical Properties of Fertilizers
Chemical Properties of Fertilizers
Potassium Nitrate Effects on Plants
Potassium Nitrate Effects on Plants
What Does Phosphorus Do for Plants?
What Does Phosphorus Do for Plants?
Uses of Chemical Fertilizers
Uses of Chemical Fertilizers
Nutrients Needed for Hydroponics
Nutrients Needed for Hydroponics
Ingredients in Miracle Grow Plant Food
Ingredients in Miracle Grow Plant Food
Bugs Eating My Butterfly Bushes
Bugs Eating My Butterfly Bushes
Garden Guides
×