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Indoor plants not only make your rooms colorful but also purify the air we breathe. However, white leaves on houseplants are a sign that your plant is in some trouble.
But why are your indoor plant’s leaves turning white? How can you fix the same? Let’s find out.
The primary cause of whites leaves in indoor plants is a lack of chlorophyll. It happens when the plant cannot produce a sufficient amount of energy to support its foliage. The most common reasons include powdery mildew, pest infestation, nutrient deficiency, and low lighting conditions.
Read this article until the end to know the possible causes of white leaves on houseplants. We will also cover information regarding the remedies to treat and cure white leaves.
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Why are my houseplant leaves turning white?
Chlorosis happens when the plant fails to produce a good amount of chlorophyll (responsible for the green color in the leaves). But there can be other reasons too.
The causes of white leaves in houseplants are:
- Powdery mildew
- Sun scorch
- Low light
- Nutrient deficiency
- Pest infestation
- Salt excretion
- Poor water quality
- Alkaline soil
- Temperature stress
Let’s discuss these in detail.
One common reason for white leaves is powdery mildew. It is a fungal disease found in many outdoor and indoor plants. You will find a white substance on the surface of the leaves that looks like powder.
The initial sign of powdery mildew starts with tiny white spores. As the fungus spreads, the white spots start spreading. Slowly, the whole leaf surface turns white.
This happens when your houseplants are placed too close to each other, overcrowded. Most of the time, plants are kept in groups to maintain humidity.
But in the process, we forget that they also need good airflow. Without good ventilation, overcrowded plants will have powdery mildew.
Powdery mildew turns the plant white and weakens the plant, affecting the blooming and deforming flower buds. You should treat it on time, or else your plants will start to droop, fall the leaves, and even die.
The only way to save the plant from powdery mildew is through prevention. Plant leaves already having these white spots or blotches means the fungus is already present in them.
It is essential to treat your plant whenever you see any signs, or once it spreads and reaches the roots, it would be impossible to save the plant.
Mainly the lower leaves get affected first. Slowly it starts spreading all over. They spread more often due to water splashing.
- The first thing to do is isolate the plant. Take the plant away from other houseplants if you own any and separate the affected plant. Remove all the affected leaves from the plants.
- Do not just dispose of it anywhere. Throw it in a proper dustbin or burn them. Wash the tools with which you have removed the affected parts to avoid any further spreading.
- After isolation and removal of affected parts, make sure to provide proper airflow.
- Cure the plant with horticulture oils. You can try neem oil which is an excellent solution. It is beneficial for both fungi and pests. It will kill the fungus and help in treating the plant and keeping it healthy.
- Avoid overcrowding. The leaves should not touch each other.
- If the soil is damp, stop watering for some time. Allow the plant to receive good sunlight. If the top ½ inch of soil dries, only then will your plant need water.
The saucers under the pot are used to collect the dripping water from the pot drainage holes. When the pot finishes dripping, remember to dispose of and clean the saucer.
Many houseplants can adjust to low light conditions or indirect sunlight. But exposing them to excess sunlight will scorch the leaves and cause sunburn.
The initial signs are brown spots. But over time, the leaves will have a white patch along with light brown borders.
This is common, especially during the springs, summers, and fall months, when the sun’s intensity remains at its apex maximum times.
Most of the time, the recently transplanted plants are affected more. Before transplanting, they did not get enough time to become hardy.
When the plants do not get enough time to get adjusted to the sunrays and are still exposed to the sun for long hours, they will start getting white spots on the leaves. It looks as if they are bleached. If neglected, the leaves will begin to fall off.
Consider relocating your plant. Keep them under indirect sunlight. If you want to keep them under the sun, try doing it gradually.
Start with short visits and then slowly increase the timing. By this, it will get adjusted to the sun. Then you can keep them under the sun for long hours.
If your plant likes to be under indirect sunlight, keep them near the north or east-facing window as they give bright indirect sun.
If your plant is near the south or west-facing window, use a curtain or Venetian blinds to create filters for direct sun.
Also read: Can your plant get too much light?
Although houseplants can grow under low light or indirect sunlight, they will need light for at least 6-8 hours for their growth.
Keeping them in extremely low light conditions will cause chlorosis in them. They need sunlight for photosynthesis. Insufficient light results in low production of chlorophyll, the leaves turn white.
Moreover, when the plants do not get enough light, they start growing tall. The leaves and stems become elongated, constantly trying to reach sunlight.
The solution to this problem is the same as the one for sun scorch. If possible, remove the shades (if any) in case your plant needs more sun.
You can use grow lights to fulfill the light requirements of indoor plants. Fix a fluorescent light near the plant with 12 inches distance in between. Fixing light will be easy if your plant is placed over a patio, bench, or shelf.
Lack of nutrients
Along with the macronutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium, the plants also need other micronutrients like Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, etc.
Lack of iron will result in no production of chlorophyll in the plants. Iron deficiency will decrease the metabolism of the plant. Leaves will turn yellow and have white spots on the surface.
A white spot on the upper portions of the leaves is an indication that your plant is deficient in manganese. Because it has a role in photosynthesis, germination, and increasing immunity, maintaining the correct level of manganese is required.
Whenever you choose a fertilizer, check the labels to determine whether it contains all the macro and micronutrients. Using that kind of fertilizer will keep your plant healthy and free from all types of spots.
White spots or patches on the leaves can be signs that pests attacked the plant.
These are tiny white pests white which sucks out all the sap from the plant. It is difficult to identify their presence in the leaves unless they release a white sticky substance. This white substance is somewhat like cotton.
Mealybugs can also bring other bugs to the plants. They excrete honeydew which attracts ants and even creates mold all over the stems.
They multiply fast and are mostly found on the roots, soil, and under the leaves. When they are constantly feeding on your plants, they will start losing their color and turn yellow or brown.
These are the larvae of moths and flies. Though moths and flies are not harmful, their larvae are.
When the moths and flies lay eggs on the leaves, the larvae come out and make tunnels inside the leaves and the plant. They stay on the plant for two weeks, making the tunnels bigger.
The lines on these tunnels will be seen on the leaves as white spots on the surface.
These bugs are tiny and hard to spot. When you see fine web lines on the leaves, consider checking under the leaves, and you may find these pests or their eggs. Their infestation causes a white tint on the leaves.
- If the number of pests is less, you can handpick them easily. Always wear gloves while dealing with them.
- If the leaves are affected, prune them to avoid spreading. You can give your plant a good shower. This will also remove the web lines and honeydew created by the spider mites and mealybugs, respectively.
- Use rubbing alcohol to remove the bugs. Dip cotton into the alcohol and wipe all the leaves.
- Spray neem oil. This is one of the best organic solutions to treat plants infested with pests. It not only helps to get rid of the pests but also helps to cure the plant. This will keep them healthy and away from any further infestation.
Apply neem oil in the plant, especially on the affected parts. Let it remain like that. Again apply after 4 to 5 days. The third time, use it after 45 days. This will help eliminate the pests, treat the plant well, and avoid further attack.
If the infestation is severe, you can also apply it 2-3 times every day for 7-10 days.
- You can try using imidacloprid in your plants. They will kill all the pests feeding on the plant.
- You can use insecticidal soaps, dish wash soap, and baby shampoos mixed with water. They should be low in concentration. Apply them to the plant, let them remain for some hours, and then rinse them.
If the condition is too severe, you can use pesticides and miticides to remove the pests. Be careful while using them. Consult with the sellers to know the correct ways of application.
Read all the instructions thoroughly before applying. They have chemicals that can be toxic for the plants. Overdoing it might cause other problems in the plant.
Sometimes, when your plant has white spots, it can signify that they have ring spots. It is not a disease, but the signs may seem like one. This happens especially with the leaves whose leaves are fuzzy and tend to trap water in leaves like African violets.
When the plants are watered with cold water, it damages the leaves, gives the plant frostbite. The chloroplasts get damaged. They start showing white spores in the leaves.
Ringspot cannot be rectified or reversed. But you can prevent it.
- Get rid of the affected leaves. This will make your plant look good.
- Avoid watering the leaves. Consider watering close to the soil at the bottom. Keep a saucer filled with water under the pot. Let the plant soak up the water. Always use tepid water for houseplants.
- You can also use self-watering pots for your houseplant. You won’t have to face any more hassle regarding watering. Only make sure that the pot has suitable drainage holes.
White leaves are not always a disease. Sometimes, the leaves turn white because of excess salts. These salts can be present in the potting soil or the water.
Some plants excrete these excess salts from the leaves, which results in white spots all over the leaves. Slowly the spot increases and turns the whole leaf white.
- Rinsing the plant or wiping them with a wet cloth or plant wipers will remove these white spots from the leaves.
- Salt also accumulates due to over-fertilization. In such conditions, flushing the soil would be great. Wait until the soil dries up. Water it thoroughly and allow at least 20-30% of water to drain out of the potting hole. Along with that water, the salt, too, will come out. Allow the water to dry completely and then resume regular watering.
Poor water quality
Tap water contains hard minerals like chlorine, fluorine, chloramines, and other bicarbonates. When you water your plants, these minerals get accumulated in the soil and the leaves, causing white patches on the leaves.
Avoid using tap water. Filtered water and rainwater are the best quality water for houseplants. They are free of any hard minerals. In case your only option is tap water, filter the water.
Or, you can keep the tap water aside and let it sit overnight for 24 hours. In the meantime, the minerals will get evaporated, leaving behind mineral-free water.
This happens when you overwater your plant after starving them of water for a prolonged period.
After keeping them deprived of water for a long time and then suddenly overwatering them gives the indoor plants a sudden shock. As a result, the leaves get burnt. This causes the houseplants to have white blotches on the leaves.
You will have to water them adequately. After you underwater the plant for a long time, start watering in small amounts. Gradually increase the quantity and frequency. This will give them time to adjust.
To ensure proper watering, you have to check the drainage system. The soil should be capable of draining the excess water, retaining enough moisture, and supporting good ventilation. Also, the pot should have drainage holes.
Do not use an oversized pot. The pot size should depend on the plant size.
Most houseplants enjoy growing in slightly acidic to neutral soil. The soil will become alkaline if the pH level is too high. The leaves will start turning white as a result.
For example, philodendrons prefer pH levels between 5.5 and 6. Anything above or below this range will cause white foliage.
The leaves turn white in alkaline soil because the plants find it difficult to absorb the nutrients even if the fertilizer application is usual or the soil is rich in nutrients.
You can decrease the pH by adding sphagnum moss or coffee grounds to the soil to solve the pH problem. You can also add some acid fertilizer to do it. But first, try some organic and home remedies. If you fail, go for the commercial ones.
Most houseplants belong to tropical regions and will not enjoy cold drafts or heat stress. They will enjoy moderately warm weather. For example, pothos will grow best in temperatures ranging between 70-90°F.
When you see that your houseplant is turning yellow or pale white, this means it is facing too many temperature fluctuations. This happens when you keep the plant close to devices like air conditioners, heaters, or radiators.
Another reason is when we keep plants near the doors and windows, frequently closed and opened. The drafts constantly enter the room and touch the plant.
- First, make sure there are no heaters or air conditioners close to your plant. If there is, take the plant away from them.
- Shift it near a window that remains open during the day and closed during the night to protect the plant from the cold winds.
If the temperature is too chilled during the winter nights, you can cover your plant with thin bedsheets or plastic sheets. This will keep them warm. Make sure to remove it the following morning.
Taking care of your indoor plants and not giving them any stress will always protect your houseplants from white spots.
Pests and fungus infections can be treated, but try preventing them from affecting your plant. Prevention is always better than cure.
You can apply the neem oil every month once. This helps in keeping the plant away from infestations. Even if there is some problem in the beginning, neem oil will solve it immediately.
Observe your plant regularly. Give your houseplants all the requirements adequately on time.
You should neither overdo anything nor deprive them of anything. Maintain the perfect temperature and humidity for healthy plants. With these, your plant will not only survive but thrive.