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Preventing nutrient burn: essential tips for healthy plants

Lucy Starley
September 21, 2023
19 min read
Tips of cannabis leaves yellowing and curling due to nutrient burn
Tips of cannabis leaves yellowing and curling due to nutrient burn
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If you’re a cannabis grower, you know that healthy plants are essential for a successful crop. However, even with the best intentions and care, nutrient burn can occur and cause significant damage.

Nutrient burn is a common problem that can affect cannabis plants.  It leads to a range of cannabis leaf symptoms and ultimately affects the plant’s growth and yield. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment of nutrient burn. We will also share ways to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

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Definition of nutrient burn

Nutrient burn is a condition that can affect cannabis plants when they receive too many nutrients. It occurs when the plant’s roots absorb an excess of nutrients beyond what they can process or utilise. Nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are commonly linked to this issue.

Nutrient burn can happen when you over-fertilise your plants or use the wrong type of fertiliser. This can lead to a buildup of salts and other compounds in the soil.

The accumulation of excess nutrients in the plant’s tissues can lead to damage and death of the affected parts. Symptoms of nutrient burn in cannabis plants can include:

  • Leaf discolouration
  • Burnt or brown patches on the leaves or stems,
  • Wilting or drooping of the affected leaves,
  • Stunted growth or lack of new growth.

It is essential for you to be aware of nutrient burn and its symptoms. Severe nutrient burn can significantly affect the overall health and yield of your plants.

Many over fed cannabis plants in flower.

Importance of identifying nutrient burn

Identifying nutrient burn is crucial, as it can have a significant impact on the growth and yield of your plants. By recognising the symptoms of nutrient burn and taking appropriate action, you can prevent further damage to your plants. This ensures your plants remain healthy and productive.

If left untreated, nutrient burn can cause significant damage to cannabis plants. Damage can include slowed growth, reduced flowering or fruiting, and even death. This can lead to a reduced yield and lower quality cannabis, affecting the overall profitability of the crop. In addition, untreated nutrient burn can also increase the risk of other plant diseases and pests.

By identifying and treating nutrient burn early on, you can avoid these potential problems. This involves monitoring the nutrient levels in the soil and adjusting fertilisation practices accordingly. It also includes regularly checking plants for signs of nutrient burn, such as leaf discolouration or burnt patches.

In conclusion, identifying nutrient burn is essential for cannabis growers. It can prevent significant damage to plants and improve overall yield and quality. By being vigilant and taking appropriate action, you can ensure healthy and productive cannabis plants.

How nutrient burn affects cannabis growth

Nutrient burn can have a significant impact on the growth and overall health of cannabis plants. When plants receive too many nutrients, they can experience a range of negative effects. This stress can lead to reduced yield and lower-quality cannabis.

One of the most noticeable effects of nutrient burn is leaf discolouration. This damage can range from yellowing to brown or burnt spots on leaves. This can affect the plant’s ability to photosynthesize, leading to reduced growth and yield. In severe cases, leaves can become crispy and brittle, ultimately dying off and falling from the plant.

Nutrient burn can also affect the roots of cannabis plants, leading to stunted growth and reduced nutrient absorption. This can make the plant more susceptible to other diseases and pests, further affecting its overall health and yield.

In addition to these physical effects, nutrient burn can also impact the potency and flavour of cannabis. Excessive nutrients can alter the chemical composition of the plant. This affects the levels of cannabinoids and terpenes, which contribute to the plant’s unique properties. This can result in lower potency and undesirable flavour or aroma, affecting the marketability of the crop.

Overall, nutrient burn can have a range of negative effects on cannabis growth, yield, and quality. Awareness of the causes and symptoms of nutrient burn enables you to take appropriate steps to prevent and treat this condition.

A over fed cannabis plant in flower.

Causes of nutrient burn in cannabis

Nutrient burn can occur for several reasons, and it’s crucial to identify and address the underlying cause to prevent further damage. In this section, we will explore the main causes of nutrient burn in cannabis plants. These include over-fertilization, poor soil drainage, pH imbalances, and improper watering practices.

Over-fertilisation

Over-fertilisation is one of the most common causes of nutrient burn in cannabis plants. This occurs when you apply too much fertiliser to your plants, leading to an excess of nutrients in the soil. When plants absorb too many nutrients the plant’s tissues are unable to process or utilise the excess nutrients. This directly leads to nutrient burn.

To prevent over-fertilisation, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for fertilisation.  You also need to monitor the nutrient levels in the soil regularly. Avoid using fertilisers that are too high in concentration, as this can increase the risk of nutrient burn.

Poor soil drainage

Poor soil drainage is another common cause of nutrient burn in cannabis plants. When soil is unable to drain properly, excess water can accumulate in the soil. This can cause an accumulation of salts and other compounds. Nutrient burn can then occur, as the excess nutrients are absorbed by the plant’s roots.

It’s important to ensure that the soil is well-aerated and that any excess water can drain away. Additionally, it’s essential to avoid overwatering, as this can also contribute to poor soil drainage and the risk of nutrient burn.

pH imbalance

pH imbalance is another factor that can contribute to nutrient burn in cannabis plants. If the soil’s pH is too high or too low, it can affect the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients. This can lead to a buildup of salts and other compounds in the soil.

To prevent pH imbalances, it’s important to regularly monitor the soil’s pH levels and to adjust the pH as necessary. This can be done using pH testing kits or by adding pH-balancing agents to the soil.

Improper watering practices

Improper watering practices can also contribute to nutrient burn in cannabis plants. If plants are overwatered or underwatered, it can affect the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.

To prevent improper watering practices, it’s important to water plants consistently and to avoid overwatering or underwatering. This can be done by monitoring the soil moisture levels and adjusting watering practices accordingly.

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What does nutrient burn look like in cannabis plants?

Nutrient burn can cause a range of symptoms in cannabis plants, affecting both their appearance and growth. Identifying these symptoms is crucial to prevent further damage and maintain healthy plants.

Leaf discolouration

Leaf discolouration is one of the most noticeable symptoms of nutrient burn in cannabis plants. Leaves affected by nutrient burn may turn yellow, brown, or even black, depending on the severity of the condition. The affected leaves may also develop burnt or brown spots, particularly around the edges or tips of the leaves.

Burnt or brown patches on the leaves or stems

Nutrient burn can also cause burnt or brown patches on the leaves or stems of cannabis plants. These patches may be dry or crispy to the touch and can sometimes form a crust-like texture.

Wilting or drooping of the affected leaves

Nutrient burn can also cause affected leaves to wilt or droop, particularly if the condition is severe. This can occur as a result of the plant’s inability to absorb water and nutrients, leading to dehydration and weakened stems.

Stunted growth or lack of new growth

Nutrient burn can also affect the growth of cannabis plants, leading to stunted growth or a lack of new growth. This can occur as a result of the plant’s inability to absorb nutrients properly. It also results in reduced photosynthesis and slower growth rates.

Overall, these symptoms of nutrient burn can significantly impact the health and growth of cannabis plants. If you suspect nutrient burn in your plants, it’s crucial to take appropriate action. This may involve adjusting fertilisation practices, improving soil drainage, balancing pH levels, or adjusting watering practices.

A close up of an over fed cannabis plant in flower

What does nutrient burn look like in cannabis plants?

Nutrient burn can cause a range of symptoms in cannabis plants, affecting both their appearance and growth. Identifying these symptoms is crucial to prevent further damage and maintain healthy plants.

Leaf Discolouration

Leaf discolouration is one of the most noticeable symptoms of nutrient burn in cannabis plants. Leaves affected by nutrient burn may turn yellow, brown, or even black, depending on the severity of the condition. The affected leaves may also develop burnt or brown spots, particularly around the edges or tips of the leaves.

Burnt or Brown Patches on the Leaves or Stems

Nutrient burn can also cause burnt or brown patches on the leaves or stems of cannabis plants. These patches may be dry or crispy to the touch and can sometimes form a crust-like texture.

Wilting or Drooping of the Affected Leaves

Nutrient burn can also cause affected leaves to wilt or droop, particularly if the condition is severe. This can occur as a result of the plant's inability to absorb water and nutrients, leading to dehydration and weakened stems.

Stunted Growth or Lack of New Growth

Nutrient burn can also affect the growth of cannabis plants, leading to stunted growth or a lack of new growth. This can occur as a result of the plant's inability to absorb nutrients properly. It also results in reduced photosynthesis and slower growth rates.

Overall, these symptoms of nutrient burn can significantly impact the health and growth of cannabis plants. If you suspect nutrient burn in your plants, it's crucial to take appropriate action. This may involve adjusting fertilisation practices, improving soil drainage, balancing pH levels, or adjusting watering practices.

Diagnosis of nutrient burn in cannabis

Diagnosing nutrient burn in cannabis plants requires a thorough understanding of the causes and symptoms of the condition. There are several methods that you can use to diagnose nutrient burn, including:

Visual inspection

Visual inspection is one of the simplest methods for diagnosing nutrient burn in cannabis plants. You can examine your plants for symptoms of nutrient burn.  Common symptoms are yellowing leaves, burnt or brown patches, wilting or drooping leaves, or stunted growth.

While visual inspection can be useful, it’s not always the most accurate method for diagnosing nutrient burn. Some symptoms of nutrient burn can overlap with other plant diseases or conditions.

Soil testing

Soil testing is another method for diagnosing nutrient burn in cannabis plants. By testing the soil’s nutrient levels, you can determine if there is an excess of nutrients. Soil testing can also identify pH imbalances or other issues that may contribute to nutrient burn.

To conduct a soil test, you can purchase a soil testing kit. Alternatively, you can send a soil sample to a laboratory for analysis.

Plant tissue analysis

Plant tissue analysis involves testing the plant’s leaves or stems for nutrient levels. This can provide more accurate and specific information about the plant’s nutrient status. This information can help you to diagnose nutrient burn or other nutrient deficiencies.

To conduct a plant tissue analysis, you can send a sample of the plant’s leaves or stems to a laboratory.

Overall, these methods can be useful for diagnosing nutrient burn in cannabis plants. You can then take appropriate steps to prevent further damage and promote healthy plant growth.

Monitor your growing environment

There are many environmental variables with growing. Regular measuring and monitoring is key to ensure your plants have stability in their growing conditions. Instead of overloading yourself with a rigorous measuring routine, you can use a grow room monitor such as Grow Sensor.

The Grow Sensor can’t physically water your plants (yet!) or do your weeding for you. But it will take on time-consuming tasks.  For example, it will record, measure and display high-quality, live data.  It will cover the vital environmental variables such as temperature, light, humidity and VPD.

Grow Sensor can also measure and monitor the nutrient content of your soil or other growing medium. This is particularly important data for preventing and treating nutrient burn.

With this data in hand, you are expertly equipped to make informed and detailed decisions. This will help you to manage your grow space to ensure you have the optimum growing conditions.

How to treat nutrient burn?

Treating and preventing nutrient burn in cannabis plants involves addressing the underlying cause of the condition. This could involve adjusting fertilisation, watering, and other cultivation practices as necessary. Here are some strategies for how to fix nutrient burn:

Adjust fertilisation practices

One of the most effective ways to treat and prevent nutrient burn is to adjust fertilisation practices. This involves carefully monitoring the nutrient levels in the soil and adjusting fertilisation accordingly. You may need to reduce the amount of fertiliser that you use. Alternatively, you may need to switch to a lower concentration of nutrients to prevent excess buildup in the soil.

Improve soil drainage

Improving soil drainage can also help prevent nutrient burn in cannabis plants. By ensuring that the soil can drain properly, you can prevent the buildup of excess water. This also reduces salts in the soil, minimising the risk of nutrient burn.

Balance pH levels

Balancing pH levels in the soil is another crucial step in preventing nutrient burn. Monitoring and adjusting the pH of the soil ensures that the plant’s roots can absorb nutrients effectively. This reduces the risk of nutrient burn.

Adjust watering practices

Improper watering practices can also contribute to nutrient burn in cannabis plants.  Monitoring soil moisture levels and adjusting watering practices accordingly are important. This ensures that your plants receive the appropriate amount of water and nutrients.

Flush the soil

In severe cases of nutrient burn, you may need to flush the soil to remove excess salts and nutrients. Water the plants with plain water for several days. This will flush out any buildup of excess nutrients or salts in the soil.

Overall, treating and preventing nutrient burn in cannabis plants requires careful attention. Analysing cultivation practices and a thorough understanding of the underlying causes of the condition are key. By taking appropriate action to address nutrient burn, you can promote healthy and productive cannabis plants.

Prevention of nutrient burn in cannabis

Preventing nutrient burn in cannabis plants is crucial for maintaining healthy and productive plants. Here are some strategies for preventing nutrient burn in cannabis:

Proper fertilisation

Proper fertilisation is essential for preventing nutrient burn in cannabis plants. You should carefully monitor the nutrient levels in their soil and adjust their fertilisation practices accordingly. This may involve using a lower concentration of nutrients, reducing the frequency of fertilisation, or adjusting the pH of the soil. All of these actions ensure that nutrients are available to the plant.

Watering practices

Improper watering practices can contribute to nutrient burn in cannabis plants. To prevent nutrient burn, you should ensure that your plants receive the appropriate amount of water and nutrients. This may involve monitoring soil moisture levels and adjusting watering practices accordingly. Soil drainage is also crucial to keep an eye on.

pH monitoring

Monitoring the pH of the soil is also crucial for preventing nutrient burn in cannabis plants. When the pH of the soil is within the appropriate range for cannabis plants, your plant’s roots can absorb nutrients effectively. This protects them from the risk of nutrient burn.

Overall, a proactive approach to nutrient management is crucial for preventing nutrient burn in cannabis plants. Adjusting fertilisation practices, monitoring soil moisture levels, improving soil drainage, and monitoring pH levels are important.  With these things under control, you can maintain healthy and productive cannabis plants that produce high-quality yields.

Conclusion

In conclusion, nutrient burn is a common condition that can significantly impact the growth and health of cannabis plants. By understanding the causes and symptoms of nutrient burn, you can take appropriate action. This helps to prevent and treat the condition, promoting healthy and productive plants.

Monitoring plant health is crucial for identifying nutrient burn and other plant diseases or conditions early on. By regularly checking plants for symptoms of nutrient burn and other issues, you can take appropriate action as soon as possible.

Preventing and treating nutrient burn requires a proactive approach to nutrient management. This includes adjusting fertilisation practices, improving soil drainage, balancing pH levels, and adjusting watering practices as necessary.

In summary, nutrient burn is a manageable condition that can be prevented and treated with the appropriate cultivation practices. We hope this guide has armed you with the knowledge and confidence to protect your plants.

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Lucy Starley
September 21, 2023
19 min read

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