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Leaves Touching the Soil: Here’s why and What you can do

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Leaves that fall off the plant can supply nutrients to the soil, however, leaves that hang low and touch the soil are a cause for concern which, fortunately, can be corrected.

Leaves that come into contact with the soil are a result of improper transplanting, nutrient deficiencies, or even a leaning plant. These leaves will eventually die if they remain in contact with the soil for an extended period. Addressing nutrient deficiencies as well as propping the plant with a pole or a cage can help.

Large leaves should be allowed to stay intact while smaller leaves can be removed if they will not cause a disruption in the photosynthesis process.

This article will explain how you can fix the problem of having leaves in contact with the soil as well as the benefits of removing and leaving them on the soil.

What Causes Lower Leaves to Bend and Touch the Ground?

Leaves Touching Soil

Plants are Growing too Tall:

It is an understood point that the more any plant grows long, the more there are chances that it will bend towards the ground, causing leaves to touch the ground.

The hormone that helps the plant shoot the growth is auxin, but it varies with the sunlight as auxin is broken down on the sunnier side of the stem. 

So the higher concentration of auxin on the shady side causes the plant cells on that side to grow more, so it bends towards the light, which is why it leans towards the light.

Plant Falling Over:

When a plant falls over, it can be a distressing situation. However, when the plant is grounded, the situation is different from when it is suspended or on a shelf, and understanding what to do is crucial to the plant’s survival.

There are several things you may take to guarantee that a plant survives when it falls over. Repotting with a nutrient-rich potting mix and watering sparingly are two options. 

The objective is to keep the plant as stress-free as possible. Stakes, moss poles, and cages will be used to support the plant in the case of a fall.

Using a moss pole can provide that much-needed support. However, if a moss pole is not readily available, you can try some other alternatives like wooden stakes, PVC pipes, or even cages, as mentioned above.

Lack of Nutrients:

There are various nutrients such as Nitrogen, Magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and calcium, which are essential for the growth of plants, i.e., Nitrogen (N) deficit results in pale, yellowish-green maize plants with lanky stems. 

Stalks. Because nitrogen is a highly mobile nutrient in the environment and the Symptoms appear first on the older, lower leaves of the plant.

If the deficiency remains, move up the plant. Symptoms begin as a V-shaped yellowing on the leaves by starting at the top and working down the midrib to the bottom and base of a leaf Cold or saturated weather favors the disease, leading to the ultimate fall of leaves.

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Transplanting Stems too Deep:

Plants should be no deeper than their initial depth, with visible root flares or early roots immediately beneath the earth. 

Excessive planting depth is a leading cause of transplant shock and plant mortality since roots suffer from a lack of oxygen, too much water, and, in some cases, root rot, so this shows that the death of plants is directly linked to the falling of leaves.

Can you Remove Leaves that Touch the Soil?

Leaves touching the soil can be removed if the plant has many other leaves at the top. However, larger leaves that reach the soil can be left intact as it may cause a food deficit if it helps contribute to food production through photosynthesis for the plant.

On the other hand, fallen leaves can be left on the soil to decompose because they will return valuable nutrients to the soil and provide habitat for lots of essential and helpful insect species over winter. 

It also acts as a natural mulch, but you definitely can if you want to remove them.

Yes, they will die off anyway, so don’t worry; this happens when your pot is too big. The plant is stretching out its roots, which is good and not working on vertical growth. 

In some cases, those leaves would eventually fall off, and they can be removed without harm to the plant.

On the other hand., leave the large lower leaves untouched to help shade the recent transplants’ tender trunk and shade the soil, potentially keeping it cooler. 

plant Leaves Touching Soil

Will the Leaves or Branches die?

Yes, leaves and branches eventually die if they are in contact with the soil for a long time. 

Moisture from the soil as well as microbial activity will tend to cause the leaves to first turn yellow after which it will be broken down.

If the soil has pathogens or other soil-based plant diseases then the leaves will die even faster.

For example, phytophthora root rot is the possible cause of dying branches that hang too low and come into contact with the soil. This common soil pathogen wreaks havoc on landscaping plants.

How to Correct the Problem?

Propping the leaves:

The meaning of propping is to support the plant by placing something under or against it.

If the plant is leaning to such an extent that the leaves are touching the soil, an easy fix will be propping the plant with an upright pole of some type. 

For houseplants, moss poles do a great job in keeping larger plants upright as well as vines plants such as pothos that are more susceptible to having their leaves touch the soil.

In addition, garden plants such as tomatoes are often propped with a stake because they are somewhat of a vine and will fall over as the weight of the fruit gets heavier.

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Transplanting (if you planted too deep)

In horticulture, a transplant is a plant or tree removed from one site and replanted in another. 

One common mistake when transplanting is placing the plant too deep into the soil such the lower leaves come into contact with the dirt.

Transplanting dept is a factor to take into consideration as both the leaves and stems can be subjected to high moisture levels which can lead to rotting.

If the plant has already been transplanted too deeply you may need to remove the lower leaves or even re-transplant to ensure the plant survives.

How to Prune Leaves Touching the Soil

Lower leaves can be pruned off by cutting the entire branch that is leaning towards the soil. The branch should be pruned closes to the stem using a pruning share for a clean cut.

Now, this branch can be discarded or placed into a compost heap to decompose and become organic fertilizer within a year.

Proper pruning enhances the beauty of almost any landscape tree and shrub, while improper pruning can ruin or significantly reduce its landscape potential. Therefore, in most cases, it is better not to prune than to do it incorrectly. 

Plants go years with little or no pruning in nature, but man can ruin what nature has created. In addition, by using improper pruning methods, healthy plants are often weakened or deformed.

The Takeaway:

Lower leaves can, at times, touch the ground if the lower branches are too large, moreover, nutrient deficiencies and a lack of moisture can lead to plant stress causing the branches to droop.

Smaller leaves can be removed and added to the soil for some extra nutrients while large leaves can be left intact if it helps food production for the plant.

Common solutions like repotting, propping the lower leaves, or even propping the entire plant can physically prevent the leaves from touching the soil. 

Additionally, keeping a regular watering schedule while monitoring and correcting plant deficiencies will be a more proactive approach to preventing leaves from touching the soil.

Fallen leaves can be added to the soil. This increases the organic material in the soil and adds nutrients to the soil as the leaves decay.

If too many leaves are added at a time it can cause a temporary drop in nitrogen which will suffocate the plant. Be mindful of this and add leaves in small amounts when using around plants.

A compost pile will also be beneficial in breaking down the leaves over time to recover nutrients that can be reused in the garden.

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