Plant Leaves Splitting: 7 Reasons Why and What you Can do


Share this article

Leaves can be split because of either environmental or physical causes. They can be unsightly and in many cases cannot be repaired. However, they can be treated for infection and left on the plant.

Plant leaves will split as a result of strong winds, low humidity, nutrient deficiency, and location. The split commonly occurs in larger leaves along the leaf veins and cannot be rejoined. Leaves will turn brown along the split and can be treated with cinnamon to prevent fungal infection.

Apart from the Monstera plant, which is a genus of 45 species of flowering plants that are known for their leaf splits. Splitting leaves can affect any other plant, whether in your office or in your home. 

We know these things happen and we have outlined the things you can do and what to look for when plant leaves split.

What Causes Plant Leaves To Split?

Splitting Plant Leaf

As a gardener, it is easy to spot when your plant leaves are splitting. You notice your plant leaves seem very thin or that they have split along the edges. 

Plant leaves splitting is a natural and healthy occurrence that should not be mistaken as a symptom of life-threatening disease or disorder.

What causes leaves to split in houseplants can vary between species, but there is almost always some kind of unfavorable growing condition to blame. Here are the top reasons that cause plant leaves to split:

1. Strong Wind:

The wind that is strong enough can cause plant leaves to split. The downward pull created by high winds causes leaf splitting in several ways. 

One commonly seen type of leaf crack is related to the weight of the water inside the leaves, instead of the wind itself.

The water content in a leaf can range from 45%-75% depending on the plant species and how much water is available to the plant. Botanists call this “gravitational stress”.

When this pressure causes rips in the leaves, you may notice the split starts at one end of a vein and progresses down to another one. This happens because wind force pulls on one side of the leaf more than the other

Large-leaved plants, such as the bird of paradise and banana, have leaves that are designed to snap in response to strong winds. If your plant is a large-leaved variety, leaf splitting may be normal, especially in rooms with fans or lots of natural airflows.

2. To Much Sun:

Plant leaves splitting occurs when you expose your plant to too much sun and the leaves open up. What happens is the natural moisture inside the leaf gets heated up by the sunlight, causing it to dry out and make splitting appear in the leaves.  

To avoid this from happening, keep your plants cool and shaded. If they’re already in a pot, just move them closer to a tree or building and cover them with fabric to protect their leaves from exposure.

3. Low Humidity:

A plant’s leaves are like human fingernails. When they grow they push through the surface of a leaf sheath, which grows around them. As they push through, they cut into the sheath. The cut edges grow together, and the leaf splits. 

Humidity causes the sheath to grow more thinly, making the leaves more vulnerable to splitting. The broken leaves in the middle of plants, such as indoor orchids, are often a response to low humidity. 

Check your plant regularly to make sure it is getting enough water and that the trays that are kept under it to increase moisture are adequately filled. 

One way to increase humidity if your plants are located in a dry area is to wet the leaves of the plants in the morning.

The Geniani portable humidifier from amazon provides the ideal environmental humidity for healthy plant growth. You can find it by clicking here.

geniani portable humidifier

4. Underwatering

Underwatering is caused when the plant is not receiving the required amount of water it requires for healthy growth.

Low humidity, excessive sunlight, and strong winds are integral factors that further reduce the amount of water the plant receives.

Water is used in plants to transport nutrients to the parts of the plants where it is needed. Low water content in plants leads to nutrient deficiencies as the transport system is reduced.

5. Nutrient deficiency

Plant NutirentUses
Nitrogen (N)Nitrogen is used in plants to produce lush green leaves. Too much results in reduced flowering and poor root growth.
Magnesium (Mg) Promotes Green leaves, vegetative growth, and sugar formation. It is particularly important in the cultivation of certain crops, as it aids in the plant’s uptake of calcium.
Calcium (Ca) Promotes Plant structure and strength, new cells, growth, and disease resistance.
Boron (B)Boron plays a key role in a diverse range of plant functions including cell wall formation and stability, maintenance of structural and functional integrity of biological membranes

I have used a cost-effective Liquid Fertilizer called Purived to help strengthen my plant leaves, stems, and their overall health. You can find it by clicking here!

purvied for stronger leaves

6. The Plant’s Location

Sometimes, you come across damaging your favorite indoor plants by accident. These mishaps can injure the plants in many ways: broken stems, broken branches, or broken leaves. 

Here are some examples of accidents that can cause damage to houseplant leaves, some of which you can take into consideration when placing your plants –

1 If the plant is accidentally tipped over, for example, if the plant is sited close to a swinging door, the impact can cause tears on larger leaves.

2 Fallen objects can cause multiple leaves to tear if the plant is in an area where there is a high potential for falling objects.

You can see our article on 7 Safe places to put houseplants at home.

7. Playful Pets

The indoor plant leaf can be torn by your beloved, adorable pets as well. Pets get attracted to the enchanting colors of the plants and want to have them for themselves. 

In their desire to have them, they end up tearing the leaves of your indoor plant. Other factors that can attract your pets towards plants are their smell and ease of reach. 

Your indoor plants can seem like chew toys to pets. Even the well-behaved pet can get attracted by the plants and can damage it. 

Pets are playful and lively. They just want to play with them.

The key to preventing mishaps caused on plants by pets is to provide training from young or a distraction such as a toy of some kind.

What to Look for When Leaves Split

Anatomy of a leaf

When leaves split, it gives the plant an unappealing appearance depending on the plants. Some plants like monsteras are known for having large leaves with long splits so here it is not a problem.

However, in plants with smaller leaves, some consideration has to be placed on whether to leave the leaf intact and treat it or remove it.

Bacterial Infection

At the onset of a split, the inner parts of the leaves containing plant cells and their vascular system are exposed. This exposes the plant to fungi and diseases that can easily set in which can affect the entire plant.

An easy fix is to gently rub cinnamon powder on the open wound to prevent bacteria from setting in.

Cinnamon is a natural fungicide that has anti-fungal and disinfectant compounds which can protect open plant wounds.

Browning of the Wounded Area

As the plant heals itself the area around the wound closes up. This prevents nutrients and water from being circulated through the vascular system in the wounded area. 

The leaf then turns yellow and then brown at the torn area, protecting the wound and the rest of the plant. 

As mentioned above using cinnamon helps speed up the healing process by preventing fungi and diseases.

Do Broken Leaves Heal Themselves?

Repairing a broken leaf

In many plants, leaf division can be a part of their growth process, especially when leaf splitting occurs mainly on older leaves. 

As long as there are many leaves to replace the damaged ones, you can simply pick out the split leaves and discard them. Unfortunately, split leaves never heal themselves.

How To Prevent Plant Leaves From Splitting?

First, you need to figure out the reason why the leaves are splitting. Since it is split, it means there must be a force that can rip your plant apart.

In Case of Low Humidity:

  • Using a hydrometer, measure the humidity around your plant. If humidity is low, shift your plant to an area with high humidity.

    Shelves in bathrooms and kitchen sinks tend to be more humid than the corners of living rooms, as long as your plant gets enough light in these places.
  • A humidifier on an enclosed porch can create a humid environment if your home lacks adequate humidity for your plant.

In Case of Strong Wind:

  1. For some plants, the wind that is 45 mph or greater can cause leaves to tear. Shift your plant to an area with low wind or good airflow.

Plants Whose Leaves Commonly Split:

Bird of Paradise:

Many people fear that the cracks that appear in the leaves of the bird of paradise are a sign of poor health, but this is not at all the case, quite the contrary. 

The unraveling of the leaves is part of the natural design of the plant thus allowing – in its natural external environment – the wind to pass through the leaves without bending, breaking, or uprooting the plant.

Although fraying is less noticeable when the plant is indoors, it is quite normal for it to happen.

Split-leaf Philodendron, Monstera Deliciosa:

Recognizable among all other plants by the shape of its leaves, the characteristic holes found in them appear as the leaves grow to allow light to pass through and thus benefit the leaves below.

Other plants that are most prone to splitting include: 

Monstera Deliciosa
Common Name Scientific Name
Bean vinesPhaseolus
OrchidsOrchidaceae
TomatoesSolanum Lycopersicum
CabbageBrassica oleracea var. capitata
SquashCucurbita
LiliesLilium
RosesRosa
CucumbersCucumis sativus
BananasMusa

Can You Repair Split Plant Leaves?

You can ‘save’ them with a homemade trick, which will cost you little money. To do this, you will only need a little pure beeswax, or candle wax will also as well.

Steps To Repair Split Plant Leaves:

  1. First, you must heat the wax until it is warm enough, but without burning. To do this, you can do it in a small saucepan, or even in the microwave to do it in an easy and comfortable way.

    To give you an idea – you should be able to stick your finger in it without problems. In this way, you will be able to approximately calculate the correct temperature and thus you will not hurt the plant more than it is. If you’ve overdone it, you can even let it sit before applying it.
  1. When you have the wax ready, it is time to apply it gently on the fractured part. It is now when you must resort to the brush, or the plastic spoon, depending on which you have chosen.

    The process is very simple. It should be lightly smeared with the wax and then applied gently and carefully to the wound on the affected leaf, stem, or petal. Make sure you apply a fairly thick coat. It doesn’t matter how many times you have to brush.
  1. After this, you should wait a few minutes for the paste to solidify and cool down to achieve more effective healing. In this way, it will end up forming a kind of wax patch. It will peel off on its own and will fall off. Your plant will be like new.

Bent Plant Leaves

Apart from splitting, plant leaves can also be bent out of shape which can limit their ability to grow healthy. If nothing is done, the leaf will eventually die rather than fixing itself as with split leaves.

To repair a bent leaf, it must be supported so that the midrib can continue to transport water and nutrients to the leaf. The midrib contains the xylem and the phloem and runs from the base to the apex of the leaf. Support of the leaf can be done using a simple skewer that holds the weight of the leaf while it heals.

When a leaf becomes bent it can eventually die from the lack of nutrient and water transport unless you intervene.

The Takeaway:

Plant leaves splitting has been a common issue with houseplants as of late. Splitting leaves can affect any plant, whether in your office or in your home.

Plant leaves splitting can be caused by too much sun/heat, hard water deposit, dry air, low humidity, strong wind. 

Simple ways to avoid splitting from appearing on your plants’ leaves is to:

  • Provide adequate mositure
  • Pay attention to dangers from where the plant is located
  • Have a fertilizer routine for the plant
  • Keep pets away

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

Other Leaf Problems