How to Flush Out Excess Fertilizer Salts

Author: Celeste Booth8 Comments

Care and Culture, Growing Indoors, Growing Outdoors

My Bromeliad has Fertilizer Salt Buildup… What Should I Do?

We are often asked what to do in circumstances where fertilizer salts or hard water minerals have left deposits on your bromeliad’s foliage. Bromeliads rarely take up every last bit of fertilizer, particularly in the top 1 in (2.5 cm) or so of soil. In that area, moisture tends to evaporate, leaving behind accumulated salts.

You can see these salts as whitish deposits on the inner rim of the container, and sometimes on the soil’s surface, too. Few plants are immune to the effects of these salts, which destroy root tissues and interfere with a plant’s ability to take up nutrients and water. When you notice heavy buildup, a practice of flushing out pots every 4 to 8 weeks may be required. Sometimes called double watering, or drenching, the procedure goes as follows:

  • Water plants thoroughly with plenty of clean, tepid water (rainwater or distilled water is best)
  • Allow excess water to drip out though the drainage holes for 30 minutes then drench the pots again.
  • Be sure to pour off all excess water that accumulates in pot trays when you are finished.
  • Resume regular watering and feeding when the soil reaches the appropriate level of dryness for the plant.

It is always a good practice to flush out the center cup/tank of your bromeliad to keep water clean and avoid the buildup of salts or stagnant water. This can be done on a monthly basis to ensure continued health of your plant.

What About the Residue From Hard Water?

If you are watering with hard water and notice a mineral buildup left over from the evaporated water, you can take a wet cloth and wipe down the leaves. In addition, remember to flush out the cup on a regular basis just as you did for fertilizer salt buildup. Again, using rainwater or distilled water for this is ideal.

Have more questions? Post them below and we’ll do our best to help you out!


Cover Photo: Ramon FVelasquez

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8 Responses to “How to Flush Out Excess Fertilizer Salts”

  1. Pat says:

    I picked up my plant and took it to the kitchen to water it. I set the plant in the sink and ran water into the bowl that keeps the plant a drink of water, I put the pland back into the front room and I went and got the plant this morning to water. some of the leaves are sticky. What is the sticky, is this the salt the article was talking about?

    1. Terry jackson says:

      Do I put water in the soil as well as the center cup?? I put water in all the open leaves all the way down? If that’s wrong what do I do to fix it?

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  3. Christine says:

    Great article. I’m dealing with some of these issues as well..

  4. john fitzgerald says:

    I am learning and need all the help I can get

  5. Lorna Burness says:

    The bottom of leaves at its trunk, has gone soft and brownish. I think I have over watered it, & it is going soggy. Do I have any hope in saving it or is it too late to do so? Help please. Thank you.

    1. Celeste Booth says:

      It sounds like it may indeed be too late, however try repotting the bromeliad in new medium and consider using a faster draining potting mix and a pot with better drainage. Bromeliads like humidity, but if the location of your bromeliad is too wet and the soil remains constantly soggy, you may need to find a drier location with more air circulation for your bromeliad. In the future, let the potting mix dry out more between waterings.

  6. Lorna Burness says:

    Photo of my Bromeliad when small, now 3weeks later. The whole lower leaves are going brown from too much water.

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