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What Causes White Leaves on Plants? (Causes & Solutions)

White leaves on your plants can be a sign of trouble but don’t worry, it’s a common problem caused by various underlying issues.

Generally, Plant leaves turn white due to diseases like powdery mildew, downy mildew, ring spot, sun scorch, and improper nutrients. Poor water quality, Edema, and pest infestation are other possible reasons.

Remember, bad growing conditions and excess of anything will affect a plant’s health, leading to foliage discoloration.

Read on to discover the causes of houseplant leaves turning white and their solutions.

Is it Normal for Plants’ Leaves to Turn White?

Healthy houseplants are unlikely to exhibit whitening leaves unless affected by external factors.

Hence, seeing whitening leaves on plants is not normal and may indicate an underlying problem.

White spots on cucumber leaves
Witnessing white spots on leaves is common in popular houseplants.

Your houseplant is already under severe stress when they begin showing whitening leaves on top or bottom.

Wrong growing conditions and external factors like pest infestation, improper fertilization, improper watering, and diseases mainly cause the discoloration of plant leaves.

Therefore, look for signs of chlorosis, browning, hollow spot on foliage, sickly structure, or leggy growth.

Why are the Leaves of my Plant Turning White?

Sometimes, the leaf edges may turn white, while the half or entire leaf surface may change color other times.

Let us look at possible reasons for the plant leaves turning white and their solutions.

1. Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is mainly caused by Podosphaera xanthii, which may lead to white powdery leaf spots.

These white spots would appear as dots all over the single or multiple leaves, which may give an impression of solid white foliage.

Therefore, many gardeners call it white leaf syndrome.

However, this problem is not usual. Any plant is susceptible to fungus infestation, especially Podosphaera xanthii, which causes powdery mildew.

Remember, powdery mildew thrives in humid conditions with moderate temperatures (65 to 80°F), such as during summer. 

Similarly, plants kept in shady locations and with infected species may also result in powdery mildew.

Treatment and Preventive Measures

  • Quarantine the plant and move it to a warm location with ample sunlight.
  • Make a spray of 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 1 quart of water and spray weekly to remove the infection.
  • Otherwise, apply fungicides or neem oil over the infected plant to treat and prevent further infection.
  • Improve air circulation by spacing the plants and keeping them around well-ventilated areas.
  • Use a room air humidifier to maintain an ideal humidity level around the plant.

2. Sun Scorch

Scorch, scalding, or burn will occur from keeping the plants exposed to the sun for significant hours each day.

If your houseplant is not used to absorbing direct sunlight, it may falter under intense sun, leading to excess transpiration.

Brown spots are the first signs of sun scorch, gradually developing into white patches, and are common when the temperature rises over 90°F.

Treatment and Preventive Measures

  • Move your plant to indirect sunlight and check moisture and water.
  • Submerge the pot in a water tub if the soil is too dry.
  • Prune the heavily affected leaves and avoid fertilizing for a few weeks.

3. Low Lighting Condition

Keeping houseplants in low light will affect chlorophyll production, leading to the loss of natural leaf color.

Low light is another factor that causes pale leaves and gradual whitening.

Remember, plants require enough sunlight and in right intensity to thrive. Therefore, subjecting them to partial or low light will cause massive leaf discoloration.

Here are a few plant types and their light requirement.

Light RequirementPlants
Bright Indirect (1000-2000 foot candles)Kentia palm, African Violet, English Ivy (Hedera helix), White Bird of Paradise, Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Medium Light (250-1000 foot candles)Spathiphyllum, African Violet, Begonias, Boston Fern, Croton
Low Light (50-250 foot candles)Snake plant, Dracaena, ZZ Plant, Spider plant, Lucky Bamboo, Arrowhead

Treatment and Preventive Measures

  • Immediately move your plant to partial sunlight and prune leggy branches and leaves.
  • Place them in east or south-facing windows providing 6 hours of sunlight daily.
  • Move them under LED grow light (200W) for 10 to 12 hours daily if natural light is unavailable.
  • Check the soil moisture using a moisture meter before watering to ensure healthy root condition.

4. Edema (Oedema)

Edema (Oedema) is another concerning factor for plants, as excess water intake may lead to a sudden shock, resulting in lower leaves turning white.

This condition mainly occurs when you overwater your plant after depriving it for an extended period.

Image represents edema on the Peperomia leaves
Plant leaves show edema due to overwatering and over-fertilization by forming bumpy blisters on the leaves.

The roots can only take up as much water as the leaves can transpire, leading to cell rupture and damage.

They go into shock, affecting the leaves and leading to burnt white blotches or soaked patches that look unsightly. 

Treatment and Preventive Measures

  • Allow the soggy soil to dry up to 2 inches before watering again.
  • Trim off the heavily damaged leaves and follow a strict watering schedule.
  • Use appropriate-sized Terracotta pots for your plants and water them twice a week during summer.

5. Nutrient Deficiency

Depriving the plant of nutrients, especially macro, micro, or trace minerals, may lead to a sickly plant.

Here is what the lack of essential nutrients does to your plant.

NutrientsEffect on Leaves
NitrogenLower and older leaves turn completely yellow and later turns brown before dropping.
PotassiumThe margin of leaves turn yellow and then brown looking as if burned.
CalciumNew leaves turn yellow leading to blossom end rot with chlorotic spots developing along the margins.
MagnesiumLeaf margins of older leaves turn yellow leaving the veins green and shows white to light brown necrotic dots.
IronYoung leaves turn yellow leaving behind green veins, and older leaves nearly whitish with yellow to orange chlorosis.

Provide your plants with regular feeding of optimal NPK formula, homemade organic compost, or naturally decaying matter.

Nutrient-deficient plants fail to produce chlorophyll or use sunlight for food production.

Similarly, white spots on the leaf’s upper portion may indicate manganese deficiency.

Treatment and Preventive Measures

  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when applying the solution; whether to dilute the solution with water.
  • Fertilize your plants every one or two weeks or monthly in spring and summer with a liquid solution.
  • Spray the pellets once every three months for the granular formula (slow-release formula).
  • You can easily buy the commercial formula from the market with appropriate NPK ratios such as balanced (1-1-1), 10-8-12, 30-28-30, etc.
  • Strictly reduce fertilizing in fall and winter when the plant goes into dormancy.

6. Alkaline Soil (Wrong pH)

The wrong soil pH level will prevent the plant from taking essential nutrients from the soil.

Most indoor or outdoor potted houseplants will thrive in acidic, slightly acidic, or neutral soil pH levels (5.0-7.0).

The more alkaline the soil, the harder plants can absorb nutrients.

Lack of fertilization, hard water, overwatering and stale soil are why the soil turns alkaline.

Therefore, according to your plant’s pH need, you should amend your soil to turn it acidic.

Moisture meter
You can use a soil moisture meter to measure the moisture and pH of the plant soil.


  • Introduce organic matter into the soil by amending it with organic compost such as worm casting, bone meal, fish meal, etc.
  • Amend the potting soil with sphagnum moss or coffee grounds to drastically lower the pH level.
  • Alternatively, add elemental sulfur, iron sulfate, or aluminum sulfate, which often come in soil amenders or fertilizers, into the soil.
  • Transplant the plant into a fresh potting mix with organic compost or other organic matter.
  • Use a soil pH meter kit annually to check the soil’s acidity level or when transplanting in a fresh potting mix.

7. Poor Water Quality

Water rich in chlorine, fluorine, etc., will invite many problems, sometimes leaf bleaching.

Regularly watering the plant with such water will lead to mineral buildup in the soil, preventing roots from absorbing nutrients and oxygen.

One of the earliest indicators is water stains on the plants, wilting that results bleaching or whitening with chalky calcium deposits.

Treatment and Preventive Measures

  • Consider wiping the chalky deposit on leaves with an acidic mixture like lemon or vinegar water.
  • Repot your plant in a fresh potting mix for severely damaged plants immediately.
  • Use collected rainwater, snow melts, and filtered and distilled water for indoor houseplants.

8. Pest Infestation

Although rare, the houseplant infected with pests such as mealybugs and spider mites may witness white sticky substances on the leaves.

Many sap-sucking insects feed on the plant leaves, leading to visible damages such as spots, holes, boils, and white substances.
MealbugsSpider Mites
Wingless insects that appear as white cottony masses on leavesReside on the undersides of leaves and spin protective silk webs
Suck sap and release a white sticky substance over the leaves, resembling cotton.Entire leaves get covered in spider webs and pale shiny yellow or white marks

Treatment and Preventive Measures

9. Plant Diseases

Along with Powdery mildew, some other diseases like ring spots or downy mildew may also cause white leaf spots on the houseplants.

Also known as white leaf spots, ring spots usually appear as a white circle on the leaf when there is too much humidity with warmer temperatures.

Moreover, downy mildew may appear in cool, humid environments causing white, gray, or bluish patches on leaves.

Treatment and Preventive Measures

  • Apply neem oil on the infected parts weekly and prune the infected leaves immediately.
  • Apply fungicides with Chlorothalonil and mancozeb for downy mildew and benzimidazole fungicide for ringspot.

Should I Cut Off the white Leaves on Plants?

If your plants have excessive white leaves, the best option is to remove them immediately.

However, not all white leaves have to go. It will depend on the severity of the problem.

Removing the white leaves would help redirect the plant’s energy toward new and healthy growth.
  • Powdery mildew can be cleared using fungicides, but you must trim off the leaf if the problem is severe.
  • If you never prune your plants with white leaves due to fungal infections, it may spread and infect the whole garden.
  • Leaves with few white spots or discolored edges may turn green using neem oil without pruning.

How to Prevent White Leaves on Plants?

Start with scheduled watering for each plant in the growing season (spring and summer) and dormancy (fall and winter).

  • Provide your plant sufficient light daily for 6 hours and fertilize regularly using the liquid or granular solution.
  • Install room air humidifier to maintain optimal humidity level for indoor plants.
  • Ensure the temperature stays between 50 to 80°F. 
  • Prune the infected parts timely to avoid the spreading of pathogens.
  • Assess the soil pH level once yearly and amend the soil with compost or fresh soil mix as necessary.
Cucumber leaves white spots
Look out for tell-tale signs of white spots on the leaves, which may look ghastly and unappealing.

From Editorial Team

Protect Your Plant From Chemicals

Sometimes, chemicals from insecticides or herbicides may cause your plant’s leaves to turn white.

To avoid this, only spray the chemicals into the diseased leaves, not the healthy ones.

Also, switch towards biological herb and pest control methods rather than chemical methods.

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