Did you know that plants also suffer from anaemia? Discover what is iron chlorosis, how to prevent and solve it

Iron chlorosis is one of the most common diseases among the plants in our garden.

This disease occurs when a certain plant does not obtain the necessary amount of iron, which causes various problems and can even end up causing the death of the plant.


  • Why exactly is it produced?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • And what can you do to cure this disease (and prevent it)?

We are going to answer all these questions in this post, so if you want to know more about this disease, keep reading.

What is iron chlorosis and what symptoms does it produce?

As we said, iron chlorosis would be the equivalent of anaemia in the plant world: a plant has little iron and that creates problems.

As we explained in a previous post, our plants need to absorb a total of 13 nutrients from the soil to stay healthy. And among them, iron is one of the most important.

Iron allows them to create chlorophyll (the substance that gives leaves their green colour and through which they carry out photosynthesis). For this reason, when a plant has a lack of iron, yellow dots begin to appear on the leaves.

Even in the most severe cases, the yellow colour can spread completely (which means that the plant cannot generate any chlorophyll).

If you do not remedy it, the leaves will begin to necrotize and the plant will die.

That is why it is so important that you know how to prevent yours from being affected by this disease.

Causes of iron chlorosis: why a plant can have a lack of iron

You know what they say: prevention is always better than cure. And that also applies to the diseases that affect our fellow vegetables.

The question is: why does iron chlorosis occur?

Well, although it may seem strange, most of the time the problem is not that the substrate in which the plant is planted has a lack of iron (on the contrary, this mineral is one of the most common on earth).

What usually happens is that, for one reason or another, the plant is not able to assimilate that iron.

The most common reasons are:

  • Excess of nitrogen: a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content will interfere with the absorption of iron (you will also see that the leaves are very green and that the plant hardly produces flowers).
  • Too alkaline soil: some species, such as acidophilic plants, need acidic substrates (pH below 7). If the soil is too alkaline (pH above 7) what happens is that the iron does not dissolve well and the plants cannot absorb it through the roots. 
  • High temperatures: in environments with too high temperatures, the plant may not be able to assimilate iron (that is why you should always use plants adapted to the climate of your area).
  • Excess of other nutrients: Although it is a much less common problem, excess zinc or copper also interferes with the absorption of iron.

In short, it is about using a suitable fertilizer, with a balanced concentration of nutrients, and a substrate adapted to the needs of each species.

Now, what can you do if, despite everything, your plants have developed this disease?

That's the next thing we're going to see.

4 tips to solve (and prevent) iron chlorosis in a plant

As we said, in the long run, iron chlorosis can lead to the death of the plant.

That is why it is so important that you remedy it as soon as you see that yellow spots begin to appear on the leaves.

Depending on the reason why the problem originated, we will have to apply one solution or another. 

1. Apply iron chelate 

Iron chelate is a concentrated iron solution. A kind of “vitamin supplement” for plants.

It is normally available in microgranules, and to apply it you just have to mix it with the substrate in which your plant is planted.

The chelate is made so that it dissolves easily and is very easy to absorb. 

However, this is only a “patch”: you get the plant to recover its iron levels and prevent the problem from getting worse, but if you do not solve the underlying problem, chlorosis will reappear in the long run.

That is why it is important that, in addition to applying the chelate, you look for the reason why the chlorosis has occurred.

2. Balance the soil pH

What can you do if what happens (or what you suspect happens) is that your plants are in too alkaline soil?

In this case, we must rebalance the pH of the soil. 

For that, try mixing hummus or compost with the substrate, which in addition to regulating the pH will also give the plant extra organic nutrients.

In the event that the problem is encountered by a plant that demands a substrate with specific characteristics, avoid universal substrate mixtures and try better with a specific one (for example, there are substrates for acidophilic plants).

If the problem was the pH, little by little you will notice that your plant regains its vigour.

3. Avoid watering with hard water

In some areas, tap water has a high content of lime (which is called “hard water”).

And this excess of lime is what makes the soil alkaline.

There are different ways to soften tap water, from using lime reducers to special showers with filters.

4. Use specific fertilizers

As with substrates, there are specific fertilizers for plants with special needs, such as acidophilic plants.

These fertilizers provide them with the exact mix of nutrients they require, which will prevent your plants to end up sick.

You already know what to do if your plants suffer from iron chlorosis.

We hope this article has been useful for you to keep your plants healthy.

Remember that, as we said, it is always better to be safe. So inform yourself well about the specific needs of each plant to give them the care they need.

If you have any questions, you already know that you can contact us and we will be delighted to solve them.