Mixing Dead Leaves into Potted Plants: The Pros and Cons

Mixing Dead Leaves into Potted Plants: The Pros and Cons

As a plant ages, leaves frequently drop off. To improve the overall health of the plant, these leaves ought to be cut off. However, it may be more detrimental to add dead leaves to potted plants than beneficial.

While adding nutrients to the soil, dead leaves can also lower the amount of essential nitrogen that plants need to grow. Microorganisms in the soil utilize nitrogen during the decomposition of leaves. The plant is momentarily without nitrogen, which may cause shortages.

To prevent any detrimental impacts on the plant, it is advised that the leaves be composted separately to create nutrient-rich compost, which can then be fed to the potted plant.

This page discusses how to use dead leaves, the advantages and disadvantages of using them with potted plants, and more.

  1. How to incorporate it into potted plants
  2. How long will it take the leaves to rot?
  3. Mulching with decaying leaves

The Benefits of Putting Dead Leaves in the Soil

With falling dead leaves, the scenario is the same. The growth of the plant and the fertility of the soil are greatly enhanced by dead and decaying leaves.

Nature recycles everything in an ongoing organic cycle rather than creating waste.

The advantages of adding dead leaves to the soil of potted plants are

  1. It Offers Microorganisms FoodIt is believed that dead leaves provide open soil microorganisms with excellent food and shelter. The same is true for houseplants in pots. In the potting soil, dead leaves provide a habitat that supports and accelerates the growth of microorganisms. They raise the humidity, bring down the soil’s temperature, and supply nutrients, creating the perfect conditions for microbes. These bacteria take up the nutrients that plants are unable to take up and transform them into nutrients that plants can take up. As a result, they organically improve the soil’s fertility.
  2. gives the potted plant nutrientsNutrients are naturally and organically found in dead leaves. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and trace elements are among the nutrients found in these leaves. Additionally a major supply of carbon compounds are the dead leaves. These are your soil’s incredible organic fertilizers. Depending on the type of leaves you gather, they may be a touch acidic.
  3. facilitates soil aerationDead leaves help the soil’s structure by dispersing and blending with the clay soil’s voluminous particles. They consequently produce openings that trap air and provide soil aeration.

This nutrient-rich soil also attracts microorganisms, whose motions improve soil aeration.

  1. facilitates soil drainageWe already know that the spaces created by the dead leaves allow air to enter the soil and reach the roots. They similarly offer places for nutrients and water. They create open areas for water to be absorbed and also drain excess water out of the soil since they are mixed in with the compacted soil particles. They can also change dense soil into lighter soil with superior drainage properties.

If adding leaves to your existing potting soil sounds excessive, you may try this potting mix from Amazon, which does an excellent job of keeping our plants healthy and is reasonably priced.

The Side Effects of Mixing Dead Leaves into Soil

It is possible to temporarily generate a nitrogen-deficient environment by incorporating dead leaves into soil.

This is so that nitrogen-using microbes may convert leaves into plant-useable nutrients.

When organic matter with a high carbon content, such sawdust, is added to soil, plants may become nitrogen deficient. Nitrogen is inaccessible to plants because soil organisms need all nitrogen to break down carbon sources. [Source]

A nitrogen deficit may arise as a result.

In many plants, nitrogen is distributed to the leaves and plant photosynthesis is significantly reduced when there is a nitrogen deficiency.

Therefore, inadequate nitrogen levels will result in pale yellow-green leaves and poor or stunted plant growth.

The Pros and Cons of Mixing Leaves into Soil

Increases soil aeration; adds nutrients to the soil; temporarily reduces the amount of nitrogen available to the plant.has the unintended consequence of causing the plant leaves go yellowfacilitates soil drainageLow nitrogen levels may result in stunted development; more microbial activity in the soil 

Is it Better to Compost the Leaves Separately Before Adding it to the Potted Plant?

Before adding leaves to plant soil, it is best to compost them and turn them into nutrient-rich soil.

If utilized sparingly or as mulch, raw leaves are also beneficial. However, it is ideal to incorporate them into compost and turn it into nutrient-rich soil if you have a lot of leaves.

Large amounts of leaves placed as mulch in the pot will need nitrogen to break down. As a result, your plant and soil will develop a nitrogen shortage, as previously mentioned.

The best course of action is to use these leaves wisely, compost some of them, and use the remainder as mulch.

How to Add Dead Leaves to Potted Plants

  1. The plant’s dying leaves should be removed: Remove the damaged, weakened, and dead leaves from your plants by pruning them. The energy is used to develop new, younger, and healthier leaves instead of decomposing old, weak leaves, which aids in the healthy growth of plants.Now throw away the sick leaves and save the dead and frail ones.
  2. Assemble the dead leaves: Take off all the dead leaves from your rooftops and yard. The ideal leaves for making leaf mold are those from deciduous trees, such as oak or peach. Avoid the thicker leaves, such as those from rubber plants, host chestnuts, sweet chestnuts, or harsh evergreens, as their breakdown takes significantly longer. Pine tree needles can be collected, but they also produce an acidic soil mulch that is good for ericaceous plants like blueberries. Never add leaves on the side of the road, including walnut, eucalyptus, camphor laurel, cherry laurel, and leaves. These leaves will prevent plants from growing if they are placed in the soil.
  3. Cut or crush leaves into little pieces: Reduce the size of the gathered leaves so that there is more surface area for decomposition. They also integrate well with soil. The crushing procedure will hasten the creation of your leaf molds for pots.
  4. Add some potting soil after fully blending: To ensure that the leaves are adequately coated and the microbes have full access to begin the decomposition process, the leaves should be blended into the soil for two to three inches.

Potting Mixture Preparation:

A straightforward method for creating potting soil is to combine 2 parts leaf mold, 2 parts sand/perlite, and 1 part compost with a small amount of slow-feeding nutrients.

Mix thoroughly to ensure that the substance is evenly distributed. The greatest potting soil for your grown plants is this.

Seeding Mixture Preparation:

Because these are for the new ones, different materials are needed to produce the seeding soil combination. Similar to how delicate seedling pots would burn if fertilizer is added.

Therefore, mix 2 parts of potting soil, 2 parts of sand, and a tiny amount of vermicast into 2 parts of leaf molds. If you believe your soil to be more acidic than normal, add a small bit of chalk.

In order to prevent nitrogen robbing from the seedling, it is advised to wait around two weeks for the decomposition process to be well underway in the soil.

How long does it take for leaves to decay?

Nearly 10–12 months pass. However, by taking the suggested actions, you can shorten the process to 8–10 months.

  • Crush the leaves into smaller pieces using a leaves mower.
  • Add some manure or other organic fertilizer in tiny amounts.
  • Continuously moisten it throughout the procedure.
  • Every month, flip the pile over.

Can you use dead leaves as mulch?

The soil can be covered with a variety of mulches, including wood chips, rubber chips, crushed leaves, and even beautiful stones.

All of these dead leaves can add significantly more value to soil when used as a mulch substrate since they will shield the soil and naturally supply nutrients to your plant.

Unlike other mulches, they won’t heat the ground. They offer a remarkable habitat for the development of advantageous bacteria.

The Takeaway

When dead leaves are added to the soil, plants will receive nutrients and oxygen.

Dead leaves also have the ability to aerate the soil and encourage drainage.

Care must be taken when adding dead leaves to potted plants since during the process of decomposition, a nitrogen-deficient environment may be produced that can rob the plant of vital nitrogen and cause shortages.

Although fallen leaves can give plants healthy nutrients, it is frequently advised that in order to fully utilize the nutrients they contain, leaves should first be composted outside before being introduced to potted plants.


Are leaves good for the soil?

Trees extract trace minerals from deep inside the soil and store them in the leaves. Leaves feed beneficial bacteria and earthworms when they are added to your garden. They help sandy soils retain moisture and lighten heavy soils. When used as mulch in the flower garden, they look lovely.

Do fallen leaves fertilize the soil?

For gardeners, fallen leaves are a true gift from nature. They produce excellent mulch, compost, and fertilizer that can be used all throughout the landscape. Use them to benefit your lawn and garden rather than disposing of them to be wasted in a landfill.

Are fallen leaves good for the soil?

Mulch and fertilizer are Free in Leaves Fallen leaves have two advantages from a gardening standpoint. As they decompose, leaves provide a natural mulch that aids in weed suppression and fertilizes the soil.

Is burying leaves good for soil?

Use the leaves as amendments rather than buying them. You’ll have rich, loamy soil for planting by spring if you bury the leaves in your garden this fall or compost them, and it can also save you money.

Do dead leaves enrich soil?

As the leaves decompose, they add to the organic matter already present in the soils and release nutrients that the turf may use. Consider adding some leaves to your garden beds if you have too many to mow.