Leaves on tomato plants turning whitish color

wolflover(z7 OK)May 9, 2008

A few of our tomato plants have leaves that are turning whitish colored. Does anyone have an idea what might be causing this? These plants were planted a week ago, in a virgin garden spot. The only amendments to the 20 X 40' garden area were 25 bags of Black Kow composted manure. There are 5 or 6 plants looking like this out of 28 tomato plants. They are all in the second row, which was planted about two weeks after the first row was planted. These affected plants were planted just prior to the low temperatures we experienced last weekend, lows of 40*. I'm not sure if this would have caused the leaves to turn white. Anyone have ideas on the cause or ideas on what to do to correct it? Thanks.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hmmmm. I'm sure Dawn will know, but I have one that is doing that too. I thought it was probably that the plant had wet foliage, and the sun came out, and the leaves got scalded. But, temps could be the problem, too. Heck, I don't know much about it, but cold seems to make my other plants new growth turn black, as well as the foliage on the young growth, too. And then I thought maybe all this rain has leached out the good stuff in the soil and I need to fertilize them?

Dawna, any of your EEs up yet?


    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 5:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rjj1(Norman OK Zone7)

Without seeing the plant I would guess lack of sun.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 6:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Were these recently-purchased transplants that might not have been fully hardened-off to the sun and wind? That would be my best guess. And, even if they were completely hardened off, if you had kept them in a protected area, like under a patio roof, for as little as just 4 or 5 days, they could have lost enough conditioning that they would have to be hardened off all over again.

As you know, plants that have been grown inside under lights have thinner, delicate leaves and have to be gradually exposed to sunlight and wind or they can suffer severe sunburn and windburn. (On tomato plants, the damage from both can look similar.) It takes about of week of gradually increasing sunlight and wind exposure (starting with an hour a day) to harden off plants.

I KNOW that sometimes I see plants for sale at nurseries, or even at places like Wal-Mart, that I can tell by sight have not been hardened off well enough to transplant out. You can tell because their foliage is comparatively thin, very bright green and almost looks too good to be true. So, that's my best guess, and I'll try to find a photo to link.

Usually, plants that have some sunburn and some windburn, or both, can put out new foliage and outgrow the condition. Sometimes, though, they cannot. Leave the damaged leaves on the plants until new foliage has appeared, because even damaged leaves are still conducting the photosynthesis necessary for plant growth. After you have several new leaves, remove the damaged ones and new ones will regrow there.

And, sometimes, if droplets of water are on the leaves, you can get a white sort of sunburn from that just as Susan described. (The water + sunlight hurts the water in the same way a magnifying glass + sunlight would.)


P.S. I found and linked a photo. Sometimes the damage looks exactly like this, but sometimes it looks more like white or tannish-white freckles on the leaves.

And, if your leaves don't look like this, let me know, and I'll pull out my Seminis Seed Tomato Disease Book and look for something less obvious.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 1:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

THat was my guess, too, Dawn, but mainly because mine have same symptoms, and I've had it in the past. They come straight from the greenhouse into the garden and it's gonna stress them out a bit, and expose them to extremes they have yet experienced. But, they always pull out of it.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 7:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
wolflover(z7 OK)

Thank you, Dawn. You are the tomato queen! I'm pretty sure that is exactly what is going on. Today I walked out to look at the plants, and the wind was trying to blow them away, and it hit me that was what was wrong. Ever since I've planted them, the wind has been trying to blow them away. And the last plants I bought, I didn't harden them off at all. They'd been growing under a sales tent, and it never even occurred to me until today that was probably what was going on. A cross between the wind and the sun. You hit the nail on the head!! I have no doubt that is the problem.

The neighbor's chickens got a few more plants this week. DH finally had to pick off a few of them with his .22. It sure is aggravating having the chickens come over and tear up our garden. I had to replant three of the last tomato plants they pecked all the leaves off. I'm hoping these whitish plants will recover, but I bet they will. I really thought when we moved off the top of that hill that the winds wouldn't be so severe here. But I swear, I think they're just as bad here as they were on top of the hill. :) "OKLAHOMA..... where the wind comes sweeping down the plains"... Did they ever get that part right in the song!!

Thanks everyone for the help! I just love this place. :)


    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 12:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7


With tomatoes, it happens. It has happened to me a lot, especially before I started raising my own. When you find good-looking tomato plants and bring them home, you have no way of knowing if they have been hardened off at all. And, unless you're buying from a nursery that raises their own plants (increasingly rare these days), it doesn't do any good to ask. Generally you'll just get a blank stare if you ask "Have these tomato plants been hardened off?" I don't have the problem much since I raise my own seedlings and am very careful to properly harden them off as they transition from the indoors to the outdoors. Sometimes, though, when I have them really well hardened-off, we'll get a really cold spell and I have to move them back into the house for 2 or 3 days straight, and that undoes the hardening-off process, putting me back at square one. And, if I don't watch carefully, the wind and/or sun will burn them the first day they are back outside again.

Sadly, there on your hill, you will always have a lot more wind than I have here in the valley, for example. We have friends on a hill less than 2 miles from us and the amount of wind they have is unreal. It will be blowing like gangbusters at their house, and will be as still as can be at ours.

One advantage of living on the hill, though, is that you can watch funnel clouds coming from a long ways off. A few years ago they called and said to hurry over and watch the tornadoes, so we did. Isn't that awful? But, the tornadoes were coming from our southwest and were on a path that would take they several miles northeast of their house, so we weren't worried they'd come our way (and they didn't). There were several funnel clouds in the air that day, but they hardly touched down at all, only doing a little damage near Hickory Creek at Hwy 77 and also on the northeastern edge of Love County near Lake Murray. I still can't believe we sat on their porch and watched the approaching funnel clouds.

I hate that the chickens are such a problem. Your poor tomato plants are having a hard time getting starting this year, aren't they.

Sounds like it is time to plant a windbreak? Our first couple of years here, before my trees and shrubs had had time to grow much, I put up a chicken wire fence on the south and west side of the garden and grew morning glories on it for a quick wind break, and put cannas about 4' outside the chicken wire to also serve as a windbreak. That gave us a break from the summer's winds, which for us tend to come out of the south most of the time, and out of the west to southwest during thunderstorms. For several years, I had my corn blown over almost every year. Now, finally, I think, the trees and shrubs are large enough that maybe this year the corn won't end up lying flat on the ground. I hope.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 9:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When you say "WHite leaves" does the white look like a power on the leaves?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 5:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

thanks for the info. I usually buy seedlings, but i started seeds for the first time this year, and this exact thing happened. I started tomatoes (cherry), peppers (hot and bell), and some herbs (basil, oregano and thyme) inside by a window, and when i moved them outside for a couple hours when i thought it was warm enough, they did the same thing, leaves turn white/grayish. My thermometer said about 20 degress C, but there was a cold wind, and i left them out there for about 3 hours in the afternoon.

How do you experienced gardeners recommend properly hardening off indoor seedlings for wind and sun? Im in zone 3, planning to plant in the ground or put outside in containers around the beginning of june.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 10:50PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
pine shavings yes or no
I have access to alot of pine shavings/bedding from...
2015 Tomato Grow List
Seed-starting time is approaching, so here's my grow...
Okiedawn OK Zone 7
What happens to tomatoes that are stunted as seedlings?
Because I seem to have a lot of them. I'm not panicked...
Okay. So, I was overly optimistic when I purchased...
Intercropping Tomatoes
with Sweet corn? Is it doable? with so many tomato...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™