Chelated Iron: How Can it Benefit Your Plants?

A lack of iron in plants not only affects the coloration of the leaves, but could also cause their death. Here we'll tell you how to use iron chelate to prevent this from happening.
Chelated Iron: How Can it Benefit Your Plants?

Last update: 10 October, 2022

If the leaves of your plants have taken on a yellow coloration, you’re probably concerned about their health. And you’re right, because their health could be in danger. Leaves turn yellow for a number of reasons, such as overwatering. However, if this isn’t the case, then it could be due to a lack of iron. For these cases we recommend chelated iron, but what is this substance?

Chelated iron is a kind of nutritional supplement, similar to the supplements of this mineral that we humans usually take. Discover what you should know about this deficiency corrector, capable of improving your plants’ health.

What is chelated iron?

Just like us, plants suffer from nutritional deficiencies and need extra help. Iron is essential for our green friends, and if they’re deficient in this mineral, chelate could be the solution.

This nutritional supplement prevents plants from developing iron deficiency when they can’t absorb the mineral from the soil. The strange this is that, even though the earth’s crust is rich in this element, under certain conditions, plants can’t absorb it.

An example of this is the pH. If it’s higher than 6, it makes iron insoluble., and it becomes difficult to absorb and assimilate.

What causes iron deficiency in plants?

In humans, iron deficiency is one of the main causes of anemia. In plants, this deficiency is due to iron chlorosis, a nutritional disorder common in alkaline soils, i.e. with a pH above 7.5.

It’s characterized by color change in plant leaves.

The disease has several phases:

  1. The yellow coloration appears only on the leaves.
  2. The coloration spreads throughout the plant.
  3. Necrosis begins. Necrosis appears first on the leaves and then spreads throughout the stem, ending in the death of the plant.
A plant that needs chelated iron.
Iron deficiency can lead to plant death. It is the last step after the yellowing of the stem.

How can you know that a plant isn’t assimilating iron?

When the yellow coloration appears on the leaves of the plant, it’s warning you that there’s a problem with the absorption and assimilation of iron. But how do you know that yellow leaves are caused by a lack of iron and not by excessive watering?

In this case, you should look at the nerves of the leaf. If these are green, while the rest of the leaf is yellow, you have an iron deficiency that should be solved with a dose of chelated iron.

Types of chelated iron

To prevent your plant from getting sick, there are different varieties of chelated iron. Get to know them here, and see which one will work best for you:

  • Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (or EDTA): This is one of the most common types of chelated iron. Note, however, that it doesn’t work if the pH is above 7.
  • Hydroxyethylethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (or HEDTA): Although a worthy adversary of high pH, its effectiveness decreases in alkaline soils.
  • Diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (or DTPA).

Other iron chelates include N,N′-ethylenediamine-bis (2-hydroxyphenyl), acetic acid (or EDDHA), and variations of it: EDDHMA and EDDHSA.

What’s the dose of chelated iron for different types of crops?

The dose of chelated iron is going to depend on the type of plant. For example, if they’re hydroponic or horticultural. Likewise, it varies depending on the plant itself, whether it’s a fruit tree or an olive grove.

Thus, we recommend that you consult an expert about the problem, which, in this case, could be one of the sales attendants. Ask them about the best type of supplement and the quantities to use.

Yellow leaves on a plant.
Yellow leaves with green veins indicate a mineral deficiency.

Chelated iron is a nutritional supplement for your plants

Not all soils are ideal for your plants to grow. Before you plant, or even if you already have, be sure to measure the pH. This way, you’ll know what to expect and if this is the reason your plants aren’t looking their best.

Chelate is an ideal supplement to help your plants absorb the iron that a high pH prevents them from assimilating, so keep it on hand. Finally, check the composition of the fertilizer you give your vegetables. Make sure it contains essential minerals.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Abadía, J., Vázquez, S., Rellán-Álvarez, R., El-Jendoubi, H., Abadía, A., Alvarez-Fernández, A., & López-Millán, A. F. (2011). Towards a knowledge-based correction of iron chlorosis. Plant physiology and biochemistry : PPB49(5), 471–482.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.