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My little apple seedlings (from seed) have gone through a bit too much sun this week, as a string of 90-degree days after being indoor plants has been a shock to them. Their leaves were burnt along the top layers and they're curling quite a bit. Most of them are also significantly more faded from what they were a few short weeks ago. (This is just an example, and what incited the questions below)

At what point will the leaves be "dead"? I mean, at what point will I know that they are useless to the plant? Should I trim them so that the lower leaves can get better light? Will they be able to bounce back from the stress that they've experienced?

  • Dead leaves will automatically fall or a little touch can make them fall, but don't apply more energy on them to make them fall (it may be un-dead leaves) as it will hurt them. – jaczjill May 24 '13 at 7:13
  • @jaczjill Un-dead leaves? Night of the Living Leaves confirmed – yuritsuki May 27 '13 at 21:14
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My advice on this is to leave them alone for now.

Each leaf will either partially recover or end up dying off. It won't regrow the areas where it has died. Once significant cell damage has occurred, that leaf won't regenerate itself but the parts that are still alive will photosynthesize.

You could snip off the leaves that have started to die and it is likely that your seedlings will do just fine. One could argue that damaged areas on trees are places where problems can occur with pests and disease and snipping them off would nip that in the bud.

If it is really dead - dried out and obviously not doing the plant any good, I sometimes clip them off. I had a number of leaves (groups of them) die on some of my apple trees this year for whatever reason. I did prune those off. My view was that it wasn't going to improve the health of the tree by letting them hang there.

I'd personally follow a "wait and see" course. You can always snip them off later. If they get worse and are clearly blocking the healthier leaves below it, then you could do a bit of pruning on them to fix that.

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