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Why Are My Plant's
Leaves Turning Yellow ?

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There are 9 possible reasons why
your plant's leaves are turning yellow

1.  The "Good News" reason is that leaves naturally turn from green to yellow then brownish and dry and shriveled

All plants?


In the two pictures at the top, each of the yellow leaf areas are the lower, OLDER leaves whose time is over.  Nature re-captures the nutrients from the old leaves into the main plant and the leaf color becomes yellow

What to do?

Nothing, except relax, Nature is in control

2.  Sudden unexpected cold

If a plant is used to suitable conditions then cold comes in, leaf yellowing and leaf drop is common

What to do?

Usually nothing, except with potted plants.  If you expect more cold, shelter your plant indoors in a warm, bright area where people are comfortable

But should have taken your plants to shelter well before the cold came in.  Here is our article on how to successfully winterise your potted plants to bring indoors for the winter

3.  Heat

Many plants comfortable in moderate temperature conditions can "complain" by dropping leaves with ongoing excess heat.  The time from green to yellow to drop can be very fast

What to do?

Consider if a better location is possible for this plant.  For example, rather than a full sun location, a spot with afternoon shade could be your permanent solution

3.  Too wet

Too much water chokes roots and very often causes leaf yellowing

In the case of potted plants, you control the water

In the landscape, your sprinklers may need adjusting

4.  Too dry

If water is needed and not available, a plant can not "hold" all its leaves.  In defense plants shed leaves.  In this case the green to yellow to drop process can be very fast

What plants want is consistent water for best growth and daily happiness.  Of course, that amount varies by the variety of plant

Plants which are native to swampy areas may need to be constantly moist to be happy, so ANY fall off in available water = instant leaf complaints (yellowing)

On the other hand, our desert rose plants can go a long time between watering.  Cactus and succulents in general require excellent drainage and no standing water, otherwise, you see yellow leaves and leaf drop

5.  Your new plant suddenly is getting sick fast.  Yellow leaves are developing rapidly and leaf drop is scary

This situation is very common.  We call this "decline" and yellow leaves are the first symptom.  We have a separate article on this subject

6.  A change of location

Virtually 100% of the time, if you move a plant to a new location, you will see leaf yellowing.  Unless the new location is more suitable than the old location, your plant needs to adjust/adapt to the new location so leaf yellowing is part of the process

For example, if you move a plant into more sun, the leaves may be stressed.  The plant "knows" the current leaves can't withstand the increase in sun sun and so, in defense, grows new leaves that can handle the new exposure

Moving to a location with less light//sun/hours/intensity, the plant can no longer "hold" the same amount of leaves so starts to shed leaves trying to balance light and leaf quantity

7.  Fertilizer, especially liquid chemical fertilizers

Folks tend to use fertilizers in excess.  Too much fertilizer, especially liquid chemical fertilizers, create a toxic situation and rapid leaf yellowing (burn) is the result

Fertilization is a very important subject and so we have a separate article on fertilization

8.  Disease

There is virtually no technology for plant diseases.  Scientists study causes but the "cures" side of the equation is almost zero

Your best defense is promoting plant health especially with proper feeding

9.  Damage

Improper maintenance, often via your lawn man, can cause plant damage, like when using a weed whacker.  You may not see (because you don't look closely) where equipment may have hurt your plants.  Be sure you know how to manage your lawn man for starters

Damaged plants may be able to heal themselves.  You may be able to do some pruning to assist.  The main point is to avoid the damage in the first place