6 Causes of Yellow Leaves on Plants (+ Remedies)

Are your plants’ leaves turning yellow? Is your plant looking a bit sickly?

Do you feel like you have tried everything, but no matter what you do, your plant doesn’t seem to respond?

You’re not alone!

At the Garden Bench Top, we’ve all experienced your moments of frustration. And we’re here to remind you, it is just that…only a moment…only temporary.

I mean we get it, when you have cared for and grown a plant, it can be heartbreaking to see it slowly begin to wilt and die. But there is hope.

why are the leaves on my plants turning yellow

It is moments like these, why we have made it our mission to put together the ultimate plant troubleshooting guide to problem-solve your way back to a healthy, vibrant plant.

In this section of the guide, we are going to be examining the various causes that can turn the leaves on your plants yellow.

How to Cure Your Plant from Yellow Leaves

The best way to approach plant care is to be methodical. That, and a bit of patience.

We suggest, first reading this guide in its entirety.

Then begin working your way through the different potential problems that cause yellow leaves.

After each cause, we explain the reasoning behind the problems, and potential next steps you can use to try to fix the issues.

Begin with the cause that you feel is the most likely reason that is causing your plants leaves to yellow, and try the recommended solutions. If you don’t see any positive response after a week, come back to this article and identify the next possible reason and try that one.

Continue until you see your plant beginning to look its normal, healthy self.

Possible Causes that are Turning Your Plants’ Leaves Yellow

Okay, let’s get into what you are really here for – trying to get to the bottom of the real cause for the yellow leaves on your plant.

Lack of Water

Okay, so we are all guilty of this one – even the best of us. Whether we intend to or not, sometimes we can neglect some plants and forget to water them (cue audible gasps!).

One of the first signs of under-watering is yellow leaves.

Plants use evaporation through their leaves as a means of cooling and delivering minerals used in the photosynthesis process. As such, the leaves are one of the first parts of the plant to show the signs of a lack of water.

What Does it Look Like?

underwatered plant with yellow leaves
image courtesy: gardening know how

You will be able to identify this issue when the yellow leaves are also curling inward and beginning to look dry and brown.

When there is a lack of water, it is generally the whole plant that is affected, so all the leaves will begin to appear quite limp and droopy.

You can also check your soil to see if it is dry and beginning to form large cracks in the soil.

How to solve the issue

This one is easy – water your plant!

The initial watering should be quite big. Depending on how dry the soil is, it may take time for the water to soak into the soil. However, you should keep topping it up until you can see the water beginning to drain from the bottom of the pot.

To help avoid under-watering in the future, you can add some water beads to the soil to help with water retention.

Excess Water

Generally speaking, when a gardener sees the dreaded yellow tinges on their plants’ leaves, their first thought is that it isn’t receiving enough water! Impulsively, they will grab their watering can or hose and douse their plant with a healthy watering.

Unfortunately, what they failed to consider is that an excess of water can also cause plants leaves to turn yellow. And now they have exacerbated the issue by drowning their already water logged plant with even more water.

What Does it Look Like?

overwatered plant with yellow leaves
image courtesy: bloomscape

So, how do you recognize the difference between when your plant is receiving too much water, compared with too little water?

If your leaves are yellow around the edges, and it graduates to green in the center, then it is likely your soil is too wet. You may also observe some leaves being bright yellow, alongside the yellow/green leaves. This is another telltale sign you are overwatering.

One other test is to inspect the base of the stem (just above the soil line). If it is black or off color, then this is it is likely the culprit is water-logged soil. The blackened stems are a sign that fungus or bacteria is beginning to infect your plant, and you will need to act quickly before it becomes unsalvageable.

How to solve the issue

The quickest and easiest way to resolve an excess of water is to repot the plant.

By removing the water-laden soil, into some fresh (drier) soil, you will immediately fix the excess of water and prevent other diseases like root-rot.

The next step is to adjust your watering routine. We suggest using the finger test method, which involves grabbing a pinch of topsoil and rubbing it between your thumb and index fingers. If it feels dry, it is time to water your plant. If it is still moist, leave watering for another day.

Temperature Shock

Large, sudden swings in temperature can sometimes shock your plants so much that it can have a detrimental effect on the health of your plant. This is also applicable to extremes in temperature, such as being too hot or too cold.

Temperature shocks can happen when the plant is placed near devices that help to regulate our homes, such as heaters, radiators or air conditioners.

What Does it Look Like?

distressed plant from temperature shock
image courtesy: kiwicare

You will be able to recognize when plants are experiencing temperature issues when the entire plant is showing signs of distress with yellow leaves. You may even see leaves falling off as the plant attempts to conserve energy for survival.

How to Solve the Issue

A little bit of knowledge goes a long way.

At the Garden Bench Top, we always recommend trying to understand your plants origins. Reading up about your plant helps you get to know your plants and to provide the best conditions for them to thrive.

For example, if you have a plant that naturally lives in countries along the equator, you can be confident that it will tolerate high humid conditions. But if you were to try the same plant in colder climates, you may begin to observe symptoms (such as yellow leaves) indicating that it isn’t coping well.

You may also try moving your plants to places that are not susceptible to large temperature swings, like windows or in front of your heaters.

Lack of Food

The symptoms of a lack of nutrients are actually very similar to temperature shock, and can easily be mistaken for one another.

Plants (especially indoor plants) rely entirely on you for their food and nutrition. Besides sun and water, they require certain minerals and vitamins to continue photosynthesizing and growing. The only sources they can receive from are fertilizer and supplements.

What Does it Look Like?

As we said earlier, the signs that your plant is not receiving enough food look very similar to when your plant isn’t happy about its surrounding temperature.

The whole plant will look sickly, with the color of the plant looking off. Leaves will appear lighter, with a yellow color on the leaves. You may even see the weaker, older leaves beginning to drop off.

How to Solve the Issue

The best next step is to add a fertilizer to the soil. You can purchase slow – releasing fertilizer from your local nursery or garden store. We love the fact that it is slow release because it means you only have to do this periodically, as opposed to including it into your weekly regime.

If you are lucky enough to own a worm farm, a great option is to dilute some worm castings (creating worm wee) to use as a highly nutritional fertilizer for your plants.

Lighting Conditions

Each plant has its specific lighting preferences. Some love to bathe in direct sunlight, whereas others are content with receiving indirect sunlight.

If you notice your plant is beginning to show signs of stress with yellow or brown leaves, it could be that you have it in a position that is exposing it to too much light. Is there such a thing for plants – can you ever have too much sun?

What Does it Look Like?

Too much light tends to dry plants leaves out, so the signals are very similar to that of a lack of water.

Leaves will begin to turn yellow, with those that are too dehydrated beginning to brown and turn crispy. You will also see them curl inward.

How to Solve the Issue

To solve this one, you will have to play a musical chair game with your plant. Move it around to different positions that receive varying amounts of light. Leave it there for a week and see if it responds positively.

Understanding where your plants originate also helps to determine the type of conditions it will thrive in.


Another potential cause for leaf discoloration are pests.

Pests are generally easy to diagnose because you will be able to physically see them on your plants leaves and stem. Some may even be flying around your plants.

However, sometimes, if you are not paying enough attention, pests can go undetected and begin to do real damage to your plants. The yellowing of the leaves are your plants signalling they need some help.

What Does it Look Like?

plant with yellow leaves from pests

Pests usually prey on your plants sap for food. This will deprive your plant of essential nutrients and minerals, which will show on their leaves. Discoloration caused by pests looks quite different to other causes. You may see brown spots developing on your leaves. They are typically surrounded by a ring of yellow.

How to Solve the Issue

If your pest situation is already out of hand, the quickest remedy is to use a chemical agent like insecticide for a swift resolution.

However, if you are a regular visitor at the Garden Bench Top you will know we always advocate prevention as the best means.

Regular inspection of your plants helps to identify any potential issues before they develop into a true problem. It also means you can often avoid using chemical agents that could potentially soak into your soil.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

in this section we are going to tackle those frequently asked questions that crop up from our readers.

Can Yellow Leaves turn green again?

Unfortunately the answer to this one is no.

Once a particular leaf turns yellow, there is no going back. Your plant has already decided to sacrifice that part of the plant. It has started a process of discarding those leaves, so that it may preserve its nutrients and energy to survive.

Should you remove yellow leaves from plants?

Continuing on from the previous question, you should make it a regular habit to remove yellow leaves from plants. As mentioned earlier, the plant is already in the process of discarding it. You are simply lending it an extra hand by completing the task at hand and helping it to preserve its energy so that it may fight another day.

Do Yellow Leaves Mean Overwatering?

Overwatering can cause your plant to develop yellow leaves. However, there are other potential issues that can also result in yellow leaves on your plant.

We recommend reading through the list of 6 potential causes of yellow leaves above.

How do I Know if My Plant is Recovering?

First, if you are asking yourself this question, we want to congratulate you on being a proactive custodian for your plants. It means you are actively trying solutions (hopefully from our suggested remedies above).

If you are seeing new growth from your plants (like new leaves budding), it is in a happy place. Continue to do what you are doing.

If, however you continue to see more leaves changing color, or beginning to droop, then it is time to revisit the 6 possible causes of yellow leaves above to try a new solution.

Why are my leaves on my indoor plants turning yellow?

It isn’t uncommon for indoor plants to develop yellow leaves.

It is easy to understand why. Plants live outdoors and naturally survive in the wilderness. However, when you bring a plant indoors, its entire survival depends on you. Water, food and light all depend on the owner.

Life happens, and often gets in the way. It is easy to miss watering or forget to add fertilizer to your indoor plants, which results in a deficiency.

The best approach is establishing a routine of regular maintenance. Put a reminder in your diary or calendar to water your plants. Put the watering can next to your kitchen sink so that you see it every day. Do whatever it takes to ensure you look after your plants.

When are Yellow Leaves okay?

This is a great question – because sometimes yellow leaves does not necessarily mean your plant is in strife.

Generally speaking, if you notice a few of the older leaves beginning to yellow or drop off, this is normal. It is a part of the shedding process that a plant will undertake to maintain optimal health.

Simply remove these parts of the plant to discourage any opportunity for bacteria or fungus to grow.