Why does my plant have yellow leaves?

View of the Acer saccharinum

Image - Wikimedia / Simon Eugster

There is nothing like having a healthy plant, with leaves of the right color, right? However, sometimes problems can arise that will make it look the same. One of the most common symptoms you may have is yellowing of its leaf parts. What to do in these cases?

The first thing is to find the cause. There are several reasons why plants can have yellow leaves and not all are solved in the same way. So that, let's see why the leaves have started to change color and what can be done to fix it.

Why do plant leaves turn yellow?

There are several causes for leaves turning yellow, and most require action to be taken to correct them. To make it easy for you to identify them and remedy them, we will talk about all of them:

Lack of any mineral

Chlorosis makes leaves look yellow


When the plant does not find all the minerals it needs, you will immediately see that its leaves begin to yellow so that the nerves can become very visible as you can see in the image above. Normally, it is usually due to a lack of iron or magnesium. How to differentiate it?

  • Iron deficiency: manifests first on young leaves. They turn yellow, except for the nerves that remain green.
    It is solved and prevented by giving the plant iron chelates regularly.
  • Lack of magnesium: the first leaves to yellow are the oldest, starting between the veins and the edges.
    It is solved by paying with fertilizers rich in magnesium regularly.

Has been cold

Even if you buy a plant that can live without problems in your area, sometimes it can happen that after winter ends yellow spots appear on its leaves, especially if in the nursery they had it inside a greenhouse or a little protected. For example, this happened to one of my Cycas the first year she was in the ground: she was beautiful in summer, but with the arrival of bad weather she began to have many yellow spots on the leaves.

In these cases, it is better to do nothing. With the arrival of spring, it will produce new and healthy leaves. Another thing would be that the plant was sensitive to low temperatures, in this case we would have to protect it either indoors or with an anti-frost fabric.

Exposure to drafts

If you have an indoor plant, such as an Adam's rib or monstera, in a passageway or in a drafty room, it may happen that the tips of its leaves turn yellow. In severe cases, the entire affected leaf could dry out.

To avoid it, it is important not to put plants in transit areas, and protect them from drafts generated by the air conditioning, as well as those that come from outside.

Irrigation problems

Alocasia amazonica has dark green leaves

Irrigation is one of the main causes why plants can have yellow leaves. But, how do you know if it is due to a shortage of water or, on the contrary, due to excess?

Lack of water

It is easy to detect since if we see that leaves are wrinkling or yellowing, what the plant looks sadand that flower buds - if any - fall off or dry out, it means that we have not watered enough.

But we should not worry, not excessively, since it is relatively easy to recover a plant that has been thirsty: You just have to put the pot in a basin or bucket with water, and wait for the earth to moisten. If it is a garden plant, it will be enough to water it until the ground is flooded.

Excess of water

Overwatering is one of the most frequent problems when growing potted plants, one of the most characteristic symptoms being yellowing of the lower leaves, although it is not the only one: if the substrate turns greenish, the young leaves turn brown, and no growth is observed, it is very likely that we have watered excessively.

Water plants with hose
Related article:
What are the symptoms of overwatering?

Recovering it will be difficult, but if it is not serious, the following can be done:

  1. First, it is removed from the pot, being careful not to break the root ball.
  2. It is then wrapped in several layers with absorbent paper.
  3. Now it is placed in a room with plenty of natural but not direct light for 24 hours.
  4. The next day, it is planted in the pot again.
  5. After 3-4 days, it is watered.

Yes, to prevent it from happening again it is important that the substrate drainage is improved (you will find more information is located here), and the risks are controlled.

It's autumn

During the fall there are trees that turn yellow

If it is autumn and you have deciduous trees that begin to turn yellow, it is because they are falling, that is, as the plants prepare to overcome winter in the best possible way, the leaves produce less and less chlorophyll.

Thus, when chlorophyll production stops carotenoids emerge, which are necessary to transfer the energy of sunlight, and are what give the leaves that beautiful yellow color.

Are there plants with yellow leaves?

Yellow is not seen much on (healthy) leaves; however, we can find plants with variegated leaves (that is, green and yellow), or very light green, in which case they are usually named 'aureum' or 'golden'. For example, here are several:

Acer shirasawanum CV Aureum

There are many maples with yellow leaves

Image - vdberk.es

El Acer shirasawanum cv Aurem It is a deciduous shrub or small tree of low height, which reaches 5 meters at most. It has palmate leaves, light green in spring and summer, red-pink in fall.. It needs shade and a temperate-cold climate, with a high degree of humidity in the environment.


The pothos is an evergreen climber

Image - Wikimedia / Joydeep

You probably know him by the name of pothos. It is an evergreen vine that has heart-shaped leaves, green and yellow (they are variegated). It reaches about 20 meters in height if it has a support, and although it does not produce showy flowers, it is very decorative on its own. In addition, it adapts very well to living indoors.

Heucherella 'Golden Zebra'

There are plants with yellow leaves

Image – terranovanurseries.com

Heucherella 'Golden Zebra' is a cultivar that it has yellowish-green leaves, except the main nerves that are red. It is a perennial herb that lives for several years, and reaches a height of about 30 centimeters. It is important that it be grown outdoors, in an area with lots of light but not direct sun.

Raphis excelsa f variegata

Sometimes very few, some palms develop variegated leaves. Such is the case of the raphis excelsa, a multi-stemmed plant, that is, it produces several stems or false trunks which measure a maximum of three to five centimeters thick. Its leaves are fan-shaped, and in the variegate form they are green and yellow.. Its maximum height is 3 meters, so it is possible to have it in a large pot. Of course, it does not resist the cold nor does it like direct sun.

I hope it has been useful and you can identify the problem of your plant.

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  1.   Alfred said

    I have bushes next to the grass which makes some over-watering inevitable, and I think that's why as soon as I take out young leaves, many of them turn yellow and fall, I'll put chelates to see if that's it ...