Lemon Tree Leaves Turning Yellow – Reasons Why?

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Lemon Tree or Citrus limon, just like its fruits, has a refreshing and cooling effect when grown as house plants or in gardens and parks. 

These small, evergreen trees are widely acclaimed for their hardiness (USDA hardiness zone 9 and above), tolerance towards different soil types, ability to grow in sunlight, lush green foliage, and pulpy, sweet fruit.

Leaves on a Lemon Citrus Tree turning yellowPin

Common varieties of lemons include Eureka, Lisbon, and Meyer. 

More on –> Meyers Lemon Tree Care

Leaves of a healthy tree have a reddish appearance initially and turn dark and light green as the tree matures. 

However, if the leaves lose their color and turn yellow, it is a cause of concern.

Yellow Leaves on Lemon Trees: Is It Normal?

Yellow leaves on lemon are an indication of several underlying problems. 

Hence, the overall inspection of the plant is important to diagnose the cause of this discoloration. 

To identify the cause, the following factors must be considered:

  • The location of the leaves in the foliage
  • The age of the leaves
  • The degree of discoloration
  • The condition of the soil
  • The frequency of watering the plant

Possible Causes of The Leaves of Lemon TreeTurning Yellow

Lemon tree leaves turn yellow when watered very frequently. They can experience nutritional deficiencies, toxicity, and diseases. 

Pests and extreme weather conditions also cause leaves to yellow.


Overwatering Citrus trees can lead to rotten roots. 

Lemons have shallow roots and are at risk of being overwatered by sprinklers if planted in lawns. 

Rotten roots appear blackish-brown and slimy and fail to absorb the necessary nutrients from the soil and the yellow discolored leaves are a manifestation of this condition.

Nutrient Deficiency

  • Yellow foliage on a lemon tree indicates the plant’s nutritional needs are unfulfilled. 
  • The deficiency of nitrogen, a mobile nutrient in plants, is the most common. 
  • The plant will direct nitrogen from older leaves to the new growth if there is a shortage. 
  • Consequently, the leaves of the tree will turn various shades of green and yellow.
  • Magnesium, Iron, and Zinc, the immobile nutrients, cause chlorosis in fresh leaves. 

Due to lack of magnesium, the leaves get a yellowish blotchy base, whereas iron and zinc deficiency turns the leaf pale while the veins remain dark.

Nutritional deficiency causes yellow foliage on the tree. 

Symptoms vary according to which nutrient is lacking. 

Nitrogen deficiency causes yellow to light green leaves all over the tree; magnesium deficiency appears as a yellowish-green blotch at the leaf base spreading outward, and green veins running through yellowing leaves are caused by zinc or iron deficiency.

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If lemons start turning yellow, it’s often a symptom of certain diseases. 

The tree may be suffering from Phytophthora root rot due to poor drainage of the soil. 

If the chlorosis is limited to one part of the tree or there is no symmetrical discoloration on the leaves, this might be a sign of citrus greening – a disease transmitted by psyllids or aphids.

Details on How To Get Rid Of Aphids on Lemon Trees

Citrus greening is confirmed by looking for additional symptoms like stunted growth, falling leaves, lopsided fruit, and twig dieback.

Alkaline Soils

Soils with pH levels above 7 lack the nutrients and contain minerals like sodium and chlorine which are toxic to citrus trees. 

Apart from mottled or yellow leaves, toxicity will cause stunted growth and early leaf fall.

Extreme weathers

Extreme hot and cold weather conditions scorch or bleach the leaves. 

Trees grown in regions with temperatures above their hardiness can have yellow foliage.


Pests like spider mites and whiteflies damage the leaves by feeding on the tree sap. 

Insects feast on the fruits as well and turn the leaves yellow.

Fix The Foliage: How To Get Rid Of The Yellow Leaves?

It is necessary to ensure deep but infrequent watering and proper drainage for citrus. 

Water the tree once a week if young and once a month if fully mature. 

Redirect sprinklers away from the tree if it stands in the garden. 

Use a drip line for soaking the tree.

In the case of roots rotting, repot the plant in a container draining quickly and containing dry soil. 

Add citrus fertilizer from the tree trunk out to the drip edge to accelerate new growth. 

Use acidic planting mix to lower the pH of the soil.

Fulfill the nutritional needs of this heavy feeder plant with nitrogen-rich fertilizer thrice annually. 

Foliar sprays filled with chelated zinc or iron and foliar nitrogen like urea are also used to overcome deficiencies and improve tree health.

If the tree shows signs of infestation, direct the hose with a full stream on the insects or pests. 

Insecticidal soaps are also beneficial for pest control in lemon citrus trees.

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