Lemon Tree Leaves Turning Yellow & How to Save It

Written by Ivy

Feb 08 2023

Lemon Tree Leaves Turning Yellow & How to Save It

When the temperature drops below 50°F and there is a nutrient deficit in the soil, lemon tree leaves turn yellow. As well as spider mite infestations, which result in tiny yellow spots the size of pins on the leaves, both underwatering and overwatering can cause leaves to turn yellow.

Yellowing lemon trees leaves is often associated with leaf drop but the tree can often be revived with the right care practices. Overwatering or a nutrient deficiency are frequent causes of lemon tree yellow leaves or chlorosis on citrus trees. The plant can't absorb the nutrients it needs if the roots are damaged.

Keep reading to learn how to prevent leaves turning yellow and how to revive your lemon tree…

Why Lemon Tree Leaves Turning Yellow



Lemon Trees are native to warm climates with full sun and prefer the soil to dry out somewhat between bouts of watering.

The leaves of your lemon tree may turn yellow as a sign of stress if there is too much moisture around the roots.

Lemon tree leaves turn yellow as a result of:

  • Over Watering. Lemon trees grow best when the top two inches of the soil becomes somewhat dry before watering which typically means watering once per week with a generous soak. The leaves will turn yellow (and possibly drop) and the fugal disease root rot, which can kill the lemon tree, will be encouraged by overwatering, which keeps the soil consistently moist.
  • Pots without drainage holes in the base. Lemon trees should be grown in pots with drainage holes in the bottom so that any excess water can be let out after watering and the soil can dry out a little between watering sessions. Some ornamental pots lack drainage holes, which leads to the soil becoming saturated and turning the leaves yellow.
  • The use of trays underneath pots to prevent water spilling indoors. Lemon trees should have any excess water in trays removed from underneath them on a regular basis because the water can keep the soil moist and prevent proper drainage.
  • Slow draining soils. To stop their leaves from turning yellow and dropping, lemon trees need soils that drain well. In order to provide nutrients and ensure good drainage so that the soil can somewhat dry around the roots to prevent the leaves from turning yellow, the ideal soil mixture for potted lemon trees is composed of 1/3 multipurpose compost, 1/3 garden compost, and 1/3 horticultural grit or perlite.

Depending on the climate, lemon trees may require more or less frequent watering.

Lemon trees may need more frequent watering in drier climates, whereas they may need less frequent watering in humid climates or climates with more rainfall.

Adjust the frequency of your watering so that the top two inches of the soil dry out somewhat between bouts of watering and the lemon tree should revive as this is the correct balance of moisture.

The yellow leaves may fall off, but they should reappear with regular attention and proper watering techniques.


Whilst lemon tree leaves more often turn yellow from over watering as they prefer soil conditions more on the dry side, leaves can also turn yellow as a reaction to drought.

If the leaves look shriveled as well as yellow then this is a clear indication that drought is the cause.

Drought that results in lemon tree leaves turning yellow can occur for several reasons:

  • Indoor lemon trees leaves turning yellow. Due to forced air, air conditioning, and sources of heat that drain moisture from the leaves of lemon trees, houses typically have much dryer air than the outside environment, which causes the leaves to turn yellow as a sign of stress. Locate your lemon tree away from draughts or sources of heat, (ideally in a sunny window) and mist the leaves regularly to improve the micro-climate for your lemon tree.
  • Watering lemon trees too lightly. If you water the lemon tree too lightly, the soil may be moist on the surface, but the water will not reach the roots, where it is needed, and the leaves will turn yellow. Once a week, generously soak the lemon tree until a trickle of water comes out of the bottom of the pot.
  • Intense heat and sun can drive evaporation. Lemon trees in pots, in particular, have a limited capacity for soil and, as a result, less moisture, making them vulnerable to drying out in extreme heat. Careful monitoring of soil moisture is required during heat waves to prevent drought and if necessary, water the lemon tree more frequently to prevent leaves turning yellow.

I suggest immersing the entire pot in water for about 10 minutes in a basin or wheelbarrow full of water for a lemon tree that has experienced severe drought.

Drought-related issues are made worse by extremely dry soil, which can bake hard and cause water to run off the surface rather than reach the roots.

Use a soaker hose to thoroughly water the ground where your lemon tree is located in order to ensure that the moisture reaches the roots. Lemon trees should be planted in garden borders.

Lack of Fertilizer

Because they require a fair amount of food, lemon trees grow and produce fruit at their best when given regular feedings throughout the spring and summer.

The leaves of the lemon tree begin to droop and turn yellow, occasionally keeping the green veins while the rest of the leaf turns yellow (chlorosis), if the tree is lacking in nutrients.

Since pots have a limited capacity for soil and therefore less nutrients for the roots to absorb, this is particularly common for lemon trees in pots.

To keep the leaves looking healthy and to encourage flowers and developing fruits, the solution is to apply a specialized citrus fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer.

Over the next few weeks, the lemon tree should recover from its drooping appearance and yellow leaves with regular fertilizer applications, good watering techniques, and full sun.

However do not be too heavy handed as too much fertilizer can also cause the leaves to turn yellow, so always follow the manufactures instructions diligently.

Low Temperatures

Lemon trees are native to warm tropical climates and do not tolerate cold Winter temperatures or frost.

Your lemon tree may lose leaves and develop yellowing under the stress of low temperatures. The lemon tree may die back if it receives frost.

Mature lemon trees tend to be more cold hardy then younger trees so, a smaller lemon tree is more vulnerable to cold and their leaves turning yellow and dropping.

This however can lead to problems such as leaf drop when they are brought indoors, so I wrote another article explaining how to mitigate leaf drop when bringing lemon trees indoors for Winter.

Lemon tree leaves do tend to lose their green color and some might fall off with fewer hours of sunlight and at a lower intensity.

The lemon tree should recover, though, with new growth appearing in the Spring in response to more light, if it is in a sunny window, receives good watering, and is frequently misted.


Lack of Sun

Lemon trees are native to tropical climates and are cultivated extensively in countries such as Spain and Mexico in full sun.

Lemon trees can be cultivated by gardeners outside of their usual range but it is essential that they are grown in full sun or they may fail to flower, fruit and the leaves can turn yellow and drop off due to stress.

In order to get the best fruit yield and to ensure the health of the plant, it is crucial to place your lemon tree in the part of your garden that receives the most sunlight.

Problems frequently occur when the lemon tree is brought indoors for protection from frost as it has to contend with:

  • Less hours of sun.
  • Lower intensity of light.
  • Lemon trees indoors are more shaded and need to acclimate to the indoor conditions.

These elements collectively may contribute to leaf yellowing or drop.

A heated green house offers a constant temperature and the most natural sunlight, making it the ideal location for a lemon tree in the winter.

However they can survive as long as you put them in a sunny south facing window with lots of light.

Due to the seasonal change and a response to less light in the winter, some leaf yellowing and drop may still happen. However, if the lemon tree is in a sunny window, it should recover with new leaves emerging and any yellow leaves should look much healthier in the spring.

Yellow Spots on Indoor Lemon Trees

Spider mites are to blame if you see tiny yellow spots, about the size of a pin, on the leaves of your lemon tree, along with possible leaf drop.

Due to the lower humidity in homes, spider mites thrive there and can be a problem for indoor plants.

Spider mites are a pest that, fortunately, is relatively simple to control but, if left untreated, can cause your lemon tree to lose its leaves.

They prefer dry environments, so misting with water can help deter them. Moist foliage can also help to evict them.

However to get rid of them all you have to do is wash your leaves with soapy water and you can rid the lemon tree of the infestation.

Although it might require multiple applications to completely eradicate them, this is a very effective treatment.

Trim any damaged leaves back, and the lemon tree should recover without incident.

Is It Normal for Lemon Leaves to Turn Yellow?

Making lemonade from lemons in life is a good idea, but treating yellow leaves from a lemon tree right away is not!

Some instances of chlorosis on the Lemon Tree, especially the Meyer Lemon Tree, are common during dormancy, dry summer spell, and old age.

You would mostly witness bottom leaves turning yellow, a few yellow spots, and leaf dropping caused by excess sunlight or temperature changes.

However, it is uncommon because a healthy plant is less likely to have yellow leaves.

You should be aware that your lemon tree is stressed as a result of inadequate watering, significant environmental change, or other outside factors like pests or malnutrition.

A citrus tree's yellow leaves or chlorosis is frequently brought on by overwatering or a nutrient shortage.

Therefore, the stressed Lemon Tree roots are prone to fungal and bacterial diseases, leading to sickly plants and discolored citrus leaves.

It may be an excellent time to assess your Lemon Tree plant to witness sudden changes, especially in spring or summer.

Should I Cut the Yellow Leaves Off the Lemon Tree?

Trimming the unattractive yellow Lemon Tree leaves might be the best course of action.

To prevent them from spreading further and to direct the energy toward healthy growth, you can actually remove the completely yellowed leaves.

Nevertheless, not all yellowing leaves necessarily need to be trimmed, particularly those with yellow tips and bases.

Lemon Tree leaves should ideally be pruned in late winter or early spring. Avoid doing this in the summer when the plant is fruiting.

Use pruning shears or scissors that are razor-sharp and sterilize them with isopropyl alcohol before and after each use.

Cut the stalk that joins the yellow leaves and stems at the base with a sharp edge.

How to Treat Yellow Leaves on a Lemon Tree

The yellow leaves of a lemon tree can be treated in a variety of ways, as you have probably realized by this point. No single cause can be used to treat all symptoms. However, citrus fertiliser is one of the most popular options for improving your citrus trees' overall health.

You might also want to consult a local gardening expert or a staff member at a garden center who can provide more information on possible solutions for various problems.


How to Get Rid of the Yellow Leaves?

For citrus, it's critical to ensure deep, infrequent watering as well as appropriate drainage.

When the tree is young and once a month when it is fully grown, water it.

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

Use a drip line for soaking the tree.

Repot the plant in a container with quick-draining, dry soil if the roots are rotting.

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

To reduce the pH of the soil, use acidic planting mix.

Feed this heavy feeder plant nitrogen-rich fertilizer three times a year to meet its nutritional requirements.

To make up for deficiencies and enhance tree health, foliar sprays with chelated zinc or iron and foliar nitrogen like urea are also employed.

If the tree exhibits symptoms of an infestation, direct a strong stream of water from the hose at the pests.

For pest management of lemon citrus trees, insecticidal soaps are also helpful.


Lemon trees are extremely low-maintenance indoor plants that can survive in most homes.

To reduce the risk of stress and bacterial or fungal diseases, however, make sure your plants are growing in the best conditions possible.

By adjusting the growing environment and taking immediate action, yellowing leaves can be easily avoided.

Follow this guide to find ways to treat yellowing Lemon Tree leaves and proven tips to prevent it.