Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves: Causes, How to Fix and Prevent It

Growing lemon trees in the ground or potted Meyer lemon trees is a widespread and easy gardening practice. However, the presence of yellow leaves on lemon trees, lemon tree chlorosis, the yellow leaves on potted Meyer lemon trees, and brown spots on lemon tree leaves are some recurring problems that challenge us as gardeners year after year.

In this article, we are going to talk about what happens to these precious fruit trees and how to treat yellow leaves on lemon trees so that it does not affect the tree and the lemons.

I will show you pictures of these situations that will be very useful to diagnose the problem of your lemon tree and fix the yellow leaves. Learn all about lemon tree yellow leaves in this article.

The yellow leaves on a lemon tree may happen due to several reasons. Let’s find out how to identify and respond to them in time. If you want to learn the answers to questions such as why lemon tree leaves turn yellow and how to cure a lemon tree with yellow leaves, join us in this article.

Why Are The Leaves On My Lemon Tree Turning Yellow yellow leaves on potted Meyer lemon tree  brown spots on lemon tree leaves
Why Are The Leaves On My Lemon Tree Turning Yellow? The presence of yellow leaves on lemon trees, lemon tree chlorosis, the yellow leaves on potted Meyer lemon trees, and brown spots on lemon tree leaves are some recurring problems that challenge us as gardeners year after year.

Why Are Lemon Tree Leaves Turning Yellow

Why Are The Leaves On My Lemon Tree Turning Yellow? If you are asking yourself this question, you are in the right place to identify and diagnose what is wrong with your lemon tree.

To correctly diagnose and fix the yellow leaves problem you will need to check with this brief lemon tree care checklist what condition is irregular in its care.

This list will be useful because it often happens that the essential lemon tree care guidelines are not followed and the plant easily develops yellow leaves that may or may not be accompanied by brown spots.

  1. Verify that the temperature range is adequate for the lemon tree to thrive.
  2. Check that the daytime temperature is about 70 F (21 C) and 55 F (13 C) at night.
  3. Below 55 F (13 C) the lemon tree will go dormant.
  4. Container size for Potted Meyer Lemon Trees: if you can see the roots peeking out it is time to use a larger pot. Repotting is needed.
  5. Soil for Potted Meyer Lemon Trees: check that the Potting Soil is adequate.
  6. If the lemon tree is potted for the first time, it is advisable to purchase a mixture of pasteurized soil with peat, perlite, vermiculite, and organic fertilizer.
  7. Indoor lemon tree: verify that the variety is suitable for indoor gardening, otherwise it will not be suitable for growing indoors (e.g. Meyer lemon tree is suitable as an indoor plant).
  8. Lemon trees located outdoors: check for excessive cold exposure. Apply mulch if necessary during winter.
  9. Watering Potted Meyer Lemon Trees: It is important to water the lemon tree about 2 to 3 times per week. Always pay attention to the humidity to avoid overwatering.
  10. Seedlings: When the seedling has 4 developed leaves, allow the soil surface to dry out a little before watering again.
  11. Watering Lemon Trees in the ground: Lemon trees outdoors are plants that require deep watering once a week.
  12. Lighting: Provide your lemon tree with at least eight hours of sunlight.
  13. Soil pH: Measure the pH of the soil and keep the soil pH level slightly acidic. The pH should be between 5.7 and 6.5. Correct the pH if necessary.
  14. Check fertilization dates. The fertilization should not be more than four times a year and should coincide with the active growing season.
  15. Verify that the type of fertilizer used is suitable for lemon trees. The idea is to apply a fertilizer that has nitrogen in its content. It is recommended to use a 6-6-6 product, but this should never be higher than 8 (8-8-8).
  16. At the beginning of sprouting, it is always advisable to use liquid organic matter, such as earthworm humus or humic extract.
  17. Prior to flowering, it is advisable to provide mineral fertilizers rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. At this point, we can choose between liquid fertilizers, mixed with the irrigation water, or slow-release granular fertilizers.

Once you have verified these situations that may require repotting, change of location (sun/shade), risk, fertilization, etc., we will move on to the causes of yellow leaves in lemon trees that are not related to these conditions of daily care that we have mentioned.

identify Nutrient deficiency in plants visual guide

Why Are The Leaves On My Lemon Tree Turning Yellow? Different nutrient deficiencies cause different leaf indicators. Those yellow leaves on the lemon tree may appear on the old leaves but not on the new ones. And that is a sign of a specific mineral deficiency.

On the other hand, it may be that only the new leaves turn yellow, but not the old ones. Or it may happen that the leaves of the lemon tree turn yellow, and then quickly turn brown or become blotchy and fall off.

In all these situations a different process is occurring that can be corrected. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the nutritional deficiencies that cause yellow leaves on lemon trees.

Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves Nitrogen Deficiency

Leaves on lemon tree turning yellow Due to Lack of Nitrogen. If your lemon tree shows chlorosis of the leaves, that is, yellowing due to lack of chlorophyll and this affects the older branches first and spreads to the younger ones, this is a case of chlorosis due to lack of nitrogen.

Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves Nitrogen Deficiency. Nitrogen, or N, is one of the main nutrients for lemon trees. Without it, they cannot grow or develop properly and it is an especially essential nutrient for flowering plants and fruit trees.

Pay special attention to how chlorosis progresses, it is important to be able to identify it. It is only due to a lack of nitrogen if it appears first on the oldest leaves and progresses to the new ones, otherwise, it may be due to other causes.

Let’s see these two pictures with situations of lemon trees with yellow leaves due to different lack of nutrients and progression.

Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves Nitrogen Deficiency how to treat yellow leaves on lemon tree Meyer Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves
Meyer Lemon Tree Yellow LeavesLemon Tree Yellow Leaves Nitrogen Deficiency. In the beginning, the lemon tree leaves turn pale and yellow from the tip (see picture above). If the lack of nitrogen continues all leaves turn yellow, including the newer leaves (see below).
Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves Nitrogen Deficiency in the older leaves and an Iron Deficiency visible in the newer leaves
Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves Nitrogen Deficiency in the older leaves and an Iron Deficiency visible in the newer leaves.

How to Fix Nitrogen Deficiency in Lemon Trees

How to fix nitrogen deficiency on Lemon Trees. You should treat your lemon tree and solve this problem by applying a specific citrus fertilizer to the lemon tree, or simply by adding organic fertilizer rich in nitrogen regularly, such as worm castings.

We recommend if you have a lemon tree with yellow leaves that you use this special fertilizer (Order it here).

EZ-gro Citrus Tree Fertilizer - Orange, Lemon, Lime, Mango, Avocado - Liquid Plant Food for Tropical Fruit Trees to Grow More Fruit - Garden-Growing Miracle Nutrients - 1 Qt / 32 fl oz / 946 mL
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EZ-gro Citrus Tree Fertilizer - Orange, Lemon, Lime, Mango, Avocado - Liquid Plant Food for Tropical Fruit Trees to Grow More Fruit - Garden-Growing Miracle Nutrients - 1 Qt / 32 fl oz / 946 mL
  • IDEAL FERTILIZER FOR CITRUS TREES: Specially formulated for a variety of tropical fruit trees. Perfect for lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, mango, and kumquat. Dwarf or large varieties, with or without seeds. Gives indoor & outdoor plants the nutrients they need to bear a larger quantity of abundant, healthy fruit.
  • CONCENTRATED LIQUID FERTILIZER: Our fertilizer supplies high-grade nutrients directly to the root. A powerful cocktail with all the nutritional content your plants need. For live plants in your farm or garden. Mix with water before applying to soil.
  • ENHANCED MICRONUTRIENT PACKAGE: Infused with a micronutrient package which delivers the optimal nutrition for plants in the citrus group. Added potassium, magnesium, and iron to improve common nutrient deficiencies in citrus trees.
How to treat yellow leaves on lemon tree Meyer Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves
Meyer Lemon Tree Yellow LeavesHow to treat yellow leaves on lemon treeBefore flowering, it is advisable to provide mineral fertilizers rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. When lemon trees are not fertilized before flowering it is common to see nutrient deficiency with yellow leaves, especially in the upper portion of the tree.

Yellow Leaves on Lemon Tree Due to Lack of Zinc

Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves Due to Lack of Zinc. Contrary to what happens with nitrogen deficiency, if you have a lemon tree with yellow and wrinkled leaves and this starts in the new leaves and spreads to the old ones, it is probably a lack of zinc, another micronutrient that your plant needs.

This should also affect the new shoots, which will appear yellow and dwarfed on their newly formed leaves. Usually, the yellow color will affect only the spaces between the leaf veins, the latter retaining their common green color, although in very severe cases even the veins will turn yellow.

In the case of zinc deficiency, we will also see necrotic spots on the edges of the leaf, which will assure us that this is the problem.

If we have a lemon tree with yellow leaves due to a lack of Zinc we recommend this product (Order it here).

Cesco Solutions Zinc Sulfate Powder - 99% Pure Zinc Sulfate Monohydrate Powder – Pecan Tree Fertilizer - 35% Zn Concentration - Water-Soluble Formula - Resealable Pack(5 lbs)
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Cesco Solutions Zinc Sulfate Powder - 99% Pure Zinc Sulfate Monohydrate Powder – Pecan Tree Fertilizer - 35% Zn Concentration - Water-Soluble Formula - Resealable Pack(5 lbs)
  • ✅ GET A 99.9% PURE ZINC SULFATE POWDER with a max concentration of 35% zinc, which is highly soluble in water, ideal for use in all types of soils. Provide your plants with the zinc fertilizer they need to thrive.
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Yellow Leaves on Lemon Tree Due to Lack of Iron

Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves Due to Lack of Iron. In the case of iron deficiency, the yellowing will also affect the new leaves first and will spread to the older ones, although without necrosis spots or dwarfing.

The clearest particularity of iron deficiency in the lemon tree is that it starts in the veins. The veins turn yellow before the leaves, almost white veins, and then, when it is severe, the leaves will turn yellow too.

Learn more about What is ferrous sulfate iron used for?

Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves Due to Lack of Iron veins yellow leaves green
Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves Due to Lack of IronThe veins turn yellow while the leaves keep green. Then, when it is severe, the leaves will turn yellow too. This problem occurs either because of a lack of iron in the soil or excess humidity.

How To Treat Yellow Leaves On Lemon Tree Due to Lack of Iron

This problem occurs either because of a lack of iron in the soil or because the irrigation has been excessive or the drainage very bad, and the roots, choked, are unable to absorb the element from the soil. It will be necessary to improve drainage, space watering, or apply the iron for the lemon tree in the fertilizer.

If we have the lemon tree with yellow leaves due to lack of iron will be very simple to solve it, we must apply iron chelate (Order it here). Be sure the soil pH is between 5.7 and 6.5. If needed, don’t hesitate to correct it.

Southern Ag Chelated Liquid Iron, 16 OZ
2,377 Reviews
Southern Ag Chelated Liquid Iron, 16 OZ
  • Size: 16 OZ
  • Corrects Iron deficiency in flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees.
  • Use in lawns for a deep, rich green color.

As a liquid fertilizer as an option easy to apply, a universal fertilizer will have an NPK 5-2-8 composition (5% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus, and 8% potassium), being important that it contains magnesium and micronutrients, especially iron, zinc, and manganese. In this way, the lemon tree leaves will remain healthy and with a strong greenness, without chlorosis.

Yellow Leaves on Lemon Tree Due to Lack of Manganese

Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves due to Lack of Manganese. Unlike the nutrients mentioned above, manganese deficiency is identified in lemon trees with dry and yellow leaves because the yellowing does not occur throughout the entire leaf, but in an irregular, almost mottled, manner. The lack of Manganese creates yellow spots on lemon tree leaves. In other words, we find yellow spots on lemon tree leaves.

Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves due to Lack of Manganese Yellow spots on lemon tree leaves How to treat yellow leaves on lemon tree
Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves due to Lack of Manganese – Yellow spots on lemon tree leaves.

Chlorosis appears on new shoots and progresses towards the old ones, but dwarfism does not appear. It is common for this to appear naturally to some degree in winter, and with the arrival of the warmer months, it disappears without problems. Only when there is a serious lack of this element will it be necessary to intervene.

If we have a lemon tree with yellow leaves due to a lack of manganese, we should solve it by applying a little manganese to the soil (Order it here).

Manganese Sulfate Monohydrate - 32% Mn - 1 Pound
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Manganese Sulfate Monohydrate - 32% Mn - 1 Pound
  • MnSO4*H2O, CAS# 10034-96-5, 32% Mn
  • Remediates Mn-deficient soil
  • Used in fertilizers, glazes, dyes, along with a lot of other uses.

Yellow Leaves on Lemon Tree Due to Excess Humidity, Overwatering, or Excessive Irrigation

Lemon tree yellow leaves Due to Excess Humidity, Overwatering, or Excessive Irrigation. As with many other plants that we surely have at home and in our garden, problems of excess humidity drastically affect the health of plants and facilitate the growth of unwanted organisms that make lemon trees sick.

This situation of excess humidity can be caused by excessive watering or by poor drainage.

The roots are choked and oxygen does not enter. In this situation, the roots cannot absorb nutrients from the soil, which can cause the lemon tree leaves to turn yellow due to excess humidity. Lack of iron is one of the first that affects the plant.

Although the lemon tree is located in full sun it is easy to see within a few days that the green pigmentation that should provide chlorophyll, is not present and is lost because for the chlorophyll pigment to fix it requires iron which is in deficit because it is not being absorbed.

How to Fix this? It will be necessary to improve drainage, space irrigation, and apply iron as a nutrient for the lemon tree.

How to improve drainage? When dealing with a potted Meyer lemon tree, it is advisable to completely change the potting soil. This way we will keep the roots with a dry substrate, instead of waiting for it to dry out, and it gives us the opportunity to prepare a good soil mix that drains perfectly, such as a mixture of soil with peat, perlite, vermiculite, and organic fertilizer.

In addition, it will be a good moment to change the size of the pot if necessary. It is advisable to check the soil pH is adequate, and to add suitable lemon fertilizer with iron to the watering mix.

Lemon Tree Yellow Leaves Caused by Pests and Diseases

So far we have covered the causes related to yellow leaves on the lemon trees due to lack of nutrients, inadequate soil pH, and excess root moisture that prevents nutrient absorption.

In the following paragraphs, I will introduce you to the causes of yellow leaves in lemon trees related to pests and diseases caused by fungi, viruses, and bacteria. One of the first signs of these pests and infections is the yellowing of the leaves of the lemon tree before affecting the fruits.

Yellow Leaves on Lemon Tree Caused by the Citrus Tristeza Virus (CTV)

Yellow Leaves on Lemon Tree Caused by the Citrus Tristeza virus (CTV). The virus named “Citrus Tristeza virus” (CTV) belongs to the Closterovirus genus and produces lethal effects in certain combinations of grafts and rootstocks.

The parts of the plant affected are the leaves, stems, roots, and fruits. At disease onset, leaves become chlorotic and leathery with a prominent midrib.

Budding stops, the foliage thins, and the plant decline noticeably, which is why the Brazilian authors called this virus “Tristeza” meaning “sadness”.

Only very few fruits are formed, which do not reach their normal size. As the disease progresses, the leaves fall, and the aerial part dies, until finally, the plant dries up. This entire process occurs over a period of three to five years, depending on the strain of the virus. In the roots a process of disintegration takes place. In severe attacks, the fruits lose quality

Yellow Leaves on Lemon Tree Caused by Citrus gummosis or rot (Phytophthora spp.)

Yellow Leaves on Lemon Tree Caused by Citrus gummosis or rot (Phytophthora spp.) Citrus gummosis or rot is caused by a fungus.

The disease destroys the roots of susceptible grafted feet. The fungus rots the bark, which softens and separates from the vascular bundles. Therefore, the absorption of water and nutrients is severely compromised and manifested in yellow leaves on lemon trees.

Lemon trees affected with gummosis grow poorly, energy reserves are consumed and depleted, and production declines. Some other signs of this infection are light green foliage, yellow leaves, and small leaf syndrome with severe zinc deficiency.

Learn in this article How to Get Rid of Citrus gummosis or Citrus Exocortis Disease

Yellow Leaves on Lemon Tree Caused by Aphids

Yellow Leaves on Lemon Tree Caused by Aphids. Aphids can also cause yellow leaves on lemon trees. A good way to completely eradicate aphids is using neem oil for plants.

Other Pests affecting Lemon Trees

The citrus leafminer bug is a microscopic moth that deposits its eggs on fruit tree leaves. We have not included it here because it does not cause the yellowing of the lemon tree leaves. However, if you observe this on your leaves, we recommend you read the article How to Get Rid of Citrus Leafminer

how to get rid of citrus leafminer organically
Citrus Leafminer

How To Save a Lemon Tree With Yellow Leaves

The treatment for yellow lemon tree leaves will depend entirely on which of the causes listed above we are facing. Most of them involve applying a suitable fertilizer to the tree to supply its nutrient needs. The fertilizer that we apply must be of quality as the ones we recommend here, and always preferably organic. We must always respect the dosage recommended by the manufacturer.

The case of lack of iron due to poor drainage is the most complicated when it comes to adult lemon trees since transplanting a large tree is practically unfeasible or very expensive. Do everything possible to improve soil drainage and avoid waterlogging the area at all costs, spacing watering if necessary. If the leaves of the lemon tree are yellowing and falling off even after you have done this, you probably need to assess that the cause is something other than what you thought it was and consider other methods.

How To Prevent Yellow Leaves On Lemon Trees

Lemon tree diseases are much easier to prevent than to treat, especially in the case of those that depend on the soil. Here are some tips for preventing lemon tree yellow leaves and lemon tree diseases in general:

1- Be sure to locate your tree in an area with the best possible drainage and sunshine.

2- You can water the area well before planting and look to see where water puddles and where it does not. The spot where the water does not stagnate will be the best area.

3- Regarding nutrients, fertilize your fruit tree regularly and add organic matter to the soil in the warm months in the form of worm castings or compost.

General Reminders for Taking Care of Your Lemon Tree and Potted Meyer Lemon Tree

How to Prune Meyer Lemon Tree – Ultimate Guide

You should also check our guide about Nutrient Deficiency in Plants.

About Julia Morgan

We are the Morgan family, Henry, and Julia, both agronomists from the University of Michigan, where we met. We are experts in putting our hands in the soil and developing organic foods and improving production processes for decades. Likewise, we have worked for companies such as Mondelez International, BASF, Monsanto, etc. currently in our role as science writers for TheGardenStyle.com as well as advisors in promoting large scale food growing in urbanized areas. In this website, we share what we are most passionate about, gardening and farming. Enjoy and see real photos on our website. We hope that all our advice will be useful to you and that you will become an expert gardener.