Yellow leaves on citrus tree

How to Avoid Yellow Leaves on Citrus Trees

Citrus tree is one of the easiest and most common plants to put in the backyard. However, care and maintenance for it does not really put the common in common sense.

Like all living things, citrus trees get sick too. And because citrus trees are quite ornamental, the symptoms clearly show in pallid colors, warts, fungal growth, and shedding.

yellow leaves on citrus trees


The most common manifestation of a sick citrus plant is the changing color of its leaves.

Have you ever wondered why your citrus plant keeps getting yellow leaves? Surely, no one has a yellow thumb. And if there were, what would that mean?

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The yellow leaves on citrus trees are an indication of chlorosis. The pallid coloring speaks of a deficiency in micronutrients. Likewise, the plant cannot produce enough chlorophyll for its green and healthy color.

Without chlorophyll, your plant cannot get energy from the sun and cannot produce carbohydrates. In short, the paleness is an apparition of your plant’s possible demise. And we don’t want that.

So how do you put the vigor back to your plant?

The adage goes: prevention is better than cure. If you’re just planning to plant a citrus tree, make sure that you have the best environmental conditions – or simulate the ideal cradle for growth if climate does not permit.

Citrus trees grow best on cool areas but need to be kept indoors for winter weather. Nevertheless, they can still grow in warmer climate. They require deep watering that would drain well.

Ideally, citrus plant fertilizers should have a 2:1:1 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium respectively. Practically, this means that you get the proper fertilizer with higher nitrogen content.

Yellow leaves on citrus trees is your plant’s way of saying change your fertilizer. You can order citrus fertilizers online or you can always visit your local shop and check the contents yourself.

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Depending on the discoloration, the treatment and management for chlorosis varies. If the yellow-leaves symptom is showing on your adolescent plant, here are some ways to address it:

1. Ensure proper soil PH

Soil testing can ensure that plants grow on good soil. Soil with pH 6-8 is the most ideal type to grow citrus trees.

Citrus trees with lower pH

via flickr

Citrus trees with lower pH get yellow leaves due to magnesium deficiency. With this acidity in the soil, you have to use 10L water with 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to water the plant. Dolomite can also address this problem with acidity. However, if you used calcareous soil, foliar feeding may be necessary.

Alkaline soils have pH higher than six. This means that your plant is either deficient in iron or zinc. When leaves become pale but have darker veins, they lack iron; when leaves become yellowish and pointed at the top, zinc is lacking.

To address iron deficiency, apply chelated iron or use an iron fertilizer supplement. Meanwhile, spraying 2 tablespoons of zinc sulfate dissolved in 10L water can address zinc deficiency.

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2. Supply enough nitrogen

Nitrogen deficiency manifests in overall yellowing of leaves on citrus trees. The discoloration may be random as nitrogen is a mobile macronutrient. Usually, nitrogen transfers from old leaves to new ones to support new growth. As a result, older leaves tend to fall earlier and new ones tend to be more fragile than usual.

Supply enough nitrogen


Nitrogen deficiency usually happens in the rainy season as water-logging is key culprit. This can easily be resolved in the dry season that comes afterward. However, it may also stem from constant over watering with highly-porous soil, compacted soil, or root rotting.

The practical way to resolve this is to give your plant just enough water and ensure that the soil fully absorbs the water. You can also resolve to spraying a low-biuret urea to the leaves to correct this.

3. Know what can be toxic to your plant

Citrus plants require specific amounts of different micronutrients like magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, and boron. Though they are susceptible to micronutrient starvation, excesses can also lead to toxicity.

Yellowing leaves accompanied by spotting is a sign of boron toxicity. To control the excessive boron levels in your plant, apply your nitrogen fertilizer as calcium nitrate.

Yellowing leaves accompanied by spotting is a sign of boron toxicity


Meanwhile, manganese toxicity manifests in bright yellow mottling, and sometimes tar spotting – brown scars on the leaves. You can lime the soil and repeat the process each year for up to four years to address this.

manganese toxicity manifests


Manganese toxicity in lemons


Citrus trees also cannot tolerate excessive salinity in soil. In particular, salt from manure or sodium chloride in soil or in water can turn citrus leaves yellow, create a burnt crust in the edges, and make the plant shed prematurely. If you live near the sea, you might have to think twice about growing lemon or grapefruit.

4. Enough water is enough

The root of citrus trees is prone to root rotting or Phytophthora

via pinterest

Watering a citrus tree is quite tricky depending on the climate as water tends to drain slower in colder seasons. The plant only requires infrequent deep watering, but how do you know if enough is enough? First off, know your soil. If your soil drains well then you don’t have to worry much, as long as you water it once it dries out completely. (In the summer, you can water once a week.)

The root of citrus trees is prone to root rotting or Phytophthora because some soil retain water for longer periods. Like chlorosis, root rotting also turns a citrus tree’s leaves yellow.

You have to ensure proper irrigation for your plant to avoid drowning it. The ideal water level for citrus trees is about two to three feet deep.

5. Adjust location based on climate

Autumn is the best season to plant citrus trees, while spring comes a close second. If you live in a tropical country or an area with warm climate, it is best to plant your citrus tree in a cool open area that receives plenty of sunlight.

Yellow leaves in citrus trees usually appear when temperature suddenly becomes warmer than usual. Yellow bleached out spots appear on the leaves seasonally especially in the summer. This indicates sunburn but easily resolves itself when the weather improves.

Autumn is the best season to plant citrus trees

via ebay

Meanwhile, put your plants indoors during extremely cold climate as citrus cannot withstand severe frosts.

The symptoms and remedy of ill citrus trees often overlap. Ultimately, fertilizer management can prevent or treat any problems that you have with your plant. The proper fertilizer with the magic 2:1:1 micronutrient ratio is your best bet to avoid chlorosis.

You might not be able to tell which micronutrient is the true culprit every time, but at least now you’re aware of your citrus trees signaling that they need more care.

Like all living things, citrus trees get sick too. And because citrus trees are quite ornamental, the symptoms clearly show in pallid colors, warts, fungal growth, and shedding.

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann, I have dedicated most of my life in gardening. This is a subject I enjoy the most. Since then, I committed to developing my website to be the best guidance when it comes to taking care of flowers and plants. I am trying my best to be well-versed with plants found in desert areas, tropics or Mediterranean. I still need to be knowledgeable about so many kinds of botanical life.

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