How to Save A Lemon Tree When Leaves Are Turning Yellow

The leaves of lemon trees change color when temperatures are below 50 degrees Celsius and because of a deficiency in nutrients within the soil. In both cases, over and under watering can cause leaves to turn yellow, and so can spider mite infestations that result in tiny pin-sized yellow dots to appear on leaves.

The yellowing of lemon tree leaves is typically associated with leaf loss however the tree can be revived by following the correct maintenance practices.

Continue reading to find out how to keep your leaves from becoming yellow and also how to bring back the lemon trees…

Over Watering Causes Lemon Tree Leaves to Turn Yellow

Lemon Trees are native to warmer climates that have full sun. They prefer soil that tends to dry out a bit between watering sessions.

If there is a lot of water around the roots on your tree, it could result in the leaf to turn yellow , which is an indication of stress.

The leaves of the lemon tree change color to yellow because of:

  • Over Watering. Lemon trees thrive when the top 2 inches of soil become slightly dry prior to watering, which usually means that you water once a week, with a good soak. If you water often enough that the soil remains damp, this can cause the leaves to change color (and possibly fall) and creates conditions for the root rot fugal disease that can cause death to your lemon trees.
  • Pots that do not have drainage holes at the bottom. The lemon trees must be planted in pots that have drainage holes at the bottom to ensure that water from the pot can drain after watering, and the soil may dry out between watering sessions. Certain decorative pots don’t have drainage holes, which can cause the soil to get saturated, causing the leaves to change color to yellow.
  • Trays should be placed underneath pots is a good way to avoid water spilling into the indoor space. Trays placed under lemon trees must be cleared of water that is not used up regularly since the water could keep the soil moist and hinder proper drainage.
  • Soils that drain slowly. Lemon trees require well-drained soils to avoid the leaves from turning yellow and causing leaf dropping. The ideal soil mix for lemon trees in pots is 1/3 multi-purpose compost 1/3 garden compost, 1/3 perlite or horticultural grit to provide nutrients and ensure adequate drainage, so that the soil is able to dry slightly around the roots, preventing the leaves from turning yellow.

Lemon trees might require regular or more frequent watering according to the climate.

In dry climates, it might be required to water more frequently, whereas in humid climates or those that receive more rainfall, lemon trees need less frequent irrigation.

Change the frequency of your watering to ensure that the top 2 inches of the soil are dry between watering sessions and the tree’s lemon should be able to re-grow because this is the proper amount of moisture.

lemon tree

The leaves that are yellow may fall off, but with regular maintenance and proper watering practices the leaves will grow back.

(To find out how to determine the right frequency of watering for lemon trees in your area check out my article on on how you can water your lemon tree).

Drought Can Cause Lemon Tree Leaves to Turn Yellow

Lemon tree leaves frequently turn yellow due to excessive watering, as they like soil conditions that are more in dry areas, they may also change color due to drought.

If the leaves appear to be like they are shriveled and yellow it is an evidence that drought is at the root of the problem.

The lemon leaf trees turning yellow could be caused by a variety of reasons:

  • The leaves of the indoor lemon trees turn yellow. The air inside houses tends to be dryer than outdoors, with heat sources air conditioning, forced air sucking water away out of the leaves of lemon trees which causes the leaves to turn yellow, which is a indication of stress. Find your lemon tree far from drafts or heat sources (ideally in a bright window) and mist your leaves frequently to help improve the micro-climate of the lemon trees.
  • The lemon tree is being watered too lightly. If you water your lemon tree in a way that is too light, it’s possible that the top layer of soil could be damp, but the water doesn’t penetrate the soil to the roots, where it is needed, which causes the leaves to change color to yellow. The lemon tree should be watered with a an ample soak every week, so that a small amount of water appears from the bottom in the container.
  • The intense sun and heat can cause the evaporation process. Lemon trees that are potted have a small capacity for soil, and consequently less moisture, which means they tend to dry out during intense temperatures. A careful monitoring of soil moisture is essential in heat waves to avoid dryness and, if needed you should make sure to water trees with lemons more often to avoid leaves becoming yellow.

Your lemon tree should be watered thoroughly every week at least during the growing season. misting the leaves frequently to ensure that they are moist and your lemon tree will recover.

If your lemon tree is suffering from severe drought, I suggest immersing the entire pot in the water of a bowl or a wheel barrow filled with water for about 10 minutes.

If the soil becomes very dry, it may bake which causes water to flow off the surface , but not reach the roots, which can exacerbate the drought-related issues.

When your tree is in the garden boarder, make use of a soaker hose to completely soak the soil to ensure that the water will reach the roots.

(For more details, read my article Why are my lemon tree leaves curving?)

Low Temperatures can Cause Lemon Tree Leaves to Turn Yellow

The lemon trees grow in tropical warm climates, and they do not like frigid winter temperature or freezing. (USDA zones 9-11)

The stress of low temperatures could cause the leaves of the lemon tree to yellow, and fall off. If your lemon tree is subjected to frost , it could die.

Older lemon trees are more hardy to cold than younger trees, so smaller lemon trees are more susceptible to cold, and also to their leaves becoming yellow and falling.

But lemon trees of all kinds are best brought inside or moved to an enclosed greenhouse that is heated when the temperatures are at or below 50 degrees F (10degC) as well as then placed in a bright window for protection and to keep the leaves.

However, this can cause issues like leaf drop when they are moved indoors So I wrote a second article on how to reduce the risk of dropping leaves when bringing lemon trees inside for winter.

With fewer hours of sunlight and at a lesser intensity, the leaves of the lemon tree are prone to losing their green hue and some might fall off.

If the lemon tree is situated in an area with a lot of sun and good irrigation and you frequently mist your leaves with water, the tree will be able to recover, with new growth appearing in the spring in response to the increased sunlight.

Yellow Leaves due to Lack of Fertilizer

Lemon trees are large feeders, and they produce fruit at their peak when they receive regular feeding throughout spring and summer..

If the tree is suffering from an imbalance of nutrients, then the leaves begin to shrink and change color, sometimes remaining green veins along with the remainder of the leaf turning yellow (chlorosis).

This is especially typical for lemon trees growing in pots since pots are unable to absorb soil, which means they have lower nutrients available for the roots to absorb.

The best solution can be to use a specific citrus fertilizer every month in the Spring and Summer to ensure that the leaves remain healthy and encourage flowers and the development of fruits.

Regular application of fertilizer, proper irrigation practices, and sun exposure will aid the lemon tree in recovering from its drooping appearance, with yellow leaves in the coming weeks.

But be careful not to be overly abrasive as excessive fertilizer may cause leaves to change color, so adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully.

Yellow Spots on Indoor Lemon Trees

If you notice tiny pin-sized yellow spots on the leaves of your lemon tree and maybe even a leaf drop it is due to spider mites.

Spider mites are attracted to homes because of the low humidity. They can also be an everyday pest to home plants.

If left untreated, spider mites could decimate your lemon tree, however they are an simple pest to control.

Misting water with mist is an effective way to discourage them since the animals thrive in dry houses and damp foliage can assist to eliminate them.

To get rid of the pests, all you need be able to do is clean your leaves with detergent water and then you will be able to get rid of the lemon tree from the aphids.

It may take several treatments to eliminate them completely, however it is an extremely efficient treatment.

Cut back any affected leaves, and the lemon tree will recover without issue.

Lack of Sun can Cause Yellowing Lemon Tree Leaves

The lemon Trees are native to climates with tropical temperatures. They are grown extensively in countries like Spain as well as Mexico in full sunshine.

Lemon trees can be grown by gardeners outside of their normal zone, but it is crucial that they are planted in full sunlight or they could not bloom or fruit, and leaves may become yellow and fall off because of stress.

It is therefore essential to place your tree of lemons in the most sunny part of your garden in order to ensure the highest yield of fruits and to ensure that the plant stays well-maintained.

The most frequent problems arise in the event that the tree is taken inside to protect it from frost because it must contend with:

  • The sun is less active.
  • Lights with lower intensity.
  • The lemon trees in the indoors are more shaded and require acclimatization to indoor conditions.

Each of these factors could cause leaf dropping or yellowing of the leaves.

The ideal place to plant the lemon tree to grow in winter is in a green heated home because it is an even temperature and most natural sunlight.

But they are able to survive in the event that you place them in a south-facing, sunny window that has plenty of light.

A little yellowing of leaves and drop of leaves could be a result of the change in seasons and a reaction to the lower light levels in winter, but if the lemon tree is located in an area with plenty of sunlight, it will recover and have new leaves appearing and any leaves that are yellow should appear healthier in spring.

(Read my article on the best way to bring back the dying lemon tree).

Key Takeaways

  • The reason that lemon trees turn yellow could be due to under or over-watering, and also due to the low temperatures. Lack of sunlight or nitrogen could be the cause of the leaves of lemon trees turning yellow.
  • The pin-sized yellow spots on the leaves of lemon trees are the result of a spider mite infestation.
  • Yellow Lemon tree leaves with green veins are caused by the absence of fertilizer.
  • Find lemon trees in full sunlight, mist the leaves frequently, shield them from temperatures that are colder than 50 degrees F (10degC) and feed them during the spring and Summer, and then water them every week for an adequate soak. The lemon tree’s leaves will recover from yellowing to a more healthy green leaf.


Went from a bad gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)