Bottom Leaves Turning Yellow

Bottom Leaves Turning Yellow

If a plant’s bottom leaves are turning yellow while the rest of the plant is otherwise healthy, it is more than likely just a sign of aging. A plant will shed its lowest leaves in order to conserve its remaining nutrients and use them to push out new growth. This is completely natural and should not be any cause for concern.

If the leaves on your plant are yellowing in a random pattern, it may be due to other causes that are stressing your plant. You need to identify the cause as soon as you can, in order to remedy it before it does any further damage.

Why are the bottom leaves of my plant turning yellow?

Plants will naturally shed their lower leaves, absorb those nutrients, and push out new leaves. This is the case if only the bottom leaves are turning yellow while the rest of the plant looks green and healthy. It is completely natural for these oldest leaves to die off as the plant ages. It could also happen because the plant is adjusting to a new location or if the seasons are changing.

Another sign that this is just part of a plant’s life cycle is if there are no abnormal discolorations on the leaves. If they are transitioning from green to yellow to brown with fresh growth replacing them, there is no need for you to worry.

How do you know if a yellowing plant is normal?

If the plant is turning yellow very slowly and one leaf at a time, it is most likely natural.

If the whole plant is turning yellow, it could be due to a lack of a specific nutrient. But take note that there are some nutrient deficiencies, such as nitrogen deficiency, that start at the bottom of the plant as well, so it might look like natural yellowing in the beginning. However, these cases usually see the leaves turning yellow at a rapid rate.

You should also check whether the leaves themselves have any unusual markings, discolorations, droppings or stickiness, because this could point to either disease or pests as the cause. The longer you handle plants, the easier it will become to differentiate a normal aging leaf from leaves affected by disease or pests.

What are other benign causes of yellowing bottom leaves?

When your plant is losing its leaves faster than usual, it is normal for you to worry. But remember that it could be happening because of changes in its lighting conditions. The plant could simply be adjusting and you need to give it time to acclimatize to its new surroundings.

One of the most common such scenarios is when you buy a plant from a nursery and take it home with you. When a plant is in a nursery, it is exposed to its optimal growing conditions; this is why it looks so green and lush. Unfortunately, most homes cannot provide these same conditions, hence natural leaf shedding will occur. If a plant is not in a greenhouse, it cannot retain all of its leaves for long periods of time. It will need to lose some leaves in order to acclimatize to your home. Just make sure you are still giving the plant the sunlight that it needs and not keeping it in an area that is too shady.

Another instance where it is normal for a plant to shed its leaves is when it goes dormant. Dormancy usually occurs in the winter, but there are also plants that are summer-dormant. When plants go dormant, it is normal for them to shed their leaves because they will not be photosynthesizing during this time. There are even plants that will lose all of their leaves, but most will just shed a certain volume. There is nothing you need to do when the leaves drop except clear them up and wait for the growing season to begins again. Soon, new leaves will grow and the plant will fill out and become lush again.

What do you do when you see yellow bottom leaves on your plant?

There are conflicting schools of thought when it comes to the yellowing leaves at the bottom of your plants. There are those that believe that you should leave them alone because the plant will reabsorb the nutrients from the dying leaf. Others believe that the dying leaf is sucking energy from the plant and it should be removed to help the plant.

There are advantages to each method, and it is up to you which you want to follow.

If you remove, or prune, the dying leaf, it can be great aesthetically, encourage faster growth of new leaves, and prevent disease or pests better because there are fewer leaves to infest.

If you leave the dying leaves alone until they fall off by themselves, you are not wounding the plant by cutting it and making it expend more energy healing, you are allowing it to absorb more nutrients from the dying leaf, and it also makes less work for you. You will only have to clear away the dead leaves from around the plant once they have fallen off.

Conclusion

When the bottom leaves of a plant are turning yellow, it usually means that the plant is simply maturing naturally and is no cause for alarm. Plant leaves need to be replaced with new leaves as a part of the aging process. The older leaves are those at the bottom, which is why these leaves are the ones that turn yellow and fall off.

If the leaves on your plants are yellowing randomly, it could be due to other more alarming reasons, such as watering issues, light problems, lack of nutrients, changes in temperature, disease and pests.

If only the bottom leaves are turning yellow, you can either prune them off or leave them to drop off when they are ready. Either way, it is part of the plant’s life cycle and you need not worry.

Image: istockphoto.com / Firn