Why Are My Tomato Plant Leaves Turning Yellow?

Tomato plants are a popular choice for home gardeners, but they can sometimes present challenges, such as yellowing leaves. If you’ve noticed that the leaves on your tomato plant have taken on a yellow hue, you’re likely searching for the cause and potential solutions. The reasons for yellowing leaves can range from easily fixable nutrient imbalances to more serious diseases, pests, and environmental stressors.

In the journey to identify and address the specific cause of yellowing leaves on your tomato plant, it’s important to consider all possible factors. Understanding the common issues and potential treatment strategies will help you maintain a healthy tomato plant and produce a bountiful harvest. With that in mind, let’s delve into the topic and explore what’s causing those yellow leaves on your beloved tomato plant.

Common Causes of Yellowing Leaves


One common reason for yellowing leaves on tomato plants is underwatering. If a tomato plant doesn’t receive enough water, its leaves may turn yellow and eventually wilt. To avoid this problem, make sure to provide your tomato plant with a consistent supply of water. A good rule of thumb is to water your plants deeply once or twice a week depending on the weather conditions.


On the other hand, overwatering can also cause yellowing leaves. When tomato plants receive too much water, their roots might not be able to take up nutrients properly, leading to nutrient deficiencies. If you notice your tomato plant’s leaves turning yellow and the soil is constantly wet, consider decreasing the frequency of watering.

Nutrient Deficiency

Yellowing leaves can also be an indicator of nutrient deficiency in tomato plants. There are several essential nutrients that, if lacking, can lead to yellow leaves:

  • Iron deficiency: Causes yellowing between the leaf veins while the veins themselves remain green.
  • Magnesium deficiency: Results in yellowing along the edges and between the veins of older leaves.
  • Potassium deficiency: Leads to yellowing of older leaves, beginning at the edges and moving inward.
  • Nitrogen deficiency: Causes overall yellowing of the entire plant, especially in older leaves.

To address these deficiencies, use a well-balanced fertilizer and follow the recommended dosages and application times.

Transplant Shock

Finally, transplant shock might be responsible for yellowing leaves on tomato plants. When tomato plants are transplanted, their roots can be disturbed or damaged, which can lead to a temporary decline in nutrient and water absorption. As a result, the leaves may turn yellow. To minimize transplant shock, make sure to handle the plants gently during the process and water them adequately after transplanting.

Diseases and Pests Affecting Tomato Plants

Fungal Diseases

Fungal diseases can cause yellowing of tomato plant leaves. Some common fungal diseases include leaf spot, septoria leaf spot, early blight, late blight, and powdery mildew. These diseases affect the leaves, causing them to turn yellow, and may eventually lead to plant death. It’s essential to treat fungal diseases promptly to prevent further damage.

  • Leaf spot: Small, dark spots on leaves that expand and turn yellow.
  • Septoria leaf spot: Spots with light-gray centers and dark edges.
  • Early blight: Concentric rings on leaves, creating a target-like appearance.
  • Late blight: Irregular, water-soaked spots turning brown and velvety.
  • Powdery mildew: White, powdery substance on leaves that causes yellowing and curling.

Bacterial Diseases

Bacterial diseases are another factor that can contribute to yellowing leaves on tomato plants. Bacterial spot and leaf mold are common bacterial diseases that cause discoloration and deformation of the leaves.

  • Bacterial spot: Small, black spots that may merge and cause leaves to turn yellow and drop.
  • Leaf mold: Yellowing of leaf surface, followed by the development of a pale-greenish or brownish mold on the underside.

Viral Diseases

Viral diseases can also lead to yellowing of tomato plant leaves. The most common one is the yellow leaf curl virus. This virus causes the leaves to curl and turn yellow, and may lead to stunted growth and reduced fruit production. Managing insect pests that transmit the virus is critical for controlling this disease.

Insect Pests

In addition to diseases, various insect pests can cause tomato plant leaves to turn yellow. Common pests include whiteflies, thrips, spider mites, and hornworms. These insects feed on the leaves, causing damage and allowing diseases to take hold.

  • Whiteflies: Small, white-winged insects that suck plant sap and excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, leading to yellowing of leaves.
  • Thrips: Tiny insects that feed on plant cells, causing silvery streaks and speckling on leaves.
  • Spider mites: Small, red or green mites that feed on plant sap, causing leaves to turn yellow and dry up.
  • Hornworms: Green caterpillars that feed on leaves and can cause significant defoliation.

It’s essential to properly identify and treat diseases and pest infestations early to maintain healthy tomato plants. Regular monitoring and preventive measures such as proper watering, air circulation, and using disease-resistant varieties can help minimize the risk of these issues.

Soil and Fertilization Problems

Soil Compaction

Tomato plants thrive in well-drained soil so when the soil becomes compacted, it can lead to poor water drainage and aeration. This can cause the roots to suffocate, resulting in yellowing leaves. Make sure to keep the soil loose, especially if growing in a container, to provide adequate oxygen to the roots.

Soil pH

Tomatoes prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. When the soil pH is either too high or too low, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies which can cause the leaves to turn yellow. Check the pH of your soil using a pH test kit and amend it accordingly. For instance, adding sulfur can help lower the pH, while adding lime can increase it.

Lack of Fertilizer

Tomato plants require essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for healthy growth. A lack of these nutrients can result in yellow leaves. To maintain the fertility of your soil, consider incorporating organic matter like compost, manure, or mulch to provide the necessary nutrients. Regularly fertilize according to the specific needs of your tomato variety. Be sure not to plant them in cold soil, as this can hinder nutrient uptake and lead to yellow leaves.


While fertilizing is essential for tomato plants, too much fertilizer can cause problems. Over-fertilization, particularly with nitrogen-rich fertilizers, can cause rapid growth with poor fruit development, and this might result in yellowing leaves. Use a balanced fertilizer and follow the recommended application rates.

Additionally, you can use Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) as a supplemental nutrient source to help tackle issues with over-fertilization by providing essential magnesium for better nutrient uptake. Just mix 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt per gallon of water and apply it to the soil around your plants, but always ensure you don’t overuse it.

Environmental Factors Affecting Tomato Plants

Tomato plants can be quite sensitive to various environmental factors, which may result in their leaves turning yellow. In this section, we will discuss the impact of temperature, sunlight, and air circulation on the health of tomato plants.


Tomato plants thrive in a fairly specific temperature range. They typically grow best when daytime temperatures are between 65 and 85°F (18 and 29°C). When temperatures drop below or rise above this range, tomato plants may experience stress, causing their leaves to turn yellow. Additionally, drastic temperature fluctuations between day and night could weaken the plants, making them more susceptible to diseases and pests.

To combat these issues, try to maintain a consistent temperature range in your tomato growing environment. This may include using shade cloth or a greenhouse to protect plants from extreme temperatures. Also, be mindful of proper crop rotation to help maintain healthy soil conditions.


Sunlight plays a critical role in photosynthesis, which is essential for tomato plants to produce energy and grow. However, too much or too little sunlight can cause stress to the plants and lead to yellowing leaves.

Tomato plants typically require 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. If your plants receive less than this, it could result in slow growth and yellowing leaves. Conversely, if they receive too much sunlight, they can become dehydrated and develop sunscald on their leaves, which may also appear as yellowing.

To ensure proper sunlight exposure, assess the location of your tomato plants and make adjustments if needed. Some methods might involve moving potted plants, pruning nearby foliage to increase light exposure, or using reflective materials to direct more sunlight towards your plants.

Air Circulation

Good air circulation plays an essential role in the health of your tomato plants. It helps regulate temperature and facilitates the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen, which are necessary for photosynthesis. Proper air circulation also helps to reduce humidity levels around the plants, which can reduce the likelihood of fungal diseases contributing to yellowing leaves.

Improving air circulation around your tomato plants can often be achieved by strategic planting and proper pruning. Make sure to space out your plants adequately, allowing for better air movement between them, and prune any excess foliage to promote better airflow.

Prevention and Treatment Strategies

Pruning and Supporting

Pruning tomato plants is a practice that can help prevent yellowing leaves. Regularly snipping off excess growth and wilted or dead leaves allows more air and light to reach the healthy parts of the plant. Supporting your tomato plants with cages or stakes can also increase air circulation, reducing the risk of moisture-loving diseases.

Watering and Irrigation

Proper watering techniques can help keep tomato plant leaves from turning yellow. Using a drip irrigation system delivers water directly to the plant’s roots, reducing the chance of diseases that thrive in wet foliage. Be consistent with your watering schedule, and make sure to not overwater or underwater, as both can cause yellowing leaves.

Nutrition and Fertilization

Providing your tomato plants with the right nutrients is crucial for healthy growth. Fertilize your plants according to their specific needs, focusing on a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Over-fertilization can cause yellowing leaves, so apply fertilizers with caution. If you notice yellowing flowers or fruit, you may need to adjust your fertilization routine.

NutrientFunction in Tomato Plants
NitrogenLeaf growth, overall vigor
PhosphorusRoot development, flowering
PotassiumDisease resistance, fruit quality

Disease and Pest Management

Employing preventive measures and treating disease and pests early can save your tomato plants from yellowing leaves. Identify curling leaves and other signs of infestation, and use a targeted approach to treat the problem, such as insecticidal soap. If you notice widespread disease or rot, methods like soil solarization or application of organic fungicides might be necessary. When starting with seedlings, purchase disease-resistant varieties and transplant them from the nursery to the garden with care, avoiding stress on the plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do tomato leaves turn yellow and curl?

Tomato leaves may turn yellow and curl due to several reasons. One possible cause is Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), which affects tomato plants and is transmitted by whiteflies. Another possibility is nutrient deficiencies, such as nitrogen, which can result in yellowing and curling of leaves.

What causes tomato leaves to turn yellow and brown?

Yellow and brown leaves on tomato plants may be due to various factors, including nutrient deficiencies, diseases, pests, or environmental stressors. It’s essential to identify the specific cause to address the issue accurately and preserve your tomato plants’ health.

How do nitrogen levels affect tomato plants?

Nitrogen is a critical nutrient needed for proper growth and development in tomato plants. Low nitrogen levels can result in yellowing of leaves, slow growth, and reduced yields. On the other hand, excess nitrogen can lead to excessive vegetative growth and delayed fruit production. It’s essential to maintain balanced nitrogen levels for healthy tomato plants.

Do yellow spots on tomato leaves indicate a problem?

Yellow spots on tomato leaves may indicate various issues, such as fungal, bacterial, or viral infections, or even pest infestations. Accurately diagnosing the cause of the yellow spots is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment to ensure the continued health of the tomato plant.

Is overwatering a reason for yellow tomato leaves?

Yes, overwatering can cause yellowing of tomato leaves. Excessive water can lead to poor root development and oxygen deprivation, both of which can cause leaf yellowing. To avoid overwatering, water your tomato plants when the top inch of soil feels dry and ensure proper drainage in your garden or potting mix.

Should I remove yellow leaves from my tomato plant?

Removing yellow leaves from your tomato plant can be beneficial as it helps improve airflow, discourages the spread of diseases, and allows the plant to focus its energy on healthy growth. However, it’s essential to identify and address the cause of the yellowing to prevent the issue from recurring.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *