A yellow leaf on your plant can be alarming; are you watering it too much or not watering it not enough? It’s hard to know as well as knowing what steps to take next, so should you cut yellow leaves off of your plants?

You should cut yellow leaves off the plant so it can focus energy on growing new foliage and flowers. You can use a sterile cutting tool such as scissors or garden pruners to cut the yellow leaves. Leaves turn yellow because of aging, pests, diseases, lack of water and nutrients.

So, how do you prevent your leaves from dying on your plants and turning yellow? Though it differs from plant to plant, keep reading if you want to figure out when you should cut off yellow leaves and when you should avoid it.

Should I Cut Yellow Leaves Off?

Only cut yellow leaves off when they are entirely yellow, with no green color left. When the leaves on your plants are entirely yellow, there is no chlorophyll or nutrients left, so you won’t be depriving your plants of any nutrients.

When cutting yellow leaves off, cut them off at the base of the stem, where they meet the rest of the plant. This will prevent any diseases affecting that leaf from infecting the rest of the plant and ensure they lose no needed nutrients when the leaf is cut off.

Yellow leaves don’t always need to be cut off, as they sometimes are yellow because of a lack of water, over-watering, or lack of sunlight.

I asked some gardeners if they cut yellow leaves off plants. As you can see below, 96.7% prefer to cut off such yellow leaves as they feel it benefits the plant.

8 Natural Causes Of Yellow Leaves On Plants

Whether your plants are being underwatered, overwatered, and the amount of sunlight they get are all factors that need to be considered before you cut off yellow leaves.

Here is a list of the principal causes of dead leaves:

  1. Underwatering
  2. Overwatering
  3. Pests
  4. Not enough sunlight
  5. Too much sunlight
  6. Temperature
  7. Nutrient deficiency
  8. Root rot

1. Over Vs Under Watering

There are many ways to test if your plant is being overwatered. One way is to press your finger about an inch into the soil to see if it is wet or dry. If it is dry it may be underwatered. If your finger is wet, then it is likely overwatered.

Some signs of overwatering include rotting roots, foul smell, fungus, and leaf blisters. Some signs of underwatering include slow or stunted growth, dry leaves, and brittle stems.

Removing yellow leaves from the plants is recommended to improve the overall health of the plant. Although, it’s important to know the cause of plant leaves turning yellow. Common reasons for yellow leaves include underwatering, drainage issues, lack of sunlight, overcrowded roots, and nitrogen deficiency. Addressing these problems will help prolong the life of the plant. – Karan Mahajan, Co-Founder, All That Grows

If you find your issue is underwatering, then water your plant until you see water coming from the drainage holes on the bottom of the pot. Do this a few times over the course of a week to ensure the entire plant is getting the water it needs.

If you find your issue is overwatering, then just start watering your plant less often than you normally have, and keep a note of how the plant changes over time. You may also want to make sure the soil is dry before you water your plant again.

2. Pests In Plants

Though most common in outdoor plants, indoor plants can get infested with pests. The most common pests found invading house plants are aphids, mealybugs, red spider mites, centipedes, thrips, springtails, fungus flies, and slugs.

Ants farming aphids on my pepper plants
Ants farming aphids on my pepper plants

Signs to look for, other than yellowing of leaves, include:

  • Spotting
  • Speckles
  • Misshapen leaves
  • Webbing

For more info on the many types of pests, signs, and prevention, this website outlines it all: How to Identify and Control House Plant Pests | Our House Plants.

3. Sunlight

Some common signs of your plant not getting enough sun are abnormally small leaves, slow or stopped growth, and the leaves turning yellow. If you’ve looked at the other alternative problems and tried other solutions, then a lack of sunlight might cause your yellow leaves.

First, try moving your plant to a spot with more sunlight throughout the day. Also, try turning the plant when you water it so the entire plant receives sunlight periodically.

If you put your plants in windowsills, try placing them in windows that face south, west, and east. If your plants are struggling in the wintertime and there’s not enough sun outside, think about investing in artificial lighting so you can keep them healthy.

If the leaves of your plant baby feel soft and droopy & if the new growth is accompanied by falling then yellow leaves are an indication of over-watering. While curling inward, brown tips & dry crispy leaves are an indication of under-watering. Other possible reasons include poor drainage, root-rot, compacted roots, and nutrient deficiencies in the plants. – Vinayak Garg, Founder, Lazy Gardener

4. Temperature

If a plant is too cold, not only will you find plant leaves turning yellow, but the leaves can start curling, become brown, and flowers will die. To prevent this from occurring, keep the plants away from cold drafts such as open windows or vents that blow cold or hot air, as plants can overheat as well.

Look up the ideal temperature for the plants that you have that are struggling to see if you need to change its living conditions.

5. Nutrient Deficiency

Just like humans, plants need certain nutrients to grow and thrive. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are some nutrients that a plant can lack, causing its leaves to yellow. Other signs of a nutrient deficient plant include distorted leaf shapes and stunted growth.

This website can assist you in knowing what nutrient your plant is deficient in according to the signs it is showing: Identifying Nutrient Deficiency in Plants. Once you have identified what nutrient your plant is lacking, then buy a plant feed that is rich in that!

6. Root Rot

Root rot is exactly what it sounds like; the roots of your plants are rotting. When the roots rot on your plant, a fungus that can kill your roots and deprive them of oxygen has infected them. We usually find it in over-watered plants. When this root rot sets in, your plant will have:

  • Yellowing of leaves
  • Multiple leaves fall off
  • Pale leaves
  • Wilting plant
  • Lack of plant growth
  • Brown leaves.

To prevent root rot from setting in, avoid over-watering your plant, ensure there is proper drainage in the pot, get the correct pot size for your plant, and stick to a regular watering schedule.

It’s alright to remove yellow leaves from plants because they can be a sign of scorching and disease. But you should understand that yellow leaves are usually caused by poor drainage, damaged roots, high soil pH, or nutrient deficiencies. It’s important to know whether or not you can pick off yellowed leaves. If it seems like the entire plant is covered in these leaves, then you want to delve into the root of the problem. Otherwise, you might have to go out there and prune away your whole plant! – Gena Lorainne, Gardening Expert, Fantastic Services

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