I grow cilantro in my container garden and it’s one of the easy herbs to grow. It is really disappointing when I find it turning yellow. It lacks the freshness and spiciness when that happens.

Your cilantro plant is turning yellow because it is stressed due to lack of sunlight, water, or nutrients. You may be underwatering or overwatering the plant. Use of too much nitrogen-fertilizer may also cause it to yellow.

Plant leaves abnormally turn yellow due to chlorosis, a process that diminishes chlorophyll on the plant. Read on to discover the underlying causes of yellowing cilantro, how you can fix it, and more.

Sometimes the yellowing of cilantro is caused by one issue, but other times, it’s caused by a couple of them. Therefore, you have to go over a couple of fixes before restoring their healthy color once again.

Insufficient Light And Heat Turn Cilantro Yellow

Even though cilantro is usually included in the list of herbs that don’t need much sun, they don’t do well in the dark either. This means cilantro can’t do well under intense shade or near a dim-lit window in your kitchen.

This herb thrives in the full sun with cool temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Here are some things that can affect cilantro’s sunlight and how to fix them.

The ProblemThe Fix
Not enough light coming inIf it was doing well before, it might be because it was younger, or you just missed the difference in the sunshine intensity in your area.Try switching the position of your cilantro to a sunnier place or increase your lighting if you’re growing indoors and observe the changes.
Plants are too crowdedSometimes, you might have overcrowded the seeds, and now the cilantro beneath the towering counterparts is getting little sunlight.You should prune the cilantro, making sure to include the towering leaves in your salad instead of harvesting normally.

(Source: Texas A & M AgriLife)

How Over-Watering and Under-Watering Affects Your Cilantro

One of the signs of overwatering cilantro is the yellowing of leaves. This often happens in container gardening. Overwatering deprives oxygen to the soil around the roots. This inhibits the overall functioning of the plant and leads to chlorosis.

Don’t determine the moisture content of the soil by merely looking at the surface. Dig slightly below the surface and see if it’s moist enough. If it seems wet and you were planning on adding some more water, chances are, you’ve been overwatering.

Here are more signs to show you that you’re overwatering:

  • Leaves turn yellow and fall.
  • Some leaves turn black.
  • You notice mildew on your herbs.
  • The cilantro doesn’t become less wilted after watering.


Underwatering of cilantro also causes chlorosis. If you explore the deep soils and find them dry and dusty instead of soft and moist, you have been underwatering.

Under the full sun, you need to water cilantro at least once a week. Observe its growing conditions, watch how it reacts to different amounts of water, and keep adjusting.

Nutrient Deficiency and Yellowing Cilantro

organic fertilizer
Organic fertilizer I use for my plants

For essential plant processes to take place, your cilantro needs different nutrients. Therefore, you need to note the particular mineral they need and fertilize as required. Ensure that you don’t over-fertilize because that could damage your cilantro even further.

Here are nutrient deficiencies that cause yellowing of leaves:

Nutrient DeficiencySymptom
NitrogenOlder leaves rapidly turn yellow and newer shoots follow
IronYounger leaves are yellow and with green veins while mature leaves are green
MagnesiumLower leaves become yellowed from the sides, and the veins remain green
ManganeseYellow spots

(Sources: University of Maryland Extension)

While your potting mix might have been rich in nutrients, these plants can use it up as they grow and deplete it.

In that case, using a natural fertilizer like this Worm Castings Organic Fertilizer would be immensely beneficial. Otherwise, you can top up the necessary nutrient to reverse chlorosis.

Pests And Diseases Can Turn Cilantro Yellow

Sometimes pests can cause yellow patches or even turn the whole batch. If you’re doing everything else right, then pests or some diseases could be the possible culprit.


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

These insects use their mouthparts to suck the sap out of any leaf they come in contact with. This may distort the plant leaf and turn it to yellow. But these creatures know how to camouflage well, and you might miss them at first glance.

Check under your cilantro leaves if you can find a sticky substance. If you do, chances are, aphids are the cause of the chlorosis. You may or may not see the insects on the plant, though.

Most people think cilantro repels all kinds of aphids, but unfortunately, that isn’t true. The green peach aphids attack cilantro, but they can be reduced by predatory measures like attracting lace wigs and lady beetles. Also, insecticidal soaps may work on them.

(Sources: University of KentuckyUniversity of California)

Carrot Motley Dwarf Disease

This disease can turn your cilantro yellow, orange, or even red. It’s caused by a combination of viruses and may be mistaken for a nutritional deficiency.

If you did everything right yet your plants started with stunted growth and later turned into yellow or another color, chances are it’s infected with this disease.

Aphids help spread the infection; that’s why you need to eliminate them fast. You should also ensure your plants are clean by removing weeds regularly.

(Source: University of California)

Leaf Spot

If your leaves look water-soaked, but with yellow spots, that could be the leaf spot disease. Transmitting may happen during pollination, and the seeds you plant might carry the disease. If that’s the case, even if you keep everything balanced, the cilantro will still look yellow.

To control the further spread of this disease:

  • Remove the infected plants.
  • Plant certified pathogen-free seeds.
  • Sterilize potting mixes when seed starting.
  • Sanitize pots you’re going to reuse or avoid that altogether.

(Source: Pacific Northwest Pest Management Handbooks)

Can I Turn My Cilantro Leaves Green Again?

It depends. Sometimes chlorosis is reversible, while other times, it isn’t. If you have the following problems, you can reverse chlorosis:

  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Early lighting and temperature issues
  • Light underwatering

You are unlikely to turn your cilantro to green if:

  • You overwatered repeatedly and caused root rot
  • The leaves are old
  • Pests affected your crop adversely.
  • Diseases stem from seeds.

The best thing to do after identifying why your cilantro is turning yellow is rectifying that issue. The leaves may turn green if the problem didn’t mature, or you may be forced to get rid of the batch altogether.

Is It Safe To Eat Yellowed Cilantro?

According to the Better Health Channel (BHC), you should avoid cilantro that has turned yellow, wilted, brown, or with any other possible damage. But I suggest finding out the cause of the yellowing first and then make a decision.

If it was infested by aphids or had some diseases, it’s best to throw them away until health research reveals the extent of safety they have. However, if other things like moisture stress, temperature plus light imbalances, or nutrient deficiency caused the yellowing, you can be sure the cilantro is safe.

(Source: BHC)

Can I Bolt Yellowed Cilantro?

As long as it wasn’t dying, you can bolt cilantro. If, for instance, it lacked enough sunlight and you wish to use that batch for seed production, you can take it to brighter areas so it can bolt.

However, remember that if it had some of the diseases mentioned above, they might be transmitted through the seeds, and you’ll get another set of yellowed cilantro.

(Sources: Illinois Extension)

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