Tomato Plant Leaves Turning Yellow? Causes and Treatments

Tomato Plant Leaves Turning Yellow Causes and Treatments
Picture Source: Canva

Tomato gardening is a fulfilling activity, but it can also present challenges, such as the alarming sight of yellow leaves on your plants. Yellowing leaves can appear with black or brown spots, predominantly at the bottom of the plant, or they might display contrasting green or purple veins.

These symptoms can be distressing as they signal health issues in the plant. Fortunately, both home remedies and chemical treatments are available to address this common problem. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the yellowing of your tomato leaves with black or brown spots and curling, and offer practical solutions to help your tomato plants thrive again.

Find out Why Your Tomato Plant Leaves Are Turning Yellow and Try These Effective Treatments:

1. Nitrogen Deficiency

Nitrogen is crucial for chlorophyll production, which gives leaves their green color and plays a key role in photosynthesis. If your tomato plants are experiencing a nitrogen deficiency, you’ll typically notice the older, lower leaves turning yellow first. This occurs because nitrogen is a mobile nutrient within the plant; it will move to new growth when in short supply, leaving older leaves yellow.

Treatment: To address nitrogen deficiency in your tomato plants, you can apply a balanced fertilizer that includes nitrogen, but be careful not to overdo it. Too much nitrogen in the soil can result in overly lush and green leaves, often at the cost of reduced fruit yield.

A slow-release type or an organic option like a blood meal, which provides a steady supply of nitrogen, can be very effective. Regularly monitoring your soil’s nutrient levels through soil tests can help you manage fertilizer applications more accurately.

Related: Why Are Tomatoes Flowering But Not Fruiting?

2. Potassium Deficiency

Potassium deficiency often manifests as yellowing at the edges of tomato leaves, progressing inward, and can make the leaves look scorched or burned. Potassium is vital for various plant processes, including water uptake, enzyme activation, and photosynthesis. Tomato plants lacking adequate potassium often exhibit slowed growth rates and a heightened susceptibility to various diseases.

Treatment: For potassium deficiency in your tomato plants, applying a potassium-rich fertilizer is key. Potash or a complete fertilizer that includes potassium should help alleviate the symptoms and restore leaf health.

It’s also essential to ensure that the soil isn’t too wet or too compact, as poor soil conditions can inhibit potassium uptake. Regular soil testing can guide your fertilization strategy, ensuring your tomatoes get the potassium they need without upsetting the balance of other nutrients.

3. Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiency in tomato plants can cause older leaves to yellow while their veins remain green, a condition often exacerbated by high potassium levels that can lock out magnesium. As a vital element of chlorophyll, magnesium is necessary for photosynthesis, supporting the process that allows plants to absorb energy from light.

Treatment: To fix tomato yellow leaves, treating magnesium deficiency effectively can be as simple as applying Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). You can dissolve a tablespoon of Epsom salts in a gallon of water and spray it directly onto the leaves, or water it into the soil around your plants.

This treatment can be repeated every few weeks during the growing season to help maintain adequate magnesium levels. It’s also beneficial to check your soil pH since overly acidic or alkaline soil can affect magnesium availability.

4. Calcium Deficiency

Calcium is essential for the overall structural strength of plants, including tomatoes. It plays a crucial role in cell integrity and growth. A deficiency often leads to yellowing of younger leaves and blossom end rot in fruits, which is a common symptom where the end of the tomato opposite the stem becomes blackened and sunken.

Treatment: To address calcium deficiency, you can apply calcium nitrate or a calcium-rich foliar spray directly to your tomato leaves and fruits. This helps the plant absorb calcium more efficiently, especially during periods of rapid growth.

It’s also important to maintain consistent watering, as fluctuations in water availability can hinder calcium uptake. Adding lime to the soil can help increase calcium levels, but only do this after a soil pH test to ensure that you do not inadvertently raise the pH too much.

5. Transplant Shock

Transplant Shock - Tomato Leaves Turning Yellow
Source: Canva

Transplant shock occurs when tomato plants, especially young seedlings, are moved from one growing environment to another, such as from indoors to outdoors. This change can stress the plants as they adapt to new conditions like sunlight intensity, wind, and temperature variations. You might notice yellowing leaves, stunted growth, or drooping as the plant struggles to adjust.

Treatment: To minimize transplant shock, it’s essential to gradually acclimate your tomato seedlings to outdoor conditions—a process known as “hardening off.” Begin by placing the plants outside in a protected, shaded area for a few hours each day, gradually increasing their exposure to the elements over a week.

Make sure to maintain a consistently moist environment for the soil, avoiding over-saturation, and protect young seedlings from harsh winds when they are first planted. After transplanting, continue to monitor moisture levels closely and provide some shade during the hottest part of the day until the plants are fully acclimated.

Related: How Far Apart Should I Plant Tomatoes?

6. Overwatering

Overwatering your tomato plants can lead to yellowing leaves primarily because overly wet soil reduces oxygen availability to the roots, causing root rot and other fungal issues. When roots are damaged, they are unable to absorb nutrients effectively, leading to nutrient deficiencies and yellow leaves, typically starting at the bottom of the plant.

Treatment: To correct overwatering, first let the soil dry out a bit before watering again. Check the soil moisture at a depth of about an inch; it should be moist but not soggy.

Improving soil drainage can also help—consider mixing in some sand or organic compost to enhance soil structure. Ensure your pots have adequate drainage holes, and if your garden area is prone to water logging, consider raising your beds.

7. Underwatering

Underwatering can stress tomato plants significantly, leading to wilting and yellowing leaves, starting typically at the bottom of the plant. This occurs due to inadequate water, the plant cannot transport nutrients from the soil into the stems and leaves effectively.

Treatment: The solution to underwatering is quite straightforward: increase your watering frequency, ensuring that you provide deep, consistent waterings that reach the roots rather than just wetting the surface.

During hot weather, you may need to water your tomatoes once a day or every other day, depending on your soil type. Mulching around your plants can also help retain soil moisture and prevent future under-watering.

Related: How Often to Water Tomato Plants

8. Compacted Soil

Compacted soil can significantly hinder the growth and health of your tomato plants. It restricts root expansion, making it difficult for the plant to absorb water and nutrients efficiently. This often results in yellowing leaves, as the plant cannot access the essential elements it needs to remain healthy.

Treatment: To alleviate soil compaction, you should aerate your soil. This can be done by gently tilling the soil around the plants, being careful not to damage the roots.

Adding organic matter like compost or peat moss can also improve soil structure, enhance drainage, and encourage beneficial microbial activity. For container-grown tomatoes, ensure that the potting mix is loose and well-draining.

9. Fungal Diseases (e.g., Early Blight, Septoria Leaf Spot)

Fungal diseases like early blight and Septoria leaf spot are common causes of yellowing leaves in tomato plants. Early blight manifests as concentric rings on the leaves that turn yellow and then brown, often starting at the bottom of the plant. Manifesting primarily on leaves, the Septoria leaf spot is identified by tiny brown or black spots encircled by yellow, sparing the fruit from any direct effects.

Treatment: To manage fungal diseases and fix your tomato yellow leaves, remove affected leaves immediately to prevent the spread of spores. Ensure your plants have good air circulation and avoid overhead watering to keep foliage dry. Applying fungicides can be effective, especially if used as soon as symptoms appear.

For organic gardening, copper-based fungicides or baking soda solutions can be alternatives. Regular crop rotation and using disease-resistant tomato varieties are also proactive strategies to reduce disease incidence.

10. Bacterial Diseases (e.g., Bacterial Wilt)

Bacterial Diseases - Tomato Leaves Turning Yellow
Source: Canva

Bacterial wilt is a serious disease that causes the leaves of tomato plants to turn yellow rapidly and the plant to wilt, despite adequate watering. This disease is caused by soil-borne bacteria and can quickly lead to the death of the plant.

Treatment: Unfortunately, there is no effective chemical treatment for bacterial wilt once a plant is infected. The best approach is to remove and destroy affected plants to prevent the spread of the bacteria.

For future plantings, ensure proper sanitation by not planting tomatoes in the same soil where the disease has occurred for at least three years. Using grafted tomatoes on disease-resistant rootstocks can also be a good preventive measure.

Must Read: Tomato Plant Growth Timeline (with Pictures)

11. Viral Infections (e.g., Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl)

Viral diseases like Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl cause leaves to turn yellow, curl upwards, and severely stunt the plant’s growth. These viruses are often spread by insects, such as whiteflies, and can devastate a crop.

Treatment: Managing viral diseases focuses heavily on the prevention and control of carrier pests. Regularly inspect plants for whiteflies and use insecticidal soaps or oils to control these pests.

Installing reflective mulches can deter whiteflies from your plants. Removing and destroying infected plants is crucial to prevent the spread of the virus. As with bacterial diseases, crop rotation and using virus-resistant varieties can help reduce the risk of viral infections.

12. Herbicide Exposure

Herbicide drift or residue can inadvertently affect your tomato plants, especially if herbicides are used nearby for weed control. Tomatoes are particularly sensitive to certain herbicides, which can cause the leaves to turn yellow and display distorted growth or curling.

Treatment: To mitigate the risk of yellow leaves due to herbicide damage, always shield your tomato plants when applying herbicides, even if they are being used several feet away. Consider creating barriers or using drift-reducing nozzles if spraying near your garden area.

If you suspect herbicide exposure, water the plants thoroughly to help dilute and wash away residues from the soil. Unfortunately, severely damaged plants might not recover and may need to be removed to avoid stressing other plants.

13. Temperature Stress

Tomato plants are sensitive to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold. Excessive heat can lead to rapid transpiration, leaving plants unable to absorb moisture and nutrients effectively. Conversely, cold temperatures can stunt growth and cause yellowing, particularly of younger, more vulnerable leaves.

Treatment: For heat stress, ensure your plants have adequate water and consider using mulch to help keep the soil temperature stable and retain moisture. Shade cloths can also be employed during the hottest part of the day to protect plants from intense sunlight.

For cold stress, avoid planting too early in the season; use row covers or cold frames to protect young plants from unexpected late frosts. Always monitor the weather and be prepared to protect your plants from extreme temperature swings.

Also Read: Full Sun Plants for Florida

14. Poor Drainage

Poor soil drainage can lead to waterlogged conditions which suffocate tomato plant roots, inhibit their ability to function properly and lead to yellow leaves. This is often a problem in clay-heavy soils or garden beds without adequate drainage.

Treatment: Improving soil drainage is key. If you’re planting in the ground, consider amending the soil with coarse sand, perlite, or organic compost to improve its structure and drainage capacity.

For container-grown tomatoes, ensure that pots have enough drainage holes. In extreme cases, creating raised beds or using well-draining containers can also help manage water levels more effectively.

15. Tomato Plant’s Age

As tomato plants mature, it is natural for older leaves, especially those at the bottom of the plant, to turn yellow and eventually die. This is part of the normal life cycle of the plant. The plant prioritizes resources towards new growth and fruit production, which can cause the older leaves to yellow and drop off.

Treatment: Generally, no treatment is necessary for yellowing leaves due to aging, as it is a natural process. However, to keep your plants healthy and focused on producing fruits, regularly prune these older, yellowing leaves.

This helps prevent potential disease spread and improves air circulation around the base of the plant. Additionally, removing spent leaves can redirect the plant’s energy towards producing new growth and fruit, enhancing overall productivity.

What Home Remedy Is Good for Yellow Tomato Leaves?

What Home Remedy Is Good for Yellow Tomato Leaves?
Source: Canva

For treating yellow leaves on tomato plants at home, you can use a mixture of baking soda and water, which helps prevent fungal infections that might be causing the yellowing.

Another popular home remedy is applying a diluted solution of Epsom salt, which provides magnesium that can help if the yellowing is due to a magnesium deficiency. Neem oil is another effective natural remedy, acting as an all-purpose treatment for various issues including fungal infections and pests that could cause leaf yellowing.

These home remedies can be simple and cost-effective ways to address common problems with tomato plants while avoiding the use of harsh chemicals.

Must Read: How to Make Tomato Plants Grow Faster


Yellow leaves on tomato plants can be a sign of various issues, from nutrient deficiencies and fungal infections to watering problems. By correctly diagnosing the cause of yellowing, you can choose the appropriate treatment, whether it be a home remedy or a chemical solution.

Regular monitoring and preventive maintenance can help keep your tomato plants healthy and productive throughout the growing season. By staying vigilant and responsive to the signs your plants give you, you can enjoy a bountiful tomato harvest.

😍We’d love to hear your thoughts on this article or your experiences with growing 🍅tomatoes! Please share your feedback or stories in the comment section below—let’s learn and grow together!

Information Sources:

Here at RASNetwork Gardening, integrity and accuracy are at the core of our content creation, with every article solidly backed by peer-reviewed research and reliable references. See the list of trusted sources used in this article below.

1. Coffee grounds, eggshells and Epsom salts in the home garden | University of Minnesota Extension
2. Tomato Diseases & Disorders | Home & Garden Information Center | Clemson University

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