Yellowing Leaves On Tomato Plants

Like this article? Share it!
Print Friendly

If you go out to the vegetable garden one day and find the bottom leaves of your tomato plant are turning yellow, don’t go into a panic. There are many reasons why tomato leaves turn yellow, and usually it is a fairly easy fix.

Some situations that can cause yellow leaves are under-watering and over-watering, nitrogen deficiencies in the soil, a lack of sunlight on the bottom leaves, or a possible disease. Let’s discuss each one of these, and hopefully one, or a combination, will help your tomatoes.

It Could Be Nothing To Worry About

Yellow Leaves on Tomato PlantI will begin by saying that tomato leaves that are yellowing on the bottom are not necessarily a bad thing.

It Could Be Just A Big Bushy Plant

Some tomato plant leaves yellow due to a lack of sunlight on mature plants. When the plants become large, bushy, and heavy with fruit, the top portions of the plant can block the lower portions from getting sunlight. This can cause the leaves to yellow, and is really nothing to worry about.

How Are You Watering?

Leaves can turn yellow on the bottom of the tomato plant if the plant is not receiving adequate water. Tomatoes need watering the most after transplanting into the garden, or when they are very young seedlings.

Tomatoes also need watering during very hot temperatures, especially if the plants are bearing fruit. Usually one good, deep watering a day will suffice in hot temperatures or when bearing fruit.

Also tomato leaves can yellow at the bottom due to over watering. Sometimes this can not be helped due to Mother Nature. This is why it is important to have well-draining soil, and to use a good mulch around the plants. Using compost, or a transplant mix, in your garden soil will help if drainage is an issue.

Check The Soil For Lack Of Nitrogen

You may need to also check your soil for a lack of nitrogen. Nitrogen will give a plant (everything from grass to vegetable plants) its dark green color, and good growth. A lack of nitrogen in the soil can cause the yellow leaves on tomatoes as well. Test your soil to check for nitrogen levels and other nutrients. Be careful though, do not add too much nitrogen, this can actually “burn” the plant. Higher nitrogen levels can also cause your tomato plants to become beautiful and bushy, but bear no fruit.

Is It A Disease or Pest?

If you notice yellow leaves in other areas of the tomato plant, or the yellowing at the bottom is spreading upward, this could be a sign of disease, such as curly top virus (usually curly top virus will show signs of yellowing leaves that are curling up as well), Ringtop Virus, or other diseases. Make sure to check for any pests that may be present in or around your tomato plants.

Ask The Pros

If you are unsure of what is going on with your tomatoes, snip off a limb that is yellowing and take it to your local gardening center or local co-op office, along with a soil sample from around the plants. They might be able to diagnose what the issue is, and the best methods for treating it.

Try Some Heirloom Tomatoes In Your Garden This Year

Enter your name and email address below to receive helpful tips and information on growing fantastic tomatoes.

Sign up today and the FREE Growing Tomatoes Newsletter will be delivered right to your inbox each week!

Like this article? Share it!
Print Friendly

Comments

  1. Barbara Waters-Riddle says:

    This site for tomato gardening is fantastic. This is my first year to try to raise tomatoes here in Florida. I have these plants in clay pots and they are growing like weeds. After reading this site I now think I know why I have yellow leaves, curling leaves and some small amount of crop to pick. The reason for raising this small garden in pots is simply it is a race between the four footed creatures and myself to get the fruit. Since they are up off the ground about 2 feet and in clay pots I have been able to grow my plants. Thank you so much for the help and hopefully next season I will have large tomatoes that do not taste like wax fruit.

    • I was always taught to keep a pan of water by vegetable garden. Reason animals bite into fruit for water. Seems to work I never have fruit that is bitten into. Just don’t use a deep pan otherwise critters could drown

  2. Jim Fitzsimmons says:

    I just bought and planted some Beefsteak tomato plants. This morning I looked at them and the bottom two branches with leaves are turning yellow. This is only on two of the four plants, so I don’t think it is too much fertilizer in the soil. I’m not real knowlwedgeable here so can you give me some direction?

    • Hi Jim,

      It’s a bit unusual for tomatoes that have just been transplanted to start yellowing.

      Make sure you are not under watering or over watering them. You want to provide about an inch of water a week, and for the soil to be consistently moist, but not soggy.

      You may need to give them a sprinkle of organic tomato fertilizer such as Tomato-tone, or Gardener’s Supply Tomato Fertilizer.

      You can also side dress the plants with earthworms castings for a small boost of nutrients.

  3. Maureen O'Connell says:

    I would like to know how to add epsom salts to my tomatoes. I have indeterminate cherry tomatoes in pots -2 feet tall and bearing tomatoes. Should I make a solution of epsom salts and what is the formula.
    Thank you,
    Florida tomato novice

    • Hi Maureen – Just add a couple tablespoons of Epsom salt in a four or five inch diameter circle around each plant then water it in really well. That should be enough for your tomatoes. :)

    • TWO TABLE SPOONS PER GAL OF WATER, ONCE WEEKLY. WORKS WELL ON SQUASH ALSO.

  4. cntainer gardener says:

    What is the purpose of using epson salts in gardens? I remember using it years ago for yellowing leaves but what does it supply to the plant? Is it nitrogen, iron, neither?

    container gardener

    • Hello

      Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate and supplies magnesium, phosphate and some other traces of calcium, among other elements. It can help with blossom end rot and other conditions. Epsom salt should be used only if needed because it can cause high concentrations of magnesium in the soil if used too much.

  5. Hi Mr Riddle this is my first year growing tomatoes, they are in pots on my balcony, the leaves are curling under and yellowing I don’t know how to treat this problem. I do water every 2 to 3 days. there are tomatoes growing on one however it looks really bad.

    • Hi Joyce – If the leaves on the bottom branches of the plant are curling it is probably just a sign of stress. Most of the time this is not detrimental to the production of the plants. It doesn’t look all that great, but the plant should still produce just fine.

      If the curled leaves have purple coloration in the veins of the leaf, it could be a sign of curly top virus. More than likely, your are just stress.

      You may want to feed your plants once or twice a week with fish emulsion. Mix two capfuls of fish emulsion to every one gallon of water, and feed the plants with the mixture. This will supply some very good nutrients to the plant which should perk them up. If the yellowing is bad, give the plants some every day for 10 – 14 days.

  6. i’m new to growing so how do you measure for nitrogen and how is it purshased?

    • Hi Tony – Do you mean measuring the nitrogen in your soil? If so, you will need to purchase a soil test kit. They are pretty inexpensive and you can find that at Lowe’s or Home Depot. It will give you a good idea of the nitrogen content of your soil.

      If you are talking about the nitrogen in fertilizers, then you will want to check the N-P-K- numbers on the fertilizer container. All fertilizers must have the N-P-K numbers labeled on the container somewhere. The N-P-K is a series of three numbers that tell you what percentage of each nutrient the fertilizer contains. For instance, if the fertilizer has 3-4-5 on the bag then it has 3% nitrogen(N), 4% phosphorus(P), and 5% potassium(K).

      3-4-5 is a good nutrient rating for tomatoes. You don’t want to use a high percentage of nitrogen with tomatoes because it could cause nice, lush plants but little fruit. You just want to give it enough for healthy foliage. A low number of N, like 3, is a good level to use.

      I hope this answers your question.

  7. Hi Mr Riddle
    This is the first time we have had a glass house. We have used tomato soil which came in bags so it should have the correct amount of goodies. However, some of the plants leaves have curled under and one plant is going quite yellow all over. Hmmm. We have drippers which come on twice a day but maybe they aren’t getting enough water? Or maybe the yellow one isn’t? It has been very hot over the last week so perhaps the curly ones may be a little stressed? Our courgettes are producing manificently and all our seedlings are doing fine. Any help would be great. Many thanks
    Glenys

    • Hi Mr Blain,

      Yellowing leaves can be due to a number of different situations. It can be caused by over watering or under watering. A quick and easy way to check your watering levels is by checking the moisture in the soil. The easiest way is to stick your finger in the soil about an inch or two deep. If the soil feels dry to the touch water the plants. If the soil feels moist wait until the next day and check it again. Water the plants once the soil feels dry again. This is a very scientific approach, but it is a good cursory check.

      Not enough nitrogen in the soil can also cause yellowing leaves. Even when purchasing commercial soils it is still a good idea to check the nutrient availability of that soil to make sure it offers what the plants need. If there are low amounts of nitrogen in the soil it is good to add a little, but do not go overboard with nitrogen as too much can cause other problems.

      Also check for pests like aphids, leaf hoppers, or spider mites as they can cause yellowing in some cases.

      As for curling leaves, this can be quite common during hot, dry conditions but does not affect the growth and production of the plant in most cases.

      I hope this helps to answer your questions!

  8. I started all my tomatoes from seed this year, they got their 3rd set of leaves so I transfered them out of the jiffy seed starter tray into small pots, the ones you can just plant into the ground when you put your tomatoes outside for the summer, they are turning yellow, whats up?

    • Hi Karen! Thanks for your question.

      Yellowing leaves can be caused by several things – either they are not receiving enough water, or receiving too much water, or not receiving enough sunlight.

      Another common problem when dealing with seedlings is not hardening them off. When starting seeds indoors, the seedlings get used to the light they are receiving inside (whether it’s from a window or artificial lighting). Once they are taken outdoors, they aren’t used to the powerful sun and it may burn them if left out too long. You can get them ready for their permanent home outdoors by slowly hardening them off. This means you set them outdoors a little at a time, increasing the amount of exposure slowly.

      At first, you set them out for an hour a day over the course of a week. The next week you set them out for two hours. You continually increase the amount of time they are out until they are outside for the entire day. This gives the seedling time to adjust to the harsh sun and wind.

      If hardening off isn’t the case, then I would make sure they are getting enough light (if artificial light is used they need about 12-14 hours of light). Also check how much you are watering them. Do not allow the soil in the pots to dry out. You don’t want it soggy, but consistently moist.

      If that doesn’t help then I would give the seedlings a feeding of diluted fish emulsion once a day for several days. This will give them a helpful shot of nutrients.

      I hope this helps, Karen, and please come back if you have any other questions.

  9. Hi there! Wow! What a great site! Thanks for sharing all this information. I am trying, yet again, to grow tomatoes in South Florida. After reading through your site, I have most certainly experienced early blight with the tomatoes I attempted last year. I think this year, I may be over-waterting, but not purposefully. The leaves and branches on the bottom of the plant are turning yellow. It’s hot here, so I’ve been watering once or twice a day; from what I read, that may be too much. What do you think? Also, when I water, the container fills to the top before it drains and then it sort of ‘glugs’ and burps itself from the sides – in between the soil and the container – until eventually, the water soaks in and settles. Does this sound like the container might not be draining properly? If so, what do I do? Do I need to replant it with better drainage? Please help! I don’t want to lose another crop of tomatoes! Thank you!

  10. Mabel Greene says:

    Hi Mr Riddle
    I would like to find some books and material on using organic ways to keep insects and pests away from a garden. preferably using herbs and other plants that would have a symbiotic relationship, flowers as well as veggies. ,
    I am aware o five plants that can help keep the Japanese beetle away from roses, such as tansy, catmint,WHITE geraniums ,delphiniums and rue.
    I love working with plants of all kinds, but would like to learn more.
    In case others don’t know, plant dusty miller in with your peppers and the rabbits wll not attack them

  11. Hello ! I need some tomato help. I have some tomatoes growing in pots here in Northern Virginia. I started them from seeds (heirloom) and they are now about 4 inches tall with several leaves. There are several small veggie plants growing in pots out back; cucumbers, corn, squash, etc. None of the other plants are affected but I have noticed that the tomatoes are all getting strange yellowish leaves. On closer inspection, they are not so much yellow as transparent. It looks like the green has been scraped off the leaves in small patches. None of the leaves are eaten through, there are no holes in the leaves, no chewed edges and no visible insect activity. It reminds me of a skinned knee! What can this be???!
    Thank you,
    Worried about my tomatoes!!
    H

  12. Hello, I live in southeast Lousiana and I am trying my hand at raised bed herbs and tomatoes and peppers this year. So far, so good.. I do have a few yellow leaves on bottom of a few plants. Not all of them and it is just the bottom. The plants are huge and are loaded with blooms and lots of furit already( nothing ripened yet, all green)……. But I am so worried that they will get some sort of insects on them… We did find a big green worm in the first (about 3) romas( they were still small and green), but haven’t seen anything since we pulled them off and sprayed the plants and dusted with organic insect repellant. I have been putting epsom salts around them about every 2 weeks….My ? is ,why are the plants so tall?…. I do not understand how they will be able to hold up under the load of fruit that appears to be in the making. I have never seen tomatoe plants so tall. I now it doesnt seem like a problem… HA!! Any pointers on what I am doing or not doing?

  13. Oh and my peppers are not doing very well … The plants are very frail looking and not much production of fruit. I grew them in pots last year and had peppers til frost….. what am I doing wrong in the raised bed for the peppers? Herbs are about to bust the sides out of the bed..HA..Just having problems with the peppers( cayenne, jalapeno, sweet bellpeppers)

  14. My tomatoe plants are very large and bushy and loaded with fruit. they have grown together and the limbs are very heavy. My concern is that I noticed over the last week, limbs on the bottom curling and turning yellow. there has been some thinning of the lush limbs below because of it. I am assuming that it is because the light can’t hit them they are so full. Also not all of the plants are having that happen. I’ve not checked the soil nitrogen content. I’ve not found bugs either, but usually have problems here with the green worms. haven’t seen them yet. My question and I guess concern is that I’ve been spraying all my plants every 3 days or so with a dawn liquid and water solution in an atttempt to keep the bugs down rather than a chemical. will that cause any problems with my plants?

  15. I am a backyard farmer with probably about 8 years under my belt….certainly no expert but i can tell you that my peppers seem to thrive in very warm temperatures. april is still pretty early in the season and your soil my stll be pretty cool. In the future you may want to plant a little father into the season…and for now just be patient with your pepper plants. They should start to pick up pace as the summer moves on.

  16. I have a question for anyone, who knows anything about, high altitude growing! I come from north central Florida and am use to having a large garden! However, I am now living in the mountains of Colorado at 9000 feet elevation! I have been trying for 2.5 years to get my vegetable plants to do anything! This year, I have 2 tomato plants in pots, 1 Bell pepper plant and 1 hot pepper plant, all in pots, due to the weather here! It is mid June, and we are still getting down to 40 at night, so I bring them in overnight! Ive also started an indoor growing system, with tomatos, peppers and basil in a hydroponic system! The plants Ive got in the hydors, were started from seeds, and are doing aretter than, the ones I have in soil outside! Does anyone have any advice on growing, in the soil? I am new to hydro growing, and learning daily! However I would like my soil plants to do better! The ground up here is all decomposed granite, so I have to import all soil for potting and to be honest, the soil here, is nothing like Im used to! Also, its important to bring the soil plants in, occassionally due to hail! We get alot of hail up here, all summer long as well! I am looking into building a green house soon, and I think, this may help! Any advice?

  17. I am having problems with yellowing and dying leaves. My tomato plants are very tall and have produced some large fruit but not a lot (4 plants about 10 lbs of fruit). The top of the plants are very green and they have lots of new growth but some of the leaves turn yellow and die off…whole stems. I am pruning when it is evident the leaves are dying. I have new fruit and plenty of buds. The yellowing is not limited to any one part of the plant. Any ideas? Thanks

  18. My tomatoes plants leaves are turning yellow and moving upwards. There are also white spots on the leaves

  19. we have had a lot of rain in MO this summer about 5 of my tomato plant turned yellow and wilted-like then died what could it be? Too much rain u think.

Speak Your Mind

*

Gardener's Supply Company
AgHub Network