Why lime tree leaves turn yellow | + How to solve this common problem

Yellow leaves on lime tree can be caused by a lack of nitrogen, overwatering or pest attack. To help the tree recover give it a feed of liquid nitrogen fertilizer, add pelleted chicken manure and repeat every 2 weeks over Spring. Check for aphids or scale and treat them with eco oil.

Yellow leaves on lime trees can be easily treated once you figure out the cause. This article will explore the top causes of yellow leaves and what you can do to solve them.

Lime tree scale can cause damage to the tree and yellowing leaves.

Top causes of yellow leaves on lime trees

Here are the top reasons why a lime tree leaves turn yellow. Check out each one and see if this might be the cause of the problem for your lime tree.

Lack of nitrogen

Lime trees that lack nitrogen can end up with yellow leaves. For a lime tree planted out in a garden bed, give them a dose of diluted liquid nitrogen fertilizer every 2 weeks over Spring. Add a few handfuls of pelleted chicken manure around the plant for longer lasting nitrogen.

When planting out a new lime tree, prepare the soil with compost and aged cow manure.


Overwatering is a key reason why lime tree leaves can turn yellow. Excess water will wash away nutrients particularly nitrogen from the roots. Nitrogen is easily washed out of the soil and is essential for the green leaf color. Nitrogen is connected to the development of chlorophyll in the leaves which help to support photosynthesis.

While lime trees like water, too much can be a bad thing. Check the top of the soil before watering to see if it is dry 2 inches down below the surface. Mulch will help to regulate the water added to lime trees as bark mulch will absorb the excess and slowly release it to the tree.

Overwatering is more likely to happen to potted lime trees that are loved too much. Make sure they are not sitting in a tray of water as their roots can become too wet and rot. This will stop them from absorbing the nutrients they need.

Aphids or scale

Pest attack can be the cause of yellow or damaged leaves on lime trees. Sap sucking insects such as scale or aphids can damage the plant, reducing the amount of water and nutrients available. This can turn the leaves yellow.


Scale bugs are small beetle shaped insects which will suck the sap from your lime tree leaves. Scale can be treated with eco oil and should be dealt with as the sap they produce can attract ants. I like to spray the bugs with a strong jet of water from my hose first to see if I can remove them first.

For more on how to treat scale on lime trees check out this article: How to treat scale on a lime tree | 5 Easy steps.


Small green aphids can attack lime trees sucking their sap and causing leaves to turn yellow. These insects will attack new growth and can appear quickly in Spring and Fall. Ladybugs will move in if they are around and eat the aphids.

If ladybugs do not deal with this problem for you, use horticultural Neem oil to address the problem. Aphids can cause damage to young trees quickly so deal with them quickly.


Underwatering can also cause your lime tree leaves to turn yellow. Lime tree plants growing in sandy soils that do not hold water or during very hot weather get yellow leaves.

Regularly water your lime tree, particularly in the warmer months. Check the soil over winter too if you have low rainfall to make sure that the roots and soil are moist 2-3 inches below the soil surface. Keeping consistent water to lime tree during hot weather can help to prevent leaf yellowing.

What to do when lime tree leaves turn yellow

Here are the top 3 steps to follow if your lime tree leaves turn yellow.

1. Check the soil and water it well

Stick your finger 1-2 inches below the surface of the soil to check the moisture level. Water it regularly for the next 3 weeks every few days. Water it deeply and allow it to dry out between watering.

2. Liquid feed with nitrogen fertilizer

Add dilute liquid fertilizer to the lime tree plant every 2 weeks when the weather warms. Do this throughout spring to give them a nitrogen boost which will help the leaves to turn darker green.

3. Trim off yellow and brown leaves

Once you have taken these steps for a few weeks and frosts have passed the old and damaged leaves can be trimmed off with sharp secateurs.

Yellow leaves on Lime tree | Summary

Yellow leaves on lime tree can be trimmed off in Spring once the problem is solved. Wear garden gloves and use sharp secateurs to remove the yellow and dying leaves and stems. Lime plants are hardy and will recover once they are given the nutrients and water they need.

You will have dark green leaves, new growth and flowers in Spring after caring for your lime with these easy steps.

Lime trees can temporarily struggle with a move from a pot to the ground. When I moved my lime tree from a pot that it had been in for a few years to the ground the growth rate stalled. Transplanting lime trees in Fall or Spring is best as it can help them to settle in before the extreme cold or hot weather hits.

This can prevent the leaves from yellowing or the plant struggling when it is moved. Lime trees will slow their growth during winter so don’t worry if it looks like nothing is happening. Your tree will come to life in Spring and by following these easy steps it will have bright green leaves.

Happy gardening.