The Q&A Archives: Yellow Leaves On Potted Hibiscus

Question: I have several hibiscus plants in pots on the deck and the patio. I have recently had a problem with a few of them with the leaves turning yellow and dropping off. If this is due to over or under watering, how do I determine which is the problem? Also could it be from too much or too little fertilizer? I have grown other hibiscus in pots in past summers and have not had this much trouble with yellow leaves.

Answer: Yellow leaves can be caused by many things including lack of nitrogen, insufficient light, water-logged soil (plant roots need oxygen to thrive), dry soil, or iron deficiency. If the older bottom leaves are yellow, but new growth is green, it's usually a lack of nitrogen. If new leaves are yellow, with green veins, it's usually a lack of iron. (Lack of nitrogen is a more common problem than lack of iron.) Container plants often use up the nutrients in the soil quickly, so more frequent applications of fertilizer are required. Soil should be kept moderately moist (but not wet) and the water should be soaking the entire root ball, not running through the pot. Finally, transplant shock can contribute to yellowing. If new growth shows up as green, that might be the problem.

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