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Yellow Cannabis Leaves

It’s better to read this marijuana blog and not need it than to not read it and come undone in the grow room. Sometimes things go wrong in the cannabis garden. Even the best marijuana growers can run into trouble occasionally and yellow leaves are usually the first warning sign.

No grower wants to see yellow leaves. Withering plants in the grow op are a miserable sight. Unfortunately not every cannabis crop grows trouble free. This can be due to incalculable reasons. It can be anything from grower errors to invasive microorganisms. Of course, we cannot provide you with a surefire silver bullet solution for every potential cannabis plant malady. We’re cannabis writers, not clairvoyants.

But we certainly can help you. Specifically to correctly identify most of the common causes for yellow leaves. Moreover, we have included helpful tips to treat ailing plants. Plus simple pro tips and tricks. Any home grower can implement our advice to avoid cannabis plants’ leaves turning yellow. Now let’s get into the specifics.

Contents:

ACCURATE DIAGNOSIS

The very first step is accurate diagnosis. What is the cause of the yellow leaves spoiling your cannabis plants? Chlorosis in ordinary decent grower terms means loss of chlorophyll. In order to effectively apply treatment, you must know what you’re dealing with. Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t panic. The leaves on your cannabis plants are like biological solar panels. They are essential to photosynthesis. Removing all the yellow leaves is not recommended surgery, especially for young plants. Correct identification of the source of the problem and swift remedial action can restore marijuana.

Senescence is when plants will naturally yellow off and die. During the final weeks of flowering do not be alarmed. Leaf drop and yellowing always increases. Flushing plants with pure water or a flushing solution at the end of bloom will also rid the medium of residual nutrients and often causes leaves to yellow.

COMMON CAUSES OF YELLOW LEAVES

The following is not a definitive list of the causes for chlorosis. It is such a common symptom, that sick plants display, we could write a book, but not today. That being said, we have focused on the most common causes for yellow leaves based on first hand pro grower experiences. If you are presently troubleshooting for a solution to chlorosis, read the next few sections carefully. Your crop could be riding on it.

THE MOST COMMON GROWER ERRORS

UNDER/OVERWATERING

Cannabis plants will only thrive with an effective wet-dry cycle. This means you must water the right amount at the right time, with every watering. So what’s the best way to tell if your marijuana is thirsty? Lift up the containers when they are dry. Then again after watering, so you will know the difference.

Perhaps it’s not possible to easily lift plants? Then you can purchase a humidity meter to insert into the pot. Hydro growers need to ensure pumps, air stones, reservoirs and timers are set up correctly from the start of the grow. Check twice, and then check again.

Treatment: Monitor the plant’s post feeding behaviour closely. Use one of the measures above to more accurately gauge when to water to prevent recurrence. Too much water can lead to root rot. Too little water will stunt growth. Keep a grow diary if you must and try to get into a routine as the grow progresses.

Treatment: Monitor the plant’s post feeding behaviour closely. Use one of the measures above to more accurately gauge when to water to prevent recurrence. Too much water can lead to root rot. Too little water will stunt growth. Keep a grow diary if you must and try to get into a routine as the grow progresses.

PH AND NUTRIENT LOCKOUT

Soil growers have the advantage of cultivating in a medium, that acts as a buffer for roots. Hydroponics and coco are not quite as forgiving to pH imbalances. Even soil growers need to at least come close to getting the ideal pH of 6.0-7.0 and maintain it, otherwise plants will suffer. 5.5 to 6.5 pH is generally agreed upon as the recommended range for hydro and coco. Yellow leaves can be a warning sign, that you don’t have your nutes dialled in and the pH is off.

Essentially when the pH of your nutrient solution strays above or below the particular sweet spot for your substrate, it prevents complete absorption of all the elements of the solution. Roots are starved of certain nutrients and micronutrients as the incorrect pH causes a lockout.

Treatment: Invest in a pH pen or cannabis fertilisers with pH-perfect solutions, that can auto adjust a wider pH range. Flush plants with pure water and then resume feeding with a light dialled in solution to suit your growing medium. Also, make sure that the base nutrients you use contain all of the essential microelements or you will have to add extra bottles of supplements to the budget.

Treatment: Invest in a pH pen or cannabis fertilisers with pH-perfect solutions, that can auto adjust a wider pH range. Flush plants with pure water and then resume feeding with a light dialled in solution to suit your growing medium. Also, make sure that the base nutrients you use contain all of the essential microelements or you will have to add extra bottles of supplements to the budget.

OVER/UNDERFERTILISATION

Again, plants need just the right nutrients at the right time. Read the dosage instructions on the label of every bottle of fertiliser before adding to water. Furthermore, we highly recommend you consult the website of the brand of nutrients you are using as most feature custom charts and feeding schedules.

Treatment: As you might have guessed, begin treatment with a flush of pure water. Then follow up with the manufacturers recommended dose at the particular growth/flowering stage. A good rule of thumb is to increase doses incrementally and monitor plant behaviour before further increasing the strength of the solution.

Treatment: As you might have guessed, begin treatment with a flush of pure water. Then follow up with the manufacturers recommended dose at the particular growth/flowering stage. A good rule of thumb is to increase doses incrementally and monitor plant behaviour before further increasing the strength of the solution.

LIGHT BURNS AND DEFICIENCIES

Indoor cannabis plants grown under artificial lights must be perfectly positioned and lamps must be in just the right distance above the canopy for best results. When lamps and reflectors are too close to the flowering tops, buds and leaves will be yellow and brown as the light is too intense. This is very much a top down problem.

In contrast, too little light is usually a problem, that is most evident from the bottom up. Light deficiency causes shaded leaves or leaves too far below the light penetration capability of the lamp to yellow and drop off.

Treatment: Make sure to hang your grow lights as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Adjust as plants progress and use a tape measure for precision. These days there are so many new grow light technologies on the market with their own nuances, you really must stick with the manufacturer’s guidelines to position the light in the sweet spot.

Treatment: Make sure to hang your grow lights as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Adjust as plants progress and use a tape measure for precision. These days there are so many new grow light technologies on the market with their own nuances, you really must stick with the manufacturer’s guidelines to position the light in the sweet spot.

FORCES OF NATURE

COLD WEATHER

Temperatures below 10°C will cause the leaves of the majority of cannabis leaves to yellow. Some will even take on purple and bluish tones. Sure, this is a fantastic bonus in the final phase of bloom with some strains, but to be avoided early in the grow.

Treatment: Indoors simply turn up the heat or add more lights to the grow op and turn a negative into a bumper harvest. Outdoor growers might need to take plants inside at nighttime or at least invest in a basic DIY greenhouse.

Treatment: Indoors simply turn up the heat or add more lights to the grow op and turn a negative into a bumper harvest. Outdoor growers might need to take plants inside at nighttime or at least invest in a basic DIY greenhouse.

HEAT WAVES

Heat waves can cause cannabis plants leaves to yellow and dry out indoors and outdoors. Temperatures above 28°C prevent cannabis plants from efficiently photosynthesising and cause buds to form more loosely and airy.

Treatment: Indoor growers need to turn up the air conditioning and ensure intake and outtake fans are powerful enough for the size of the grow room. Again, we strongly advise consulting the fan manufacturer’s website for performance specifications. Outdoors the best growers can do is construct a simple shade and hope the heatwave is short-lived.

Treatment: Indoor growers need to turn up the air conditioning and ensure intake and outtake fans are powerful enough for the size of the grow room. Again, we strongly advise consulting the fan manufacturer’s website for performance specifications. Outdoors the best growers can do is construct a simple shade and hope the heatwave is short-lived.

PESTS AND PLAGUES

Bugs and nasty microorganisms can easily hitch a ride on your clothes, clones gifted from a pal or on a household pet and invade your grow op. Outdoors quadrupedal furry pests of all shapes and sizes must also be taken into consideration and regarded as hostiles.

Treatment: The cannabis growing area must be sealed off from intruders in so far as practicable indoors or outdoors. Naturally an outdoor grow is impossible to 100% quarantine, so you do what you can. Grow in a quiet sunny spot and use chicken wire to protect plants from nibblers like deer and rabbits.

Treatment: The cannabis growing area must be sealed off from intruders in so far as practicable indoors or outdoors. Naturally an outdoor grow is impossible to 100% quarantine, so you do what you can. Grow in a quiet sunny spot and use chicken wire to protect plants from nibblers like deer and rabbits.

Indoors you have far greater capacity to seal off the grow op. By using a grow tent, restricting entry strictly to you the grower exclusively and keeping basic hygienic practices, you should be able to keep your marijuana lush green and healthy.

The HI-98107 pHep pH tester provides fast and accurate pH readings. The easy-to-use device is designed for non-technical users, and can help both novice and advanced growers measure water pH.

HI-98107 pHep pH tester provides fast and accurate pH readings. The easy-to-use device is designed for non-technical users, and can help both novice and advanced growers measure water pH.

Are you seeing yellow leaves in your cannabis garden but can’t figure out the cause? This blog just might save your marijuana.

Nitrogen Deficiency

Problem: A cannabis nitrogen deficiency will cause the older, lower leaves on your plant to turn yellow, wilt away and eventually die. The plant typically appears pale or lime-colored.

The yellow leaves of a nitrogen deficiency may show signs of brown, and they will usually become soft and sort of “fold” in, before possibly turning crispy but ultimately falling off on their own.

Example of cannabis Nitrogen deficiency – yellow bottom leaves. Almost all plant nutrients contain Nitrogen

Nitrogen-deficient plants often appear pale or lime-colored. The leaves on this marijuana plant don’t have obvious leaf symptoms like spots or markings, but they are pale all over the whole plant. Almost lime green. The light-colored leaves are a sign the plant needs more Nitrogen (and nutrients in general). On the flip side, plants that are receiving too much Nitrogen turn dark.

If the yellowing leaves are at the top of your plant or the yellow leaves are mostly new growth, then you probably don’t have a nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen deficiencies usually affect the oldest, lowest leaves first, or the entire plant becomes light colored.

Nitrogen is a mobile nutrient, which means it can move throughout the plant as needed. Cannabis needs nitrogen to keep leaves green and make energy from light. All new leaves get plenty of nitrogen to make them green and help with photosynthesis. The leaves that get the most light are the newest, youngest leaves, so the plant “wants” to give those leaves priority for getting light.

If new leaves aren’t getting enough nitrogen, the plant will start to “steal” nitrogen from the older, lower leaves, so that it can give it to newer leaves. This is what causes the yellowing and wilting of a nitrogen deficiency.

It’s relatively normal for your cannabis plant’s leaves to start turning yellow towards the end of your flowering cycle as the plant becomes nitrogen deficient while creating buds.

However, if your cannabis plant is losing lower leaves fast due to yellowing (if yellowing and dying leaves is “climbing” up the plant from the bottom), especially in the vegetative stage before plant is making buds, you have a problem that you will need to fix as soon as possible.

You don’t want a nitrogen deficiency in the vegetative stage!

If you notice your lower cannabis leaves turning yellow in the vegetative stage or in the beginning part of the flowering stage, your plant may be experiencing a nitrogen deficiency which will need to be treated.

It is not good if your cannabis plant is showing signs of an advanced nitrogen deificiency while still in the vegetative stage. It’s normal to lose a few yellow leaves off the bottom of your plant here and there, especially with very big plants. But if you are losing a significant amount of yellow leaves, and the yellowing seems to be moving up the plant quickly, then you have a problem.

As a grower, you’re interested in how much nitrogen to give your plants at what time. The ratio of nitrogen to other nutrients has a huge effect on growth and bud formation.

Vegetative Stage – higher levels of Nitrogen (pretty much any plant food will do)

Most complete plant foods that you get at a gardening store contain high levels of nitrogen (N). These nutrient system tend to work well in the vegetative stage.

Some examples of cannabis-friendly one-part Vegetative nutrient systems…

Pretty much any complete plant food

Flowering Stage – lower levels of Nitrogen (use “Bloom” or Cactus nutrients)

It’s extra important to find a nutrient system with lower levels of nitrogen for the last part of your plant’s life. Many “Bloom” or “Flowering” style base nutrients are just the ticket.

Some examples of good one-part Flowering nutrient systems…

If you can’t order online and can’t find a good one-part base Bloom formula locally, you do have other choices. Though not an ideal choice, most Cactus plant foods will contain good nutrient ratios for growing cannabis during the budding stage. So in a pinch, you can use the cactus nutrients that can be found at most gardening stores.

The first cannabis plant pictured below is showing signs of nitrogen deficiency late in flowering; nitrogen deficiency in late flowering is completely normal and even desired. The last picture is an infographic about nitrogen and your marijuana plant.

It’s normal for plants to show signs of a nitrogen deficiency as the plant gets close to harvest. This is actually a good thing! Too much nitrogen can actually prevent proper budding, and can reduce the overall taste and smell of your plant. This is why all “bloom” and flowering nutrient formulas are relatively low in nitrogen.

Don’t worry about yellow leaves close to harvest! It’s normal to see a few Nitrogen-deficient leaves in the flowering stage. Nothing to worry about unless you see the yellowing leaves start climbing up the plant.

So don’t sweat it if you see your cannabis show some signs of nitrogen deficiency late in the flowering stage! Relatively low levels of nitrogen in the late flowering stage help promote proper cannabis bud development and will increase your yields!

Solution: You can find many pre-mixed nutrients from the store which contain nitrogen or you could use nitrate of soda or organic fertilizer which are both good sources of nitrogen. In fact almost all plant nutrients of any kind will include nitrogen. If you haven’t been providing any nutrient to your plants, try supplementing your regular nutrients with a bit more nitrogen and see if the plant starts recovering.

If you’ve already been using nutrients, then you probably don’t have a nitrogen deficiency. If you’re seeing the signs of spreading nitrogen deficiency even a week or two giving nitrogen to your plants through nutrients, then you need to figure out what else is causing the yellowing so you can stop it.

More About Nitrogen and Your Marijuana Plants

Sometimes you can get the signs of a cannabis nitrogen deficiency if the pH at the plant root zone is too low, even if the nitrogen is there. This is because when the pH at the roots is not right, your plant roots can’t properly absorb nutrients. If you aren’t sure about your root pH, learn more about pH & growing cannabis plants here.

Nitrogen is especially important during the vegetative stage of your cannabis plants. As your plants start flowering, they will need lower amounts of nitrogen.

Nitrogen is one of the 3 nutrients that is included in almost every kind of plant food.

When looking at plant nutrients, you’ll almost always see 3 numbers listed, like 3-12-6 or 5-10-5. These numbers represent the percentage of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) contained in the bottle. Just about all plant life on Earth needs these 3 elements to grow.

The 3 numbers on the front of plant nutrient bottles list the amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.

The very first number, “3” in the case of the picture to the right, always displays the proportion of nitrogen in this nutrient bottle compared to the other 2 nutrients (Phosphorus and Potassium respectively).

Nitrogen is in all plant nutrient formulations because it’s vital to plant processes.

Note: During the last few weeks before harvest, marijuana plants start pulling all the remaining nitrogen from her leaves as part of the bud-making process. This causes yellowing leaves starting towards the bottom of the plant. This is part of the natural flowering process and you don’t need to fight it. You may notice that marijuana leaves are yellowing in almost all pictures of marijuana plants with big buds that are close to harvest. You tend to get smaller yields from nitrogen-toxic plants with dark green leaves at harvest.

Remember: It’s Normal For Marijuana Leaves To Start Turning Yellow As Harvest Time Approaches

Occassionally a nitrogen toxicity is mistake for a deficiency. Could your plant actually be nitrogen toxic? (pictured below)

This picture shows a Nitrogen Toxicity

Plant Symptoms

  • Bronze or brown patches
  • Brown or slimy roots
  • Brown or yellow leaf tips/edges
  • Buds dying
  • Buds look odd
  • Bugs are visible
  • Curling or clawing leaves
  • Dark leaves
  • Drooping plant
  • Holes in leaves
  • Mold or powder
  • Pink or purple on leaves
  • Red stems
  • Shiny or smooth leaves
  • Spots or markings
  • Twisted growth
  • Webbing
  • Wilting leaves
  • Yellow between leaf veins
  • Yellow leaves

This page is part of our Plant Doctor series. You can use our tool to filter by symptom and help diagnose your plant.

A nitrogen deficiency causes the lower/older leaves of a cannabis plant to start yellowing, wilting, and dropping off on their own. Learn how to fix it.