Eggplant Leaves Turning Yellow: 7 Causes & How to Fix Them
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Maybe it’s your first time growing eggplant, or maybe it has a spot in your garden every year. Whatever the situation, it’s never pleasant to find normally-green eggplant leaves turning a sickly shade of yellow. It’s time to get to the bottom of the problem- fast!
Several things can be the cause of eggplant leaves turning yellow, including inconsistent moisture, exposure to cold temperatures, soil nutrient deficiencies, fungal or viral diseases, pest infestations, overwatering and normal aging.
I’ve dealt with struggling plants many times in my own garden, and I have good news for you. In most cases, yellowing eggplant leaves are an early sign that something’s off, and your plant stands a great chance of recovering if you correct the problem.
In this article, I’m sharing my best tips for figuring out what’s causing those discolored leaves and what you can do to set things right.
Let’s get started!
7 Reasons for Eggplant Leaves Turning Yellow
Yellow leaves, known as chlorosis, are often a sign of problems somewhere in the plant. I’ll go into much detail in the post, but here’s a quick overview if you’re in a hurry:
How to Recognize
How to Treat
History of missed watering
Provide 1-2 inches of water weekly. Consider a soaker hose or automatic watering system
Leaf droop and yellow, water-soaked spots that spread
Allow plant to recover for a couple of days before cutting damaged leaves off
All-over leaf yellowing indicates nitrogen deficiency;
confirm with a soil test
Apply compost or organic fertilizer
Fungal or viral diseases
Leaves wilting, yellow/brown leaf spots, mottled yellow pattern
Pull the affected plant and burn it or put in the trash. In certain casees, cut off affected leaves and treat with copper fungicide
Visible pests on plant and
Cut off severely affected leaves, spray plant with garden hose and apply insecticidal soap
Soil is wet to the touch; history of frequent watering
Don't give any water until the soil feels dry 2 inches deep
Yellowing is confined to the older leaves at the plant's base; new growth is healthy
Remove yellow leaves
Here’s what is most likely causing those yellow eggplant leaves.
1. Inconsistent Watering
It takes a lot of water for your eggplant plants to produce those chunky, moisture-rich fruits. So if there’s a dry spell in your area or you missed a couple of days in watering, eggplant will often respond to the stress by sacrificing the older, lower leaves as the plant tries to conserve resources for the younger leaves.
To fix the problem and avoid it in the future, make sure your eggplants are on a regular watering schedule. Eggplant needs at least 1 inch of water a week, and 2 inches is even better, especially in hot weather.
If nature’s not helping you out with rainfall, make sure to get out there and water at least 3 times a week, soaking the soil thoroughly.
A soaker hose or an automatic drip watering system are a couple of great ideas if you can’t make it out to water every time or you’ll be away from the garden. Or even if you just want to skip the manual watering altogether. There’s no shame in that!
This video from Urban Farmstead does a great job of demonstrating how to set up a drip irrigation system:
2. Cold Exposure
Botanists believe that eggplant originated in northeast Africa, and eventually made its way to other areas of Africa and tropical Asian regions. So from its very beginnings, eggplant has always thrived in warm, sunny climates.
And that means that if your eggplant gets exposed to temperatures lower than about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the leaves can sustain cold damage. It may not show up immediately, so you might not spot leaf yellowing the next day. But within a few days, the chill-injured leaves start to droop and show yellow spots that appear water-soaked. The spots spread, and the entire leaf will eventually die.
Cold damage typically happens in the spring, so be sure to wait until all danger of frost has passed for your region. I always play it safe with my warm-weather crops- I wait until a couple of weeks past the last frost date to plant. That’s typically the last week of May for me.
If your plant already sustained cold damage, allow the plant to recover for a few days before cutting off the yellow leaves. This allows the undamaged leaf areas to continue to support the plant through photosynthesis as it recovers from the shock. Once the damage spreads to the rest of the leaf, cut it off as close to the main stem as possible.
If the damage is too widespread, the plant probably won’t recover. Your best bet is to start over with a new plant.
3. Low Soil Nutrients
Yellow leaves are a key indicator that your soil is likely low in nitrogen- the nutrient primarily responsible for green chlorophyll production and photosynthesis. If low nitrogen is the cause, the lower leaves will be affected first, and the yellowing should be evenly spread over the entire leaf.
But just pumping your soil full of nitrogen isn’t a great idea- there is such a thing as nutrient toxicity from artificially high levels, and it can also affect your soil’s pH balance. A basic soil test kit will show key nutrient levels, and sending a sample away for lab testing will give a comprehensive analysis.
4. Plant Diseases
Just like people, plants can get sick too. And while others might describe me as “looking green” when I’m ill, plants often start “looking yellow.”
Fungal or viral diseases could be behind your eggplant turning yellow, and unfortunately, they can both be pretty serious.
Fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt mostly come from insect carriers, though they can also be in the soil. Wilt disease shows up quickly, and the entire plant will seem to suddenly droop. The disease cuts off the plant’s ability to move water, and leaves will start turning yellow before finally turning brown and drying up completely.
Phomopsis blight or early blight is often spread by the breeze or water. It starts out as small brown or gray spots, which then spread. As the disease progresses, leaves turn yellow and shrivel up.
If you suspect wilt disease, the plant will not recover. Pull it immediately, then dispose of it by burning or placing it in a plastic bag in the trash. Do not put it in the compost to prevent spreading the fungal spores. Do not plant eggplant or any other nightshades in the same plot for at least 3 years to allow the spores to die off.
If caught early, you may be able to save your plant from Phomopsis or early blight. Use clean pruners to cut off any diseased stems, cutting all the way back to the main stem (make sure to clean your pruners well afterward). Dispose of pruned material in the trash or by burning, then use copper fungicide to treat the whole plant.
If the plant does not respond or new spots show up, pull it and dispose of it.
Tobacco mosaic virus is a serious disease that can affect plants in the nightshade family- including eggplant.
The hallmark of all mosaic virus strains is the yellow mottling between green leaf veins, resembling mosaic artwork. Tobacco mosaic virus is usually spread through contact from a diseased plant to a healthy one through infected gloves or clothing.
Unfortunately, tobacco mosaic virus is a death sentence for your eggplant. Pull it immediately and burn it or throw it in the trash.
5. Pest Attacks
Spider mites, lace bugs and aphids can all attack your eggplant and cause leaves to turn sickly and yellow. All of these pests use their sharp mouthparts to pierce plant tissue and suck the sap from it.
First of all, cut off any severely infested leaves and either burn them or throw them in the trash. Spray your plant down with a strong stream of water to knock as many pests off as possible. Then use insecticidal soap to kill any that remain. Examine your plants carefully for the next couple of weeks, and repeat the insecticidal soap application if needed.
Another strategy that might help keep pests at bay is companion planting. Some plants have the ability to repel certain insects, or in some cases draw them in to act as a protectant to your eggplants. I’ve put together a list of eggplant companion plants, so check it out to get some ideas.
More than 2 inches of water weekly can cause the soil around your eggplant to get waterlogged, drowning the roots and inviting fungal root infections. When the roots are damaged, the older, larger leaves near the plant base often turn yellow.
If you suspect you’ve been overwatering, allow the soil to dry out for a few days- until it feels dry about 2 inches deep.
If your region has been hit by non-stop rain, there’s not much you can do. Once the weather pattern breaks, wait at least a few days before giving supplemental water.
7. Normal Aging
Sometimes a yellow leaf is nothing to worry about- it’s just a sign that the plant is moving toward the end of its natural lifespan.
The larger leaves near the bottom of the plant are the ones that usually turn yellow from old age. If the rest of your plant looks healthy and autumn is on its way, trim off the yellow leaves to keep your plant productive for as long as possible.
Yellow Eggplant Fruits: What’s Going On?
Sometimes it’s not yellow eggplant leaves that are the problem- instead, the eggplant fruits themselves may have a yellow shade. Here’s what might be going on.
1. It’s a Normal Color for the Variety
We mostly think of eggplant as being some shade of purple, but there are golden- and white-skinned varieties as well.
If your plant looks healthy and the fruit is yellow right off the bat, you probably have a golden variety growing.
2. The Eggplant is Overripe
It’s happened to me- I think to myself, “I’ll just let this veggie have a couple more days to get to the perfect size, then I’ll pick it.” And then, a couple of days later, the veggie is well past its prime.
That might be what’s happened with your yellow eggplant. Eggplant fruits will turn yellow as they approach true maturity, which means having fully-developed seeds inside. At that point, the eggplant is far too bitter and seedy for eating.
So play it safe and harvest those eggplants while they’re still purple.
3. Sunscald or Sunburn
Sunscald or sunburn usually makes yellow or bronze-colored splotches where the fruit was exposed to harsh sun. If the sun damage is limited to small patches, cut them off and cook up the rest.
Frequently Asked Questions about Eggplant Turning Yellow
I’m never happy to find eggplant leaves turning yellow in my garden, but they happen to all of us at one point or another. The good news is that once we spot the yellow, we can diagnose the problem and do something about it. And I hope you’ve seen from these tips that most of the time, our eggplants can bounce back and produce a delicious harvest!
I’d love to hear from you! Are there any other questions about yellow eggplant leaves that you’re still wondering about, or do you have any helpful pointers about growing eggplants that you’ve learned? We learn best as a gardening community, so please share in the comments!