Yellowing leaves ≠ Unhealthy plant

Older leaves turn yellow and die, new leaves grow. It is totally normal gradual process for most plants. Some species can even scary plant parents for nothing with rapid leaves losing. For example, Jatropha podagrica(Buddha belly plant) is loosing its leaves to go into a dormant state for the winter. It is totally natural order of things. Just do not forget to decrease watering 😉

Jatropha podagrica with yellowing leaves is getting ready for the dormant state in winter
Jatropha podagrica is getting ready for the winter

Of course, there are cases when yellowing is a sign of unhealthiness. For example, this January I received mature Euphorbia trigona (African milk tree). Succulent branches were totally yellow and has no leaves. Yellow in this case means literally dying. But this story has a happy ending. I repotted, gave right ratio of light, water and temperature and, voilà, green recovered plant!​ 

Rehabilitation of dying Euphorbia
Dying Euphorbia trigona in January (left) and healthy in November (right)

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4 thoughts on “Yellowing leaves ≠ Unhealthy plant

  1. Hi! The stem from my buddha belly is turning yellow faster than the leaves which are still mostly green. I have read that it is normal for the leaves to turn yellow in preparation for winter but I have yet to find anywhere why the thin stem would turn yellow. Help would be appreciated!

    1. I’m not an expert in caudiciform plants, but I guess yellowing stem is not a part of their seasonal cycle. I didn’t face your particular problem and can’t give specific advice. Generally, if I could not find out the reason of unhealthiness by thinking of prior conditions (e.g., quick temperature change) and looking above ground (e.g., sunburn spots on leaves), I check a root system. As long as roots hold the soil you can safely pull out a plant from a pot and examine it without any damage: are roots evenly distributed, do it has new growth, are there any rotting or dry parts, any pests?
      Hope your Buddha belly plant would be okay!

  2. Hi,
    I just bought a Buddha Belly Plant a few days ago. It looked normal when I got it, with the exception of one little dead leaf. I brought it home, reported it into a pot with drainage, and set it in a room with filtered light.

    Yesterday I moved it near an open window. And it was chilly out, probably around 60°.

    Now two of its leaves are wilting and tilting down and are slightly lighter/yellowish.

    I am not sure what’s going on with it, since I’ve never seen this type of plant before.

    I am wondering of it is normal, like the picture you posted since it is winter, or if maybe I shocked it by putting it near the window. Or if there is something else wrong with it?

    I am just trying to figure out how to keep this beautiful plant alive! Any ideas?

    1. Hi! Any change in environment is stressful for a plant. Moving to your home along with repotting may be the reason of dropping some leaves itself. In addition, now there is the natural season of defoliation for Buddha Belly Plant. So, I think, that some leaf loss is absolutely normal in your case anyway. My advice – just keep watching over the plant and adjust care if needed. Adaptation process takes time. And don’t worry: in my experience Buddha Belly Plant is really tough and is almost unkillable (for example, plant from the photo survived much colder temperatures than 60°F with no damage). Good luck and enjoy your plant way!

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