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Have you noticed yellow leaves on your fruit tree? They’re one of the typical autumn features you can expect to see in your fruit trees.

Autumn is usually a pleasant time of cool, crisp mornings.

After the heat of summer, there’s a definite shift in the air, and you might even be lucky enough to enjoy some rain. (Though with the increasing variability of the seasons, summer equals too much rain for some people!).

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It’s also not unusual to see fruit tree leaves start to turn yellow even when it still feels quite summery. For example, it often begins to happen on a tree that’s been fully harvested.

The typical pattern is that the leaves stay green and keep doing their job while the tree still has fruit on it.

Once the fruit has been picked, the tree will rapidly start to go into “senescence”, or winter dormancy.

Apricot trees in the orchard at the end of summer
Apricot trees in the orchard at the end of summer

At that time, the tree starts to withdraw all the nutrients from the leaves back into the buds and bark. The first sign of this happening is the leaves changing colour. This type of yellowing is completely normal, and you see it every year.

Yellow leaves can be a sign of a lack of water

Another reason for yellowing leaves (and of more concern) is a lack of water. You can see the classic symptoms on this cherry tree.

A cherry tree showing the symptoms of lack of water
A cherry tree showing the symptoms of lack of water

It’s too easy for this to happen when you have an automatic irrigation system. Drippers can easily block up, and unless you’re checking them regularly (which is a good idea), you might not realise you have a problem.

But don’t worry, the tree will start telling you loud and clear. The leaves will turn unseasonally yellow. The dead giveaway is that the leaves on all the other trees nearby are still green.

Is it too late to fix it once the leaves have turned yellow? Depending on how long the tree has been dry, and what part of the season you discover it, the leaves may not recover even if you start giving the tree water.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the tree will die, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother giving it water!

Nutritional deficiencies

Another common reason for leaves to turn yellow is nutritional deficiencies.

Iron deficiency (chlorosis) on peach leaves
Iron deficiency (chlorosis) on peach leaves

A number of nutritional deficiencies can cause yellow leaves as one of their symptoms. Some of these include iron (as you can see above), manganese, and zinc.

If your tree is showing these sorts of symptoms, don’t worry too much about exactly what the deficiency might be. Whatever it is, it’s a clear sign that the tree can’t get what it needs from the soil.

The answer? Feed the soil!

Fruit tree diseases that can cause yellow leaves

A fourth potential reason for yellow leaves is a virus disease, such as apple mosaic virus as you can see in this leaf.

Apple mosaic virus on leaf
Apple mosaic virus on leaf

Viral diseases are not good news but unfortunately are not really treatable. The best bet is to look after the tree as well as you can and try to avoid the virus spreading.

A good tip is to avoid planting other trees of the same type nearby. This is one of the best fruit tree virus databases we know of.

So if the leaves on your fruit tree are turning yellow it may be a perfectly normal seasonal response.

But if you think it could be something else, you might need to do a little detective work to diagnose the problem, because your tree might also be trying to tell you something!

Apricot leaves showing beautiful autumn colours
Apricot leaves showing beautiful autumn yellow and orange colours

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