Why Is My Euphorbia Turning Yellow?

Why Is My Euphorbia Turning Yellow

Euphorbias, commonly known as spurge, is a diverse and widespread group of plants found in gardens, landscapes, and indoor spaces worldwide. However, one issue that often plagues euphorbias is the sudden appearance of yellow leaves. This can concern plant owners, as yellowing leaves often indicate distress or disease.

Yellowing leaves can indicate various problems. Common causes include overwatering or underwatering, improper lighting conditions, pest infestations, diseases, nutrient deficiencies, and temperature stress.

Understanding the underlying causes and taking appropriate action can help your euphorbia regain its health and beauty. From environmental factors to pests and diseases, let’s delve into the most common culprits and provide useful tips to ensure your euphorbia stays healthy and vibrant.

Want to learn more about cactus diseases:

Common Reasons for a Euphorbia Turning Yellow

Euphorbias, including popular varieties like Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorns) and Euphorbia lactea (Dragon Bones Cactus), can turn yellow for various reasons. Yellowing of Euphorbia leaves or stems may be a sign of stress or an underlying issue. Here are some common reasons for a Euphorbia turning yellow.

Common Reasons for a Euphorbia Turning Yellow

Overwatering or Underwatering

Euphorbias are proven to be quite drought-tolerant and often suffer from too much care and watering. Overwatering is the most common cause of yellowing leaves in Euphorbia. It leads to waterlogging, which in turn causes root rot.

On the other hand, underwatering can also result in yellowing leaves, as Euphorbias are not entirely water-independent. The foliage could start turning yellow if the plant doesn’t receive enough water. It is crucial to strike a balance by watering the plant when the soil is dry.

Poor lighting conditions

With Euphorbias, lighting conditions are vital. Euphorbias prefer bright but indirect light. If they are in too dim conditions, it may result in yellow leaves. Conversely, if exposed to harsh direct sunlight, they can become sunburned, which may cause yellowing or even a whitening of the leaves.

Temperature Imbalance

Euphorbias flourish best in temperature ranges between 60-75°F. Nevertheless, a sharp fluctuation in temperature can cause Euphorbia leaves to turn yellow and fall off. Both excessively hot and cold temperatures can be detrimental to the plant.

Weather Conditions

Harsh weather conditions—like frost in the winter or excessive humidity in the summer—may affect the plant’s health, leading to yellow leaves. Hence, moving these plants indoors during extreme weather conditions is vital.

Poor Drainage

Inadequate drainage can result in root rot, often accompanied by yellowing or browning of the stems and leaves. Make sure your pot has drainage holes and the soil is well-draining.

Fungal and Bacterial Infections

Some fungal and bacterial infections can cause the yellowing of Euphorbia leaves. Root rot pathogens, leaf spot, and anthracnose are common culprits. These diseases can lead to browning, wilting, and eventually yellowing the leaves.

Pests and Diseases

Euphorbias often become a target of pests like aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects. The damage caused by these pests can result in yellowing leaves.

Nutrient Deficiencies

The absence of certain essential nutrients in the soil, like nitrogen, magnesium, and iron—necessary for chlorophyll production—can result in yellow leaves. The solution could be as simple as fertilizing the plant with an all-purpose plant food.

Environmental Stress

Sudden changes in light, temperature, or humidity can stress the plant, causing it to turn yellow. Gradual acclimation to new conditions can help prevent this.


Older leaves or stems may naturally yellow and drop as the plant grows. This is not a cause for concern, especially if new growth remains healthy.

Pot Size

Euphorbias can become root-bound in small pots, limiting their growth and causing stress. Repotting into a larger container when the plant outgrows its current one can help.

Signs and Symptoms of a Sick Euphorbia

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a sick Euphorbia is crucial to addressing the issue promptly and nursing the plant back to health. Here are some common signs and symptoms of a sick Euphorbia:

Signs and Symptoms of a Sick Euphorbia

Wilted Leaves

One of the first signs of a sick euphorbia is wilting or curling of leaves. Healthy euphorbia plants typically have firm and vibrant leaves. If you notice the euphorbia’s leaves are drooping, curling, or puckering, it could indicate a disease or watering issue.

Color Changes

Changes in leaf color can also signify sickness. Typically, leaves will turn yellow or brown, which could indicate problems like over-watering or poor nutrients. The blackening of leaves or the base of the plants is a clear sign of stem rot, usually caused by watering in cooler weather.

Black Spots or Rot

Black or dark spots on stems or leaves may indicate rot or fungal infections, often related to excessive moisture.

Loss of Leaves or Branches

Euphorbia can shed leaves and branches as a symptom of disease. However, note that certain euphorbia species naturally drop leaves during cooler months.

Stem Rot

Stem rot, typically characterized by blackening and softening of the lower stem, is another common sign of sickness in euphorbia plants. It is commonly caused by fungal pathogens, such as Pythium, and is typically related to overwatering, improper watering or poor drainage.

White Powdery Mildew

If your euphorbia has a white, powdery substance on its leaves or stems, it may be infected with white powdery mildew. This prevalent fungal disease can affect nearly all plants, including euphorbia.

Oozing or Sap Leakage

If you notice a sticky substance or sap oozing from the plant, it could be a sign of damage, injury, or infection.

Mealy Bugs or Spider Mites

Pests like Mealybugs and spider mites can infest a euphorbia, causing multiple issues. These tiny insects suck the juices out of the plant and can cause white residue on leaves (mealybugs) or small yellow or brown spots (spider mites).

Stunted Growth

If your euphorbia isn’t growing as it should or appears stunted, it might be sick. This symptom often relates to root issues, like rot or nutrient deficiencies in the soil.

How to Diagnose the Specific Problem?

Diagnosing the specific problem with a sick Euphorbia requires careful observation and investigation. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to identify and diagnose the specific issue affecting your plant:

Visual Inspection

Examine the plant carefully. Look at the leaves, stems, and overall appearance. Note any unusual colors, spots, wilting, or deformities.

Check for Pests

Inspect both the upper and lower sides of the leaves, stems, and the soil surface for signs of pests like mealybugs, scale insects, spider mites, or aphids. Look for the insects themselves, webs, sticky residue (honeydew), or tiny holes in the leaves.

Examine the Soil and Roots

Gently remove the plant from its pot and examine the roots. Healthy roots are firm, white, and unbroken. Brown or mushy roots may indicate rot. Root-bound plants will have roots circling the pot. Check the soil for excessive moisture, which can lead to root rot.

Environmental Factors

Assess the plant’s growing conditions. Are they appropriate for your specific Euphorbia variety in terms of light, temperature, and humidity? Sudden environmental changes can stress the plant.

Smell and Touch

Sometimes, you can detect issues by smell. Foul odors can suggest rot, while the presence of sticky sap may indicate injury or pest damage.

History and Care

Review the plant’s care history. Consider factors like watering frequency, fertilization, and recent changes in care routine.

Research the Euphorbia Variety

Different Euphorbia species have specific care requirements. Ensure you’re meeting the needs of your specific plant variety.

Isolate and Monitor

If you suspect a pest or disease issue, isolate the affected plant to prevent the problem from spreading to other plants. Monitor the plant’s condition over time to see if it worsens or improves.

Solutions and Treatments for Yellowing Euphorbia

Yellowing of Euphorbia plants can be indicative of various issues, including nutrient deficiencies, overwatering, inadequate light conditions, or pest infestations. Here are some potential solutions and treatments:

Address Overwatering

Overwatering is a common reason behind yellowing Euphorbia. To address this, simply reduce your watering frequency. Ensure the pot has good drainage and only water when the soil is dry to touch.

If root rot has been confirmed, you may need to repot the plant, cutting away any rotted roots and treating the healthy ones with a fungicide.

Increase Light Exposure

Lack of sunlight can also cause yellowing of Euphorbia cactus. These plants require full sun to partial shade to thrive. If the yellowing is due to lack of light, gradually increase the light exposure.

Remember, to avoid sunburn, don’t put your plant under direct sunlight abruptly. Instead, gradually acclimatize them to the increased sunlight.

Control Pests

Pests like mealybugs, spider mites, and scale can suck the life out of your Euphorbia cactus, causing the plant to yellow. If you spot a pest infestation, treat the plant with a gentle insecticidal soap or a mild solution of water and dish soap. Make sure to keep an eye on the plant to ensure that the pests don’t return.

Balance Nutrition

Yellowing can also be an indication of nutrient deficiency. Euphorbias need a balanced fertilizer during the growing season (spring and summer). Lack of essential micro and macronutrients can cause yellowing of the plant.

Fertilize your Euphorbia with a cactus or succulent fertilizer, generally low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus, to get its color back.

Monitor Temperature

Euphorbia cacti require warm temperatures. If the yellowing happens in winter it might be because the temperatures have dropped too much for the plant to handle. Try to maintain temperatures around 15°C-29°C (59°F-84°F).

Preventive Measures to Avoid Yellowing of Euphorbia

Preventive measures are essential to avoid the yellowing of Euphorbia and maintain a healthy plant. Here are some critical steps to help prevent yellowing issues in your Euphorbia:

Choose the Right Location

Place your Euphorbia in a location that provides the appropriate amount of sunlight for its specific species. Most Euphorbias prefer bright, indirect light. Avoid direct, harsh sunlight, especially during the hottest parts of the day.

Proper Watering

Overwatering is a common cause of yellowing leaves in euphorbias. These plants are succulents and are adapted to survive in dry conditions. Make sure the soil is completely dried out before watering again. Also, ensure your pot or garden bed has good drainage to prevent waterlogging.

Appropriate Lighting

Euphorbia plants need plenty of sunshine to thrive. If they don’t get enough light, their leaves may turn yellow. A south or west-facing window is often ideal for indoor euphorbias. For outdoor plants, ensure they’re placed in sunny spots.

Correct Temperature

Euphorbias prefer warm temperatures. Their leaves can turn yellow and drop off if exposed to cold temperatures or drafts. Keep indoor euphorbias away from cold windows in the winter and move outdoor plants to a sheltered location.

Proper Nutrition

Nutritional deficiencies can cause yellowing leaves. Euphorbias don’t require much feeding, but a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every month during the growing season can provide them with the necessary nutrients.

Pest Control

Pests like aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites can cause yellowing leaves and overall plant stress. Regularly inspect your plants and use a natural insecticidal soap or a solution of water and mild dish soap to wash off pests.

Disease Prevention

Diseases such as powdery mildew and root rot can cause yellowing and wilting. These diseases can be prevented by avoiding overwatering and ensuring the plant is well-ventilated.

Acclimate to Changes

Acclimate it gradually to reduce stress when making changes in care or moving the plant to a different location.

Maintain Adequate Humidity

While Euphorbias generally tolerate low humidity, you can occasionally mist or place a humidity tray near the plant during dry periods.

Avoid Repotting Stress

Any significant changes to a plant’s environment, such as repotting, can cause stress and yellow leaves. Ensure proper care after repotting, and only repot when necessary.

Regular Checks on Plant Health

Like any other plant, regular health checks are crucial for Euphorbia. Check the leaves, stems, and roots for unusual signs such as yellowing, leaf drop, pests, or disease.

Early detection can prevent these conditions from spreading or leading to more severe issues. Hence, it’s crucial to have a regular schedule for examining your Euphorbia, about once a week.

Tips for Appropriate Plant Care

Euphorbia plants need well-drained soil and should not be over-watered, as that can lead to root rot and yellowing. They prefer bright indirect light and typically require minimal watering in summer and none in winter.

Importance of a Healthy Environment

The environment where the Euphorbia plants are kept significantly affects their health. Use a proper mix of soil that drains quickly to avoid water logging. The optimum temperature should be maintained between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, high-humidity conditions should be avoided, as Euphorbia prefers a low humidity environment.

Handling during Different Seasons

Euphorbia typically requires more water during the growing season but ensures that the soil never becomes waterlogged. Watering can be drastically reduced during the colder months.

In addition, Euphorbias should ideally be positioned in a spot that receives bright but indirect sunlight. Watch for any signs of stress caused by temperature extremes in winter and summer.

Repotting Tips

Repot Euphorbia when the plant outgrows its existing pot or if the soil has been exhausted. This is usually every two to three years. Always use fresh, well-draining soil during repotting. Handle the plant carefully as the sap is toxic and can cause skin irritation.

Pruning and Fertilizer Application Recommendations

Prune Euphorbia during late winter or early spring when the plant is dormant. Ensure you use sharp and sterilized pruning shears to make clean cuts. Apply a slow-release granular fertilizer in a diluted concentration during the growing season to encourage strong, healthy growth.


If your Euphorbia plant turns yellow, it is likely due to overwatering, lack of sunlight, or pest infestations. By understanding your plant’s needs and providing it with the proper care, you can help prevent discoloration and ensure its health and vitality.

It is best to consult a professional or do further research to address the issue adequately if you continue to have issues with yellowing leaves. With patience and diligence, your Euphorbia will thrive and continue to bring beauty to your home.


  • https://forum.gardenersworld.com/discussion/3369/euphorbias-turning-yellow
  • https://www.succulentgrowingtips.com/euphorbia-flanaganii-medusa-s-head-turning-yellow-how-to-fix-it

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