8 Reasons Your Apple Tree Has Brown Leaves ( & How to Fix)

The main reasons your apple tree’s leaves turn brown are inadequate watering, disease, pest infestation, nutrient deficiency, extreme weather conditions, improper pruning, transplant shock, and improper planting. In this guide, we will explore these factors and provide practical solutions to fix the problem and restore the health of your apple tree.

A healthy apple tree with vibrant green leaves is not only visually appealing but also an indicator of its overall well-being. However, if you notice brown leaves on your apple tree, it can be concerning. Brown leaves can be a sign of various issues, including inadequate watering, disease, pest infestation, nutrient deficiency, extreme weather conditions, improper pruning, transplant shock, and improper planting.

Identifying the specific cause is crucial, as it will dictate the appropriate remedy. In this guide, we will delve into the eight possible reasons behind brown leaves on your apple tree and provide actionable solutions to help you restore its health and vitality.

8 Reasons Your Apple Tree Has Brown Leaves ( & How to Fix)

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1. Insufficient Watering And Hydration Issues

Low Water Levels In The Soil

Proper watering is essential for the health of your apple tree. Insufficient water levels can lead to brown leaves and other hydration issues. Here are the key points to consider:

  • Apple trees require consistent moisture in the soil, especially during dry periods.
  • Check the soil moisture regularly by gently digging a small hole near the tree. If the soil is dry below the surface, it may indicate low water levels.
  • Ensure that your tree receives at least an inch of water each week, either from rainfall or manual irrigation.
  • Deep watering is crucial to encourage the roots to grow deeper into the soil, making the tree more resilient to drought.
  • Mulching around the base of the tree helps retain moisture and prevent evaporation, reducing the risk of low water levels.

By addressing low water levels in the soil, you can prevent brown leaves and promote healthy growth in your apple tree. Remember to provide adequate hydration, especially during dry periods, to ensure its longevity and productivity.

2. Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrient Deficiencies

Lack of essential minerals:

  • Apple trees require a variety of essential minerals to thrive. When these minerals are lacking, the leaves may turn brown. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
  • Nitrogen deficiency: Nitrogen is an important nutrient for leaf growth. Without sufficient nitrogen, the leaves may become pale and yellowish before turning brown. Apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to address this deficiency.
  • Phosphorus deficiency: Phosphorus aids in root growth and energy production in plants. Lack of phosphorus can cause the leaves to develop brown spots or edges. Add a phosphorus fertilizer or bone meal to the soil to rectify this deficiency.
  • Potassium deficiency: Potassium helps regulate water uptake and overall plant health. Insufficient potassium can lead to brown discoloration along the leaf margins. Apply a potassium-rich fertilizer or wood ashes to remedy this deficiency.
  • Iron deficiency: Iron plays a crucial role in chlorophyll production. A lack of iron can result in yellow leaves that ultimately turn brown. Use iron chelate or iron sulfate to supplement the tree’s iron levels.
  • Magnesium deficiency: Magnesium is essential for photosynthesis and enzyme function. When magnesium is lacking, leaves may exhibit yellowing between the veins, which eventually turns brown. Apply epsom salts or magnesium sulfate to address this deficiency.
  • Zinc deficiency: Zinc is necessary for enzyme activity and growth regulation. Insufficient zinc can cause the leaves to develop distinct white or yellow spots before turning brown. Apply zinc sulfate or chelated zinc to correct this deficiency.

Imbalanced soil ph levels:

  • Soil ph levels affect the availability of nutrients to plants. Here’s what you need to know:
  • Acidic soil: If the soil ph is too low, it can hinder the uptake of certain nutrients, leading to brown leaves. Test the soil ph and, if acidic, add lime or wood ashes to raise the ph level.
  • Alkaline soil: Conversely, excessively high soil ph can also impair nutrient absorption, resulting in brown leaves. Determine the ph level and, if alkaline, amend the soil with sulfur or organic matter to lower the ph.

Remember, maintaining proper nutrient levels and soil ph is crucial for the health of your apple tree, ensuring vibrant green leaves instead of unsightly brown ones. Regular soil testing and appropriate fertilization will go a long way in correcting nutrient deficiencies and imbalanced ph levels.

3. Pests And Diseases

Common Apple Tree Pests

Apple trees are susceptible to a variety of pests that can cause brown leaves and damage to the overall health of the tree. Here are some common pests that may be infesting your apple tree:

  • Aphids: These tiny insects feed on the sap of apple leaves and can cause the leaves to curl and turn brown. Look for clusters of small, soft-bodied insects on the undersides of leaves.
  • Apple maggots: These small, white worms feed on the fruit of apple trees, causing them to rot and turn brown. Look for small puncture marks or discolored areas on the fruit.
  • Codling moths: Codling moths lay their eggs on apple trees, and the resulting larvae burrow into the fruit. Infested apples may have brown tunnels or holes.
  • Apple leafrollers: These caterpillars feed on the leaves of apple trees, causing them to curl, turn brown, and eventually fall off.
  • Spider mites: These tiny pests are difficult to see with the naked eye but can cause significant damage to apple leaves. They suck the sap from the leaves, resulting in discoloration and browning.

Identifying And Treating Diseases

In addition to pests, apple trees can also be susceptible to various diseases that can cause browning of the leaves. Here are some common diseases that may be affecting your apple tree:

  • Apple scab: Apple scab is a fungal disease that causes dark, scaly lesions on the leaves, fruit, and twigs of apple trees. Infected leaves may turn brown and fall off prematurely.
  • Fire blight: Fire blight is a bacterial disease that causes leaves and branches to turn brown and black. Infected branches may have a scorched appearance and ooze bacterial ooze.
  • Cedar apple rust: Cedar apple rust is a fungal disease that causes brownish-orange spots on the leaves and fruit of apple trees. The spots may eventually turn black and cause defoliation.
  • Powdery mildew: Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that leads to a white, powdery growth on the leaves and shoots of apple trees. Infected leaves may turn brown and fall off.

To treat common pests and diseases, here are some steps you can take:

  • Prune affected branches: Remove any branches or leaves that show signs of infestation or disease, ensuring to destroy them to prevent further spread.
  • Apply insecticides or fungicides: Use appropriate insecticides or fungicides, following the instructions on the label. Make sure to choose products specifically formulated for apple tree pests and diseases.
  • Improve tree health: Maintain good tree health by providing proper watering, fertilization, and ensuring adequate sunlight and air circulation around the tree.
  • Consider biological controls: In some cases, beneficial insects or organisms can help control pests naturally. Research and consider introducing beneficial insects, such as ladybugs or parasitic wasps, to your apple tree.

By being proactive in identifying and treating pests and diseases, you can help your apple tree regain its health and prevent further browning of the leaves. Remember to stay vigilant and address any issues promptly for the best results.

4. Environmental Stress

When your apple tree’s leaves turn brown, it could be due to environmental stressors. Extreme temperatures and excessive sun exposure are common factors that can cause this issue. Let’s take a closer look at each of these stressors and how to address them:

Extreme Temperatures:

  • Apples trees are susceptible to damage from both extreme cold and extreme heat.
  • Cold temperatures can cause leaf discoloration and frost damage.
  • High temperatures can lead to leaf scorching and dehydration.

Excessive Sun Exposure:

  • Apple trees need sunlight, but too much direct exposure can be harmful.
  • Intense sunlight can cause the leaves to become brown and burnt.
  • Young and newly planted trees are especially vulnerable.

To mitigate the impact of environmental stress on your apple tree’s leaves, consider the following measures:

  • Mulching around the base of the tree can regulate soil temperature and help retain moisture.
  • Providing shade during peak sunlight hours can protect your tree from excessive heat.
  • Regularly watering your apple tree, especially during dry periods, can prevent dehydration.

Remember, maintaining a balanced environment is crucial for the health of your apple tree. By addressing temperature extremes and excessive sun exposure, you can help ensure vibrant and healthy leaves.

5. Improper Pruning And Maintenance

Pruning your apple tree is an essential part of its care and maintenance. However, performing pruning techniques incorrectly can lead to brown leaves and other problems. Neglecting your tree’s overall care can also contribute to leaf discoloration and poor health.

Here are some key points to consider when it comes to improper pruning and maintenance:

  • Incorrect pruning techniques: Proper pruning involves knowing when and how to trim your apple tree. If you prune too much or at the wrong time, it can stress the tree and result in browning leaves. Common mistakes in pruning include:
  • Pruning during the wrong season: Pruning during the active growing season can leave your apple tree more susceptible to disease and can disrupt its natural growth cycle.
  • Over-pruning: Removing too many branches at once can shock the tree and inhibit its ability to produce nutrients, leading to brown leaves.
  • Improper pruning cuts: Making cuts too close to the trunk or leaving stubs can create openings for diseases to enter the tree, causing leaf discoloration and other issues.
  • Neglected tree care: Regular care and maintenance are vital for the health of your apple tree. Neglecting important care practices can result in brown leaves and overall decline. Here are some neglected tree care factors to consider:
  • Lack of watering: Adequate watering is crucial for your tree’s well-being. If your apple tree doesn’t receive enough water, its leaves may turn brown and dry out.
  • Inadequate fertilization: Apple trees require balanced nutrition to thrive. Failure to provide proper fertilization can lead to nutrient deficiencies, affecting leaf color and overall plant health.
  • Pest and disease control: Ignoring pest and disease issues can have a negative impact on your tree’s leaves. Common pests like aphids and diseases like apple scab can cause leaf browning if left unchecked.
  • Lack of sunlight: Apple trees need ample sunlight to carry out photosynthesis and maintain healthy leaves. Insufficient sunlight exposure can result in poor leaf coloration.

Taking proper care of your apple tree includes understanding the correct pruning techniques and ensuring regular maintenance. By avoiding common pruning mistakes and providing adequate care, you can prevent brown leaves and promote a healthy, thriving apple tree.

6. Fungal Infections

Fungal infections can be a common cause of brown leaves on your apple tree. These infections are often caused by damp and humid conditions, which create the perfect environment for fungi to thrive. It’s important to recognize the signs of fungal diseases and take effective measures to treat them before they cause more damage to your tree.

In this section, we will discuss how to recognize fungal diseases and the treatment options available to restore your apple tree’s health.

Recognizing Fungal Diseases

  • Leaf spots: Look for small reddish-brown spots on the leaves. These spots can merge together and eventually cause the entire leaf to turn brown and fall off.
  • Powdery mildew: Check for a white powdery coating on the leaves, flowers, and fruit. This fungal disease can distort the growth of the affected parts and lead to premature leaf drop.
  • Rust: Keep an eye out for orange or yellowish-brown spots on the leaves, often accompanied by raised bumps or blisters. Rust can cause severe damage to the foliage if left untreated.
  • Apple scab: Observe the leaves for olive-green or brownish-black lesions that may have velvety or scaly textures. This disease can also affect the fruit by causing scaly blemishes.

Effective Treatment Options

  • Pruning: Remove any infected branches, leaves, or fruits as soon as you notice signs of fungal infections. Make sure to sanitize your pruning tools between cuts to prevent spreading the disease.
  • Fungicides: Apply a suitable fungicide according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Fungicides can help control the spread of fungal infections and protect healthy leaves from becoming infected.
  • Cultural practices: Improve air circulation around the apple tree by pruning it appropriately and removing any nearby plants or debris that may restrict airflow. Raking fallen leaves and clearing out dead plant material will also reduce fungal spores.
  • Proper watering: Avoid overhead watering as it can create a damp environment conducive to fungal growth. Water at the base of the tree, preferably in the morning, to allow the leaves to dry out during the day.
  • Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree to help maintain soil moisture and prevent splashing of fungal spores onto the leaves.
  • Disease-resistant varieties: Consider planting apple tree varieties that are known to be resistant to common fungal diseases. This can significantly reduce the risk of infection and minimize the need for intensive treatments.

By recognizing the signs of fungal diseases and implementing these effective treatment options, you can restore the health and vitality of your apple tree. Regular monitoring and proper care practices will go a long way in preventing future infections and ensuring a thriving apple tree in your garden.

7. Overuse Or Misuse Of Chemicals

Excessive Pesticide Application

Pesticides are commonly used to protect apple trees from pests and diseases. However, overusing these chemicals can have detrimental effects on the tree and its leaves. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Excessive use of pesticides can lead to brown leaves on your apple tree. When pesticides are applied in excess, they can penetrate the leaves and disrupt the natural balance of the tree.
  • Pesticides contain chemicals that can be harmful to the tree’s foliage. These chemicals can burn or damage the leaves, resulting in a brown discoloration.
  • Some pesticides are not intended for use on apple trees or may require specific application methods. Misusing these chemicals can have negative consequences, including brown leaves.
  • Incorrect timing of pesticide application can also lead to brown leaves. It is important to follow the recommended schedule for applying pesticides to ensure their effectiveness and minimize potential damage.
  • To prevent brown leaves caused by excessive pesticide application, it is essential to read the instructions and follow the recommended dosage carefully. Applying pesticides in moderation can be effective in controlling pests without harming the tree.

Harmful Effects Of Chemical Misuse

While pesticides are designed to protect apple trees, the misuse of chemicals can have harmful effects. Consider the following points to understand the consequences of chemical misuse:

  • Chemical misuse can result in the death of beneficial insects that help control pest populations. Without these natural predators, pests can thrive, leading to more severe infestations and damage to the tree’s leaves.
  • Some chemicals used in pesticides can be toxic to humans and wildlife. Using pesticides without following safety guidelines can pose health risks and harm the environment.
  • Incorrect application of chemicals can result in runoff, which can contaminate nearby water sources and soil. This can have long-lasting effects on the ecosystem and surrounding plant life.
  • The overuse of chemicals can lead to the development of pesticide-resistant pests. When pests become resistant, it becomes more challenging to control their populations effectively.
  • To avoid the harmful effects of chemical misuse, it is crucial to follow proper application techniques and safety precautions. Consider using organic or natural alternatives to pesticides whenever possible.

Remember, responsible pesticide use is essential for maintaining the health of your apple tree. By understanding the potential risks associated with excessive pesticide use and chemical misuse, you can take the necessary steps to protect your tree’s leaves and overall well-being.

8. Root Problems

Root problems can cause your apple tree to have brown leaves. Root rot and girdling are two common issues that can affect the health of your tree. Understanding these problems and how to fix them is crucial in ensuring the well-being of your apple tree.

Root Rot

Root rot occurs when the roots of your tree are infected by fungi or bacteria, leading to the decay of the root system. This can result in the tree not being able to absorb nutrients and water properly, causing the leaves to turn brown.

Some key points to remember about root rot include:

  • Excessive moisture in the soil can contribute to the development of root rot.
  • Poor drainage can also increase the risk of root rot.
  • Symptoms of root rot include wilting, stunted growth, and the presence of a foul odor.

To address root rot and prevent further damage to your apple tree, consider the following steps:

  • Improve soil drainage by adding organic matter such as compost.
  • Avoid overwatering your tree and ensure the soil dries out between waterings.
  • If the root rot is severe, you may need to remove the tree completely to prevent the spread of the disease.


Girdling is a condition where a tight constriction occurs around the trunk or the roots of a tree. This can cut off the flow of nutrients and water, leading to brown leaves and overall tree decline. Here are some important points to know about girdling:

  • Girdling can be caused by wires, ropes, or even the tree’s own roots.
  • Symptoms of girdling include wilting, yellowing leaves, and slow growth.
  • Girdling can occur above or below the soil line.

To address girdling and promote healing in your apple tree, take the following actions:

  • Carefully remove any wires, ropes, or other obstructions that may be causing the constriction.
  • If the girdling is caused by the tree’s own roots, consider root pruning to redirect the growth of the roots.
  • Monitor the tree closely and provide proper care to encourage recovery.

By understanding and addressing root problems such as root rot and girdling, you can help your apple tree regain its health and vibrant green leaves. Taking prompt action and providing the necessary care will ensure the long-term success of your tree.

Steps To Fix Brown Leaves On Apple Trees

If you’ve noticed your apple tree’s leaves turning brown, it’s essential to take action to address the issue promptly. Brown leaves can indicate various problems, ranging from inadequate soil moisture to nutrient deficiencies. To help you revive your apple tree and ensure its optimal health, here are some practical steps you can take:

Checking Soil Moisture Levels

  • Ensure that the soil around your apple tree is neither too dry nor too waterlogged.
  • Use a soil moisture meter to measure the moisture levels accurately.
  • Adjust the watering schedule accordingly to maintain consistent moisture.

Adjusting Irrigation Schedule

  • If the soil is too dry, increase the frequency and duration of irrigation.
  • Water deeply to ensure the roots receive sufficient moisture.
  • Consider using drip irrigation to provide targeted hydration.

Identifying Nutrient Deficiencies

  • Conduct a soil test to determine any nutrient deficiencies.
  • Look for signs of specific nutrient deficiencies, such as yellowing or stunted growth.
  • Address the deficiencies by applying appropriate fertilizers or organic amendments.

Correcting Soil Ph

  • Test the soil ph and adjust if necessary.
  • Apple trees generally thrive in slightly acidic soil with a ph range of 6.0 to 6.5.
  • If the ph is too high or low, apply appropriate soil amendments to restore the optimal ph levels.

Regular Monitoring For Pests

  • Inspect your apple tree regularly for signs of pests or insect damage.
  • Look for telltale signs such as bite marks, webs, or holes in the leaves.
  • Identify the specific pests and take appropriate measures to control them.

Applying Appropriate Treatments

  • Depending on the pest or disease identified, choose the appropriate treatment.
  • Use insecticides, fungicides, or other botanical sprays as recommended.
  • Follow the instructions carefully and apply treatments at the right time for optimal effectiveness.

Providing Shade Or Shelter

  • If your apple tree is exposed to excessive sunlight or strong winds, provide some shade or shelter.
  • Consider using shade cloth, planting companion plants, or installing windbreaks to protect the tree.

Mulching To Retain Moisture

  • Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the apple tree.
  • Mulch helps retain soil moisture, regulates temperature, and suppresses weed growth.
  • Avoid piling mulch directly against the tree trunk to prevent rot and pests.

Learning Proper Pruning Methods

  • Familiarize yourself with correct pruning techniques for apple trees.
  • Prune dead or diseased branches, and thin out crowded areas to improve airflow.
  • Pruning helps stimulate new growth and keeps the tree healthy.

Regularly Inspecting And Caring For The Tree

  • Keep a close eye on your apple tree throughout the growing season.
  • Monitor for any signs of stress, damage, or changes in leaf color.
  • Take immediate action if any problems arise to prevent further damage.

Promoting Good Air Circulation

  • Ensure that the branches and foliage of the apple tree have sufficient space between them.
  • Prune and thin branches to allow for better airflow.
  • Good air circulation reduces the risk of fungal diseases and promotes overall tree health.

Using Fungicides When Necessary

  • If fungal diseases like apple scab or powdery mildew are present, use appropriate fungicides.
  • Choose products approved for use on apple trees and follow the instructions carefully.
  • Apply fungicides preventively or as soon as symptoms appear, depending on the specific disease.

Understanding Pesticide Labels And Instructions

  • If pesticide use becomes necessary, thoroughly read and understand the product labels.
  • Follow all directions regarding application rates, timing, and safety precautions.
  • Be cautious of any restrictions or waiting periods before harvesting fruits.

Exploring Organic And Natural Options

  • Consider using organic and natural alternatives for pest and disease management.
  • Neem oil, insecticidal soaps, and horticultural oils are some effective organic options.
  • Research and experiment with eco-friendly methods to maintain a healthy apple tree.

Identifying And Treating Root Rot

  • If root rot is suspected, carefully examine the roots for signs of decay or discoloration.
  • Improve drainage to prevent waterlogged soil conditions.
  • Apply appropriate fungicides and consider replanting in a well-draining site if necessary.

Addressing Girdling Problems

  • Check for girdling roots that can restrict the flow of water and nutrients.
  • Gently remove or prune any girdling roots to alleviate stress on the tree.
  • Make sure the root collar is visible and not obstructed by soil or mulch.

By following these steps and taking proactive measures, you can effectively address the issue of brown leaves on your apple tree. Remember, a healthy tree leads to bountiful harvests and thriving orchards. Happy apple growing!

Frequently Asked Questions Of 8 Reasons Your Apple Tree Has Brown Leaves ( & How To Fix)

Why Are The Leaves On My Apple Tree Turning Brown?

The leaves on your apple tree may be turning brown due to various reasons such as improper watering, nutrient deficiencies, pests, diseases, or environmental factors. It is important to identify the specific cause to effectively address the issue and restore the health of your apple tree.

How Can I Prevent Brown Leaves On My Apple Tree?

To prevent brown leaves on your apple tree, ensure proper watering, provide adequate nutrients through fertilization, regularly inspect and treat for pests and diseases, and protect the tree from extreme weather conditions. Regular maintenance and care will help keep your apple tree healthy and vibrant.

Is It Normal For Apple Tree Leaves To Turn Brown?

While some browning of leaves is normal during certain seasons, excessive or premature browning of leaves on an apple tree is not normal. It is an indication that the tree is experiencing some form of stress or health issue. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause is crucial for the tree’s well-being.


To ensure the health and vibrancy of your apple tree, it is crucial to understand the reasons behind its brown leaves. By addressing these issues promptly, you can revive the beauty of your tree and increase its overall productivity. Lack of water, pest infestation, nutrient deficiencies, diseases, extreme weather conditions, improper pruning, improper planting, and environmental stress are all potential culprits causing browning leaves.

Taking these factors into consideration, it is important to provide regular watering, implement pest control measures, replenish nutrients through fertilization, and ensure proper pruning and planting techniques. By following these simple steps, you can help your apple tree regain its green foliage and continue to thrive.

Remember, proactive care and timely intervention are vital for sustaining a healthy and fruitful apple tree in your garden.

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