Orchids are a popular houseplant because they’re easy to grow and are visually stunning when placed correctly in your home. They can survive a variety of conditions and come in different colors.
Even though orchids are known for being easy to grow, you still might notice your orchid leaves turning yellow. It’s one of the most common problems that indoor gardeners face when they grow orchids inside of their home, and it can be frustrating.
In most cases, yellowing leaves is part of the natural life cycle of the orchid plant, and it doesn’t indicate that anything is wrong with your plants.
Eventually, the yellow leaves will drop away, and new leaves or a new flower spike appears. If your plant isn’t shedding old foliage, it could be one of these other common reasons for yellowing orchid leaves.
So, are you wondering why your orchid leaves turning yellow?
Over-watering is the most common cause of yellowing leaves on a orchids. The flooded roots are cut off from the air, due to which the roots cease to receive water and nutrients. As a result, the orchid's leaves turn yellow, lose their elasticity, and the root system decreases. It is necessary to transplant the orchid into a fresh substrate and water a maximum of 1 time per week.
Yellowed and wrinkled leaves of an orchid can be a sign of illness, is a consequence of mistakes made in the process of leaving at home or a completely natural process, Let’s take a look at all of the reasons why are your orchid's leaves turning yellow and what you can do to fix the problem.
The 9 Reasons For Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow
There are nine reasons why your orchid might have yellow leaves. Luckily, you can fix each of the reasons with a little TLC. Here is what you need to know.
1: The Natural Death of Old Foliage on The Plant
In most cases, orchids with yellowing leaves is part of the natural life cycle of this particular plant.
When the plant has to develop new leaves or a new flower spike, the lowermost set of leaves start to turn yellow. Over time, they die back and fall off of the plant.
The reason that orchids do this is because orchids prioritize new growth, so the plant believes the lower leaves are unnecessary.
It cuts off the water supply to the leaves, and over time, they’ll fall off of the plant.
How Do I Know The Yellowing Is Normal?
Of course, you don't want to assume that the yellowing is normal only to realize you missed a significant problem.
If one or two leaves on the bottom of your orchid plant turn yellow, let it continue to do so. This is a classic sign of natural dieback.
Over time, the leaves will turn increasingly yellow and then wither off of the plant. The plant seals off these leaves from the rest of the plant, and they’ll drop off naturally.
Don’t remove them from the plant yourself!
Some people remove them because the look of yellow leaves is unsightly. Manually removing the leaves from your plant increases the risk of diseases.
It’s essentially like creating an open wound on your plant.
Instead, wait until the leaves look withered and yellow, which is a sign that the plant began the shedding process. Then, use a sharp, sterile knife to remove the leaf at the base.
Too Much Direct Sunlight
In nature, orchids are a tropical plant that typically grows in indirect sunlight under the canopy of trees.
They aren’t used to direct sunlight, so if they’re placed in a location that receives too much direct sunlight, the leaves can turn yellow.
All plants need light, but indirect sunlight is the preferred choice for orchids.
If too much direct sunlight is the problem, you’ll find yellowing leaves and fading. You might also find scorch marks, cracks in the leaves, and burnt leaf tips.
You need to take this into consideration when you select a location for your orchid plant.
How to Fix Too Much Sunlight
In your home, that would look like keeping your plant near north or east-facing windows through the summer when the sunlight is the strongest.
You can try south or east-facing windows in the winter because the sunlight is less intense, but make sure to a southern facing window in the summer. It'll be way too strong for your orchids!
We can't precisely control the location of our windows, though.
So, if you feel as if your plants receive too much direct sunlight, try adding a sheer curtain or moving it further away from the window, sitting on a stand instead.
Exposure to Low or High Temperatures
Orchids want to be kept at reasonable temperatures, in a range of 60-80℉.
For most homeowners, these are the average temperature inside of your home, so it works well.
Now, if your plants are subject to temperatures below 60℉ or above 80℉, the plant falls victim to excessive stress.
You might notice the progressive yellowing of leaves, as well as leaf drop. Temperature stress can also cause the browning or blackening of leaves or even plant death.
How to Fix Temperature Stress
Of all the problems your plant might face, exposure to the wrong temperatures is one of the easiest to fix.
Get a thermometer and double-check that the location you selected is staying within the acceptable range.
In some cases, windows can be subject to wide fluctuation in temperatures. In the summer with direct sunlight, your window sill might be like sitting in an oven, and if the temperatures are cold outside, the window might become chilly.
Overwatering of Your Plant
Too much water leads to the orchid leaves turning yellow, and it could even be the cause of root rot, which leads to the death of the roots. If you put too much water into the container, it prevents the plant from absorbing water and nutrients in the soil. As you can imagine, this can become a severe problem.
How to Fix Overwatering
First, don’t feel bad. People who have houseplants tend to overwater. You want to take care of your plant, and watering them is your most important task.
You just went a little overboard; it’s okay!
Despite what you might have read, orchids require a small amount of water. Before you water your plant, put your fingers into the potting medium.
Is it dry?
If your answer is no, then wait another day (or two) before watering your plant. If the answer is yes, feel free to give your plant some - not too much - water.
Despite what your plant nurturing instincts might tell you, it’s always better to stay on the side of underwatering rather than overwatering. Orchids tolerate these conditions better than too much water.
A Sudden Change in the Environment
When you change the location or environment of a plant, it can cause your plant to feel stress, leading to the dropping of the leaves or blooms.
Yellowing leaves are a more severe sign of stress in plants. This stress can take place when you first bring your plant home from the store or if you move your plant from one room to another. It could happen if you need to move houses or anything.
How to Fix It
If you just brought your orchid home from the store, don’t worry if the leaves start to yellow. You can’t do much.
Make sure that you pick a great location for your brand new plant, and it will gradually work itself out.
It can be hard to prevent this type of issue, and the only thing that you can do is provide the right climate.
You would hope that stores would take care to reduce stress on plants, but we know that’s not always the case.
Too Much Fertilizer
Just like overwatering, it’s easy to add too much fertilizer. When you add too much fertilizer, it leads to extra nutrients in the soil, such as calcium, manganese, copper, or zinc.
While the plants do need access to extra nutrients, the levels can become excessive, and that prevents your orchids from taking iron.
A sign of iron deficiency in orchids is yellowing of the leaves. It’s a condition called chlorosis.
You want your plant to be healthy, and you probably don’t realize that adding too much can be just as problematic, if not more, as not adding enough.
How to Fix Excess Fertilizer
Once you’ve given your plants too much fertilizer, you can’t take it back. Instead, spend some time learning about the proper way to feed your plants.
Orchids are light feeders, so infrequent feedings are ideal, and you do need to dilute.
You'll want to cut the strength by ¼ to ½ when compared to the fertilizer that you use with other houseplants. Another option is to find an orchid specific fertilizer and follow the directions carefully.
You should also make sure you’re not always watering with a water-soluble fertilizer. It’s best to alternate, which gives time to drain out nutrient salts in the potting soil.
When you buy your orchids, chances are they're already in full bloom. So that means you don't need to fertilize.
Remember not to feed while in full bloom. When the blossoms drop, start fertilizing to encourage the growth of your plant and new flower development.
A Nutrient Deficiency
If you don’t give your plants any fertilizer, a nutrient deficiency could cause yellowing as well.
You might not realize that you need to fertilize your plants, assuming that the potting medium has enough nutrients for your plant.
While it does, there isn’t enough to last forever.
When the nutrient reserves run out, your plant will start to sign shows of nutrient deficiency unless you apply a feeding.
Most commonly, orchids have deficiencies in manganese, zinc, iron, and nitrogen. All of these are required for proper growth and require fertilizer.
How to Fix a Nutrient Deficiency
This problem is easy to find! All you need to do is start applying a fertilizer every other week or whatever the directions on the fertilizer you bought indicate.
Exposure to Hard Water or Chemicals
One problem that these plants don’t always handle well is the type of tap water that you use to water and feed your plants.
Some areas have hard water or water excessively treated with chlorine. In these cases, your orchid plants might struggle to process these chemicals, leading to yellowing tips.
Hard water has high levels of calcium and magnesium, which can harm the plant’s ability to absorb essential micronutrients. That can cause nutrient deficiencies and leaf problems.
How to Fix Water Problems
If you can’t seem to figure out why your orchid leaves are turning yellow, you can call your local water inspection and ask for copies of the water testing results.
That can tell you all of the chemicals detected in the most recent test.
If that indicates there is a problem, you have three options: use rainwater, purchase a house filtering system, or buy filtered water for your plants. Using rainwater is the cheapest choice, but it is illegal in some states, so check your state laws first.
Last but not least, your plants could have an infection or disease that is causing the yellowing. Typically, diseases are more likely to cause yellow spots and patches on the leaves rather than the general yellowing of an entire leaf.
Here are three common diseases and infections that orchids encounter.
If you encounter any diseases, chances are it’ll be root rot because it is most common.
Root rot is a fungal infection of the roots, which typically happens if you overwater, use a pot without drainage holes, or poorly draining medium.
The primary issue with root rot is that it will take over fast and kill your plant quickly. So, if you notice yellowing leaves, check the roots.
You'll know your plant has root rot if the roots are brown or black, soft, and fragile.
If the plant has some healthy roots, it's possible to save the plant, but you need to use sharp, sterile scissors to remove all rotten roots.
Fungal Leaf Spot
This infection is known for causing yellow areas that start on the bottom and underside of the leaves.
When left untreated, fungal leaf spot will cause the spots to become larger, turning to brown or black.
For mild infections, you can spray or wipe the leaves with a fungicide. It’s typically advised to remove all infected leaves and then treat the healthy leaves.
Bacterial Brown Spot
If you notice wet-looking yellow or brown spots on the leaves, chances are you have the bacterial brown spot.
If you have your orchid in a hot and humid area, this is more common. As it gets worse, it leads to the generalized yellowing of the leaves, which is a sign of the stress the plant is under.
The best treatment plan is to remove all infected parts of the leaves or the entire leaves. Always use sterile scissors!
After removal, you can try a broad spectrum of bacterial spray or fungicide to prevent the fungus spores from infecting more of the plant.
Finding the Reason for the Yellowing
When you notice your orchid leaves turning yellow, the first step is to go through all of these nine reasons and determine what the problem is.
It could be the natural lifecycle, or your plant could be under stress.
After you determine the reason for the yellowing, you can take appropriate steps and measures to fix the problem and ensure that it doesn’t return in the future.
Bethany is a suburban homesteader, growing over half of the vegetables, fruit, and herbs that her family of six needs each year. She raises chickens and homeschools her children. When she isn’t spending time tending to her garden, you can find her reading, crocheting, and canning.
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