Orchid is without any doubt one of the most stunning and most beautiful houseplants, and what’s best of all- it’s not a complicated one to maintain. They come in the richest spectrum of colors, and so many unusual shapes. While enjoying the relaxing view of your gorgeous flower, you spot some imperfections. For instance, its leaves are not the same color, there are some tiny spots, and orchid leaves turning yellow.
This can freak you freak out. What to do when you notice that your orchid leaves are turning yellow?
The most important of all- do not panic.
This is a relatively common problem, and it happens for various reasons, such as the natural cycle of death, or over-watering, too much sunlight, and more.
It can also be a sign of illness in the plant, but the good thing is that there are solutions to all these problems. In the majority of situations, it’s simpler than you can imagine.
Stay tuned to find out more!
Nature’s Just Doing its Job
When you label a plant as an „easy one to grow“, you somehow assume nothing wrong can happen.
Yet again, you are standing in front of your beloved plants whose leaves don’t look the same as they did just several days ago.
Don’t let anything like this frustrates you, because those are things which all gardeners experience, and they can be eliminated.
One of the most frequent reasons for Orchid leaves turning yellow is its natural life cycle, so don’t worry, your plant is okay and healthy it’s all part of the development.
When those old ones drop away, they will make room for new ones to appear, treating you with another set if impressive foliage.
On the other hand, how can you be sure that this is the reason for orchid leaves turning yellow and not something else?
If you’ve spotted one or two leaves in the lower part of your plant are changing their color to yellow, wait for a couple of days to see if the process is ongoing.
After a while, if the process is a continuous one, the leaves will become not only yellower but will wither off the orchid.
It’s the plant’s natural way to get rid of the dead parts and create room for new leaves to appear.
This is how your orchid clearly indicates what’s the priority for it- and that would be new growth. And what else is simpler to do, than get rid of the lowermost ones.
Nature is wondrous, isn’t it?
Related: Orchids – The Ultimate Caring Guide
What Can Be Done About That?
There’s one thing you shouldn’t do if this is the reason for Orchid leaves turning yellow – never ever remove such leaves from the orchid yourself.
I know that it’s not the most beautiful picture to look at, but that doesn’t mean you should just pinch them off.
This can increase the risk of infections and diseases. It’s like an open wound for the plant and the last thing you want to is to end up with some real problems.
Be patient and let nature does its job- let the leaves turn completely yellow and wilted and THEN you can get rid of them.
I suggest using a sharp knife for removing the leaf at the base. Of course, a sterile one.
In case the natural cycle is not what caused yellowing, what is the reason the color is changing then?
Let’s find out!
What Causes Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow
Aside from the natural cycle I described, excessive watering is one of the main reasons why color of your beloved plant is changing to yellow.
It’s similar to what happens with all sorts of Monsteras, or for example cacti, they do not tolerate being over-watered.
Then, if you relocated your plant, or if the temperature fluctuates a lot in the room where you keep it, that can lead to Orchid leaves turning yellow.
Let’s go through the top 8 reasons for yellowing leaves in orchids, and see how to handle those situations!
1. Your plant is exposed to excessive amount of direct sunlight
Taking a look at the natural environment where this lovely plant grows, you will easily conclude that it doesn’t like being exposed to the direct sunlight.
It grows under the canopy of big trees, in the shade, where the light is diffused.
If exposed to a greater dose of light than they need it, orchids and any other plants will not only lose its color, but their leaves will be burnt.
You need to know that almost all plants thrive on light, but not all of them need an excessive amount of it.
Indirect light is how the majority of plants prefer.
Solution for too much sunlight
This problem is one of the easiest to deal with, you just need to find the right location for your gorgeous plant, that’s all.
During summer, I suggest you choose somewhere near windows which are facing either north or east.
That’s because the light is strongest during the warmest months of the year, so you don’t want to expose your plant to it too much.
On the other hand, during winter, it’s best to choose south or east-facing windows.
The sunlight is moderate, so your plant will enjoy just the necessary dose of it.
However, sometimes the home is arranged in the way that we have windows on one side only, and restructuring your place (breaking the walls and all) really makes no sense.
Then diffuse the light using a curtain.
Or simply move your plant away from the window, and put it on a stand, so that it can receive the necessary dose of light without getting burnt.
2. Your orchid is exposed to too low or to high temperatures
If there’s one thing that absolutely all indoor plants love, it’s a stable temperature.
None of them likes fluctuations, and if they are not comfortable with the temperature of the location where they reside, they will react somehow.
In the case of orchids, their leaves will start yellowing.
This adorable plant loves moderate temperatures, let’s say between 60-80℉ (15- 26°C).
It’s more or less the average temperature of our homes.
Anything that goes overly below or above these numbers represents huge stress for the plant.
Aside from yellowing and dropping leaves, it may also stagnate, or even worse- starts to die.
Of course, that cannot happen overnight, but still, it’s advisable to react on time.
Aside from temperature fluctuations, the draft is another enemy to pay attention to.
It may not be the main guilty one, but it can contribute to yellowing leaves.
Solution for temperature-caused issues
This is also one of the simplest issues to fix, and like in case of direct light, you can relocate your orchid and save the day.
If you are not 100% sure whether the temperature is adequate, get a thermometer and follow it.
As for the draft, double-check the windows, and also place your orchid on a smart and non-drafty, but a well-ventilated location.
3. Your orchid is getting more water than it needs
Too much of the most precious liquid leads to yellowing, and it could even be one of the main suspects for root rot, which furthermore results in the death of the entire system.
If you water it excessively, you are not allowing your plant to consume the liquid and nutrients gradually, but you are soaking it continuously.
Orchids don’t like wet feet, as a matter of fact, the majority of plants doesn’t, so you need to make a proper watering schedule.
Solution for overwatering
Don’t worry, it happens to all of us, to overwater the plant once or twice, but it should by no means become a habit.
You just went a little overboard, and don’t panic immediately, your plant will drink it, just be more careful next time!
What you should do is come up with some sort of watering schedule.
If you live in a place where the climate is relatively stable, and the temperature is more or less the same, then you will have some foreseeable timetable.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to play guessing games, I suggest you implement the simplest yet the most effective trick.
How to check whether your plant needs water?
Quite simply, put your fingers into the pot, and check the soil.
In case approximately an inch below the surface you sense the soil is still wet, then it doesn’t need an additional amount of water, but if it is dry, then water it.
You may also be wondering how else can you be sure that this is the reason why your orchid is yellowing.
You see, when roots are flooded, they are cut off from the air, which prevents them from consuming the needed amount of nutrients.
Besides changing the color, leaves will also become less elastic.
If the problem is too severe, and the roots are affected, then repotting is the best solution to save your dear plant.
In case you are still having some double thoughts about over or underwatering, do know that orchids are much more tolerant of a small deficit of it than an excessive amount of water.
4. You relocated the plant
For you it may be something like: “Oh, it’s just moving the plant from location A to location B.”, but to your orchid, it could be a bigger shock than you can imagine.
It’s the lighting conditions, temperature, humidity- every single detail matters, and even the smallest shift in those parameters can harm your plant.
And just imagine when you are moving from one place to another, what kind of a change is that- even for you, let alone a tiny orchid!
Even the sturdiest plant will have some sort of reaction to being moved to a new place.
To some of them, stress will be bigger, to some smaller- but they will all sense the changes.
Solution for relocation
One of the first moving scenarios for your plant is the purchase itself- and the more ideal location you find for it, the less are the chances for it to start yellowing.
But if it does happen, perhaps it simply couldn’t adapt, that’s all.
In case you moved it from one room to another, then compare the conditions and try to adjust them accordingly.
Mind every detail- humidity, temperature, sunlight, everything!
If you’ve moved from one place to another, then compare the overall climate, and see if the new set of conditions fit one for orchids in general.
Do everything you can to help your plant adjust well, but if things simply don’t work, don’t blame yourself-you did what was in your power.
5. You’ve been overfertilizing your plant
It’s also one of those things which happened to all of us – we all have the feeling that our plants could use an extra portion of food.
And we add a bit more fertilizer…once or twice…and the next thing we spot is that instead of a healthier one we ended up with a yellowish orchid.
When it comes to nutrients found in fertilizers, they are more than sufficient to your plant when used as instructed.
And all these extra nutrients that your orchid is getting actually lead to chlorosis- iron deficiency.
That’s right, too much food can block the proper iron intake and will result in yellowing leaves.
Solution for overfertilizing
Orchids are very straightforward, they will even give you a signal when they don’t need fertilizing at all.
That’s the time when they are actively blossoming, so feeding is not necessary at all.
Once the blossoms fall off, then you can initiate fertilizing them, to promote growth and development.
Sad truth is that if you’ve already overfertilized your plant, there’s no undo button.
You can patiently wait and see, hoping that no major harm was done, and then proceed with a smarter feeding schedule.
Orchids are not one of those demanding feeders, so occasional fertilizing is ideal.
Change the fertilizer from time to time, but always use the products which are meant for orchids.
Of course, dilute and use them as instructed.
6. Your Plant is Experiencing A Nutrient Insufficiency
As ironical as it may seem, if your plant is not receiving enough nutrients, its leaves will slowly yellow.
I know, it sometimes seems as if Mother Nature is playing with our patience and logic.
Jokes aside, plants don’t talk in the way us humans do, so it’s only natural that they use more or less similar signals to let us know something is wrong.
If you are not fertilizing your plant at all, expect this to happen.
No matter how many reserves it has, they will run out at some point in time.,
If you don’t give your plants any booster, to call it so, nutrients insufficiency could lead to yellowing as well.
In the majority of cases, orchids lack the following: iron, in the first place, then nitrogen, manganese, and zinc.
And you will need all of these ingredients for its optimal growth and development.
Solution for the lack of nutrients
Check out the product you are using.
Perhaps it’s not an adequate one for orchids, which may be the reason for nutrients deficiency.
Ask yourself when was the last time you’ve fed your plant at all?
To save your plant, purchase the adequate product, and feed your plant as instructed.
Once a week is an average but always do as stated on the label of the bottle or a bag.
7. Your Orchid is Exposed to Hard Water or Chemicals
Plants tend to react when watered with tap water, and this is due to chlorine and fluoride.
Of course, it won’t happen after a single watering, but if you do it on a regular basis, don’t be surprised if you spot yellowing leaves.
Plants simply have problems processing these substances.
Hard water has greater dosages of calcium and magnesium, and they prevent your plant from receiving the necessary amount of some crucial micronutrients.
Solution for hard water and water with chemicals
One of the ways to find out what’s the specific type of water is to get in touch with the local inspection in charge of water and ask for results from the most recent tests.
This will give you an insight into all the detected chemicals, and it will most certainly solve your doubt on whether this is the reason your plant is yellowing.
While you cannot change the entire system, there are some simple solutions that could save the day.
You can use tap water but leave it overnight. It’s not the best one, but it may work.
Consider a filtering system for your house, or simply start buying distilled water for your orchids, and other plants you have.
Wanna hear the cheapest one?
But it comes with a catch- but it is not legal in all states, so check the local laws first.
The last thing you want to is to end up in jail just because you were looking for a healthy drink for your orchid!
8. Your Plant is Dealing with Some Infections
Last but not least, various diseases could be the reason your orchid is yellowing.
It comes in the form of yellow spots and areas, but the more diseased the plant becomes, the bigger part of the leaf gets affected.
Let’s check out the three most common troubles:
This is a fungal issue roots usually struggle with, which typically results from overwatering.
In case your plant is in a container with no or very few drainage holes, it will only contribute to roots rotting and leaves changing the color.
Mushy and fragile, brownish, or even black leaves are usually the rot ones.
Fungal Leaf Spot
This is also one of the main guilty ones for yellowing in orchids.
You can usually see them on the lower part of your plant and underside of the leaves, that’s where they begin to spread from.
When not adequately treated, or not treated at all, these spots will gradually grow in size and change their color- from yellow they will turn to brown or black.
Bacterial Brown Spot
If you notice wet-looking yellowish or brownish areas on the leaves, chances are your plant has this infection.
That’s why adjusting overall conditions is essential for any plant’s proper and regular development, and I must remind you, orchids love higher temperatures and higher humidity.
Solutions for Common Issues Other Than Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow
If there are some healthy parts of the system, it’s possible to save the plant, by repotting it.
What you need are some sharp, sterile tools to get rid of the rotten parts and transplant your orchid in a new clean container.
For not so severe fungal issues, you can spray or wipe the leaves with a fungicide.
The best would be to eliminate all infected leaves and then try to cure and save the healthier ones.
The best approach for the brown spot caused by bacterial infection is to eliminate all diseased parts of the leaves.
If too affected, then the entire leaves. Of course, utilizing sterile and sharp tools.
After getting rid of the diseased parts, try some spray or fungicide.
In this way you will prevent the tiny spores from infecting other areas of the plant.
BONUS- FAQ for Other Common Issues with Orchids
We all want what’s best for our plants, and we feel bad when things go wrong-but we shouldn’t.
It’s a constant learning process and the more we get involved in the wonderful world of gardening the more skillful we become.
Now, let’s go through several more common problems orchid fans struggle with.
Why are buds on my orchid drying up and I don’t see any pests or disease?
This is one of the clearest signals that the environment is not suitable. It’s called bud blast, and you can be positive that this is the trouble you are dealing with if buds are drying and dying.
Provided that you are 100% sure there are no pests and disease, then check out the temperature, humidity, light, draft, etc.
If you’ve relocated your plant recently, it may be one of the reasons its buds are dying.
Once you establish a proper care, the problem will be eliminated.
What’s that sticky substance on the surface of my orchid?
If those are oval-shaped, white, and sticky, they are caused by scale pests.
The best way to treat is with some soap mean for killing those nasty enemies.
But if those oval-shaped areas are white or even not visible, but they aren’t sticky, then you don’t have to worry.
They are caused by a decrease in temperature and aren’t harmful.
Why are my orchid’s leaves becoming mushy?
If this appears in combination with root roots, then it’s the sign that your plant is infected.
It could be either fungal and bacterial infection, and orchids are prone to them as they thrive on higher humidity.
If it affects the leaves and root too much, cut those areas with disinfected tools, and treat your plant with an adequate product (for example, copper spray) to save it.
Is it necessary to repot the orchid if the roots have grown above the soil?
Have you ever heard about “air/aerial roots”? That’s precisely the thing, and these beauties have them as well.
So, the answer is no, you don’t need to repot it this instant if there are no other signals which indicate the moment has arrived.
Those are yellow foliage or damaged roots, and the most ideal moment for repotting is just after blossoming, or when new growth appears. It’s best to do it once per year, but it depends on your plant’s individual progress.
What’s going on with my orchid’s foliage, why is it changing color?
Though generally resilient, they are sensitive to environmental fluctuations and will react if they don’t like the conditions.
Too much light will lead to yellowing leaves, while the lack of it will cause dark spots.
Find a suitable location, and if the light is still too excessive, then diffuse it with some curtain.
As you can see, the key is in finding the reason for the orchid leaves turning yellow, consider that half of the job done.
If you know what caused the issue, then you will know how to react properly and on time, and save your plant, ensuring the same mistake won’t be repeated in the future.
That’s why I always stress out how important is to spend time with your plant.
Observe it, inspect it, talk with it, sing to it, and both of you will be happy and fulfilled.