Why Are My Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow

Pending Garlands of Yellow Orchid Flowers

Why Are My Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow

Orchids are a type of flowering plant that falls under the Orchidaceae family. They have vibrant and pleasant-smelling flowers and unique features distinguishing them from other plants. These characteristics include symmetrical flowers, typically twisted upside down, a highly modified petal, fused stamens and carpels, and very small seeds.

Although orchids are considered easy to grow, you may still observe the yellowing of their leaves. This is a frequent dilemma that indoor gardeners encounter when cultivating orchids in their homes, which can be exasperating. At this point, some orchid enthusiasts will ask why orchid leaves are turning yellow. In most instances, yellowing leaves are a natural occurrence in the life of the orchid plant and do not signify that anything is wrong with your plants.

10 Common Reasons for Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow

There are 10 common reasons for orchid leaves turning yellow. They are:

Lack of Sunlight

Plants need sunlight or artificial light for photosynthesis, which is the process that helps them produce energy, grow healthy leaves and blossoms, and overall thrive. Plants need sunlight or artificial light for photosynthesis, which is the process that helps them produce energy, grow healthy leaves and blossoms, and overall thrive.

Orchids are not low-light plants, although some varieties can tolerate low light. However, they are susceptible to damage from direct sunlight. Avoiding direct sun rays is critical to know how to care for orchids.

Orchid Care

If your orchid is placed in a poorly lit room with low natural light, such as a north-facing room or office, you may have to move it to a spot where it can receive sufficient sunlight for new growth.

Overexposure to Sunlight

Orchids are tropical plants that grow naturally in indirect sunlight beneath the trees’ canopy. They are not adapted to direct sunlight, so their leaves may turn yellow if exposed to too much of it.

Prevent Sunburn

To avoid sunburn on the leaves, it is best not to expose orchids to direct sunlight. Orchids usually grow attached to tree trunks or in the tropical forest understory, receiving different levels of filtered sunlight. This is a good rule of thumb to follow when caring for orchids.

Yellowing leaves, fading, scorch marks, cracks, and burnt leaf tips are signs of too much direct sunlight. Therefore, choosing an appropriate location for your orchid plant is essential.

Remedies from Excessive Sunlight

To remedy excessive sunlight exposure for your plants at home, consider placing them in windows that face north or east during the summer months when the sun’s rays are strongest.

During winter, you can place your orchids close to windows facing south or east, as the sunlight is not too strong. But in summer, it is best to keep them near a window that faces south as the direct sunlight can be too intense and harmful for the orchids. However, you may not have control over the window’s location, so if your plants receive too much sunlight, try using a sheer curtain or placing them on a stand away from the window.

Improper Watering

Watering plants is essential for their survival. But you should water them properly, especially orchids.

Overwatering Issues

To prevent overwatering your orchid, note that most tropical orchid species grow high off the ground and don’t need traditional soil to survive. They live on tree trunks and branches and absorb nutrients from the air through their dangling roots. It’s important to keep this in mind while watering them.

Orchid roots need air to survive, unlike most other houseplants. Overwatering orchids is common and harmful because it can suffocate the plant. When the potting mix becomes saturated with water, there’s less space for air to reach the roots. Root rot, a plant decay that orchids are susceptible to when left in a damp potting mix, can also occur due to overwatering.

Fixing Overwatering Problems

First, stop watering and let the soil dry completely to fix the yellowing leaf tips on your orchid. Consider repotting and trimming any damaged roots if the plant doesn’t improve. Use a fast-draining potting mix during repotting to prevent water from accumulating around the roots.


Although overwatering is a common mistake that can cause harm to your orchid, it is equally harmful to underwater it. When your orchid does not receive enough water, it gets dehydrated. This can severely impact your orchid’s health as it needs water to absorb the necessary nutrients that keep it thriving and producing new growth.

You might observe signs of distress in your orchid, such as wilting, softening of stem and leaves,

wrinkled foliage or yellowing leaves if it is not receiving enough water or is becoming dehydrated.

Dealing with Underwatering

To address yellowing leaves in your orchid, water it thoroughly when the potting medium is dry. Hold the plant under a running faucet until water drains out of the pot’s drainage holes. Afterward, wait for the potting mix to dry before watering the plant again.

After watering, your underwatered orchid may take a few days to recover and become healthy. Therefore, it’s recommended that you monitor your plant for a few days once you start watering it again.

Poor Drainage

The pine bark chippings benefit orchids as their large size facilitates root respiration and drainage. This decreases the likelihood of root rot, even if you accidentally overwater your orchid.

When the potting media formula is too moist, you should use a fast-draining potting media that allows roots to breathe.

The New Zealand Sphagnum Moss is an excellent option, as it dries evenly. If using an Orchid Bark Mix, ensure that it contains at least 25 percent charcoal or perlite to aerate the mix. For orchids that require more water, this may not be the issue.

Potting Medium

Using moss or regular potting soil as a potting medium can lead to the same issues as overwatering. This is because they retain too much moisture, restricting oxygen flow to the roots. As a result, the roots may shrivel, causing the leaves to turn yellow.

The potting medium for orchids doesn’t necessarily need to hold too much moisture. The problem could be that it is too compact and not porous enough for the roots to function properly. A better option is to use pine bark as the potting medium, closely resembling the orchid’s preferred growing conditions.

The bark chippings benefit the orchid as their large size promotes efficient root respiration and drainage. This reduces the risk of root rot, even if you tend to overwater your orchid.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Although orchids do not need a lot of food, they need a steady supply of nutrients to keep their leaves and blooms healthy. Even though the orchid potting mix contains nutrient-rich material, it may not be sufficient to nourish the orchid fully. If an orchid lacks adequate nutrients, its leaves may turn yellow, limp, or look sickly.

Be careful with orchid fertilizers, as some may contain too much or incorrect ratios of nutrients like calcium, manganese, zinc, copper, or phosphorus. This can cause your orchid to develop an iron deficiency and yellow leaves by preventing iron uptake.

Dealing with Nutritional Deficiencies

To fix the issue, you can utilize high-quality orchid food, which will provide adequate nourishment to your orchid for promoting healthy growth, budding, and vivid blossoms. The premium orchid food is tailored specifically to enhance the well-being of your orchid.

The pre-mixed spray is an easy-to-use root stimulator that helps young plants to use nutrients better. It’s made with sea kelp extract and humic acids that cater to the specific needs of your orchid. With regular use, you’ll notice your orchids become healthier and more vibrant. It’s safe to use at every watering as it’s a gentle formula that won’t harm your orchid’s roots, unlike other orchid fertilizers.

Nutrient Excesses

Adding too much fertilizer can harm your orchids by creating excess nutrients like calcium, manganese, copper, or zinc in the soil. Although plants need extra nutrients, excessive levels can prevent them from absorbing iron. This is similar to the risks of overwatering your orchids.

Orchids experiencing chlorosis, a condition where their leaves turn yellow, might indicate iron deficiency. Maintaining your plant’s health is crucial, and you may not know that too much iron may be equally, if not more harmful, than adding too little.

Dealing with Excess Nutrients

There is no way to undo your plants if you have over-fertilized your plants. Educating yourself about the correct way to nourish your plants is recommended. Orchids are light feeders and do not require frequent feeding, and must be given diluted fertilizer.

To fertilize your orchid properly, use a fertilizer with a strength of ¼ to ½ weaker than what you use for other houseplants. Alternatively, you can use a fertilizer specifically made for orchids and follow the instructions. Additionally, avoid using water-soluble fertilizer every time you water the plant. It’s best to alternate so that the nutrient salts can drain out of the potting soil over time.

If your orchids are in full bloom when you purchase them, avoid fertilizing them immediately. Wait until the flowers have fallen off before fertilizing, which will help promote growth and new flower development.

Temperature Extremes

To keep your orchids healthy, it’s best to maintain a temperature range of 60 to 80℉. This is usually the average temperature inside a home and works well for most homeowners. However, if the temperature drops below 60℉ or goes above 80℉, it can cause stress to the plant. You may notice yellowing or dropping of leaves, browning, blackening, or even plant death.

Dealing with Temperature Extremes

To solve the issue of temperature stress on your plant, use a thermometer to check if your chosen location is within the suitable temperature range. Be aware that window sills may experience significant temperature changes due to direct sunlight in the summer and cold outdoor temperatures in the winter.

Pest Infestation

Moth orchids are often attacked by spider mites, scale insects, thrips, and mealybugs that can rapidly reproduce and spread. These pests can be difficult to spot unless examined closely with a magnifying glass or by inspecting the underside of leaves. You might notice the presence of pests through webbing or discolored spots on the foliage where the bugs are feeding.

Mites are small bugs that are greenish-yellow and very fast, about the size of a sharp pencil point. Thrips are larger than mites, with thin bodies and wings, measuring about 1/8-inch in length. Mealybugs have a fuzzy, white appearance and can grow to about 1/4-inch long, while Scale insects are about the same size but have a glossy-looking outer shell that is round and dark.

Dealing with Pest Infestation

To get rid of the bugs, use a powerful water spray, wipe the leaves with a damp cloth or paper towel, or use an insecticide like neem oil or insecticidal soap for a larger infestation. Apply the oil or soap in the morning and wash it off before the sun gets too hot. Keep affected plants away from healthy plants until the infestation is gone.


The yellowing of your plants could be due to an infection or disease. Usually, diseases cause yellow spots or patches on leaves rather than the entire leaf turning yellow. Orchids often encounter diseases and infections; among them, root rot is the most common. Here are three common diseases and infections that orchids may face.

  • Root Rot – If you see yellowing leaves on your plant, check for root rot, a fungal infection caused by overwatering or using a pot without drainage holes. Root rot progresses quickly and can kill your plant, so check the roots for soft, brown or black, and fragile roots. If there are healthy roots, use sterile scissors to remove the rotten ones to save your plant.
  • Bacterial Brown Spot – If you see damp, yellow, or brown spots on your orchid’s leaves, it could have a bacterial brown spot infection. This is more likely to occur if your orchid is in a hot and humid location. The leaves may turn yellow as the infection progresses, indicating the plant’s distress.
  • Fungal Leaf Spot – Fungal leaf spot is an infection that causes yellow areas on the leaves bottom and underside. If left untreated, the spots can grow and turn brown or black. You can use a fungicide by spraying or wiping the leaves to treat mild infections. It is recommended to remove infected leaves and treat healthy ones.

Dealing with Diseases

Remove any infected parts of the leaves or the entire leaves for the most effective treatment. Be sure to use sterile scissors to prevent further spread of the infection. After removal, consider using a broad-spectrum bacterial spray or fungicide to halt the spread of fungus spores and prevent further plant infection.

Natural Leaf Shedding

It is normal for some leaves on an aging orchid to turn yellow, especially the lowermost ones. This can happen more often as the orchid reaches the end of its life, although some orchids can live for many years. The orchid sheds old leaves to allow new ones to grow. If you let the yellowing leaves fall on their own, it won’t harm the plant.

Dealing with Aging

It is normal for some leaves on an aging orchid to turn yellow, especially the lowermost ones. This can happen more often as the orchid reaches the end of its life, although some orchids can live for many years. The orchid sheds old leaves to allow new ones to grow. If you let the yellowing leaves fall on their own, it won’t harm the plant.

Tips to Treat Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow

Orchids can live for several years with proper care and tend to bloom well if grown under optimal conditions. In case you observe the yellowing of leaves, it is advisable to inspect the roots first. Carefully remove the plant from its pot and examine the roots and stem. If the roots have turned white, gray, or black, modify your watering schedule suitably.

Assessing the Cause

Evaluating the cause of yellowing leaves is key to resolving the issue. Overwatering, underwatering, nutrient deficiencies, nutritional excesses, temperature extremes, pest infestations, or disease can be the causes. Taking proactive measures with proper maintenance and care will help you keep your orchid healthy.

Although it might seem intimidating at first glance, understanding why orchid leaves are turning yellow can help you take the necessary steps to restore your orchid’s health. Regularly inspecting leaves and roots, correct watering schedule and proper feeding will ensure that your orchid remains healthy for years.

Corrective Measures

You can implement corrective measures such as monitoring the temperature, potting medium, and nutrition can make a huge difference in keeping your orchids healthy. You should also take regular steps to check for pests and diseases.

If your orchid plant has yellow leaves, it’s usually best to let them fall off on their own. However, if you notice signs of disease or infection, removing the affected areas is a good idea. Regular pruning will also help remove any dead or dying leaves, which can improve the overall health of your plant.

With proper care and attention, you can save your orchid from turning yellow and ensure that it remains healthy for many years.

Monitoring and care

Consistently monitoring and caring for the orchids will ensure that the leaves do not turn yellow. Monitor the temperature, potting medium, and nutrition of the orchids regularly and take corrective steps if needed. Pruning out any dead or dying leaves can also help improve the overall health of your plants.

You should also watch for signs of pest infestations or diseases and take appropriate steps to get rid of them. With proper care and attention, you can ensure that your orchid will remain healthy and vibrant for many years to come.

It can be challenging to figure out why orchid leaves are turning yellow, but with careful monitoring and proper care, you can keep your orchids healthy for many years. You should regularly check the temperature, potting medium, nutrition levels, and signs of pests or diseases. Additionally, pruning any dead or dying leaves will help improve the overall health of your plants. With these tips and a close eye on your beloved plant friends, you’ll have beautiful blooms all year!

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