Wondering, ‘why are my orchid leaves turning yellow?’ it's time to stop wondering and find out. We know exactly what's going on with your beloved Phalaenopsis flowers. Let’s make your greenie green again, shall we?
How to Know When Yellow Leaves On Orchids Are Normal?
There's a great chance that the yellow leaf on orchid is nothing to worry about. Although, it's better to be safe than sorry! So here are the healthy signals your plant can give you that might calm you down. There are only two:
- Age. Your orchid is a granny! Maturing plants may develop yellow leaves as a part of a normal aging process.
- Lack of space. Oops, new leaves need space! If the bottom leaf of your orchid yellowed and fell, just let it go. No need to stress out!
What about the other cases save these two? Well, if you have been overwatering or suspect root rot, or have been baking your orchids in hot sun, we have no good news. These are ominous signs! Read on to find out more.
All Reasons For Yellow Orchid Leaves
Let's get the cat out of the bag and go over all the reasons for yellow orchid leaves. The longer you wait, the more yellow they get… Or is it the light playing tricks on you?
If you've been a green thumb and our loyal reader for some time, you know how much water matters with everything plant-related. It's a source of life but can also be a susceptible cause of decay for your greenies. This is how watering issues make your leaves go yellow. See the signs before it's too late.
You know the rules: 1-2 waterings weekly and 1 in cold seasons. This schedule is not hard to follow, especially if you have PlantIn notifications on. However, even the best of us may forget that watering is not all about frequency.
Orchids like to be watered from above, and a lousy soil mix should not steal the moisture. Different orchids enjoy different dirt: stones, coconut fiber, cork nuggets, sphagnum moss, perlite, fir bark, rock wool, dried fern roots, and peat moss.
Overwatering is best recognized ASAP. Overwatered orchids can be identified by their yellow leaves, but it’s recommended to check the texture too. Do the leaves feel soft, leathery, and limp? Oops. Someone has been going too hard on watering.
Underwatering is a problem your greenie may warn you about in many ways. Yellowing leaves is only one of them. After spotting yellow leaves or other forms of drying out in your orchid, carefully take your plant out of the pot and check the roots. Are they dry? Gray? Pale? Bad news for you. You are dealing with underwatering.
Just a friendly disclaimer! Don't skip your misting. It can't really be your only source of water, but it will do its job to keep your orchid fresh and moisturized.
Natural Aging Process
There is nothing wrong with aging (true for flowers, too!). Once the leaves have yellowed and fallen, new ones will take their place. It’s quite normal for mature orchids to lose about two leaves a year.
Orchids can be long-term companions, often lasting for years, even decades, with proper care. But every green thumb wants to slow their leafy friends' aging process. We know just the trick! Use some balanced fertilizer to help keep your orchids youthful longer. There are foods specifically for orchids that your green pet will love, so visit a local depot!
Orchids are pretty picky when it comes to lighting conditions. Sun can make your flowers as gold as it is if you're not careful enough! Here are some common lighting issues to watch out for.
Direct sunlight or LED are no-no for orchids! These flowers grow in the shadow of trees in their natural habitat. Too much sun is bound to make chlorophyll levels drop and, as a result, lead to yellowing. Sunburn can appear as different red or yellowish tints and even freckles or specks. A very bad burn can even turn your orchid brown! At least you probably won’t miss it.
Lack of Sunlight
We don't mean to confuse you after the anti-sun campaign we just had, but orchids don't love total shade, either. Your orchid will tell you it doesn’t receive enough sun soon enough, with either yellowing or deep-green leaves.
Yellow leaves usually indicate low temperature or a sudden temperature drop. Here are two temperature ranges to stick to 65-85°F/18-25°C for summer and 65-70°F/18-21°C for winter. As long as you stay within these ranges, you’re unlikely to face any complaints from your orchid. However, don't be surprised if you have been randomly turning your AC on and off, letting drafts in, or moving your plants around too much.
Chlorophyll, which your orchid needs to be green, can’t be efficiently produced without enough nitrogen and magnesium. If you didn’t check on your soil mix characteristics and never considered fertilizing, you might be looking at a nutritional deficiency. Remember: Even if you had fed your greenie before, it might not have absorbed the food correctly! Hard water or lack of root aeration might be to blame here, too.
Nutrient-starved orchids’ leaves will have yellow tips and sides with greener middles. Unlike most problems on this list, this issue is recognizable from the get-go.
Common Diseases That Can Be The Culprit
Yellowing leaves can indicate a whole plethora of diseases. It's time to play plant doctor and get acquainted with them a bit closer!
Right off the bat, sound the root rot alert! Usually caused by watering issues, this disease appears fast and gives many gardeners nightmares. What’s even worse, orchids are super sensitive to root rot, so it’s best to keep an eye on them with some extra attention.
Fungal Leaf Spot
Fungal infections are another kind of notorious trouble that has the power to turn your orchids yellow. They usually start at the bottom of the leaves and produce an unpleasant smell.
Bacterial Brown Spot
Not for the faint of heart, this disease is known for its distinctive, watery lesions. They start peppering the leaves, gradually becoming darker and darker until deep-brown. At later stages, they will also signal their unwanted arrival by a terrible smell emitting from the liquid collected in the lesions. Ew, right?
The invaders from outer space that want to munch on your orchid are aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, scale insects, and thrips. Given an opportunity, they will have a great dinner on the underside of your plant’s leaves!
Virus-caused Color Streaks or Color Breaks
Ever heard of Cymbidium Mosaic? If not, it’s high time you do. This condition, with an intriguing name, is a common virus. The usual symptoms are yellow leaves or chlorosis and black stripes.
Another enemy to be wary of is ringspot. Your greenie won’t warn you about this virus with a cough, but you will know from its curling, dropping, and yellowing foliage.
Changing your apartment or house is stressful for everyone. Your orchid gets used to its container often, so it can get upset when you relocate it… Especially if it is in bloom! We can’t stress this enough: Do NOT disturb your orchid when it’s flowering. Ever.
Orchids are capricious plants that grow fast and need to be repotted about once a year, but they HATE the process. Generally, you must wait until the orchid finishes flowering and feed it right after. Don’t forget: Before transplanting, prepare them for the journey by some misting in the previous two weeks.
A drop or rise in temperature, change in humidity levels, repotting, or lighting shifts can all cause your orchid to turn yellow. These flowers don’t deal with stress efficiently without external help, so get ready to nurse them back to health whenever you change their environment. There is a price for accommodating this beautiful plant!
How Can You Fix Orchid Yellow Leaves?
Unless you have paid no attention to the symptoms of the abovementioned issues, you should be able to save your orchid-in-distress just in time. Here are some ways to fix the yellow leaves!
For Sun-Stressed Orchids
If sunburn occurs, relocate your orchid. An east-facing window would be a perfect spot! Make sure the light is indirect and bright. Even though sunburns are permanent, your orchid will shed the leaf if you wait. Those who lack patience can grab a pair of clean scissors and get rid of it independently. However, you can stress your flower, so it’s not something we strongly recommend!
Remember to study the sunburn for pests and rot. If you see no signs of further decay, wait it out. Maintain a healthy watering routine, keeping moisture high by misting your orchid occasionally.
Water Routine For Overwatered & Underwatered Orchids
Overwatered orchids need their roots checked immediately. Mushy roots indicate root rot, in which case you must treat it. If no root rot is visible, it’s best to let them dry as a preventative measure. Then, repot your orchid into fresh, healthy soil mix in a clean container. Make sure it has drainage holes!
For underwatered orchids, a strict watering routine is the main prescription. Turn on your notifications in PlantIn, use the Water Calculator, and stick to the schedule. If underwatering is severe, you can soak your flower’s roots in the sink for about two minutes. Use lukewarm water; don’t forget to drain after unless you want to deal with overwatering, too!
Fertilizer Routine to Prevent Orchid Yellow Leaves
Two magic spells: Magnesium and nitrogen. Many gardeners use a teaspoon of magnesium per gallon of water monthly to boost the orchid growth. However, we have to warn you to be as cautious as possible. Orchids are delicate! Before you fertilize, always check on your greenie’s health. You might have heard about the wonders that high-nitrogen fertilizers do, but there can also be horrors lurking there. If you used high-nitro, switch to a balanced feeding solution afterward.
For Orchids With Pest Issues or Diseases
There are some homemade solutions for all your pest problems, so no worries! Let’s imagine you have already quarantined your plant. Now, how do you fight? For those gardeners unafraid to interact with crawlies, an alcohol-dabbed cotton swab will be a sword to fight off the intruders. Alcohol will dissolve their armor and make them perish! Sober gardeners can use dishwasher liquid instead.
Other options for pest control include insecticidal soap and horticultural and neem oils. Choose according to your plant’s overall health and pest infestation severity.
As for diseases, they all need very different treatment approaches. For example, plant parts affected by bacterial brown spots need to be cut off. Then, fungicide is applied, and the plant is relocated to a spot with a milder temperature range and humidity.
On the other hand, root rot requires repotting, pruning, and delicate aftercare, with fungicide being optional.
Key Notes On Yellowing Orchid Leaves
Here are some notes for those who skipped over the text and just want tips:
- If the leaves are yellow, your main suspects are root rot, under- or overwatering, nutrient deficiency, sunburn, low temperature or temperature changes, and pests and viruses.
- Don’t rush to prune your orchid if you see a yellow leaf. Study it first! Remember that cutting off leaves is not pleasant for your greenie, so, in most cases, it’s best to wait it out and let it shed by itself. The only exception is disease or pests, where the threat of spreading is high.
- Sometimes, yellow leaves are a completely normal part of an aging process. Don’t panic before you know what’s wrong for sure.
- If this article made you remember how delicate orchids are, don’t get cold feet. These plants are totally worth getting! Their beauty and longevity are virtues that no pair of yellow spots on orchid leaves can cancel out.
Love your orchids, and keep their leaves green!
Can Yellow Orchid Leaves Turn Green?
We hate to break it to you, but… No. New leaves will follow, though! Nature is all about restoration; don’t lose sight of that. It’s all about a circle of life.
Should You Cut off Yellow Orchid Leaves?
You can cut off the leaves at the risk of exposing your orchid to stress. If your orchid is already unhappy with the care given, it might be best to let it drop the leaves unless you’re dealing with infectious diseases or pests.
Are Orchids Dangerous to Cats?
Fortunately, the worst thing to happen to a cat after munching on an orchid is getting some tummy discomfort. Orchids are not considered poisonous to cats! However, it doesn’t mean you should let your pet have an orchid dinner: The plant might suffer from shock.
Are Phalaenopsis Orchids Poisonous to Cats?
Phalaenopsis orchids, as well as all orchids out there, are cat-friendly. No worries, cat moms!
Can the Water You Use Cause Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow?
Hard water is hard on your orchid’s health. It can often be a cause of yellowing! Hard water leeches the good stuff from the soil and, as a result, contributes to nutrient deficiency in your orchids.