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When plants get yellow leaves or brown spots: What to do? Possible causes and treatments

When plants get yellow leaves, then the question arises for most amateur gardeners: What is the reason and what can be done? Is it even possible for yellow leaves to turn green again? The possible causes of yellow leaves, brown tips and/or brown spots are many. We list the most common ones and explain how you should treat houseplants.

What to do when plants get yellow leaves?

yellow leaves on houseplants fall off what to do

First of all, we should clarify: All plants sometimes get several yellow leaves. Most often this happens when flowering is imminent or when the plants sprout again. The old leaves are then gradually shed and replaced by new ones. Sometimes the process is also seasonal.

Yellow leaves on houseplants are unusual when there are a serious number. If more than half of the leaves have turned yellow or the leaves are falling off, then you should definitely stop the process and treat the houseplant.

When plants get yellow leaves: Too much or too little water

yellow leaves on plants wrong location

A possible cause of discoloration is irregular and especially incorrect watering of plants . Check if:

  • there is mold on the soil in the pot. If the roots smell unpleasant, it is a possible sign of rot. In this case, you have overwatered the plant.
  • If the substrate is too dense and dry, then you have not watered the plant enough.

By the way, in the garden centers you can buy special watering indicators. They can measure the moisture of the potting soil. This allows you to determine a suitable time for watering.

plants with yellow leaves and brown tips check air humidity

If the plant gets too little water: Gradually water the plant more. But don’t water too much at once, because that could lead to root rot.

Also, check regularly to see if the excess water can drain through the drainage holes. If you water the plants from the bottom and notice water collecting in the saucer, then you should stop watering for some time. Check if the drainage holes of the pot are clogged. In the worst case, you can repot the plant and mix expanded clay or pebbles with the potting soil. If some roots are rotting, you should cut them off before repotting.

If plants get brown tips in winter: Check the humidity

Plants get yellow leaves with brown edges too low humidity dry out


Brown tips and brown edges are a sign that humidity needs to be regulated.

What do yellow leaf tips mean? Yellow leaf tips can indicate high humidity.

Especially in winter, the air in the rooms dries too quickly. In combination with an unfavorable place (for example, right next to the heater), the low humidity leads to the fact that the soil quickly dries out completely. Then the leaves also begin to dry out and fall off.

What can you do if the plants get yellow leaves in winter? Measure the humidity of the air. If necessary, you can pour water into a spray bottle and spray the plants every 2-3 days.

Brown leaf tips on houseplants: Too much water, too low temperatures.

However, it is much worse when the leaves or their tips turn brown. The possible cause is that the humidity is too high and the houseplants are overwatered. Too much water in the potting soil is very harmful, especially for the roots. If they are no longer able to absorb nutrients, then the plant will slowly die. So you should avoid waterlogging at all costs. Especially in unheated rooms, where water evaporates more slowly.

Yellow leaves on plants: Nutrient deficiency as a cause

Plants get yellow leaves what to do overwatering


An iron deficiency is also among the possible causes of yellow leaves. A new potting soil contains important nutrients and minerals and can supply the houseplant with them over a period of time. Over time, however, these nutrients are either taken up by the plant through the roots, or washed out by watering. Therefore, regular fertilizing is an absolute must. It is best to take iron fertilizer and use it to supply plants with yellow leaves.

If you water your plants with tap water containing lime, you can even worsen the situation. This is because lime can increase the pH of the potting soil and affect the plant’s nutrient uptake. That’s why you should first decalcify the water and then use it to water the plants.

Yellow leaves may indicate chlorosis (jaundice).

houseplants with yellow leaves

Chlorosis, popularly known as jaundice, is a disease. Affected plants are unable to produce chlorophyll, which severely impairs their ability to absorb sunlight. Initially, their leaves turn yellow or brown and then they all fall off. If you do not treat the plant, it will die.

Disease Pattern: Fortunately, chlorosis can be quickly identified by its typical disease pattern. In jaundice, the young leaves discolor first.

One possible cause of chlorosis is iron deficiency. As mentioned above, watering with calcareous water can increase the pH of the potting soil. So the first thing you should do is to determine the pH of the soil.

When plants get yellow leaves too much water

Determine the pH of the soil: In the garden centers you can find special pH test strips. Alternatively, you can perform the following experiment: in a bowl fill one tablespoon of distilled water, add one tablespoon of baking soda. In another bowl, pour a tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Add a tsp of substrate to each bowl. If the vinegar reacts with the potting soil and forms foam, then it is alkaline. If the baking soda reacts with the potting soil and fizzes, then it is acidic.

Treat chlorosis in plants: If it is chlorosis, then you should first lower the pH in the soil. You can do this by mixing needle soil and special compost with the potting soil. Water the houseplants with rainwater or decalcify the tap water. Use iron fertilizer to provide nutrients to the plants.

In addition, be sure to check that you are watering and fertilizing the plant properly. If you over-fertilize, it will help if you repot it. If the soil is compacted, you should loosen it. Because this could also help with chlorosis. Do not use fungicides, because they can harm the environment .

If the plant gets yellow leaves with brown spots, then fungi are to blame

brown spots on leaves of houseplants fungal disease

If the houseplant suddenly gets yellow leaves with brown spots, then fungi are usually to blame. They are the most common triggers of the so-called leaf spot disease. The first signs of fungal attack are the many small brown spots on the surface of the leaves. Then, on the lower side of the leaf, many small spore containers can be seen.

Plants yellow leaves remove or leave

How to treat the diseased plants? Remove the yellow leaves with brown spots.

If you notice a leaf spot disease, then you should remove the yellow leaves. Cut off the affected parts of the plant, disinfect the pruning shears and gloves. Seal the plant parts in an airtight bag and dispose of them in the household trash. Place the houseplants at a distance from each other. Water the diseased plants only from the bottom to prevent the fungi from spreading. Try to strengthen the plants with fertilizer .

Can yellow leaves turn green again?

repot plants save yellow leaves

You have noticed a problem and are currently treating the plant. But what about the yellow leaves – should they be removed or maybe they will turn green again? If it is a disease, mistakes in care or a deficiency, then most likely the plant will recover. Also, its yellow leaves will turn green again. To get a better idea of the plant’s condition, check the leaf base on the stem. If it is green, then you can save the leaf. However, if it is yellow or brown, then the leaf will most likely fall off.