When the orchid turns yellow leaves, several questions arise in the mind of the amateur gardener. What does it mean when the orchid leaves turn yellow? Should I cut off the yellow leaves? How can I save an overwatered orchid ? What should I do about the yellowing of the leaves? In this article we have tried to give an answer to all these questions. We will tell you the most common reasons why orchids get yellow leaves and give tips on how to get rid of the problem.
Table of Contents
- Orchid leaves turn yellow: is there any reason to panic?
- How to tell if yellow leaves are normal on your orchid
- Should you cut off yellow orchid leaves?
- Orchid gets yellow leaves after repotting: this is the reason
- Orchid leaves turn yellow: other possible causes
- Too much sunlight
- Too low or too high temperature
- Overwatering can cause yellow leaves
- Yellow leaves due to root rot
- Lack of nutrients causes yellow leaves
- Too much fertilizer can also turn the leaves of the orchid yellow
- A sudden change in the environment
- Orchid gets yellow leaves because of disease
Orchid leaves turn yellow: is there any reason to panic?
When the leaves of your orchid start to yellow, it is normal to feel that something is wrong.
When a leaf is older, it naturally loses its green color and falls off. Yellow leaves on your orchid could simply indicate the end of its natural life cycle. To produce new leaves, the older leaves fall off near the base. Before that, they turn yellow and then slowly shrivel up. They are unsightly, but it is best to leave them until they fall off on their own.
So if the yellow leaves on your orchid are old leaves, and the other leaves are not affected, then you have nothing to worry about. This is a sure sign that your orchid is growing and the life cycle of the affected leaf is simply over. However, if this is not the case, there may be several causes for the discoloration, for example:
- Too much direct sunlight
- Low or high temperatures
- root rot
- not enough or wrong fertilizer
- too much fertilizer
- change of environment
- bacterial or fungal infection or disease.
How to tell if yellow leaves are normal on your orchid
How many leaves should the orchid actually have? For a butterfly orchid, this question is easier to answer. A phalaenopsis has one leaf for every 10% humidity in the environment it lives in. Therefore, orchids in the greenhouse, where the humidity is 70-80%, have about 8 magnificent leaves. Since the humidity at home is lower, about 25-40%, we can assume that 4 leaves are “normal”. In all orchids, the lower leaves turn yellow first, one after the other in different seasons.
This is a normal part of the life cycle of the orchid. To care for a dying leaf is not always advisable, so the orchid throws off the old leaf. A new leaf will then grow on the upper part of the stem.
Should you cut off yellow orchid leaves?
Experts advise that you do not cut off the yellow leaves, because this allows bacteria and fungi to enter the orchid. Only if your orchid is weakened or recovering from a serious illness, it may be advisable to remove the leaf. This will save energy and the orchid can focus on what is more urgent.
Orchid gets yellow leaves after repotting: this is the reason.
If you have recently repotted an orchid by changing the substrate from peat to bark, the orchid may react by turning its leaves yellow. This is a natural reaction of the plant, albeit a negative one. Hopefully, the yellow will fade with time and the normal green color will return. The stress caused by the change in environment is too much for the orchid, and it temporarily “shuts down”. For this reason, you should repot an orchid only when absolutely necessary.
The orchid leaves turn yellow: other possible causes.
If the yellow leaf is a newer leaf, or if multiple leaves are affected, there may be another problem, not just a life cycle expiring. Now let’s look at the possible causes to find out the best way to stop yellowing leaves.
Too much sunlight
In nature, the orchid is a tropical plant that usually grows in indirect sunlight under the canopy of trees. It is not accustomed to direct sunlight. So if it is in a location with too much direct sunlight, the orchid may develop yellow leaves. Sun damage starts as white spots surrounded by brown circles. You may also notice burn marks, cracks in the leaves and burnt leaf tips.
Solve the problem
All plants need light, but indirect sunlight is the best choice for orchids. Make sure your orchid is in a well-lit location, but not in direct sun. East-facing windows are best because they receive the gentler morning sun, which is not as intense. North and west facing windows are also good choices. They perfectly replicate the tropical rainforest. South facing windows receive too much sun, so they should be avoided, especially in the summer.
However, we can’t exactly control the location of our windows. So if you feel your plants are getting too much direct sunlight, try a sheer curtain or move them further away from the window and put them on a stand instead.
Temperature too low or too high
Orchids want to be kept at reasonable temperatures, in the range of 15-25 °C. For most homeowners, this is the average temperature in their home. However, if your orchid is exposed to temperatures below 15 °C or above 25 °C, the plant will come under undue stress.
You may notice progressive yellowing of the leaves as well as leaf drop. Temperature stress can also lead to brown or black leaves or even death of the plant.
Solve the problem
Of all the problems that can cause yellow leaves on your orchid, the wrong temperature is the easiest to fix. Simply get a thermometer and check that your chosen location is within the acceptable range.
In some cases, windows can be subject to wide temperature swings. In the summer, with direct sunlight, your windowsill can feel like an oven, and when it’s cold outside, it can get chilly at the window, so take these fluctuations into consideration as well.
Overwatering can cause yellow leaves
One of the classic signs that a houseplant is getting too much water is that the leaves turn yellow . Orchids follow this pattern as well. The yellowing signifies a slow loss of green chlorophyll, which provides energy production.
The excessive amount of water prevents the plant from absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. As you can imagine, this can become a serious problem.
Solve the problem
Contrary to what you may have read, orchids require only a small amount of water. Before you water your plant, feel the potting soil with your finger. Is it dry? If no, wait another day (or two) before watering the plant. If the answer is yes, feel free to give your plant some – not too much – water.
Contrary to what your plant care instincts may tell you, it is always better not to overwater the plant, but to water sparingly. Orchids tolerate underwatering better than too much water.
If your orchid is severely overwatered and you feel the substrate is taking a long time to dry, you can try a more drastic method to save the roots. Separate the orchid from the pot and allow the roots to air dry for two days or more. Remove all of the substrate in the process. After a few days in the fresh air, the roots should look better. As for the leaves, they may turn yellowish-brown again because the internal structure of the leaf has been too badly damaged. But you may be able to save the plant by losing only one or two leaves.
Yellow leaves because of root rot
Another problem, often associated with excessive watering, is root rot. It is advisable to regularly check the potting substrate (or use transparent plastic pots), checking the quality of the roots, drainage, air circulation in the pot and compactness of the substrate.
Solve the problem
Remove the orchid from the pot and urgently change the substrate mixture. Cut off the dead roots and spray the orchid with hydrogen peroxide to kill some of the bacteria that has accumulated from root rot.
Make sure your orchid is well ventilated in the substrate, not just on the leaves. Root rot is not impossible to cure if the orchid has some good rots and you take the time to care for it.
Lack of nutrients leads to yellow leaves
If you don’t give your plants fertilizer, a nutrient deficiency may also be the cause of yellow leaves. If the nutrient reserves are depleted, your plant will show signs of nutrient deficiency if you don’t re-fertilize.
Most commonly, orchids suffer from manganese, zinc, iron and nitrogen deficiencies. All of these nutrients are necessary for good growth and need to be fertilized.
Solve the problem
This problem is easy to fix! All you need to do is start applying an appropriate orchid fertilizer every two weeks. Make sure your fertilizer has a balanced NPK ratio.
Too much fertilizer can also turn the leaves of the orchid yellow
Over-fertilization can equally affect the look of your plant. While your orchid is actively growing, you should fertilize weekly or every two weeks. During dormant periods, you can fertilize once a month. If you fertilize too much, the chemicals will build up in the potting soil and contaminate it.
Some fertilizers can be applied with a mist. This is a good method, but be careful not to let the water settle on the leaves. In this case, small black spots appear in the place where the water spots were. They will turn the leaf yellow if a large area of the leaf is stained.
Solve the problem
Once you’ve given your plants too much fertilizer, you can’t take it back. Instead, take some time to learn how to fertilize your plants properly .
Remember not to fertilize during the blooming period. When the flowers fall off, start fertilizing to encourage your plant to grow and develop new flowers.
A sudden change in environment
If you change a plant’s location or environment, it can trigger stress that causes leaves or flowers to fall off.
If your orchid gets yellow leaves, this is often a sign of stress. It can occur when you first bring your plant home from the store or when you move it from one room to another. It can also happen if you have to move or something similar.
Solve the problem
If you just brought your orchid home from the store, don’t worry if the leaves turn yellow. There is not much you can do about it.
Just make sure you choose a good location for your plant, and it will gradually settle in. It can be difficult to prevent this problem, and the only thing you can do is to provide the right climate.
Orchid gets yellow leaves because of disease
Last but not least, your plants could be suffering from an infection or disease that is causing the yellow leaves. Usually, diseases cause yellow spots and blotches on the leaves rather than general yellowing of the entire leaf.
Fungi, bacteria and viruses are all treated differently because they are different organisms. If you have checked all the other causes above and none seem to be the problem, there is a good chance that it is a fungus. Read about the most common diseases of orchids and what you can do about them here.
If you notice your orchid’s leaves turning yellow, the first thing you should do is go through all these causes and figure out what the problem is. It could be the natural life cycle, or your plant could be under stress. With our tips, you should be able to identify the cause of your orchid’s leaves turning yellow and treat it immediately.
Once you have determined the reason, you can take appropriate steps and measures to correct the problem and ensure that it does not recur in the future.