Orchid leaf turning yellow

Yellowing Orchid Leaves – Orchid Care

Frequently we are asked about yellowing leaves on an orchid. The questions are all roughly the same – is my plant sick, is it dying, what can I do to prevent the leaves from yellowing? Luckily, yellowing leaves are common and not always something to worry about. Below we will walk through some common causes of yellowing orchid leaves and what, if anything, you should do about them.

It is important to understand the natural lifecycle of an orchid. The plant grows new leaves and/or new pseudobulbs and from this new growth comes the new bloom. The older leaves, and older pseudobulbs, over time will die back. In the same way that new growth comes, so will old growth wither and die. This is normal and natural. Sometimes a stress, such as repotting, will cause an orchid to lose a leaf or two on an old pseudobulb. This is entirely normal and is not a cause for concern. The orchid in the picture, an Oncidium, is doing just that. After repotting it has chosen to shed the leaves on its oldest pseudobulb (often called a “back bulb”). It is also choosing to shed one leaf on the second oldest bulb, something that can naturally happen with newly repotted oncidiums. The good news is, as is clearly seen in the photo, there is beautiful new growth that accompanies the natural die back of the older leaves. From this new growth will come our next bloom.

The orchid in this photo was repotted as the new growth began in our Oncidium Seedling Imperial Orchid Mix and is a 3.25″ clear square pot with a plastic pot rhizome clip to hold it in place as it forms new roots.

Phalaenopsis raised in humid greenhouse conditions and then sold and brought to a dry home environment may lose a bottom leaf or two. Again, this is not cause for alarm but is perfectly normal. We’ve often said as a broad rule of thumb that Phals will have roughly 1 leaf for every 10% of humidity. In a dry home at 40% humidity, 4 leaves are not unusual where in a greenhouse at 80% humidity one might see 8 or more. During the transition from the grower’s environment to a home an orchid is likely to adjust accordingly and this includes dropping leaves. That’s why humidity trays are so important in a home environment.

A word of caution is warranted when repotting an orchid grown in sphagnum into a fir bark mix such as the generic “orchid bark” mixes sold in the big box stores. Phalaenopsis tend to dislike going straight into fir bark when they were used to sphagnum and their roots and health may decline rapidly soon after repotting as seen by wilted, wrinkled or yellowing leaves. The opposite does not hold true, Phals moved from fir to sphagnum mixes typically adapt easily. We recommend repotting Phals into one of our 5 Phalaenopsis mixes, all of which are ideal for Phals regardless of what they were originally grown in. We do not recommend potting an orchid in fir bark unless it was originally grown in fir bark.

It is time to worry when signs of rot are present such as dark slimy spots. The best defense against such rot is Physan 20 applied to the affected leaves at a rate of 1 Tablespoon / gallon of water.

We are also asked about removal of these old leaves, about which there are 2 primary schools of thought. The first is that the orchid will shed the leaf naturally and you need to do nothing but wait for it to do so. In this process the orchid will naturally seal off the area where the leaf had attached and nothing need be done. The other school of thought is that the yellowing leaves are unsightly and should be removed. Removing them earlier than the orchid will naturally shed them requires cutting the leaf off. When cutting on an orchid we always recommend the use of a clean tool (to avoid the possibility of spreading virus from one orchid to another) and applying cinnamon (the common household spice) to the cut area as a preventative measure against any opportunistic infection that would otherwise try to set in.

Whenever the leaves of a plant turn a different color, especially orchids, people immediately begin to think that there is something wrong with the plant, but that is not always true. The leaves of an orchid naturally die off in order to make room for new leaves at the top and will yellow in the beginning before falling off. But what happens if your leaves are rapidly turning yellow and are not just the older leaves down towards the bottom of the plant?

While some instances of yellowing orchid leaves may simply be a natural process of new growth, there are many others that are a clear indication that something is wrong! Continue reading below to learn what can cause orchid leaves to turn yellow, how to fix them, and how to prevent it in the future!

Some of the Causes of Rapidly Yellowing Leaves:

Overwatering – Whether you’re misting your orchid too often or simply not allowing it to drain properly, too much water is a recipe for disaster when it comes to orchids. The water encourages bacteria and rot which can quickly kill off any orchid. If there are any yellowing spots and rotten spots from over watering, then cut them off and place your orchid in a well-ventilated place to encourage more air flow.

Low Temperatures – Low temperatures, much like higher temperatures, can cause an orchid to stress out. This stress can easily result in all of the blooms being dropped and the buds being blasted off. If an orchid is not removed from a colder environment, it will begin to die. The first stages are yellowing leaves and this will continue to advance to brown until the entire plant is dead.

High Temperatures – Being too hot can easily result in a lot of damage to an orchid plant, even if it is in a prime growing phase. Orchids like optimal temperatures so if you leave it in the heat, yellow leaves will rapidly appear due to the dehydration and overheating of the plant. If this occurs, remove your orchid from the environment and place it in a cooler area so it can recover. Water it normally and avoid fertilizers until it is fully healed.

Burning – Orchids like a lot of indirect sunlight, so many plants that are left in windows may end up with burns on particularly bright days. These burns will often appear as small spots and freckles on the plant and leaves, however they can also show up as yellowing leaves, purple leaves, or, in severe case, blackened leaves. To prevent burning, simply place the orchid in an area with lots of indirect light.

Chemicals – Over exuberance with fertilizers is a common issue with new orchid owners and those who are attempting to nurse a rather poorly orchid. Use very diluted fertilizers on orchids to avoid giving them a chemical burn. These burns will often appear wherever you sprayed and can be anywhere from large yellow spots to black and brown burn spots. Treatment simply involves avoiding fertilizers until the plant is nursed back to health, then using diluted variants afterwards.

Deficiency – If you notice your plant turning yellow from the leaves all the way down to the pseudobulbs, then you may have a nitrogen deficiency. There are other elements that could cause the problem as well, such as an iron deficiency. Using a slow release fertilizer or a balanced liquid fertilizer should help take care of the problem.

Rot – If you are over watering your orchids, not providing enough ventilation, or there is too much humidity in the air, your orchid can develop rot. The rot will likely begin in the roots which, when left untreated, will kill the plant. Since the roots are rotten, the orchid will not be able to soak up the necessary water and it will begin to die by withering. The leaves will wilt and turn yellow, and the blooms will fall off ultimately killing the plant if the affected roots are not cut out.

Bacterial, Fungal, and Viral Causes

If your orchid has an infection that is plaguing it, then yellowing leaves is likely an initial sign and they will turn darker as the infection goes untreated. The symptoms and progression will also depend on the type of infection and its location. Below we have a few of the most common infections for various orchids. These all have yellow leaves as one of the symptoms however the yellow leaves are generally accompanied by a variety of other ominous signs. Check below to see if your orchid has a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection!

Common Infections

  • Chlorotic Spot Virus – this begins off as yellow spots that become more defined and pitted as it continues. You can also expect some black spots as well and possibly graying of the area. To treat, remove affected areas, clean remaining leaves, and use appropriate pesticide.
  • Leaf Spots (fungus) – These are yellow spots that begin on the underside of the leaf. They will continue to get larger and will commonly have brown spots inside the yellow lesions. To treat, remove leaves and spray with a fungicide.
  • Root Rot (fungus) – when there is poor drainage or overwatering, the roots can easily become rotted thanks to a type of fungus that quickly sets in. Leaves will turn yellow as more of the roots become affected and, if untreated, entire plant will brown and die. To treat, quickly identify the rotten roots, remove them, and spray plant with a fungicide before putting it in an area with better drainage.
  • Bacterial Brown Spot – while it is commonly associated with brown spots, the leaves of affected orchids will also begin to wither and become yellow as the infection continues. Should your orchid have large brown spots with subsequent yellowing leaves, then begin treating it by removing all of the affected areas. Once done, treat nearby plants, reduce humidity, and spray a bactericide on your plant.

Overall, caring for an orchid is simple once you understand its needs and requirements. Whether your orchid is suffering from adverse temperatures, insufficient watering, too much watering, or an infection of some sorts, there is generally time to save your plant from death if you begin treating it early. Always make sure your orchid has the proper amount of humidity levels and drainage as many of the main causes for yellowing leaves are from there being too much water!

Do you have an orchid that’s turning yellow? Were you able to save an orchid that turned yellow from one of the above causes? Leave us a comment below and tell us about it.

Is your orchid beyond help? Find out if your orchid can be saved.

Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow – Why and How to Troubleshoot

Nowadays, a lot of people try to plant their own flowers in their very own house. Orchids are one of the most popular plants for the beginner as they have attractive appearances and sometimes emit wonderful fragrances. It also serves as additional decoration in both houses and gardens with its diverse color and looks.

Despite its beautiful looks, orchids care can be pretty difficult for some people because they need a certain environment to be able to do well. Sometimes, beginners are faced with the occurrence yellow leaves on orchid.

This leads to questions: is my plant sick, is it dying, what can I do to prevent the leaves from yellowing? You do not have to be panic. In this article, we will try to give a brief explanation of what is actually happening with your beloved orchids

Why are My Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow?

First, understanding the natural lifecycle of an orchid is very important, especially for beginners.

Orchid grows new leaves and new pseudo-bulbs if any. From this growth, the new bloom is coming. The older leaves and older pseudobulbs will die over time, in the same way, that new growth comes. This process is completely natural and normal.

Repotting sometimes induces stress and it will lead to the loss of one or two leaves and an old pseudobulb from the flower. This process is also normal and it is not something that needs to be concerned. Yellow leaves on orchid can be the results of those process.

via j_mister24

The change in environment, from greenhouse to dry home can also trigger this process. This also does not need too much attention as the process happen normally.

There is a broad rule of thumb that orchids will have at least one leaf for every 10% humidity. If your house is a dry house with only 40% humidity, having 4 leaves is very normal, despite 8 leaves that it used to have on an 80%-humidity greenhouse. During the transition from the grower’s environment to a home, an orchid is likely to adjust accordingly and this includes dropping leaves. That is why humidity trays are so important in a home environment.

However, if yellow leaves on orchid occur from the top of the plant or multiple leaves turn into yellow, there may be a problem with your dear plants. You have to check whether the leaves are still plump and firm or not. If it is a yes, then your plants is probably receiving too much light. This excessive light washes out the color of your leaves.

You also need to check for wrinkles and list. If the leaves have those characteristics, then your plant is most likely dehydrated. Other causes that probably affecting the color of the leaves is low temperature and root rot.

Tips to Determine The Causes of The Occurrence of Yellow Leaves on Orchid

Isolate the plant away from any other orchids to prevent any infections to healthy orchids. The following steps are the steps to determine the problem:

  • Checking direct sun exposure: the culprit of your yellowing leaves is probably direct sun exposure. The leaves of an orchid can burn and turn yellow if they are exposed to the direct sunlight. Try putting your orchid in a place that receives sufficient indirect sunlight and observes any change in 2 or 3 days to confirm whether direct sun is the real cause.
  • Checking low-temperature exposure: a very low temperature below 12oC can cause the orchid leaves to turn yellow. Ensure the temperatures around the orchids are around 18o to 27oC during the day and 15o to 21oC during the night.
  • Checking roots condition: overwatering is able to lead to rotten root. These rotten roots can cause the leaves to turn yellow. It is important to understand when you should and you should not water the plant. When the top one inch of the potting medium is dry and the roots are white, you may water your plants. Make sure there are enough holes on the bottom of the pot to enable proper drainage. If your orchid still have some healthy roots, trim the rotten roots and move the orchid into other pot with new media. After repotting, mist the leaves on the first week instead of watering. To prevent overwatering in the future, you can water your orchids with three ice cubes once a week to ensure that the roots will soak up slowly.

If you already find the core problem and resolve it, you are now left with the option of letting the yellow leaves on orchid to shed by itself or to cut it.

The orchid will naturally shed the leaves and you do not really have to do anything about it. You just need to wait. After it sheds its yellow leaves, it will naturally seal off the area where the leaf had attached and nothing need be done.

But if the yellow leaves make you feel uncomfortable, you can just cut it. Make sure you cut it with a clean tool to avoid the possibility of spreading virus from one orchid to another. You can also apply cinnamon, if any, to the cut area, to reduce the chance of any opportunistic infections that will try to set in.

Overall, yellow leaves on orchid are usually not as dangerous as what we think. Some of the causes are actually normal to happen, as yellowing leaves is a part of orchids natural process.

We can solve the problem by paying attention to several aspects in cultivating orchids, such as light, temperature, water, air circulation, humidity, and so on.

By taking care of your orchid, it will ensure the life and the optimum growth of the orchids. If you encounter problems that are unfamiliar, do not be afraid to ask some experts, especially if fungus and bacterial infection occurs. You can broaden your knowledge about how to take care of orchids by reading botanical magazines or joining orchids clubs in your region. In this way, you can prevent anything bad happening to your dear orchids.


Reasons For Dropping Orchid Leaves: Learn How To Fix Orchid Leaf Drop

Why is my orchid losing leaves, and how can I fix it? Most orchids tend to drop leaves as they produce new growth, and some may lose a few leaves after blooming. If leaf loss is substantial, or if new leaves are falling off, it’s time to do some troubleshooting. Read on to learn what to do if your orchid is dropping leaves.

How to Fix Orchid Leaf Drop

Before you can treat any problems, you’ll need an idea on the possible reasons for dropping orchid leaves. These are the most common causes:

Improper watering: If orchid leaves are floppy and turning yellow, your plant may not be receiving enough water. Different types of orchids have different water requirements. For example, moth orchids need more water than Cattleyas.

As a general rule of thumb, water when the growing medium feels dry to the touch. Water deeply until water runs through the drainage hole. Water at the soil level and avoid wetting the leaves. If possible, use rainwater.

Improper fertilization: Dropping orchid leaves may be a sign of potassium deficiency or improper fertilization. Feed orchids regularly, using a granular or liquid fertilizer formulated specifically for orchids. Don’t use standard houseplant fertilizer. Always water the orchid first and avoid applying fertilizer to dry soil.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations closely, especially if the directions suggest a dilute solution, because over-feeding can produce a weak, spindly plant and may scorch the roots. Be sure to feed less during the winter months. Keep in mind that too little fertilizer is always better than too much.

Fungal or bacterial diseases: If your orchid is dropping leaves, the plant may be afflicted by a fungal or bacterial disease. Fungal crown rot is a common orchid disease that begins with a slight discoloration at the base of the leaves. Bacterial diseases, such as bacterial soft spot or bacterial brown spot, are evidenced by soft, watery-looking lesions on the leaves. Diseases can spread quickly.

To prevent dropping orchid leaves due to disease, remove affected leaves as soon as possible, using a sterile knife or razor blade. Move your orchid to a location where it benefits from improved air circulation and temperatures between 65 and 80 F. (18-26 C.). Apply a broad spectrum fungicide or bactericide according to manufacturer’s recommendations.

Yellow Leaves Causing Problems for Your Orchid?

Yellowing leaves are a symptom that something is not right with your orchid. Find out what your orchid is telling you.

If you’ve only had the orchid for two days and the leaves are already turning yellow, the problem started before you acquired the orchid. You could try and return the Cymbidium and get another one. Sometimes the abundance of flowers and buds on Cymbidiums can be distracting.

Let’s talk about what may have caused the yellowing leaves in the first place. Yellowing leaves can indicate several different problems: aging, too much sun, lack of nutrients, and pests.

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Aging Leaves

This is the simplest answer, which isn’t even a problem. It’s just part of an orchid’s natural growth cycle. Older leaves will turn yellow, shrivel up and die. New leaves grow and take their place. If all the leaves or newer leaves are yellowing, then that isn’t the problem.


Too much sun can cause orchid leaves to turn yellow. Before assuming that your orchid is getting too much sun, find out what color your orchid leaves should be. Cattleyas, for example, bloom best when their leaves are a light, bright green.

Cymbidiums require a lot of light. Usually, as much light as you can give them if you are growing them indoors. It is possible that your orchid was given too much light before you got it. If you are growing your Cymbidium outdoors, assuming you live in a temperate climate, place the orchid where it will receive filtered sunlight.

Nutritional Deficiency

Sometimes yellowing leaves indicate a lack of nitrogen or iron. On my orchids I use DynaGro. For yellowing leaves use Foliage Pro. This fertilizer has a nitrogen content of 9%. Dilute the fertilizer recommendation by 1/2 to 1/4 of the recommended dosage, mix with water and apply 3 out of 4 weeks in a month. Use a light hand when fertilizing orchids.


Augh bugs! This is the worst-case scenario. Boisduval scale can be a nightmare. These insects have a thick detached shell that is difficult to remove. Even once the bugs are gone the leaves will remain discolored. Treat scale by scrubbing leaves, sheaths and even rhizomes with 70% alcohol using an old toothbrush. Spraying with horticulture oil will also help treat scale.

You’re the Doctor

Now that you know what may be causing your orchid’s leaves to turn yellow, it’s time to take action. Your orchids will thank you. Don’t expect immediate results. Sometimes it can take a while for the orchid to recover.

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All healthy orchids will experience yellowing of their lower leaves on occasion, as old foliage dies back. However, yellow leaves can also be a sign of many different problems with your orchid.

Why Are The Leaves On My Orchid Turning Yellow? The good news is, it’s really not too difficult to work out why an orchid is getting yellow leaves, but you need to know what to look for and how to treat it. In this article, I’ll cover the 10 common causes for yellow orchid leaves and the solutions to correct these problems.

Why Are The Leaves On My Orchid Turning Yellow?

First a quick summary of the most common reasons why your orchid may have yellow leaves.

  1. Excessive Direct Sunlight
  2. Low Temperatures
  3. High Temperatures
  4. Overwatering Your Orchid
  5. Natural Death Of Old Foliage
  6. Sudden Change In Environment
  7. Hard Water And Chemicals
  8. Excessive Fertilizer
  9. Nutrient Deficiency
  10. Bacterial, Fungal Or Viral Infection

Excessive Direct Sunlight

In nature, orchids usually grow in indirect sunlight under the canopy of tropical forests. As a result, they are rarely exposed to strong direct sunlight.

Therefore, when you’re looking after your orchid at home, you should ensure that your plant receives plenty of light, but make sure that it is indirect sunlight, rather than direct sunshine.

A north or east facing window is ideal during the summer, and you could move your plant to a south or east facing window in the winter to ensure your plant gets sufficient light. If your plant is getting too much direct light, a sheer curtain or position away from a window may be more suitable.

The photo above shows a plant that was kept in a south facing window all summer long. It bloomed profusely for many months over the summer, but if it had been left in this location, I doubt that it would have survived for very much longer. As an aside, if you want to know how long orchids typically bloom, check out my article here.

As you can see there is evidence of fading and yellowing of most of the leaves, and also some evidence of scorch marks, cracks in the leaves and burnt leaf tips.

Many of the roots also had evidence of sun damage. This plant has subsequently been moved to a more suitable location where it gets bright, but indirect sunlight over the last number of months.

I have been able to observe the leaves becoming more vibrant, green and healthy looking. I hope the future is bright for this plant.

Low Temperatures

Most orchids grow best in temperatures of between 60 and 80 °F (15 – 27 °C). This fits nicely with the temperature found inside most homes, and is one of the reasons why many orchids make such good houseplants.

If the temperature regularly drops below 60 °F (15 °C), this will subject the plant to excessive stress. As a result you will notice progressive yellowing of the leaves and there may also be leaf drop. This can progress further to browning or blackening of the leaves, eventually leading to plant death.

This is a fairly easy problem to correct, as it should be fairly obvious if your plant is being kept in a location that regularly falls below 60 °F (15 °C). If in doubt, you could consider getting a room thermometer.

I’ve got a handy one that will show me the current temperature as well as recording the lowest highest recorded temperature since last reset, which helps me to get an idea of the temperature range of the room my orchid is being kept in. that I bought off Amazon. I haven’t had any problems with it and find it very useful.

High Temperatures

The other side of the temperature coin is of course excessively high temperatures. Although many orchids are found in tropical locations, they live under the tree canopy where the temperature is normally fairly moderate. This provides a climate that has a fairly steady temperature and high humidity levels, with a modest dip in temperature at night.

When keeping orchids at home, you want to mimic this natural environment as closely as possible. Once the temperature gets regularly above 80 °F (27 °C), an orchid experiences excessive stress, causing reduced efficiency of its normal metabolic processes.

As a result, the leaves will start to become yellow and if the problem is not corrected soon, will result in leaf drop and even plant death.

Overwatering Your Orchid

Extreme Orchid Over Watering

Over watering is definitely the most common reason why the leaves on your orchid may be turning yellow. Over watering your orchid can result in root rot which leads to rapid death of the roots. Your orchid will then be unable to absorb water and nutrients, leading to a very serious situation for the orchid indeed. I’ll cover how to treat this a little later on in the diseases section.

Most people have a tendency to over water their houseplants. It’s only natural, as we are all trying hard to care for our plants, and watering them usually feels like the right thing to do to nurture them.

However, orchids in particular only require a small amount of water, so they are very easy to over water. You should only water your orchid once the potting medium is dry. If you want to learn the right way to water phalaenopsis orchids, I’ve written an article here.

You can monitor this by poking your finger into the potting medium to test whether it is wet or dry. Only water your orchid if the potting medium is dry. Alternatively, you have use a wooden skewer to probe the potting medium. Be careful when doing this not to damage the roots. If the skewer is dry when taking it out, your orchid needs watered. If not, leave it another day or two, and test again.

Another way to test if your orchid needs watered is to weigh it. With a bit of practice you should be able to get a feel for the dry weight of your orchid in the pot. You could even use kitchen scales to do this more accurately. Then you can have much more confidence you are watering your orchid at the right time.

Personally, I use a combination of these methods, and always err on the side of under watering, rather than over watering. I’ve always found that my orchids have more of a tolerance for being slightly water deprived, rather than over watered.

Death Of Old Foliage Is A Normal Cause Of Yellow Leaves On Your Orchid

There is one reason for the leaves on your orchid turning yellow that is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. This is when the lowermost set of leaves turn yellow and die back over time.

This normally happens as an orchid develops new leaves and/or a new flower spike. It is perfectly natural for orchids to prioritise fresh growth, so if the plant feels that the older leaves aren’t required, it will start the natural leaf-shedding process.

If the lower one or two leaves on your orchid starts to turn yellow, my advice is to do nothing. Leave them alone and let them slowly wither and turn increasingly yellow. The orchid will naturally seal these leaves off from the rest of the healthy plant and they will drop from the plant naturally.

I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t particularly that like the look of these yellow leaves at the bottom of your orchid, and I certainly don’t like them either. Some people will remove these leaves as soon as they start to turn yellow. While this is perfectly acceptable, you must be aware that manually removing the leaves from an orchid increases the risk of disease for the plant.

What I tend to do is leave them alone until they look reasonably withered and yellow and I can be fairly confident that the orchid has begun the process of shedding this leaf. I will then use a sharp sterile knife to cut the leaf off at the base. I normally treat the cut with dilute hydrogen peroxide solution to reduce the risk of infection. I can’t say I’ve had too many issues with removing leaves in this way.

Sudden Change In Environment

Any sudden change in the environment or location of your orchid can lead to your plant experiencing stress. Your orchid may respond by dropping leaves or blooms, or in less severe cases, there may be yellowing of the leaves.

This is most likely to happen when you bring a new orchid home from the store, or when you move an orchid from one location to another within your house.

If this happens immediately after you bring it home from the store, don’t panic. There’s not much you can do about it other than ensure the location you have your orchid at home provides ideal growing conditions.

You can’t be sure how the orchid was kept at the store or in transit in the supply chain. If the plant experienced stress in any way in the journey from the grower to your home, the response to this stress will be delayed by a number of days were up to a week or two.

All you can do is try your best to salvage the situation.

Preventing this situation is difficult, but you can take some steps to ensure that the store where you buy your orchid has provided a good climate for your plant prior to purchase.

You could also enquire with the staff about how the plants have been cared for since arriving, where they came from, and whether they have had any problems with any of the plants recently.

In terms of moving your orchid around your house, as long as you are aware of the required conditions for keeping orchids, then you shouldn’t go too far wrong. Hopefully by reading this article, you will be better equipped to identify any problems and correct them as quickly as possible.

Hard Water And Chemicals

Despite their looks, most orchids are reasonably resilient and will cope fairly well with sub-optimal conditions. However, an issue that some people have identified is that their tap water can cause problems for their orchids.

If you live in an area with particularly hard water, or if your tap water is treated excessively with chlorine or chloramine, you may find that your orchid will struggle or develop yellow leaves or leaf tips.

Excessive levels of dissolved calcium and magnesium in hard water, can impair the ability of plants to absorb other essential micronutrients, leading to deficiency and various growth and leaf problems, including leaf yellowing.

Chlorine, chloramines, fluoride and various heavy metals are often present in tap water in varying concentrations. Whilst most tap water is monitored stringently for these levels, to ensure that water is safe for human consumption, even levels safe for humans can cause stress and leaf yellowing to your orchids.

If you are really struggling to find out why the leaves on your orchid are turning yellow, it may be worth looking up your local tap water inspection results and considering using rain water or filtered water to water your orchid.

Excessive Fertilizer

Similar to over watering, most people have a tendency to over fertilize their house plants. I know I certainly did for many years, as I wanted my plants to be as healthy as possible, and didn’t really understand that too much fertilizer could be worse than too little.

Excessive nutrients such as calcium, manganese, zinc, copper or phosphorus can prevent the uptake of iron by your orchid, which will actually cause symptoms of iron deficiency, such as yellowing of the leaves (chlorosis).

Orchids are generally light feeders, and only need infrequent and dilute concentrations of fertilizer. My normal practice for fertilizing my orchids is to use a water soluble fertilizer which is at ¼ to ½ of the strength I would use on other houseplants. I actually tend to use a water soluble fertilizer that has been specially formulated for orchids. While this isn’t strictly necessary, it is very convenient and takes much of the guesswork out of the process. I fertilize my orchids every 1 to 2 weeks, but only during the vegetative stage. Once my orchids bloom, I stop fertilizing until all the blooming has ended.

I also make sure to alternate watering my orchids with water alone and with fertilizer solution. This helps to avoid any build up of nutrient salts in the growth medium, which could otherwise lead to nutrient toxicity issues.

As most orchids are sold when they are in full bloom, you shouldn’t fertilize your orchid for the first few months after you bring it home. Once the last blooms have dropped, you can start your fertilizing schedule to encourage vegetative growth of your orchid and development of a new flower spike. See my guide on how to make phalaenopsis orchids rebloom here.

Nutrient Deficiency

In the opposite scenario, there are many people who get orchids and don’t fertilize them at all. Whilst the potting medium will contain a certain amount of nutrients for the orchid, eventually this supply will run dry and even a light feeding orchid will start to show signs of nutrient deficiency.

The most common deficiencies that will cause yellowing of your leaves are nitrogen, iron, zinc and manganese. This can be remedied by starting to use a suitable fertilizer.

Bacterial, Fungal Or Viral Infection

Yellow leaves can be a sign of disease in your orchid so you should bear this in mind when thinking about the causes for your orchid’s yellow leaves. Diseases are more likely to cause yellow spots and patches on your leaves, but generalised yellowing can happen too.

Root Rot

This is the most common orchid disease that you will see. This is a fungal infection of the roots that will occur if you over water your orchid, or if it is growing in a poorly draining medium or a pot with insufficient drainage holes.

Root rot can take hold very quickly and can vary rapidly kill a previously healthy plant. If you notice your orchid developing yellowing leaves, one of the first things you should do is inspect the roots.

You can do this without removing the orchid from the pot, if the pot is transparent. If not, you will need to lift the orchid out of the pot and inspected the roots carefully.

Roots affected by root rot will typically be brown or black, soft and fragile. If the plant still has some healthy roots, they can be saved, but you should remove all rotten roots with sharp, sterile scissors or secateurs.

You can then repot your orchid in a fast draining medium, such as pine bark, in a transparent pot with plenty of drainage holes. See my article for more info. Going forward, you should only water your orchid once the potting medium is almost completely dry.

Fungal Leaf Spot

This is another common infection which can cause yellow areas, which start on the undersides of leaves. Untreated, these yellow spots will enlarge and become brown or black and cause localised damage to the leaves.

If your plant is only mildly affected, you can try treating this by spraying or wiping the affected leaves with a suitable fungicide. Generally, a better approach is to remove the affected leaves and dispose of them, before treating the healthy leaves with a fungicide, in case there is early, not yet visible disease on other parts of the plant, or spores, which could cause disease in due course.

Bacterial Brown Spot

This bacterial disease, will cause irregular, wet looking yellow or brown spots on the leaves of your orchid. It is more common in orchids kept in hot and humid conditions.

As the disease worsens, there can also be generalized yellowing of the affected leaves and this is a sign of the increased stress which the plant is experiencing.

The best treatment for this is to remove the affected parts of the leaves, or all of the affected leaves, if the infection is severe. This should be done with a sterile blade or scissors. You should take care to make your cut into healthy tissue, to avoid spreading the disease.

Once the affected foliage has been removed, you should take measures to prevent reinfection.

Some people like to use a broad spectrum bactericidal spray, or fungicide, to prevent opportunistic fungal infection. An alternative, is to use a dilute 3% hydrogen peroxide solution onto the affected areas of the plant. This is a natural bactericide. Another tip is to carefully apply cinnamon along the cuts that you have made. This will cause dehydration of the cuts, reducing the risk of reinfection.

For a bit more information about how to tell if the yellow leaves on your orchid are a sign of poor orchid health, or a natural part of your orchid’s healthy development, check out this excellent video tutorial from MissOrchidGirl.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this article about causes of yellow leaves on your orchids. Hopefully you have also picked up a few tips to identify the cause and treat it when necessary.

If you still can’t work out what the problem is with your orchid, try reading this excellent article from the American Orchid Society. If you want to read more about how to care for phalaenopsis orchids correctly, check out my beginners guide here. Has anyone got any other good tips for treating or preventing yellow leaves on their orchids? Leave a comment below to share your experience.

Why Are the Leaves on My Phalaenopsis Turning Yellow

Yellowing leaves on a phalaenopsis are not necessarily a cause for alarm. It’s normal and natural for older leaves to yellow and gradually drop off. Older phalaenopsis often have somewhat elongated stems where old leaves have dropped away. On healthy plants, new roots will continuously emerge from the stem, eventually forming a mass of roots.
However, if the leaves are yellowing from the top of the plant, there is a problem.
If the leaves are still plump and firm, the plant is most likely receiving too much light and it’s washing out the color. If the leaves are wrinkled and listless, the plant is most likely dehydrated.
Yellow Leaves
If the leaves on your Phalaenopsis orchid are yellow, it could be an indication that something is wrong. There are a number of factors that can cause the leaves of an orchid to become discolored, including direct sunlight, low temperatures, and root rot.
Once any yellowing is discovered, it is time to figure out if there is a problem with the plant. If you discover the yellowing leaf is located on the bottom of the plant, don’t worry. This is a natural process of the plant to discard the mature leaf in order to produce a new leaf. However, if multiple leaves are turning yellow or top leaves are yellow, your plant may be sick.
3 Reasons Why Your Phalaenopsis Leaves Are Yellow
The first step is to isolate the plant away from any other orchids that you may have to ensure that they do not become ill as well.
Here are 3 steps to take to try to determine the problem:
Direct sun may be the culprit. The leaves of a Phalaenopsis orchid can burn and turn yellow if they are exposed to direct sunlight. Try putting your orchid in a place that receives sufficient indirect sunlight.
Is the temperature right? Overly low temperatures can also cause orchid leaves to turn yellow. Make sure the temperatures around your orchid are between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60 and 70 degrees at night.
Check the roots. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can in turn cause its leaves to turn yellow. You should only water the plant when the top one inch of the potting medium is dry and the roots are white, and make sure there are enough holes in the pot to allow proper drainage. If your orchid is suffering from root rot but you see your plant still has some healthy green roots, trim the rotted roots and repot the plant in new media. Mist the leaves the first week in place of watering.
A Tip to Prevent Overwatering
Overwatering is one of the most common problems and one of the most serious Here’s a hint to make sure that in your quest to keep your orchid happy, healthy and beautiful that you don’t overwater.
To avoid overwatering, we recommend watering your Phalaenopsis orchid with three ice cubes once a week so that the roots will soak up water slowly.

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