Orchid leaf problems are often the first sign of a more significant issue with your plant. And they can take you by surprise, even if you’ve provided the necessary growing requirements for your plants.Orchid Leaf Problems

The good news is that once you understand the meaning behind the symptoms on their leaves, you can easily identify and control possible problems before they damage the entire orchid. This piece will examine some problems that orchid leaves could develop, their causes, and how to address them.

The Orchid Leaves Begin To Yellow

– Causes

Yellowing of leaves is the most common problem of orchids and is also one of the easiest to diagnose, as it can have multiple causes. Root rot is the most likely reason your orchid leaves are turning yellow. In short, you must know that this happens because overwatering or improper drainage will cause the orchid’s roots to decay, thereby cutting off oxygen and nutrient supply to the plant and causing the leaves to turn yellow.

In addition, it can be due to leaf stress due to a sudden change in environment or temperature can also cause them to turn yellow. This mostly occurs when you’ve just brought your orchid home from the store or moved the plant to a new location with excess heat or cold. If none of these are why the leaves are yellowing, you might be exposing your orchid to harsh chemicals in the water or pesticides, and that is why the stress would result in such a manner.

– Solutions

If your orchid leaves turn yellow due to root rot, this is when you should begin by removing the plant from its potting medium and pruning away the diseased roots and leaves. Then spray it with a fungicide and allow it to dry out before repotting in a new potting medium with good drainage. Remember to follow the appropriate watering regimen too.

With leaf stress, you must ensure that you grow your orchid in a conducive environment with the ideal temperature range. If you’ve recently used a pesticide on your plants, stop it and get one approved for use on orchids. Also, only use rain, distilled, or filtered water on your orchids.

The Orchid Leaf Tips Start to Turn Brown

– Causes

Due to under-watering or low humidity, brown leaf tips are often caused by dehydration. It can also be caused by sunburn, so it is advised only to expose your orchids to bright but indirect sunlight, as direct sunlight can scorch their leaves. However, with sunburn, the tips will turn yellow before turning brown, as this is the way to it when it is in the beginning stage of becoming crusty.Orchid Leaf Tips Start to Turn Brown

Moreover, this issue is also the result of excess salt build-up because it also turns your leaf tips brown, often due to excessive fertilization or using the wrong fertilizers. However, to be sure that this is the cause of the brown tips, you will also see white fertilizer crusts on the potting soil.

– Solutions

If your orchids are dehydrated, you should give them a good drink until the water starts to flow from the holes responsible for the drainage. Subsequently, water your plants once the top one or two inches of the soil has dried out. If sunburn is the problem, move your orchid into a location that receives bright light but with a bit of shade from the scorching afternoon sun. Indoors, a south or east-facing window with a sheer curtain is ideal.

The ideal fertilizer for orchids is balanced with the exact ratio of the elements: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It is wise to dilute the fertilizer to half-strength and only apply as recommended on the label, and it would have a healthier growth. It is also a good idea to flush the potting medium every one or two months to wash away harmful salts.

Black or Brown Leaf Spots Appearing

– Causes

Black or brown spots on orchid leaves often indicate that your plant has a fungal disease called black rot or a bacterial infection known as brown spot or rot. Black rot is caused by one or both the fungi Phytophthora cactorum and Pythium ultimum, which thrive in wet conditions and can kill the plant quickly if allowed to reach the crown and not detected and controlled early.

The disease appears as purplish brown lesions before turning into black spots that enlarge and spread quickly throughout the plant. Eventually, the outer areas around the lesion will turn yellow and begin to produce water, and this would show you that the health of the orchid’s leaves are not as healthy as they used to.

Brown rot, on the other hand, is caused by the bacterium Erwinia and causes small brown dots on leaves that develop into water-soaked blisters with a foul smell. Once these symptoms are detected, you must take necessary action to control the disease because it spreads fast, and once it gets to the rhizome or crown, the orchid will die.

– Solutions

The best course of action for these orchid diseases is to isolate the affected plant and prune away the infected leaves using sterile tools. Ensure you properly dispose of the discarded leaves to prevent reinfection. Then spray the plant with a fungicide if it is black rot or a bactericide if it is brown spot, to destroy any remaining infection.

Also, spray any plant surrounding the infected one and the growing area. This is why in the upcoming days of the plant, ensure you keep the soil of the plant moist but not soggy. And don’t water the crown of your orchids.

Wrinkled, Leathery, or Limp Leaves

– Causes

If your orchid’s leaves look wrinkled, curled up, limp, or leathery, this is a sure sign of dehydration, often caused by inadequate watering. This might either be in the form of watering less than what it needs or overly doing so when there is an imbalance between the water it needs.Wrinkled Orchid Leaves

If your plants aren’t getting enough moisture, especially in hot weather or during their growing season, their leaves begin to shrink and sag. Ironically, if they get too much water, their roots will begin to rot and stop supplying the necessary water and nutrients to the plant, leading to the same result.

To determine if your orchid’s wrinkled leaves are caused by watering less than it needs or even more of it, you must take out the orchid from the pot it is in and try to inspect the roots, and you can tell the issue. But if your plant’s pot is transparent, you can simply look through it.

If the roots look soggy, soft, and black, they have excess water, and if they are shriveled, dry, and wrinkled like the leaves, you haven’t been providing enough water. The potting mix would likely be dry too.

– Solutions

You can still save your orchid’s wrinkled or dry leaves if they still need to turn yellow. If they have, it is best to let them drop off and try to save the plant if other leaves are green. If your orchids are dehydrated, immediately water them thoroughly until the excess water pours out the drainage holes.

If they are overwatered, remove the plant from its pot and prune away the decayed roots and yellowed leaves. Leave it to dry, then repot it in a new potting medium. Ensure you water your orchids regularly when the top inches of the soil have dried. Your plant should go back to normal after some time.

Purple or Red-looking Leaves

– Causes

Purple or reddish undersides on orchid leaves can be normal, as some species are characterized like that. However, if your orchids have purple or reddish discolorations, they probably have a phosphorus, magnesium, or nitrogen deficiency. On the flip side, it can also be sunburn because this may cause these marks due to the breakdown of chlorophyll.

If there is a nutrient deficiency, the leaves turn a darker green before turning purple from the leaf margins. And in most cases, the leaves drop, and older foliage begins to curl. Sometimes, the leaves can be bronze or blue, while the stems become purplish, and this is a sign of the weakening of the health.

– Solutions

Standard orchid fertilizers contain potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus in quantities that provide enough nutrients. Switch to a balanced orchid fertilizer with a 20-20-20 NPK formulation if you aren’t already using one. If you are already using a balanced fertilizer, you might need to apply it in the proper proportions. Hence, read and stick to the recommended feeding dosage on the label.

Leaves Becoming Further Dark Green in Color

– Causes

Dark green leaves indicate that your orchids are not getting enough sunlight. Orchid leaves are usually glossy or olive green when they receive sufficient light. However, indoor orchids tend to be darker green than those grown outdoors. But healthy orchids will grow fast, have healthy foliage, and bloom correctly. They will also be able to resist pests and diseases.Orchid Leaves Becoming Dark Green

The recommended lighting condition for orchids is bright, filtered sunlight for up to six hours daily, except for some species that prefer direct sunlight or shade conditions.

– Solutions

Saving leggy and dark green orchid leaves is easy if you provide the right lighting conditions. If you are growing your orchids outdoors, place them where they can receive enough bright light throughout the day but will also be protected from the sun’s harshness from noon.

Indoors, you must place them in a bright room with an east or south-facing window, to receive the right amount of light. These locations admit the right level of sunlight, but you can also use a sheer curtain or cloth to filter the afternoon sunlight.

Leaves and Stem Start Rotting

– Causes

Stem rot is also known as crown or collar rot and is caused by water accumulation at the base of orchid leaves. This can be due to high humidity with poor air movement, overhead watering, or allowing the plant to stand in water when it is overwatered or poorly drained.

When an orchid has crown rot, the tissues begin to break down, and the leaves will droop and break off at the base of the stem. In severe cases, the base of the orchid begins to turn black.

The problem with crown rot is that it spreads rapidly once it has infected the orchid and will kill the orchid within a few days. So once you notice brown or black patches or yellowing on the base of your orchid’s leaves, you must act fast.

– Solutions

If you detect it early, you would be happy to know that there is an easy and effective solution to crown rot: full-strength hydrogen peroxide. Pour a small amount on the affected area and let it bubble up, and after doing so, you must repeat this process every two to three days until it no longer bubbles. After this, pour orchid fungus treatment cinnamon on the affected parts to kill fungi.

Sticky Residue and White Webbing on Leaves

– Causes

Sticky residue on orchid leaves usually means that honeydew is on them, which is sweet and attracts ants; as you see this, you can get the memo of how pests have infested the plant. This substance is secreted by common orchid pests like aphids, mealybugs, scales, and spider mites, as a by-product of their feeding on the liquid nutrient in the tissues of the orchids.

Honeydew promotes the growth of a fungus known as black sooty mold, so you would notice black mold growing on the leaves or ants gathering around the substance due to its sweetness.White Webbing on Orchid Leaves

On the other hand, if you also notice small, white silk webs on the undersides of leaves along with the honeydew, then you can confirm the presence of spider mites, and then you must make sure to check how much of them have been upon your plant. All these insects are microscopic; the only way to detect their presence is through these signs or a magnifying glass.

These pests also reproduce rapidly, so large infestations can quickly escalate and cause yellowing and wilting of leaves, leaf drops, or bud blasts. So it is best to act quickly once you notice these symptoms, or else they will start laying eggs or hatching offsprings and multiplying.

– Solutions

If you detect the presence of these pests in their early stages, you can hand-pick them off the plant or spray them with water to dislodge them. However, once infestations are large, you must employ more effective measures using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil, and they will be gone.

If you are growing your orchids outdoors, you can introduce their natural predators, such as lacewings and lady beetles, to feed on the pests and their larvae. Insecticides are also very effective, but you must only use the ones approved for orchids because the chemicals can further damage them.


To sum up what we’ve discussed, here are a few things to note about orchid leaf problems:

  • Bacterial and fungal infections on leaves can be caused by excess moisture and low airflow.
  • Yellowing of leaves is one of the most common problems of orchids and has many causes.
  • Orchid pests can quickly cause severe damage to the leaves if not controlled early.

No one likes to see their orchid leaves dying after putting so much effort into making them grow and bloom; still, after reading this article, you should be able to confidently diagnose your orchid’s problem from the leaf damage and control it before it gets out of hand.

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