Orchid leaves turning yellow is a major problem caused by bad soil health, improper watering, unsuitable lighting, environmental stress, insect attack, transplant shock, and disease damage.

Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow

Fortunately, you can fix each of these causes if you know about them. To know everything about these reasons and their easy solutions, stick to the end.

What Are the Main Reasons for Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow?

The main reasons for orchid leaves turning yellow are: plants are facing soil problems like poor drainage, unsuitable soil, etc. In addition, nutrient deficiency, temperature stress, and bacterial infections can also cause leaf discoloration. In some cases, transplant shock and environmental stresses can also cause the yellowing of leaves.

– Soil Issues

The leading reason behind the yellowing of leaves is the poor quality of the soil. It is super important for any plant to be grown in a top-notch medium that provides maximum support during the whole growth of plants. This support is almost negligible when the soil has problems.

Unsuitable pH is a main soil issue that causes orchids trouble. They love slightly acidic soil with a pH ranging between 5.5 to 6.0. The soil will become hostile to plants if it is above or below this range.

They cannot uptake essential nutrients in such soil. Furthermore, root hairs also get damaged when the pH is not optimal. Usually, over-adding fertilizers and chemical exposure change the pH of the soil.

The side effect of Poor drainage is another soil issue that causes different complications, and the biggest one is waterlogging conditions. Even if you add water in controlled amounts, such soils retain it near the root zones.

This limits the oxygen, leading to a decline in the performance of roots. It is bad because when roots cannot perform their roles, photosynthesis won’t occur in the leaves, which will cause yellowing.

Similarly, soil full of weed seeds is not good for plants either. Weeds compete with plants for water and minerals. That is why plants are always under stress when there is weed infestation. With time, such stressed plants start having big yellow spots on the leaves.

– Adding Lots of Water

Orchid plants need water to stay alive. However, over-applying it can also lead to different plant problems, including the yellowing of leaves. When you make soil excessively moist, roots cannot breathe properly.

As a result, the absorption of water and minerals will slow down, causing a decline in internal processes. This initiates yellowing which can affect every leaf on the orchids.

Furthermore; overwatered orchids are also prone to fungal attacks. The reason is that fungi need moisture to grow. When you provide it by making the soil moist, it will attack the roots. As mentioned above, when roots get damaged, yellowing is inevitable.

– Bone Dry Soil

Check the soil condition when you notice orchid leaves turning yellow and red. It is because this type of discoloration occurs when plants are facing drought stress. It’s no secret that orchids need water to thrive. They utilize it for every physiological process, which allows them to stay healthy.

So, when you skip watering, then these processes will stop. When this happens, orchids cannot maintain their shape and natural colors. The yellowing will start to occur first in the upper and older leaves. With time, the effect of water stress becomes visible on every orchid leaf.

– Adding Hard Water

You should expect to see yellow leaves when you add hard water. Usually, those living in inner cities or near industrial areas face this problem. In those locations, chances are the tap water becomes hard (impure), which is not good for any living thing.

Hard water has more salts or minerals, especially calcium and magnesium. When you add it every week, these excessive salts or minerals build up in the soil (specifically near the roots).

Mineral buildup restricts water uptake, which causes water deficiency in the orchids. As a result, photosynthesis slows down. Similarly, roots can also uptake these extra minerals into the leaves, impacting the physiological processes. Ultimately, the yellow patches emerge, which can cover the whole leaf area with time.

– Exposure To Direct Sunlight

Orchids love a well-lighted area. That is why it is imperative to ensure they get the light they crave when you grow them. However, the light intensity can get high if you live in a warmer area, which can lead to sunburn.

In sunburn, the cells start to die first. So, small yellow dots appear. The whole tissue can die with time, leading to a much bigger yellow patch. The problem can get worse if you don’t do anything to restrict the exposure of orchids to the sun.

The yellow patches on the leaves are of no use to the plants. They cause a decline in physiological processes like photosynthesis rate. So, plants make an extra effort as a survival behavior.

In doing so, the development of flowers and new leaves stops. Ultimately, you will only have an orchid with no flowers and poor leaves.

– Not Getting Enough Light

When you see orchid leaves turning yellow at base, the plant is not getting the light properly. Orchids love around eight hours of indirect light to show their full growth potential. But if you grow them in a shady area, then leaf discoloration will occur.

Causes of Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow

We all know that light is an integral part of photosynthesis. Leaves trap it and generate energy from it. So, photosynthesizing will not occur smoothly when there is a lack of light. As a result, orchids will have a shortage of energy and cannot maintain their color.

First, the leaves become pale green. With time, yellowing starts to take over, and the whole leaf becomes yellow. In the meantime, leaves continue to wrinkle up and curl down. In the end, you will only have an unaesthetic plant with no signs of recovery.

– Heat Stress

When you see yellow leaves on a hot day, plants are affected by heat stress. Orchids can tolerate high temperatures of up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is more, get ready to see orchid leaves turning yellow and flowers falling off.

The reason is that exposure to direct sun and heat stress causes faster evaporation. In this, more water is released from the leaves than roots can uptake. Furthermore, humidity levels are low when the temperature is high, which can also speed up evaporation. When this happens, leaves become water stressed, which causes yellowing.

– Cold Damage

Plants face cold stress when you see yellowing orchid leaves with a temperature lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold temperatures impact orchids in several ways, but the one that hurts them the most is the stoppage of internal processes, which leads to discoloration.

It happens because the moisture in the orchids freezes up when they face winter stress. This stops the internal process altogether, which ultimately makes plants weak. If the cold lasts for a long period, orchids can die too.

– Lack of Minerals

Mineral or nutrient deficiencies can also be the reason behind the yellowing of orchid leaves. Nutrients are super important because they produce chlorophyll, a pigment that absorbs light to do photosynthesis.

So, when there are insufficient minerals, chlorophyll production slows down. This eventually reduces the photosynthesis rate, which causes yellowing. Furthermore, chlorophyll also gives green colors to the leaves. So, lack of it can also lead to discoloration.

– Adding More Fertilizer Than Needed

Adding lots of nutrient doses can also turn leaves yellow. Excess fertilizers in soil change its pH and cause the nutrient lock. It is a condition in which roots cannot uptake minerals no matter how much of them are available.

Furthermore, adding high doses of fertilizers also causes root burn. When roots get burned, they cannot absorb moisture properly, leading to water stress. As discussed above, a lack of water in plants can lead to yellowing.

– Fungal Infections

Are your orchid leaves becoming yellow and brown? Chances are root rot has attacked them. It is a fungal disease that mainly harms the roots. In root rot, roots start to decompose, which stops nutrient and water uptake. That is why leaves become yellow shortly when this fungal disease attacks.

Furthermore, fungal leaf spots can also harm the orchids. In this, yellow to brown patches in scattered forms appear on the leaves. It can also impact the flowers, and the plants affected by it look sick and weak.

– Bacterial Diseases

Orchids can also get infected by brown bacterial spots which appear yellow. In this oval yellow blotches appear in the center of the leaves. After some time, these imperfections can spread, and eventually, leaves fall off.

– Insect Damage

Yellowing leaves can also be caused by the attack of insects, like aphids, thrips, mealybugs, whiteflies, etc. They damage the leaves by sucking their sap or juice. The area where they puncture the leaf for sucking becomes yellow naturally.

Cell sap is important for leaves because it contains chlorophyll, so photosynthesis decreases when insect infestation occurs. As a result, leaves will lose their green color and become yellow with time.

– Growing in Unsuitable Pots

Pot selection is really important if you want orchids to stay healthy. If you grow them in smaller ones, roots will remain weak because space and soil are limited in such pots. Furthermore, you can add water in very minimal quantities as well.

That is why plants are shorter in size in smaller pots. The problems usually occur when the flowering stage starts. It is because plants need more water and nutrients in this phase, which cannot be fulfilled in small pots. That is why leaves turn yellow with time in these pots.

– Transplanting Aftermath

Leaf discoloration is common when you transplant orchids. It is because roots generally take some time to get familiarized with the new environment. During this time, the absorption of water and mineral uptake slows down. As a result, newly repotted plants face stress, also known as transplant shock.

– Old Age

Sometimes, leaf discoloration is not anyone’s fault. Old age and nature can cause yellowing to appear. Orchids turn yellow when they turn ten years old. In addition, the yellow leaf has many wrinkles on it too, when their age is complete.

But if your orchid plant is new and its leaves have started becoming yellow, it means it is facing any stress, which you should fix immediately. Many of you might wonder, how do I fix yellow leaves on my orchid? It’s time to find out.

How To Stop Leaves of an Orchid Plant From Turning Yellow?

To stop leaves of an orchid plant from turning yellow you should first upgrade the soil by adding compost, balancing its pH, and improving drainage. You should also add water and minerals to ensure leaves stay green. Furthermore, follow proper plant care measures when insects and diseases cause yellowing.

– Enhance Soil Health

To ensure orchids maintain their leaf color, you should ensure the soil stays top-notch. Therefore, you should keep checking it regularly to avoid any problems. Let’s start with the soil pH first.

It would be best to use pH strips or meters to determine the soil condition. If the pH is less than 5.5, then add a dose of baking soda and lime. If it is more than 6.0, add wood ash or sulfur to reach ideal levels.

To improve drainage, we suggest you remove the top layer of soil and add a well-drained one. You can also add compost to enhance soil health. Similarly, you should apply organic substances like a bone meal to enrich the soil with vital minerals.

– Add Water Wisely

When watering orchids, you should be careful. It is because both overwatering and underwatering can cause the yellowing of leaves. We suggest you water orchids only when the soil becomes dry.

The reason is that only dry soil needs water. If it is already moist and you add more water, water logging and oxygen stress will occur. Furthermore, the fungus can also spread in such soil. But it would be best to stay vigilant as keeping soil moisture less for a long time can also cause drought stress.

Therefore, we suggest you use a daily moisture meter to determine the moisture presence near the roots. If it shows that very low water is available, carefully add water in controlled amounts. Ensure you don’t splash the water on leaves, which can also lead to a fungus attack.

If you don’t have a moisture meter, try sensing the moisture with your fingers. Only use your index and middle fingers to check whether the soil is moist near the base. However, ensure the nails are cut properly, or the soil particles can get stuck there.

– Grow Them in a Properly Lit Area

It is super important to grow orchids in a well-lighted area where they can receive light (indirect). This will let seamless physiological processes take place in plants. Furthermore, ensure they are not exposed to direct sunlight; otherwise, sunburn will occur.

If you are growing orchids in those spots where they cannot get optimal light, we suggest you transplant them to a more suitable area. Also, make sure you place the pots at an ideal distance from each other.

If you put them closer, the taller orchid will cast a shade on the shorter one, leading to more light stress. Furthermore, the air passage also decreases when there is not enough space.

If the problem is over-lighting, then you should also relocate the pots. If relocation is impossible, provide shade using any material (usually shade cloth), especially during the sun’s peak hours.

If you are growing orchids indoors, taking care of lighting is much easier. You can use LED grow lights or put the pots near a window, and they will receive the light they need to stay healthy.

– Add Fertilizer With Care

If you want to avoid seeing yellowing leaves, applying fertilizers at the right time in the right dose is critical. There are two ways to add nutrients to the orchids; You can apply small weekly doses or one big dose in a month. It depends on your preference and whether you can maintain a weekly schedule.

Orchids need equal fertilizers. So, add 20-20-20 (N, P, K) or 30-10-10 (N, P, K) to avoid nutrient stress and toxicity. We suggest you prefer liquid fertilizer over granular as roots can absorb the minerals in liquid quickly and easily.

– Protect Plants From Heat Stress

If the temperature is more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you should give at least two waterings in a week to tone down the effects of heat stress. You may also utilize shade cloth to protect leaves from the sun.

Remedies for Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow

In addition, sprinkling some cold water during peak hours of a hot day is recommended. This will provide relief by cooling down the plants for some time. However, it could be more effective in the long run.

The best and most recommended way to deal with heat stress is the relocation of pots to shady areas for a few hours every day.

– Go For Mulching

Experts suggest covering your soil with mulch to deal with heat and cold stress. It is made from many organic substances like tree bark, wood chips, pine straw, moss, grass clippings, or leaves. Here is how you can efficiently do the mulching:

  1. Clean the soil of any debris and eradicate any weeds you see.
  2. Apply some water.
  3. Add a mulching layer.
  4. Give some more water.

The mulching layer will settle within a day or two after adding second watering. This layer will then act as insulation against both hot and cold extremes. Ensure you add only a little mulch, which can restrict the oxygen supply.

– Use Both Organic and Chemical Insecticides

To deal with unwanted insects, you should first try organic repellents. We suggest adding baking soda, wood ash, sulfur, or diatomaceous earth. You can either mix these substances in water or sprinkle them on the soil.

Experts also suggest neem oil and cayenne pepper spray eliminate all harmful insects. If you still see insects feeding on the leaves, use chemical insecticides. They are costly but are highly effective in killing insects.

– Cure Disease Attack

When bacterial and fungal diseases attack orchids, you should immediately start treatments. First, remove the top layer of soil and add a healthy one. Then, apply appropriate fungicides and bactericides to fix their effects.

Should you cut off yellow orchid leaves? Yes, you should. Cut yellow parts using a sharp scissor and put them in a paper bag. Then, dispose of this bag far away from your garden. Furthermore, maintain pot-to-pot distance to make sure air passes smoothly. Doing these things will control the spread of disease, and they won’t re-emerge either.

– Deal With Repotting Stress Smartly

When you transplant orchids, and the leaves start to change their color to yellow, they face repotting shocks. We suggest you add liquid vitamin b1 to the potting mix or soil to deal with them. This will initiate root growth, and leaves will start recovering.

If you don’t want to apply vitamin b1, give a little dose of minerals or balanced liquid fertilizer after transplanting. This will strengthen the roots, allowing plants to recover from the repotting shocks easily.

– Follow Proper Care Measures

Want to see greener leaves throughout the year? Then follow orchid care measures with care. The number one is keeping the garden tidy. Clean any debris or pet feces you see to prevent pathogen buildup.

In addition, you should also check the water quality to ensure plants receive the purest one (and not the hard one).

Furthermore, sometimes, potholes get clogged. Therefore, you should keep checking it, or else excess water will not drain properly. We also suggest you regularly check the underside of leaves. The reason is that most insects live in such spots. Doing this will allow you to spot insect infestation early, and it will be easier for you to handle these creatures.

Conclusion of Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow


There are lots of stresses that cause orchid leaves to turn yellow. This article discussed what they are and how to fix them hassle-free. Here is a list of important points to revise every key info:

  • Make sure the soil is suitable for orchids in every way.
  • Apply water and fertilizers in controlled amounts, or yellowing will start.
  • Protect from every kind of temperature and lighting stress for healthier leaves.
  • If insects attack orchids, use organic and chemical insecticides to remove them.
  • Apply fungicides/bactericides and follow plant care measures to control disease damage.

Stick to these points, and you will see green leaves of orchids throughout the year!

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