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How to Fix Calathea Yellow Leaves?

Calathea is a beautiful plant popular among houseplant enthusiasts for its glossy, attractive leaves that exhibit green and other lovely patterns.

If you are a proud Calathea parent, you wish you had not witnessed the Calathea yellow leaves.

In general, you can fix the yellow leaves on the Calathea by adjusting the watering schedule, providing bright indirect sunlight, increasing humidity around the plant, maintaining warmer temperatures, and regularly inspecting the plant for pest and disease infection.

Calathea Yellow Leaves
A Calathea plant can exhibit yellow leaves due to different anomalies. Most of them can be fatal for the plant.

If you catch the symptoms in their early stages, you will have a great shot at nursing the plant back to health.

However, once the ship has sailed, it is practically impossible to revive the plant.

Therefore, please read the article further to know what causes Calathea yellow leaves and how to fix them.

What Causes Calathea Leaves to Turn Yellow? 

People have been using Calathea plants as indoor decorative plants since the 1970s and 1980s after they found it in the wild and domesticated it.

As an indoor plant, Calathea has certain care requirements that you must fulfill to keep it healthy. Any anomaly will cause stress in your plant.

Please read the article below to find out what causes yellow leaves on Calathea and how to treat them.

1. Improper Watering

Calathea is a tropical plant that can be fussy about watering.

Incorrect watering, both over and underwatering, may jeopardize its health, resulting in yellowing leaves.

Underwatered Calathea

Calathea plants require adequate watering to reach the desired height.

Due to environmental factors or negligence, you may water your plant less frequently than necessary. Calathea will show yellow leaves to indicate stress in such cases.

Underwatering the plant prevents the roots from transporting nutrients from the soil to the plant resulting in yellowing leaves.

Calathea Yellow leaves due to underwatering
Underwatering the Calathea may lead to yellowing leaves.

Other signs of underwatering include droopy leaves, bone-dry soil, brown dried leaves, and so on.

Immediate Steps of Revival
  • The first step you must take is the ‘soak and dry’ method. Fill a tub with water and immerse the pot until the bubbles stop forming in the water.
  • Another method is to place the plant on top of a water-filled pebble tray. This way, the plant will soak water slowly, and the weak roots won’t suffer.
  • Place your plant in a shady area so the remaining moisture does not get lost.
  • Water the plant thoroughly until water leaks out of the drainage hole.

Overwatered Calathea

Overwatering is the most prevalent cause that invites problems in houseplants.

The leaves of the Calathea plant can turn yellow if it gets too much water. In extreme cases, overwatering can cause root rot in the plant.

Root Rot in Calathea
Overwatering is responsible for causing root rot in houseplants.

Too much water in the root zone can impair the plant’s ability to absorb the oxygen required.

In the plant’s dormancy, i.e., winter, you need to reduce the watering frequency to avoid oversaturating the root area.

Additionally, waterlogging can encourage fungi and other harmful organisms, leading to a pest infestation.

Other symptoms of overwatering include limpy stem, droopy leaves, leaf tips turning brown, etc.

Immediate Steps of Revival
  • Immediately stop watering your Calathea plant and let it heal from the effect of overwatering.
  • Take your Calathea plant out of the pot and inspect the rootball carefully. Remove the brown and mushy roots.

While snipping off the rotten roots, make sure you do not hurt the healthy roots.

  • If the situation worsens, you should repot your Calathea in a fresh potting mix. Make sure to choose a pot with good drainage holes.
  • Place the pot in a place with enough bright indirect light so that the soil dries up faster.
  • Use proper fungicides to treat the root rot and avoid the spread to other healthy roots.
  • Move your plant to a shady area so that the upper leaves do not incur any damage.

Pro tip: Water your Calathea every 9 days with 0.23 liters of water in summer if it is in indirect sunlight.

Moreover, poor quality water can also contribute to the yellowing of Calathea leaves. The fluoride and chloride in tap water can damage the plant tissues and cause them to turn yellow.

Unfortunately, the necrosis caused by fluoride and chloride toxicity is not reversible, so you may just cut the yellow leaves off.

However, rain or distilled water can keep the Calathea leaves from getting yellow.

2. Improper Lighting

Being a tropical plant, Calathea is accustomed to living in brightly lit areas under the canopy of very large trees.

So, for the optimal growth of your plant, you need to provide it with a bright light shaded by curtains or drapes.

Calathea leaves can turn yellow if they are exposed to too much sunlight or suffer from a lack of light.

Calathea in Light
Calathea leaves can turn yellow if it gets excessive sunlight or suffers from inadequate sunlight.

The plant cannot perform photosynthesis in low-light conditions, reducing the amount of chlorophyll. As a result, a lack of this green pigment can cause yellowing of the leaves.

Similarly, in harsh lights, the chlorophyll in the leaves will break down, and then the leaves turn yellow.

High light intensity also increases the transpiration rate in leaves which causes the plant to dehydrate quickly, resulting in yellow leaves.

Calathea exhibits additional symptoms due to poor lighting, which I have listed in the table below.

Lack of LightExcessive Light
Wilting of the plantThe plant's natural photoperiod will be disturbed
The plant will lose its color, and the patterns will fadeThe leaf tips will burn and be scorched
The plant will be leggy, and the stems will be etiolatedYour Calathea will look dull and pale

Immediate Steps of Revival

  • Move your plant at least 6 feet away from the window, so it doesn’t suffer from excessive light damage.
  • Shield the plant from direct sunlight by keeping it on windows with drapes or curtains.
  • If the leaves have turned brown, it is safe to trim them off the plant with sterilized equipment.
  • In case of low light damage, move the plant to a brighter room to provide it with optimum brightness.
  • You can place your plant artificial grow lights for about 16 hours in case of low light conditions.

Note: Calathea plants thrive when exposed to bright, indirect sunlight for 8 hours and total darkness for 8 hours.

3. Improper Fertilization 

The Calathea plant does not require heavy feeding but still will do good with a certain amount of nutrients to boost its growth.

Generally, if the Calathea plant gets too much fertilizer, the salt in fertilizers will turn its leaf to a pale yellow color.

Calathea Plant Fertilizing
Overfertilization can cause yellowing foliage.

Meanwhile, house plants require two types of nutrients for better functioning: Micronutrients and Macronutrients.

Micronutrients consist of Manganese, Boron, Zinc, Iron, Copper, Boron, and Molybdenum, while Macronutrients consist of Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus, Calcium, Sulphur, and Magnesium.

The lack or abundance of these chemicals can stress and even kill your plant.

When plants lack nitrogen, they lose chlorophyll from their leaves, resulting in yellow leaves. Similarly, too much fertilizer can cause the leaves to burn and turn yellow.

Other symptoms of under fertilization include poor new growth, wilting foliage, and underdeveloped roots.

Similarly, too much fertilizer will render symptoms like stunted growth, burnt leaf margins, and even death of the plant.

Salt Build up due to Overfertilization
Salt can build up on the soil surface due to overfertilization.

Immediate Steps of Revival

  • In case of overfertilization, leach your plant, remove the excess salt build-up and wash off the surface with high-pressure water.
  • Do not fertilize the plant unless it recovers properly.
  • If the soil has gone bad with too much fertilizer, you must repot the plant in another container with fresh potting soil.
  • If the plant lacks nutrients, you can use nutrient-rich fertilizers like Organic Indoor Plant Food, Joyful Dirt, and Miracle-Gro.
  • Mix half a teaspoon of fish or kelp meal in nearly one liter of water and water your plant with it.
  • Fertilize the plant with balanced 10-10-10 all-purpose fertilizer during spring and summer.
  • Reduce fertilizing until the plant returns to normal, and avoid feeding it in the fall and winter.
  • You can also use compost, and homemade fertilizer may reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.

4. Temperature Stress and Low Humidity

Flowering plants like Calathea are specific about their temperature and humidity needs as they hail from the South American rainforests.

The Calathea plant may become stressed and produce yellow leaves when exposed to cold winds, low temperatures (below 60°F), and low humidity (below 50%).

Fertilizer burn in calathea
Excess temperature can burn the foliage starting at the sides first.

Generally, the Calathea plant prefers a temperature between 60°F to 85°F. The plant’s foliage will burn from the edges if the temperature exceeds the preferred range.

Similarly, low temperatures decrease the plant’s enzyme activity and hinder its ability to take nutrients, resulting in its leaves turning yellow.

Additionally, since your plant prefers a higher humidity level, you must keep the humidity level above 50%.

Higher humidity levels will not harm the plant, but too little humidity will cause its leaves to turn yellow.

Whereas low humidity will slow the plant’s growth and cause the abscission of leaves.

Other low temperatures and humidity symptoms include decreased photosynthesis activity, leaf curling, stunted growth, etc.

Immediate Steps of Revival

  • Mist the plant immediately if it shows any of the above symptoms.
  • It would be best to move your plant indoors to protect it from extreme temperature damage during winter.
  • Keep your plant on top of a heating pad or wrap frost blankets around your plant to keep them warm during the winter.
  • Place the plant under the incandescent grow light if the temperature decreases.
  • Prepare a mini greenhouse for your plants to provide them with natural warmth.
  • Move your plants away from air conditioning vents and buy a humidifier for them.
  • You can also keep a wet pebble tray near the plant.
  • Check the plants for pests and infections and group them with other plants to let them share humidity naturally.

5. Improper Soil and Repotting Shock

Calathea’s natural habitat is loamy forest soil. As a result, you should mimic their similar growing condition for them. 

If prefers moist, well-draining yet water-retaining soil that is slightly acidic and rich in nutrients.

Yellow Calathea leaves can be caused by compact soil that has poor drainage and cannot retain moisture.

Similarly, repotting shock can also result in yellow foliage. This is because the plant’s surroundings and soil are not ideal, which causes it to shrink and develop yellow leaves.

Calathea Repotting
While repotting the Calathea plant, make sure you emulate the environmental conditions it got in its previous pot.

 

On the other hand, excessive root pruning, fungal disease, cold temperatures, or a damaged root system may cause repotting shock.

First signs of repotting shock include yellow and drooping leaves, which are followed by browning and stunted growth.

Similarly, if the soil is not optimal for the plant, the plant’s uptake of nutrients and water is hampered, which causes the leaves to turn yellow.

Other symptoms of improper soil and repotting shock include slow growth, wilting, leaves curling, plant dieback, etc.

Immediate Steps of Revival

  • If the plant is going through transplant shock, let it be. It may take some time to get accustomed to the environment.
  • Inspect the soil carefully, and if it has gone too bad, repot it in fresh, well-draining loamy soil that can retain moisture.
  • Provide optimum care to the plant like you did before the repotting and place it in a location with optimum light.
  • Prepare a solution of sugar and water and sprinkle it over the plant to relieve it from transplant stress.

To avoid repotting stress, you should repot the plant during early spring in a pot about 2 inches bigger than the current pot.

6. Infestation of Pests and Diseases 

Even though Calathea is one of the robust plants, certain pests and diseases can cause the plant to send out distress signals.

Due to anomalies in different conditions, Calathea can sometimes invite certain pests and infections that can even result in the plant’s death.

Calathea leaf yellowing can be caused by pests like spider mites, mealy bugs, scales, and thrips, in addition to diseases like root rot and fusarium.

Spider Mites in Calathea
Calathea may look strong, but certain pests and diseases can attack this plane due to a bad environment.

The pests feed on the plant’s juices and hinder their nutrient uptake, which causes the leaves to turn yellow.

Likewise, root rot congests the soil and blocks the passing of nutrients and water to the leaves. Fusarium is also a prime cause of yellowing and wilting of the plant.

Similarly, Cucumber Mosaic Virus is another deadly disease that infects the Calathea. The virus causes jagged, splotchy yellow streaks to appear on the leaves.

Immediate Steps of Revival

  • To avoid further spread, dispose of the infected parts from the plant.
  • Get insecticidal soap and wash the plant with it. You can also spray neem oil on the foliage to control pest infestation.
  • Keep the plant separate from other healthy plants to avoid spreading diseases and pests.
  • Dilute rubbing alcohol in water and wipe the leaves of the plants to get rid of pests.
  • In case of root rot, take the root ball out of the pot and inspect the roots. Trim away the brown and mushy roots and repot the plant in fresh potting soil if necessary.
  • For fusarium disease, treat the plant with proper fungicides.
  • If the plant cannot be saved, dispose of it safely and sterilize the pot.

7. Natural Life Cycle

Your Calathea plant can survive for forty years if you provide good care.

As the plant approaches its old age, the lower leaves of plant start to fall off to make way for the newer growths.

Before falling to their demise, the older bottom leaves of the Calathea plant turn yellow.

This is a natural process and does not mean the plant is stressed.

Natural Yellowing in Calathea
Calathea plant leaves have a certain lifespan. While nearing their end, the old leaves turn yellow and drop off the plant.

It is entirely up to you whether to leave them on the plant or prune them.

If you let them stay put on the plant, they will eventually fall off on their own. But, not pruning them means you are wasting your valuable plant resources on them.

There is no way to fix or’revive’ the older yellowing plant because this is part of its natural life cycle. Do not worry!  It is not technically ‘dying.’

Should I Cut Yellow Leaves Off the Calathea?

After your Calathea plant has incurred yellow leaves, it has less chance of recovering and reverting to its original form. If the entire leaf turns yellow, it will eventually fall off.

However, it would be best if you cut off the yellow leaves from the plant with sterilized scissors or pruning shears.

If you keep the yellow leaves intact, the plant cannot focus its energy on the new growths.

Also, yellow leaves may be a blemish to the perfect aesthetic provided by this plant.

However, before attempting to cut the yellowing foliage, it is necessary to understand the cause of the yellowing.

If there are only a few yellow spots on the leaves, you may be able to nurse the plant back to health.

Tips to Take Care of Calathea Plant

If you provide proper care to your plant, you may not have to encounter any problems or anomalies.

Follow the tips below to take proper care of your plant.

  • Allow the top 50% of the soil to dry out between watering. This usually takes 1 to 2 weeks during summer.
  • Always use distilled or rainwater at room temperature to water your Calathea.
  • Place your plant in medium, indirect sunlight for its optimal growth. Use grow lights when there is less light.
Plants in growlight
Grow light can fulfill the plant’s lighting needs during low light conditions.
  • Provide the plant with fertilizer rich in nitrogen content (something like 3-1-2) during its active growing season and cut back on fertilization during winter.
  • Prepare a homemade mix of 50% potting soil, 20% orchid bark, 20% charcoal, and 10% perlite for your Calathea.
  • Regularly check your plant for the signs of pests and diseases to diagnose them in time.
  • Prune brown, old, decomposing leaves and leggy stem growth during the growing season.
  • Clean your Calathea regularly with clean water, a soapy water solution, or Neem oil.
  • Place your plant in a north-facing window to let it get optimal light for its growth.

Watch the full video for more tips,

Conclusion

Calathea plant can brighten up any corner of your house with its bright and unique foliage. But to continue keeping its foliage beautiful, you need to provide it with good care.

Check for the yellow leaves occasionally because if you keep them unchecked, they may even kill your plant.

Good luck!

Do you want to read other articles relating to Calathea, read about their light requirements, Calathea varieties, Calathea flower, Calathea benefits, and their common problems

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