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5+ Reasons Behind Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow [With Easy Fixes]

Orchids are tropical plants that rarely get yellow leaves. Preparatory Orchid care saves the plant from sudden and severe foliage discoloration.

Generally, reasons behind Orchid leaves turning yellow include improper lighting, temperature, watering routine, and humidity. But repotting stress, old age, pest infestations, and disease outbreaks can also render their leaves yellow.

The reasons behind Orchid leaves and stem turning yellow are many. Learn the fail-safe tips to tend and save their leaves below.

Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow [Is it Normal?]

Orchids come in evergreen and deciduous varieties, with individual plants living for 15-20 years before giving up to old age.

For the deciduous type, it’s normal for the Orchid flower and leaves to turn yellow and fall in winter. 

Also, it is natural for the older Orchid leaves to turn yellow from aging. 

However, evergreen Orchid leaves turning yellow before old age or during the blooming season is abnormal.
Image represents bottom leaves of Orchid turning yellow
As Orchids age, their lower leaves become yellow and naturally fall off the plant.

If your Orchid’s top leaves start turning yellow during the active growing season and the Orchid flower falls off, act immediately and monitor the underlying problems.

But, Orchid leaves turning yellow at the base indicates the plant is beginning to shed spent foliage and space for new leaves.

Additionally, Orchids stay dormant between blooming seasons and look miserable with droopy and yellow foliage.

Why are my Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow?

Any anomaly in the care routine can cause yellow leaves in Orchids.

Let’s look at some mishaps and solve the problem by offering solutions below.

1. Improper Watering

The most common mistake many gardeners make is improperly watering their Orchids.

Your Orchid will stay happy if you water them weekly in spring and summer. Remember to cut back watering in fall and winter to every 14 days.

In contrast to underwatering problems, overwatering tends to be riskier due to root rot.

Rotten roots cannot deliver the necessary nutrients for plants and cut off the oxygen supply, leading to the Orchid leaves turning yellow and brown.

Image represents Orchids growing in pots
Without a well-draining potting environment, Orchid roots may suffocate and cannot breathe oxygen.

Furthermore, overwatering leads to soggy soil conditions, encouraging fungal growth.

A relatively healthy Orchid lasts 2-8 weeks without water, but it depends on the variety and surrounding humidity.

Thus, underwatering issues in Orchids occur if you let the plant go dehydrated for over a month.

How to Fix?

  • Stop watering your Orchid and let the soil dry by keeping the plant in direct sunlight.
  • Carefully inspect the roots for rots by pulling the plant from the pot and pruning decaying foliage.
  • If you spot mushy roots, snip them off using sterilized pruners and apply neem oil to the cut ends to discourage fungal growth.
  • Use a fresh suitable potting mix with medium water retention if the soil smells foul or fishy.
  • Poke holes in the topsoil for aeration and add organic perlite to increase the porosity.
  • Thoroughly water your Orchid via the bottom watering approach.
  • Check the top 1-2 inches of soil using finger dip tests before watering the plant during dormancy.

2. Excessive Light

Another primary culprit behind the yellowing Orchid leaves is prolonged sun exposure, increasing the surrounding temperature.

Orchids generally thrive with 12-14 hours of bright direct sunlight with some partial shade.

In their natural habitat, Orchids are often found growing under the shade of other big trees, avoiding scorching light.

They can withstand at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and grow with 12-14 hours of grow light exposure.

Under direct sun, Orchid leaves attain black spots and light brownish blotches due to sunburn.

Likewise, avoid placing Orchids in completely dark areas. Light-deprived Orchids can get yellow leaves followed by stunted or leggy growth.

How to Fix?

Here is how to stop Orchid leaves going yellow.

  • Hang your Orchids near an east-facing window or 3-5 feet from a south-facing window.
  • Keep a few inches of gap between the window panes and leaves.
  • Use curtains or UV light panels to reduce the light intensity as a shield to protect the sensitive leaves.
  • Keep the plant 6-12 inches from artificial lights to prevent yellowing leaf tips and edges.

3. Irregular Fertilization

Orchid is a hungry flowering plant that prefers a fertilizer typically of a quarter or half the concentration of the original mix.

Usually, Orchids need a balanced blend of liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks in spring and summer and every 4 weeks during fall and winter.

However, they prefer to stay under-fertilized rather than suffer from excessive fertilization.

The sensitive roots of Orchids are highly susceptible to fertilizer burn due to excessive fertilizer in the soil.

Image represents the process of leaching fertilizer salts from pots
Use distilled water to remove the accumulated salts from the soil layers.

Overfertilization causes nutrients (fertilizer salts) to stockpile in soil, making it toxic.

That’s why the fertilizer burnt roots cannot serve their purpose, which induces nutrient deficiency and yellowing leaves.

Likewise, under-fertilizing your Orchids causes nutrient deficiencies and Orchid leaf discoloration.

How to Fix?

  • Flush the excess salts by washing the potting soil monthly to prevent salt accumulation.
  • Diagnose the roots and prune off dying, brown or black, damaged roots.
  • Water before fertilizing your Orchids for the nutrients to reach the deeper soil layers.
  • Use a gardening trowel to flake off the encrusted salt layers from the topsoil.
  • Avoid fertilizing dry plants, as the salts can burn the roots.
  • Apply 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt to a gallon of water and give it to the plant monthly to keep its leaves green.

4. Temperature Stress

Orchid is a beautiful tropical flowering plant thriving in a warmer environment.

The optimal temperature for Orchids is between 65-85°F during the day and above 60-65°F during the night.

Meanwhile, the plant does not stand cold drafts, initiating the bottom leaves of the Orchid turning yellow starting from the top.

Similarly, frost damage in Orchids can lead to bacterial root rot affecting the plant’s health.

Image represents misting and wiping Orchid leaves
Wiping the water drops from Orchid leaves after misting prevents any chance of fungal or bacterial infection.

In contrast, hot spells can cause the Orchid to droop or wilt, with leaves turning brownish-yellow or pale.

Sometimes adjusting the humidity levels to the changing temperature can save Orchids from getting yellow leaves.

How to Fix?

  • Locate the plant away from drafty north-facing windows to avoid temperature drops in fall and winter. 
  • Cover the plant with frost blankets and place heating pads under the pot to keep the warmth intact, protecting it from winter.
  • Relocate Orchids away from radiators, air vents, and conditioning accessories.
  • Place the plant on a moisture tray to offer optimum ambient humidity.
  • Add an extra layer of mulch on top of the potting mix to provide insulation for the plant in winter.
  • Mist the leaves once a week during the dry streaks in summer. Wipe out any water drops from the leaves.

5. Repotting Stress

Orchids are low-maintenance plants with a simple repotting routine.

Usually, Orchid requires repotting every 1-2 years once they start to outgrow the pot with their roots popping out from the drainage holes and topsoil. Ideally, after the flowering season.

However, they may go under repotting stress, which is a probable reason for Orchid leaves turning yellow.

Repotting stress is typically due to sudden changes in potting mix, temperature, air circulation, or humidity.


Image represents the method for pruning Orchids
While repotting, ensure to relieve the dead or dying portions from the plant for vigorous vegetative growth.

The plant will reveal droopy leaves with yellowing signs if you fail to give them a well-draining soil mix with high water retention.

And improper repotting during the flowering spell can cause Orchid leaves to turn yellow. The situation can worsen to Orchid flowers falling off if you fail to address them.

Moreover, the foliage might turn brown, rendering a wilting plant.

Tips to Repot Orchids

  • Work with a dull knife around the potting soil and carefully tug the Orchid out from its pot.
  • Untangle the cramped roots and inspect for infection to remove them.
  • Take a 1-2 inches wider terracotta planter or ceramic pot with holes and fill it one-third with a suitable potting mix.
  • Settle the plant in the new pot and arrange the roots. Add some more soil from the sides.
  • Keep the plant in dappled light until it recovers from repotting stress.
  • Lightly mist the Orchid leaves in the morning hours for a few weeks after repotting.

6. Pests & Diseases

Bugs and pathogens hitch a ride on the Orchid leaves if you use the wrong water for irrigation and keep your houseplant untidy.

Common pests that invade the Orchid leaves include mites, scales, thrips, and mealybugs, while black spots, leaf spots, and root rots also account for yellow leaves.

Pests feast on the plant by sucking out nutrients, causing the leaves to turn yellow, distort, and stunt.

Image represents eggs on Orchid leaves
Pests lay their eggs on the underside of the Orchid leaves, after which they hatch and gnaw on the foliage and flowers.

Moreover, the infected area is speckled with sticky liquid or honeydew in case of severe pest infection.

The infection might extend to other plant parts during the disease incidence, rendering them functionless.

How to Fix?

  • Isolate the infected plants from other healthy ones to prevent the spread of outbreaks.
  • Use blasts of water to cast off the pests from the plants.
  • Take Q-tips dipped in neem oil to dab the pests and prune off the infected leaves all the way from the base.
  • Dispose of the plant parts by burning them down.
  • Employ copper-based fungicides to salvage a severely diseased Orchid plant.
  • Groom your Orchids after the flowers fall off the plant to provide better air circulation and space for new leaves.

Should You Cut Off Yellow Orchid Leaves?

Orchid leaves turning yellow are incurable, as they cannot turn back green.

Therefore, in most cases, it’s advisable to discard those damaged leaves to save energy.

If the leaf has naturally turned yellow completely, it will fall off soon.

However, you shall trim off those leaves infected with bacterial and fungal diseases.

From Editorial Team

Nutrient Supplement!

Dropping yellow Orchid leaves may be a sign of potassium deficiency.

At such times, your Orchids need a good blend of potassium-based fertilizer.

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