How to Fix Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow?

Orchid is a beautiful houseplant popular for its exotic blooms with alluring and distinct flowers in symmetric structures.

Although the Orchid stays healthy, flaunting its beauty most of the time with minimal care, the sudden yellowing of leaves could be worrisome.

In general, you can fix yellowing Orchid leaves by slightly amending the watering schedule, fixing direct sunlight exposure, keeping plants warm, carefully repotting using an ideal potting mix, and regularly inspecting the plant for pests and fungal disease infections.

yellowing orchid leaves
Orchid leaves turning yellow could be a sign of the natural aging process or could be a sign improper care.

Except for the natural yellowing process of the Orchid leaves, you can revitalize or fix the yellowing Orchid leaves.

Please continue reading to discover the reasons why Orchid leaves turn yellow and how to treat them properly.

Is it Normal for Orchid Leaves to Turn Yellow?

Orchids like Catasetum, Lycaste, and Dendrobium are deciduous. Therefore, it is normal for their leaves to turn yellow and fall in winter.

That said, evergreen Orchid leaves turning yellow before old age and during the blooming season is not normal.

Meanwhile, it is natural for your older Orchid leaves to turn yellow from aging. 

Yellowing foliage in Orchid
Excessive yellowing foliage in the Orchid indicates the plant is dying.

Similarly, thou shall not worry if Orchid leaves turn yellow on the plant’s lower bottom part.

It indicates the Orchid plant is letting go of old mature leaves for a newer generation of leaves.

Like many plants, Orchids also stay dormant between blooming seasons, and they look miserable with droopy and yellowing leaves.

However, if your Orchid leaves turn yellow amidst of active growing season from the top of the plant, you must take immediate action.

Generally, Orchid leaves turning yellow could also be a sign of underlying problems that need proper and prompt treatment.

But a proper diagnosis of the problem is crucial before the situation becomes irreversible.

Why do my Orchid Leaves Keep Turning Yellow? (Causes+Solutions)

Although Orchid is a low-maintenance plant, slight mishaps in the care routine can cause yellowing leaves.

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

Therefore, let us get back your beautiful Orchid back to its former glory by identifying and providing treatment accordingly.

1. Improper watering

The most common mistake many gardeners tend to make is improper watering habits.

Generally, your Orchid will stay happy if you water them once every 7 to 14 days.

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

Orchid leave turning yellow
Orchids do not like to have wet feet for long as their roots are vulnerable to rotting from excess water.

Rotted roots cannot deliver the necessary nutrients for plants and cause leaves to turn yellow. Furthermore, soggy and wet soil is an ideal home inviting problematic growth of fungi.

Other than that, waterlogged soil discourages oxygen circulation in the soil, which in turn causes yellowing leaves.

Meanwhile, underwatering issues in Orchids are less likely to occur if you are not letting Orchids go unwatered for a month.

Either way, Orchid leaves turn yellow. However, you can easily distinguish between the cause.

Here are the other signs to look out for in the Orchid plants from improper watering.

Overwatered Underwatered
Brown, dark looking mushy roots Dry, thin roots that looks shriveled down
Limp leaves that turn yellowLeaves have yellow spots with drier texture
Leaves base beginning to decay or rotShriveled leaves
Soil looks wet and soggySoil volume shrinks, and looks white and dry

Immediate Steps of Revival for Overwatered Orchid

  • Stop watering your plant immediately and let the soil dry by keeping it in a shaded place.
  • Carefully inspect the root condition by pulling the plant out from the pot.
revive methods to revive overwatered vs. under watered plants
Placing overwatered plants in low humidity increases the transpiration rate, balancing the excess stored water in the plant cells.
  • If you spot any brown, mushy roots that have gone bad, snip them off using a sterilized pruner.
  • Apply fungicides to the cut ends of the roots to discourage any potential spread of fungal diseases.
  • Use a fresh suitable potting mix if a foul scent comes from the soil and looks beyond fixable.
  • Ensure the new potting mix drains well and has medium water retention capacity.
  • Reduce the watering frequency to once every two weeks in the winter season.

Immediate Steps of Revival for Underwatered Orchid

  • Thoroughly water your underwatered Orchid via the bottom watering approach.
  • Submerge the plant pot in a tub filled with lukewarm water and let it be for a couple of hours.
watering underwatered plants to revive
You shall use bottom watering approach or controlled overhead watering to revive back underwatered plants.
  • Prune off decaying, damaged foliage and assess the root condition—snip off dead, dry roots.
  • Place your Orchid in the shade and avoid direct bright sunlight.
  • Mist the plant during the morning once in two days to increase the humidity.
  • Water your plant once a week in spring and summer or after the top inch soil layer becomes dry.
  • You can also use a soil moisture meter to assess soil moisture before watering the plant or use the Greg water scheduling app.

Pro Tip: Try poking chopsticks into the soil to determine if the top inches of soil is dry or not.

2. Excessive Lighting

Another major culprit behind the yellowing leaves of Orchid is prolonged sun exposure.

Orchids generally thrive when provided with over 10 hours of bright indirect sunlight.

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

Therefore, under direct sunlight, the sensitive leaves of the Orchid plants are vulnerable to sunburn.

Sunburnt Orchid leaves have yellow to light brownish blotches, which later become dark brown.

Orchid leave turning yellow from sunburn
Let the plant handle the sunburnt leaves on its own.

Unfortunately, you cannot reverse the sunburnt leaves to their healthy green look.

Therefore, if you have placed your Orchid in a sunny window, immediately relocate them to a suitable place.

You shall not keep Orchids in the dark place in the name of direct sun protection.

Light deprivation in Orchids can also induce discoloration followed by stunted or leggy growth.

Immediate Steps of Revival for Scorched Orchid

  • Relocate the plant pot to a place where it gets at least 10 hours of indirect bright sunlight.
  • Place the plant at least 3 to 5 feet away from the south-facing window to avoid sunburn.
  • Use shear curtains to reduce the light intensity as a shield to protect the sensitive leaves of Orchids.
  • Let the plant handle the sunburnt leaves on its own and avoid cutting them.
  • Keep the plant at 10 to 12 inches from grow light during winter for almost 12 hours a day.
  • Ensure proper shade for outdoor Orchids and regularly mist the plants to maintain optimal leaf moisture.

3. Improper Fertilization

Orchid is one of those hungry flowering plants that prefer to be fed every two weeks during its active growth.

However, they prefer to stay a bit 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.

Similarly, overfertilization causes nutrients to stockpile in the form of salt, making it toxic. The fertilizer burnt roots cannot serve their purpose, which induces nutrient deficiency.

Brown and Mushy Orchid roots
Brown and mushy Orchid roots indicate that the plant is dying.

Here are a few signs of fertilizer burn in the Orchid.

  • Formation of white, brown salt on the topsoil layer
  • Almost no root growth and brownish root with dead tips
  • Yellowing leaves

On the other hand, if you do not fertilize your Orchids properly, nutrient deficiencies may also result in yellowing leaves. Orchids are frequently deficient in manganese, zinc, iron, and nitrogen.

Timely treatment of overfertilized Orchids is crucial as it can eventually push plants beyond our help.

Immediate Steps of Revival for Overfertilized Orchid

  • Flush out the potting mix using a controlled water hose to remove salt build-ups.
  • Carefully run water over the potting mix until water oozes out from the pot’s drainage holes.
  • Thoroughly diagnose the roots and prune off dying, brown or black, damaged roots.
  • Use Osmocote 14-14-14 or Nutricote 13-13-13 to neutralize salt build-ups chemically.

You can use fertilizer made specifically for Orchids but start by using only half the suggested amount.

4. Temperature Stress

Orchid is a beautiful tropical flowering plant that thrives in a warmer environment.

Generally, the optimal temperature for Orchids is between 65°F to 80°F during the day and above 60°F during the night.

Meanwhile, Orchids do not stand cold drafts, and temperatures below 55°F can cause leaves to turn yellow.

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

Therefore, keeping the Orchids away from the windowsill and cold frosts is advisable.

Orchid leaves turning yellow and drying off
Orchids prefer warmer environments; too cold or a sudden drop in temperature below 30°F can cause yellowing leaves.

In contrast, too-hot conditions can also cause the Orchid to droop or wilt, with leaves turning brown or yellow.

Similarly, Orchids love moderate humidity (55 to 65%). However, high humidity makes plants susceptible to bacteria and mold and may cause leaves to turn yellow.

Therefore, maintain optimum humidity and warm temperature for Orchids to thrive.

If you notice any of the symptoms in Orchids, you shall immediately jump into treating your plant.

Immediate Steps of Revival 

  • Immediately relocate your plant from north-facing windows to a south-facing warmer spot in winter.
  • Cover the plant with frost blankets and place heating pads under the pot to keep the warmth intact.
  • Place the potted Orchids away from heat radiators, air vents, and air conditioners.
  • Add an extra layer of mulch on top of the potting mix to provide insulation for the plant in winter.
  • Invest in an incandescent grow light that provides light and enough warmth.
  • Use a humidifier to increase the humidity and a dehumidifier to bring the humidity level back into balance when it is too high.

5. Repotting Stress

The Orchid is a low-maintenance plant with a simpler care routine. But it has sensitive repotting needs.

Generally, Orchid needs repotting once they start to outgrow the pot with their roots popping out.

As repotting involves taking out the plant with its sensitive roots out in the open, choosing the right time of the year is crucial.

You should wait for the end of the flowering seasons to repot your Orchid plants for the best time.

Improper repotting during its ongoing flowering period can cause vigorous dropping of its flowers.

Moreover, the foliage might turn brown or yellow, followed by the wilting plant.

Immediate Steps of Revival

  • Lightly mist the Orchid leaves in the morning hours for a few weeks after repotting.
  • Give your plant an immune boost by adding a few drops of rooting solution or phosphoric fertilizers to misting water.
  • Carefully handle the bare roots of the plant during the repotting process.
  • Wait for the flowering season to end before repotting the Orchid plant.
  • Remove leaves that have turned completely brown or yellow.
  • Place the freshly repotted Orchid in a slightly less brightened place for a couple of weeks.

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

Moreover, if you fail to give them a well-draining soil mix with high water retention, the plant begins to suffer with yellowing signs.

Read on to find out why your Orchid leaves are drooping.

6. Infestation of Pests

Orchid is a trouble-free flowering plant when provided with ideal care requirements.

But there is another main culprit behind Orchid leaves turning yellow, and that is pest infestations.

Common pests that invade the Orchid plant include spider mites, scales, thrips, and mealybugs.

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

Moreover, leaves can curl, stunt growth, and reduce flower production and stem growth.

Different pests in plants
Pest sucks out plants’ nutrients and leaves behind brown spots that later turn black.

That said yellowing area is generally limited to the area pests feast on and leave the sticky liquid behind.

Immediate Steps of Revival for Pest Infested Orchids

If not interfered with before the infestation becomes critical, it may turn into an irreversible event.

Therefore, here is a list of common pests contributing to yellowing Orchid leaves with their respective signs and solutions.

PestsSymptomsSolution
Scaly insects
Scaly insects
Drains important plants sap, weakening them and causing their leaves to yellow and fall off.Remove and destroy affected plant parts

Scrub scales from twigs with a soft brush and soapy water

Dormant oil or summer oil spray should be used to treat larger infestations.
Spider mites
Spider mites
Zaps a plant's vitality by causing leaves to turn yellow, brown, or gray and drop offSpray with insecticidal soap, neem oil extract, or a sulfur-based insecticide or saturate plants with water, including the undersides of leaves.
Mealy bugs
Mealy bugs
Causes stunted and deformed foliage developmentIndividual mealybugs can be removed with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Apply an insecticidal soap spray.
Thrips
Thrips
Leaves may become pale, splotchy, and silvery in appearance before dying.Combine neem oil with insecticidal soap in a spray bottle.

The addition of neem oil boosts the killing ability.
Read more: How to Identify Insect Eggs on Leaves and Treat Pest Infestation?

7. Bacterial and Fungal Diseases

Due to the sensitive roots of Orchids to various conditions, Orchid is highly susceptible to various fungal diseases.

Some common fungal diseases in the Orchid plant are leaf spots, black rots, and blights.

Fungal diseases often arise in the plant from inconsistent or improper care factors, usually overwatering and excess humidity.

Guignardia and Phyllosticta leaf spot
Guignardia and Phyllosticta leaf spots are prevalent in many types of Orchids.

Here are the symptoms Orchid plant display under different fungal disease infections.

Name of DiseaseSymptoms
Cercospora leaf spotBrown, yellowish-green spots on the bottom of the older leaves

Leaves turn necrotic and die off if left untreated
Phyllosticta leaf spotDark brown to black elongated spots spread all across the leaf.
Erwinia Leaf SpotThere are soft, mushy, water-soaked areas below the soil line or the base of the stem.
BotrytisSmall brown spots on Orchid flowers and leaves

If left untreated, spots increase in size and spread more
Fungal Crown RotDiscoloration at the center or crown of the plant

Immediate Steps of Revival 

  • Snip off and discard the infected parts of the plant using sterilized pruners.
  • Immediately quarantine the infected plant away from other healthy plants.
  • Spray infected plants with Thiophanate Methyl as per the manufacturer’s instruction to treat Cercospora.
  • Use hydrogen peroxide to spray the plant to control Botrytis infection in smaller quantities.
  • Consider relocating the plant to somewhere with better air circulation, a slightly less humid but warmer place.
  • If the plant doesn’t look salvageable, kindly dispose of the plant away properly.
  • Apply fungicides from certified retailers like Gardensafe and Bonide to control and treat fungal diseases.

8. Natural Life Cycle

Did you know that Orchids in the wild live up for almost two decades, i.e., 20 years?

But potted or indoor Orchids usually flaunt their alluring beauty for 10 to 15 years if provided with optimal care.

Yellowing leaves could also be one of the aging signs amongst other natural signs.

orchid leaves turn yellow as a natural process
Older leaves of Orchids turn yellow before falling off.

The lower bottom part of the plant part begins to turn yellow and drop once the plant is over the hill.

Therefore, if your Orchid has been with you for over a decade, leaves turning yellow could be a natural process.

Do you know Orchid is one of the largest flowering species on Earth with more than 28000+ species?

Should I Cut Off Yellow Orchid Leaves

Orchid leaves turning yellow is a one-way highway, meaning once the leaves turn yellow, you can not revert them.

Moreover, if the leaf has turned yellow completely, it is counting days and will fall off soon.

Therefore, in most cases of yellowing leaves, it is advisable to cut those damaged leaves to save energy.

But sunburnt leaves that are slightly turning yellow shall be left on the plants as they still can serve their purpose.

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

How to Prevent Orchid Leaves from Turning Yellow?

Orchids are rather delicate and easily turn yellow from various mishaps in care needs.

But when provided with regular care and attention, you can easily prevent Orchid leaves from turning yellow.

Here I have enlisted some of the foolproof preventive measures for your convenience.

  • Water your Orchids only after the topsoil layer becomes dry. Once a week in winter and two times a week during spring and summer will suffice.
  • Provide proper Orchid soil mix for optimal aeration by combining perlite, vermiculite, and other chunky items.
  • Avoid direct sunlight exposure and place the potted Orchids in the east or south-facing window with sheer drapes.
  • Feed your Orchid with all-balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer once a month and ensure to dilute the fertilizer to its half strength before application.
  • Ensure to keep the Orchid in a moderately humid room with a relative humidity of 60 to 80%.
  • Maintain the temperature between 50°F to 80°F (10°C to 27°C) and do not let it drop below 30°F.
  • Ensure the soil is slightly acidic with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.0.
  • Proceed to prune off Orchids after the flowering period comes to an end.
  • Carefully repot the plant once in two years or only after it outgrows the container it is staying at.
  • Place sticky tapes, clean the leaves once in a while using soapy solution water, and spray neem oil on the plant to steer pests away from them.
  • Fungal disease infections can be fatal for the plant. Therefore, opt for preventive measures and apply fungicides on leaves often.

Read on to find the best shops to buy Orchids online, if you are thinking about buying one.

Conclusion

Orchid leaves turning yellow could be a sign of both natural aging and improper care routine. Be sure abrupt Orchid leaves turning yellow are not normal.

Therefore, you need to verify what exactly is causing the yellowing of the Orchid leaves by thoroughly observing the symptoms.

I have included possible causes and respective remedies above, so ensure to follow them to revive your Orchid.

Although low maintenance, growing Orchid could turn a bit tricky. Find out if your Orchid is dead or dormant.

Happy Gardening!!!

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