orchid leaves turning yellow

Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow: Causes and Solutions

Orchid lovers often encounter the common issue of their orchid leaves turning yellow, leading to concerns about the health of their beloved plants. Yellowing leaves can be a natural part of the plant’s life cycle, or they may indicate a problem that requires attention. Understanding the causes of yellow orchid leaves on phalaenopsis and how to address them is essential for maintaining a thriving and beautiful orchid collection.

One prominent reason for orchid leaves turning yellow is over-watering. When orchids receive too much water, their roots become flooded, cutting off the necessary air supply and limiting their ability to absorb nutrients. Consequently, the leaves lose their vibrant green color, appearing yellow and less elastic. On the other hand, under-watering or exposing the plant to temperatures below 55°F (13°C) can also contribute to leaves turning yellow. Orchids require a delicate balance of water, temperature, and humidity for optimal growth and leaf health.

To remedy yellow leaves and promote healthy orchid growth, it is crucial to properly manage the watering schedule, container drainage, and environmental factors like temperature and humidity. Whether you’re a seasoned orchid grower or a beginner, closely observing your orchids’ leaves and adapting their care can help ensure the colorful, captivating beauty of these exotic plants lasts for years to come.

Yellowing orchid leaves may be natural or indicate problems like over-watering or cold temperatures. Properly managing watering, drainage, temperature, and humidity promotes healthy growth. Observing and adapting care maintains orchids’ captivating beauty for years.

Common Reasons for Yellow Orchid Leaves


Orchids are sensitive to overwatering, and excess water often causes their leaves to turn yellow. Flooded roots can become cut off from the air, leading to a decrease in water and nutrient intake, which results in yellow leaves. It’s essential to have proper drainage and adjust the watering routine to prevent this issue.


Underwatering can also cause orchid leaves to turn yellow. Orchids need consistent moisture, so it’s crucial to maintain a balance between overwatering and underwatering. Make sure you provide enough water for the plant without causing root rot.

Inadequate Lighting

Orchids thrive in indirect sunlight, as they naturally grow under a shaded tropical canopy. Too much direct sunlight can harm orchids and lead to yellow leaves. Providing adequate light exposure prevents yellowing and ensures healthy growth.

Poor Air Circulation

Good air circulation is vital for orchids, as it helps prevent the buildup of stagnant air and humidity around the plant. Insufficient air circulation can lead to yellow leaves, fungal or bacterial diseases, and overall poor growth. Make sure your orchid is in a well-ventilated area with adequate airflow.

Nutrient Imbalance

An imbalance in nutrient levels can cause orchid leaves to turn yellow. Orchids require specific nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for proper growth. Ensure that you use a balanced fertilizer specifically designed for orchids to maintain a healthy nutrient balance.

Natural Aging Process

Orchid leaves on Phalaenopsis turn yellow as a part of their natural aging process. Older leaves gradually yellow and fall off to make way for new growth. This is normal and not a cause for concern.

Fungal, Bacterial or Pest Diseases

Yellowing orchid leaves can also be a sign of fungal, bacterial, or pest-related diseases. It’s essential to inspect your Phalaenopsis orchid regularly and treat any infestations or infections promptly to maintain the overall health of the plant. Use proper hygiene practices and preventive measures to minimize the risk of diseases harming your orchid.


Yellow orchid leaves can result from overwatering, underwatering, inadequate lighting, poor air circulation, nutrient imbalance, natural aging, or diseases. Prevent yellowing by managing water, light, air, and nutrients, ensuring proper drainage and ventilation, using orchid-specific fertilizer, and addressing diseases promptly with hygiene practices and preventive measures.

Diagnosing the Problem

orchid leaves turning yellow

Orchid leaves turning yellow can indicate various issues with the plant’s health. To determine the root cause and provide the appropriate care, it’s essential to inspect the roots and assess the orchid’s growing environment.

Inspecting the Roots

One reason for yellow orchid leaves can be due to roots’ inability to transport nutrients and water around the plant. This often occurs when the orchid is either overwatered or underwatered. To inspect the roots:

  • Remove the orchid carefully from its pot and examine the roots.
  • Healthy roots should be plump, firm, and silvery-white or green.
  • Unhealthy roots may be brown or black, mushy, or shriveled.

If you find unhealthy roots, trim away the affected parts, and repot the orchid into a fresh medium with proper drainage.

Assessing the Growing Environment

Several factors in the orchid’s environment can contribute to yellow leaves, including:

  • Watering: Overwatering can lead to yellow leaves as it causes root rot. Ensure the growing medium is well-draining and allow it to dry out slightly between waterings. Conversely, underwatering may also result in yellow leaves. Orchids should be watered consistently to prevent the roots from drying out.
  • Temperature: Orchid leaves may turn yellow if they’re exposed to temperatures below 55°F (13°C). Ensure your orchid is growing in a suitable temperature range, preferably between 60°F (15°C) and 85°F (29°C) during the day and between 55°F (13°C) and 75°F (24°C) at night.
  • Nutrient Deficiency: A lack of nitrogen and magnesium might cause orchid leaves to turn yellow. To address this issue, use a well-balanced orchid fertilizer enriched with essential nutrients. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as excessive nutrients can also contribute to yellowing leaves due to a condition called chlorosis.
  • Natural Leaf Aging: It’s important to note that older leaves, especially those near the base, may naturally yellow and fall off as part of the orchid’s growth cycle. In this case, no action is required, as new leaves will emerge to replace the older ones.


To diagnose yellow orchid leaves, inspect roots for health and assess the growing environment. Address overwatering or underwatering, ensure proper temperature, provide balanced nutrients, and recognize natural leaf aging. Trim unhealthy roots and repot in a well-draining medium if necessary.

Treatment and Prevention

Adjusting Watering Schedule

Yellow orchid leaves can be caused by overwatering or underwatering. To address this issue, it is important to adjust the watering schedule. Orchids should be watered only when the potting medium is dry. Overwatered orchids can suffer from root rot, while underwatered orchids may have dying roots that cannot provide adequate water and nutrients to the leaves. If underwatering is the issue, increase the frequency of watering and ensure that the roots are well-hydrated.

Improving Lighting Conditions

Inadequate lighting can lead to yellowing leaves in orchids. Ensure that the orchid is placed in a location with appropriate light levels, such as a bright windowsill with indirect sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight as it can cause sunburn and yellow spots on the leaves.

Enhancing Air Circulation

Ensuring proper air circulation is vital for maintaining the health of your orchid. A lack of airflow can cause fungal infections or bacterial diseases, leading to yellow leaves. Improve air circulation by:

  • Avoid overcrowding plants
  • Providing a small fan for indoor orchids
  • Regularly opening windows or using air vents

Balancing Nutrients

Yellowing orchid leaves can also be a result of nutrient deficiencies, such as low nitrogen or magnesium levels. Feed your orchid with a balanced orchid fertilizer during its active growth periods, but avoid feeding during the dormant seasons. Monitor nutrient levels and adjust your fertilizing routine accordingly.

Get Rid of Pest and Diseases

Orchid leaves can turn yellow due to pest infestations or diseases. Examine your plant for any signs of pests or infections. If the leaves have yellow or brown spots, it may be due to a fungal or bacterial disease. In such cases, remove the affected leaves with sterile scissors and use a fungicide or bactericide to prevent further infections.


To address yellow orchid leaves, carefully adjust the watering schedule, ensuring the potting medium is dry before watering. Place the orchid in bright, indirect sunlight and improve air circulation by spacing plants and using a small fan. Feed the orchid with balanced fertilizer during active growth, and treat pest infestations or diseases with appropriate measures like using sterile scissors and fungicides or bactericides.

Post-Treatment Care

trimming orchid roots and leaves

Orchid leaves turning yellow can indicate a number of issues, such as overwatering, inadequate drainage, exposure to direct sunlight, low temperatures, or root rot. Once you have identified and addressed the cause, it’s essential to give your orchids the proper care to ensure a successful recovery.

Trimming Yellow Leaves

It’s important to remove the yellow, damaged leaves to promote healthy growth. To trim the yellow leaves, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure that your cutting tools are clean and sterilized to avoid the spread of infections.
  2. Gently remove the yellow leaf by cutting it off as close to the base as possible, without damaging any adjacent leaves or stems.
  3. Dispose of the removed leaves properly to prevent the spread of diseases or pests.

Monitoring Plant Recovery

Once the yellow leaves have been removed, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your orchid during its recovery. Here are some aspects to monitor:

  • Watering: Phalaenopsis Orchids should be watered every 7-14 days, depending on the potting medium and environmental conditions. Ensure proper drainage to avoid root rot. Observe your plant’s response to the watering schedule and adjust as needed.
  • Light: Shield your orchid from direct sunlight, as this can cause yellowing leaves. Find a spot with bright but indirect light for optimum growth.
  • Temperature: Keep your orchid in an area with temperatures between 60-80°F (15-27°C) during the day and 55-65°F (13-18°C) at night. Exposure to temperatures below 55°F (13°C) can cause leaf yellowing.
  • Potting medium: Orchids should be planted in a well-draining potting medium, such as a mix of pine bark chippings. Repotting your orchid into a more suitable medium can help prevent yellow leaves and promote healthy growth.


After addressing yellow orchid leaves, remove damaged leaves with sterilized tools and monitor plant recovery. Observe the orchid’s response to watering, ensuring proper drainage, and provide bright, indirect light. Maintain appropriate temperatures and repot in a well-draining medium for healthy growth.

In conclusion

By understanding the causes of yellow leaves and implementing appropriate solutions, you can enjoy the captivating beauty of your orchids for years to come. Explore our other guides on orchid care to further enhance your knowledge and help your plants thrive in your home or garden.

Article Sources:

Table of Contents