Your orchid doesn’t look ANYTHING like you want it to look.
You don’t know what is happening.
And worse, you get scared that it may die soon.
Luckily, you shouldn’t worry. Orchid leaves turning yellow can be for a wide array of reasons.
It could be overwatering, too much sunlight, or overfertilization. But it could also be something a bit more dangerous like a disease or infection, sudden environmental change, or, more simply, just old age.
10 Reason Why Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow?
#1. Too Much or Too Little Sunlight
Orchids require a bit of sunlight to live like pretty much any plant. But they’re not full-sun plants at all.
If you leave an orchid exposed to excess sunlight (especially in the summer), you’re likely to suffer from yellowing.
A similar thing will happen if the orchid doesn’t receive ANY SUNLIGHT AT ALL. You’ll want to keep it with a few hours of indirect sunlight exposure.
The critical point here is LOCATION. And below, we’ll show you how to fix that.
Signs of an Orchid with Too Little or Too Much Sunlight
The yellowing of an orchid with TOO MUCH SUNLIGHT often shows:
- Dark or white spots with a yellowish circle around
- Yellowing covering edges, adding a fading look to the color of each leaf
- Cracks and burned portions getting brittle
- Burnt leaf tips and scorch marks across leaves
But when the orchid receives TOO LITTLE SUNLIGHT, this happens:
- Brownish spots with yellowing start to occur in the center
- Leaves begin to turn darker than usual (deep green)
- Leaves feel softer than typical (weak)
Whether your orchid is experiencing one or the other, it’s fixable.
How to Fix an Orchid with Too Much or Too Little Sunlight?
The first thing you should know about orchids is that they’re tough to get right. And most often than not, it’s because sunlight exposure for this plant is tricky. Here are some tips to consider:
- Look for indirect sunlight – placing the orchid under direct sunlight exposure from midday and afternoons is NOT IDEAL. Instead, get it to a north or east-facing area where the exposure is there, but not that harsh (at least 4 hours of indirect light a day)
- Add a curtain – thin curtains that reduce the amount of sunlight hitting your plant will also help. Windows or areas covered that don’t have that much sunlight pass through are essential.
- Keep under shade – orchids in the wild often thrive under the shadow of bigger vegetation, so you don’t want to keep under the scorching sun directly.
These three tips will help you prevent your orchid from scorching or getting weak by underexposure.
#2. High or Low Temperatures
The same that happens with sunlight may also occur with temperatures. If you place the orchid in cold or warm environments, it will eventually start to fade away, get weak, and show clear signs of distress.
Temperatures over 80 degrees and under 60 degrees Fahrenheit are not ideal. Overexposure to temperatures higher or lower than this range will cause clear issues.
But like most problems, it is totally solvable.
Signs of an Orchid Under Temperature Stress
The leaves turn yellow, but there’s a little more happening depending on whether it’s too cold or too hot:
- Leaves turn a little brittle with temperatures going too high
- Fading and progressive yellowing happens
- Dark spots start to appear in the leaves center
- Some leaves may begin to drop or get super-weak
These issues will eventually lead to the death of an orchid. It is a fragile plant that requires consistent temperatures to survive. Otherwise, you’ll notice these issues or worse.
How to Fix Orchids with Temperature Stress?
You shouldn’t bulge about orchids in the wrong temperatures much, as it is often a straightforward problem to solve. Here are some tips to consider:
- Keep the plant indoors – don’t let it get scorched by the hotness of the sun or the coldness of a frost (also avoid breezes and high temps by appliances)
- Maintain the ideal temperature range – if you can set temps to 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, that should be enough (get a thermometer and check consistently)
See? It’s as simple as ensuring these two things. Your orchid will likely thrive in that case.
#3. Overwatering or Underwatering
Few problems are as severe as plants getting way too much water (or too little).
WATER IS ESSENTIAL. But like everything, too much will cause damage. If you don’t give your plant enough water, however, it will die.
An orchid demands a relatively high amount of humidity to survive. This often makes you think it will thrive with a lot of water. But that’s not the case.
Luckily, it’s not too hard to solve if you see your orchid suffering from either overwatering or underwatering.
Signs of an Orchid with Water Problems
The problems of overwatering and underwatering are similar in that they cause the yellowing of leaves. There’s a tiny difference, though, as leaves will change their texture accordingly.
When you OVERWATER an orchid, it shows signs like these:
- Yellowing across each leaf with tiny spots of brown/green. This often means it is getting sick (diseases like leaf spot or root rot) that produce weird marks.
- Leaves turn mushy, a bit softer than usual, a lot less rigid than they should be. This happens as they get filled with water, so they get more humid outside.
When your orchid gets UNDERWATERED, these signs appear:
- The yellowing happens in splashes, affecting the center of the leaf more than the edges.
- Leaves turn brittle, thin, and dry, often showing brown edges when the drought persists.
The best way to check for either overwatered or underwatered orchids is to touch them. You’ll realize how it feels compared to a healthy one.
How to Fix an Orchid with Water Issues?
There are many ways to fix water issues in orchids. Here are the most effective actions you can take:
- The ice cube method – orchids are not thirsty plants, but they require a decent amount of water daily. A curious yet safe way to make sure they receive enough water is to place three ice cubes in the pot and let them melt. That’s enough water for small and medium-sized orchids.
- Repot into quality soil – the soil needs to be well-drained, but it should also hold enough water so the orchid can absorb nutrients. For that, use sterilized potting soil (stay away from gravel or low-absorption mediums).
- Check water consistently – always check the soil of your orchid and make sure it feels humid. It should be soaking wet but just slightly moisturized. If not, pour some ice cubes or water until it doesn’t feel dry anymore.
As a general rule, just try not to overwater orchids. Keeping it safe with little watering while making sure the soil is humid always works.
#4. Excess Humidity Levels (In the Air)
You wouldn’t believe it, but it happens. Orchids need some humidity to survive, but when the humidity is too high, the plant struggles.
This often causes bacteria and mold that acts directly on the leaves. They turn yellow, and the plant suffers a bit.
Once again, this is an easy thing to solve as long as you take the right steps.
Signs of Too Much Environmental Humidity
The signs are often mild but clear. Here are some of them:
- Yellowing leaves that also turn mushy, soft, and less erect
- Signs of green mold or tiny brown spots that look like disease
- Leaves start to weaken to the point of falling or breaking
You may notice the excess humidity before it’s too late and leaves fall.
How to Fix an Orchid with Excessive Humidity?
Humidity is a tricky thing to nail as indoor environments depend heavily on location, zip code, and seasonal changes. However, you can always put these tips to work:
- Keep the orchid in a fresh place – it should be too dry or humid, but fresh. Anything that makes your skin too dry or too moist will probably also cause trouble to the orchid.
- Avoid humidifiers – these appliances are excellent to keep places from turning excessively dry, yet they may also cause EXCESS HUMIDITY. If you have orchids around, don’t use them.
- Shut windows and doors during the rainy season – don’t let any exterior humidity get into the orchid’s environment as it can cause trouble (indoor environments stay humid for longer and may cause problems a lot faster)
To be fair, orchids are exposed to a lot of humidity in their natural habitats. However, the humidity is different in a jungle than it is inside a house. Take that into account.
#5. Overfertilization (Too Many Nutrients)
Too much sunlight, water, humidity, or fertilizer will cause trouble to your orchid. It requires all these things in moderation, ESPECIALLY FERTILIZER.
This plant is not a hungry monster like others. It can survive as long as it receives calcium, copper, zinc, manganese, and the typical nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK).
In excess, however, the plant suffers a condition called “burning” the roots. This translates into overall damage as the plant won’t be able to absorb as many nutrients.
Signs of an Overfertilized Orchid Plant
There are a couple of crucial signs you’ll notice as the plant turns yellow. These include:
- Chlorosis starts, where the leaves not only turn yellow but pale. They start to turn white, which often happens because nutrients are not reaching the leaves, so they lose chlorophyll.
- Leaves may also turn dry and a bit brittle. This happens as they don’t receive enough nutrients to be healthy.
These signs can be confused with others, but you’ll know if an overfertilized orchid because everything else is on point, but you remember fertilizing recently.
How to Fix an Overfertilized Orchid?
Fixing an overfertilized orchid is mostly about not fertilizing until it recovers. However, it also depends on how far the overutilization went. Here’s some advice to consider:
- Clean fertilizer in the soil – if you still see fertilizer grains, you can always get them off by hand.
- Follow an occasional fertilization ritual – don’t fertilize more than once every two months (especially in typical potting soil)
- Dilute the fertilizer – try to reduce the strength of the fertilizer by diluting with water (for liquid options)
- Repot if needed – fertilizer stays in the soil. If you can clean it by hand and you’re thinking there’s probably more fertilizer than your plant needs, then don’t hesitate to repot the orchid into safer soil (and don’t fertilize.)
Even if it seems like a complex process, it’s not. Overfertilized orchids are also straightforward to fix.
#6. Nutrient Deficiency (Low-Quality Soil)
In contrast with an excess of a fertilizer, your plant may also suffer if there’s not enough.
This is obvious if you think about it, but you may not realize it until you read about it.
- What nutrients does an orchid need?
- What nutrients does your soil offer?
- How often do you fertilize? Is it enough?
This often happens when too much of another nutrient or not enough of the nutrient your plant needs. As orchids suffer from nutrient deficiency, weakening starts happening.
Yet, this problem is nothing out of the extraordinary. You can fix it with little effort.
Signs of a Nutrient-Deficient Orchid
The signs as similar to other yellowing causes, but this one has a few key points to consider:
- Lack of flowering or leaves struggling to grow are often signs of too few nutrients.
- Yellowing starts to happen from the tip towards the bottom.
- The leaves turn a bit brittle as the nutrient deficiency progresses.
Most likely, you’ll remember not having fertilized the orchid much. And in some cases, it happens because the soil is not rich enough (gravel or low-quality medium).
How To Fix An Orchid with Nutrient Deficiency?
It is not a complicated problem to fix either, as you only need to make sure the plant receives its nutrients from now on:
- Apply fertilizer – look for a 20-20-20 NPK fertilizer for orchids and apply every two weeks for two months. Wait for the orchid to recover and only apply once every two months (increase if necessary).
- Repot in rich soil – your orchid needs the highest-quality soil to survive, so don’t hesitate to repot as necessary.
- Water well – either use liquid fertilizer or water the plant daily, so the fertilizer gets into the soil and your orchid can absorb it.
As long as the plant receives its manganese, magnesium, zinc, potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorous, then it should be safe going forward.
#7.Exposure to Harmful Contaminants
Soils with too many contaminants may also harm your orchid. This is a fragile plant that requires absolute pristine soil to survive.
Take cleanliness from the soil, and your orchid is likely to suffer. Sure enough, this will translate into evident yellowing due to either nutrient deficiency or poisoning.
It is likely happening from contaminated water, too much pH, or straight-up contaminants dropping into the soil. Either way, it’s solvable.
Signs of a Contaminated Orchid
The signs of a poisoned orchid are clear, often easier to spot than other issues:
- The yellowing starts happening at the tip of the leaves. It slowly crawls into the body until it reaches the bottom.
- Yellowing is often paler, so you’re unlikely to see brown spots on a contaminated orchid.
- The plant gets weak alongside the yellowing.
If you’re using tap water, for example, there’s a chance your orchid is chlorine-poisoned. Excess of nutrients may also cause this issue.
How to Fix a Contaminated Orchid?
The problem is not as challenging as it seems. You may solve it with a few tips:
- Stop using tap water – first off, don’t use tap water unless it is boiled. Remove contaminants like chlorine and other chemicals first. Use filtered water if you can.
- Test the soil – if it isn’t the water, it’s probably the soil with too much pH or high amounts of chemicals. Check that pH levels are between 5.5 and 6.5 pH. Nutrients should also be within a normal range.
- Keep it away from chemicals – don’t let any chemicals drop into the soil. If you spilled something on top of the plant by mistake, that’s probably the issue.
- Repot if necessary – if you checked the soil and contaminants are too high, or pH levels are far from ideal, then repot into healthy soil instead.
You may see your plant recovering within a couple of weeks of fixing the problem. It is often not much work, but don’t expect it to happen magically and free either.
#8. Diseases and Infections
One of the most common causes for orchids turning yellow is diseases.
Things like root rot, fungal leaf spot, and bacterial brown spot tend to cause nutrient deficiencies as they attack roots directly. Eventually, leaves start losing their color and, if not treated rapidly, they die.
Diseases are harder to spot and solve than other problems, but they are nothing you can’t fix as long as you know what’s happening and how you can learn a way to fix your orchid.
Signs of Diseases in Orchids
The signs will depend on what is happening to your orchid exactly. All diseases show similar yet unique signs. Here’s what to look for:
- Check the roots directly and look for black/dark brown and soft roots. If they are too weak and have a bad smell, that’s a sign of root rot.
- Fungal spot acts directly on the leaves, causing yellowing that starts in the underside of the plant and starts to take over the orchid on top. Tiny brown or green spots also appear.
- Yellow spots and splashes that turn brown over time. These spots are typically large and can kill leaves if not treated.
- An unpleasant odor is always a sign of a sick orchid. You’ll know it is not a typical plant smell.
These signs are often straightforward, so you shouldn’t confuse the diseases as they happen. Identifying the issue and knowing your orchid is sick will help you solve the problem faster.
How to Fix a Sick Orchid?
The solution will depend on what is causing the problem. Here’s some advice to consider:
- Remove black roots – Root rot is solvable by cutting all the roots that look infected. Mushy and dark roots that smell bad should all be taken away.
- Apply fungicide – this works for fungal leaf spots, as it will help kill the bacteria that’s causing the spots in the leaves.
- Remove infected leaves – bacteria in leaf spots and brown spots can infect other leaves or plants. Remove them if they look dark.
- Keep your plant safe – if there are other infected plants around or the orchid is exposed to excess humidity, diseases may happen at any moment. Keep it away from those if possible.
Your orchid will suffer for a bit as the disease happens, but you can start seeing results in less than a month if you take action quickly.
#9. Sudden Changes (Repotting and Cover)
Orchids are not plants to be consistently repotting or taking from one place to another. If you recently moved it around the house or repot it – then there’s a high chance it’s suffering because of that.
Stress is a real thing on many plants, especially fragile ones like orchids. While moving and repotting is not usual (and yellowing happens rarely), it’s still a possibility.
Luckily, this is not something to be alarmed about as you can solve it with ease (and it is unlikely to kill your plant).
Signs of a Struggling Orchid
You’ll know the orchid is not comfortable in a place when:
- Its leaves turn yellow slowly, but the color change is there
- You recently moved the orchid to a new place or repotted
- The plant is not blooming when it should after severe changes
- Extra-firm or loose soils where the plant doesn’t feel comfy
These are all signs to look for in a stressed orchid. Luckily, there is not much to worry about.
How to Fix a Stressed Orchid?
You may not believe this, but most likely, you’ll have not much to do. Yet, here are some tips to consider:
- Take the plant to the previous place – keep it in the same place it was before and thrive. If it is not an option, then just wait.
- Be patient – most sudden changes tend to cause orchids to struggle for a bit (a couple of weeks or months), but they won’t cause severe damage. Be patient, and it will solve itself.
- Ensure the environment is ideal – the chance should offer suitable soil, better sun exposure, and perfect humidity. Otherwise, the plant will struggle.
There’s not much to be alarmed about in any case, but still, try to give your orchid the best environment possible.
#10. Old-Age and Wear
Like almost everything in the world, orchids also turn old and start losing their liveness. This is translated into yellow leaves and other similar side effects.
Most likely, there’s nothing you can do about this, so you will only have to wait.
HOWEVER, make sure it is normal yellowing first. For that, check for all the previous reasons for an orchid to turn yellow. If you find nothing to worry about, then it’s likely just old age or leaf changes.
These changes, by the way, may take a few months to happen. You’ll probably see new leaves growing while the old ones yellow and fall.
In that case, you have to be patient and not take it too personally. The plant will solve itself in no time.
Don’t get intimidated by the orchid leaves turning yellow anymore!
With all the knowledge about orchid issues and how to solve them – there’s no excuse to let your orchid suffer anymore!
Those yellow leaves can go away as fast as they happened – so put your hands to work and help that orchid turn back to a lush green NOW!