Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow: Why & How to Fix It

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Your plants might be unable to verbally communicate any discomfort they feel, but that doesn’t stop them from communicating altogether. The leaves of your plants can tell you a lot about their health. For example, brown, rustling leaves indicate that your plant is thirsty, pale ones signify an iron deficiency, while absent leaves mean that it is underwatered.  

Yellowing leaves is another common symptom we notice, especially in orchid plants. Usually, orchid leaves turning yellow are a part of the plant’s lifecycle. But sometimes, it might be a matter of concern. 

Fortunately, you can fix most of the reasons that cause your orchid leaves to turn yellow. If you are a gardening enthusiast, you’ve come to the right place to learn about yellowing orchid leaves and remedies for the same. 

Why Are Your Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow? 

The leaves of your orchid can turn yellow either from the bottom or the top. If the leaves are turning yellow from the bottom of the plant then it is not a cause of concern as it is a natural process. But, if the leaves are turning yellow from the top then there is some problem with your orchid. 

It could be because of one of the following reasons causing the leaves to turn yellow:

1. Excessive Sunlight 

Phalaenopsis orchids need a good amount of indirect sunlight. But, if they are exposed to too much direct sunlight for extended periods, their leaves will get damaged. 

Excessive Sunlight
Image: staugorchidsociety.org

Gardeners are able to recognize their sunburnt orchid by catching a few basic symptoms:

  • Yellowing and faded leaves 
  • Scorch marks
  • Cracks forming on the leaves 
  • Burnt tips 

Besides watching out for signs, you can even figure out the problem by noticing sunlight patterns where your plant is placed. If the area gets too much direct sunlight, that is likely the reason for damaging your plant. Although, you should keep in mind that this only stands true for hot weather. Cool weather with direct sunlight is an unlikely cause for orchid leaves turning yellow.

Occasionally, even the roots of the plant can get harmed due to prolonged sun exposure. In such cases, the plant may end up dead if it is not moved immediately. 

How to Fix: Solution

To prevent newer leaves from getting damaged, you should gradually accustom your plant to new lighting conditions. While you get your orchid adapted to these conditions, you must keep a watch for any changes in the leaf color. 

Simultaneously, you should feel the leaves to see if they are hot to touch. In case the leaves seem hot, you should position the plant in a place with even lesser sunlight and more air circulation. You should try placing it on either a north-facing or west-facing windowsill to get favorable lighting conditions. 

The damaged leaves cannot be revived, but you can prune them to improve the appearance of your plant. It is best to prune your plant when it is not blooming. However, you can remove a few withered leaves by gently tugging on them, even when the plant is in bloom. 

Bonus Read: You can consider adding solar screens to your windows to reduce excessive sunlight from entering your home. 

2. Overwatering 

Limp and yellow leaves could suggest an overwatering problem for your plant. It is supported by other signs like black and rotting roots, and blackened and dying flower buds. 

Orchid roots are covered by something called velamen. It is a feltlike material that helps the roots to absorb water fast and store it for prolonged periods. Thus, reducing the need for orchids to be watered regularly. 

If you water your orchid more than what is required, there is a high chance that its roots might have become rotten. Once roots become rotten, their supply of oxygen is cut off, slowly making your plant wilt away. 

You can prevent overwatering your orchid by following two basic watering rules:

  • Water only when the first once inch of your soil is dry 
  • Add three ice cubes once a week instead of watering 

Also, be sure that the pot has holes to allow excess water to drain out, thus preventing waterlogging. 

How to Fix: Solution

Orchids affected by overwatering can, fortunately, be fixed. But, the process requires a little effort. You will need to replant the orchid into a different potting material

Follow these simple steps to carefully replant your orchid:

  • Take the pot and hold it upside-down while tapping the base of the pot with a hard object 
  • Cup the soil and plant from the surface of the pot, using your hands
  • In case the potting material is too stiff to come out, use a knife to loosen it 
  • Clean the pot and the draining tray, removing all debris, and wipe them dry 
  • Fill the pot with a low-drainage potting mix, and moisten it with water 
  • Let any excess water flow through the drainage hole 
  • Remove the damaged roots with a sterile knife 
  • Place the orchid in your pot, spreading the roots outwards 

You should keep checking the status of the soil from time to time by either poking your finger or using a wooden stick. Moreover, follow a strict watering schedule, and do not water the plant unnecessarily. 

In some cases, you might not even need to replant the orchid. Letting the roots dry out would be enough to solve the problem. Most importantly, the plant can be repotted only after it is done blooming. 

3. Unfavorable Temperatures 

Unfavorable Temperatures
Photo Copyright Melissa Hawks

Orchids can survive in temperatures ranging from 60-80F degrees. This is exactly what makes them great houseplants. Mostly everyone can provide these temperatures indoors. However, continued exposure to temperatures beyond this range will kill your plant. 


Low temperatures are another reason for orchid leaves turning yellow. If the plant has been exposed to cold temperatures, you might not see the symptoms right away. But eventually, they will be visible after the cold temperature period is over. One of the main signs to notice is yellow spotting on the leaves.

A few symptoms of damage from cold temperatures are:

  • A faster rate of death 
  • Large, sunken areas, surface lesions, and discoloration 
  • Slower growth
  • Higher susceptibility to fungal diseases and bacteria

It is best to shift the orchids indoors during winters if they had been growing in your yard. You could replant the orchids into pots (check out these pots, best for planting orchids), and set the thermostat at a temperature that would suit the plant. 

How to Fix: Solution

It is much easier to prevent your plant from getting damaged from the cold than trying to fix it. If you live in colder regions, it is advisable to grow your plant indoors. Also, be sure to keep it away from open fans and air conditioners. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that orchids do not respond well to sudden temperature changes. Therefore, when you’re placing the plant, keep it away from drafts. 

Transporting orchids in winter can be tricky. The cold temperatures would likely harm the plant before it is potted inside your home. But, you can avoid this by adding double sleeves to the sapling when transporting it. 

It is within your control to manage indoor temperatures. But when you have orchids growing in your yard, the situation might need a little more effort. You should remember to not water the plant before a cold night, helping it survive better. Additionally, wrapping the plants in insulation wraps and plastic covers at night will help too. 

Lastly, if you live in an extremely cold place but want to still grow tropical plants you can consider investing in a DIY greenhouse.

4. Diseases

Root rots are one of the most common problems among orchids. It is also one of the common reasons for orchid leaves turning yellow. 

Root rot occurs upon overwatering the plant. When the soil is not able to drain the water properly, then it becomes difficult for the roots to breathe. Thus, causing them to rot.

To explain further, the rotting of the roots does not only depend on overwatering. It can be caused by other factors like soil drainage properties, drainage holes, and how tightly the plant is packed in the pot. 

There are various signs to look for when you suspect root rot, besides yellowing and listless leaves. These signs are:

  • Buds dropping from the plant 
  • Lack of bloom
  • Exposed roots that are brittle and withered 
  • Black and squishy roots 

Fortunately, if diagnosed on time, you can save your plant despite root rot. 

Orchids are even susceptible to bacterial and fungal diseases, although the signs are a little different than that of root rot. The leaves become yellow and develop black spots. 

The reason for bacterial diseases, however, is similar to root rots. It occurs when the leaves are wet or due to high humidity. Even worse, excess moisture allows bacteria to thrive. 

How to Fix: Solution

The best way to prevent root rot is to not overwater your plant. Not to mention, you should also:

  • Refrain from mixing differently sized particles, as it reduces the gaps in soil, making aeration difficult
  • Avoid packing the soil too tightly in the pot
  • Repot your plant into a new soiling mix regularly 

There are added ways to treat root rot problems when they are not severe. One common form of treatment is using hydrogen peroxide. 

You can mix hydrogen peroxide with water and pour it over the roots to kill the fungus and bacteria. While this is not a foolproof form of treatment, it works well to clean fungal infections in roots. Even cinnamon can be used for this purpose. Remember, only using these ingredients for root rot might not be the best idea.

Replanting the orchid is the best way to ensure the plant’s survival. Be sure to cut the rotten roots using a sterilized knife before you repot them. You can treat the roots with cinnamon or hydrogen peroxide, for the reasons mentioned above, before repotting it. 

When your plant has signs of fungal or bacterial infection on its leaves, pruning is the best way to solve the problem. 

Use clean pruning shear to cut off the infected tissue, and around an inch of the clean, greener part. Not removing the affected area will cause the infection to spread, harming the entire plant. Lastly, if it is a fungal infection, you should spray a fungicide on the area for proper protection. 

5. Excess Fertilizer

Just as excessive water can be bad for your orchids, so can excessive fertilizer. The plants will only absorb the amount of nutrients they need, irrespective of how much fertilizer has been fed to them. Thus, the extra mineral salts are leftover, causing them to build up over time.

Consistently overfertilizing the plant will cause the salts to get concentrated. This will ultimately harm the health of the plant and will become a reason for orchid leaves turning yellow. 

A few symptoms of fertilizer burn include dead root tips, brown roots, and salt crust on the surface of the soil. If DIY gardeners don’t take action to fix fertilizer burns fast, they might risk losing their plants.

How to Fix: Solution 

To ensure your plant stays healthy, you should follow good fertilizing habits. These six steps are for all gardening enthusiasts who are struggling with fertilizing their plant: 

1. Choosing the Right Fertilizer 

Orchids thrive when fed a 20-20-20 fertilizer. To explain, these are fertilizers that have an equal amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Usually, an all-purpose fertilizer should do the job. 

It’s even better if you can buy a fertilizer that contains micronutrients like sulfur, manganese, zinc, copper, etc. 

Bonus Read: You can even go through our round-up of the best fertilizers available in the market to get some help. 

2. Fertilize at the Right Time 

Like all other things, even fertilizing needs to be done on a schedule. You should fertilize your orchids after they are done flowering since that’s when the process will be most effective. This will help encourage new flower growth. 

3. Fertilize Weekly 

A golden rule that is followed when it comes to orchids is “weekly, weekly, weekly”. To elaborate, this means that the plant will thrive when fertilized weekly. Anything more or less could disturb the balance of the nutrients, leading either to an excess or deficit of nutrients. 

You can use the 20-20-20 fertilizer at 1/4th strength and a 10-10-10 at ½ strength. You can even opt for an orchid-specific fertilizer for this purpose. 

4. Use a watering can 

Fertilization using a watering can will help you get the spout closer to the bark of your plant. The fertilizing solution can easily be poured into the can for usage. Using it will ensure that you don’t get any fertilizer on the leaves while pouring the solution into the plant. 

5. Drain the solution 

You should let the fertilizing solution drain through the plant so that you can check for any excess fertilizer left. The first and foremost thing should be to check the drainage holes of your pot for any obstructing material. If the holes are obstructed, the excess solution would be unable to drain out. 

6. Refrain from watering after fertilizing

Since the fertilizing solution already contains water, avoid watering the plant when it is fertilized.

Orchids are tropical plants that need fertilizer to survive. Although it may seem like a complex process, by following a few simple rules, you can master fertilizing your orchids. 


Anyone concerned about their orchid’s health due to yellowing leaves should first find the reason for it. Our list of problems and fixes is made for all those DIY gardeners who want to ensure their plants always stay healthy.

The earlier you diagnose the cause of the orchid leaves turning yellow, the earlier you will be able to treat it. Hence, always keep an eye on your plant for any changes. And, you’ll already have taken a step forward in becoming a responsible plant parent.

Bonus Read: Ever in the mood to eat crabapples? Well, this guide on eating crabapples should give you greater insight on whether it’s safe or not. 

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