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Why Are Your Plant’s Leaves Yellow?

A monstera plant with some yellowing leaves.

Seeing your favorite plants develop yellow leaves can be a disheartening sight for any plant lover. The vibrant green foliage that once stood tall and proud, adding life and beauty to your space, now appears a bit dull and sickly.

Don’t panic! Yellowing leaves are a common issue that many plant owners face. Understanding the reasons behind your particular situation is key to restoring your plants’ health. The issue can be quickly resolved in many cases, leaving your plants thriving again.

Why Are Your Plant’s Leaves Yellow?

Houseplant is wilting with yellow leaves.

Sometimes yellow leaves aren’t any indication that something is amiss, while other times, it’s a clear sign that something in your plant care routine needs to be adjusted.

Let’s explore the most common culprits behind yellowing leaves so you can correct anything amiss and help your plants flourish again.

Lack of Proper Watering

One of the primary causes of yellow leaves is improper watering, either over or underwatering.

Overwatering can lead to root rot and hinder the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients, resulting in yellowing foliage. On the other hand, underwatering can cause drought and dehydration, leading to yellow or brown leaves.

Different plants do well with different levels of moisture, but in most cases, you want to allow the top of the soil to dry before watering again but don’t let the soil fully dry (unless you have some dry-soil-loving cacti). Some plants prefer to be dryer, while others prefer to stay wetter.

Gouevn Soil Moisture Meter

A water meter can help you gauge moisture levels in your soil.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Plants require a balanced supply of essential nutrients to thrive. When they lack the nutrients they need, the leaves may turn yellow in protest.

Making sure your plants are growing in good soil is one of the best things you can do to ensure they get satisfactory nutrients. High-quality fertilizers or nutrient-rich compost can help replenish any missing nutrients.

Sunlight Exposure

All plants have specific light preferences. Exposure to the wrong amount or intensity of sunlight for your plant can result in yellow leaves.

Too much direct sunlight can scorch some foliage, causing them to turn yellow and brown. Conversely, insufficient light can hinder the process of photosynthesis, leading to pale or yellow foliage.

Getting to know your specific plant can help you identify how much light it needs. Adjusting the plant’s location in your home or using a shade cloth can help regulate light exposure.

JIWINNER 65%-75% 6.5'x10'Black Sunblock Shade Cloth

A sunshade can help you manage sunlight levels for your plants, both indoors and out.

How to Fix Yellow Leaves on Plants

Houseplant has one yellow leaf.

A plant leaf that’s turned completely yellow is likely a dying leaf and there’s no fixing it. For many plants, it’s a good idea to let it go completely yellow and then remove it so your plant can focus all its energy on new, healthy growth.

If you’re spotting some foliage on your plant that’s just beginning to yellow, there are some steps you can take to support your plant, fix issues, and keep it from yellowing further. Here are some examples:

Yellow Pothos Leaves

Pothos is a popular houseplant known for its lush green leaves, but yellowing often occurs due to overwatering, underwatering, or low light. Ensure your pothos plant has proper drainage and adjust watering accordingly. Move it to a brighter location in your home but avoid direct sunlight.

Golden Pothos Plant Live House Plant

If you don't yet have a pothos in your plant collection, you're missing out on a low maintenance favorite.

Yellow Orchids Leaves

Orchids may experience yellow leaves due to excessive watering, bad drainage, or underwatering. Adjust your watering schedule and make sure your orchid is in healthy, draining soil. Provide indirect light for your orchid and maintain a suitable humidity level.

Yellow Money Tree Leaves

Money trees often develop yellow leaves when exposed to drafts, overwatering, underwatering, or too much light. Keep this plant away from cold breezes (so, not near the front door, open windows, or air vents). Make sure it’s not getting too much direct sunlight during the day.

Costa Farms Money Tree

Money Trees can be a great addition to your home.

Yellow Monstera Leaves

Monstera leaves tend to turn yellow due to underwatering. They use up a lot of water during their growing periods and enjoy moisture. Ensure your monstera is getting plenty of water, and consider increasing humidity using a humidifier.

Movtip Portable Mini Humidifier

Give your plant the moisture it needs.

Yellow Peace Lily Leaves

Peace lilies are sensitive to drought and extreme temperatures. Either of these may result in yellowing leaves. Water your peace lily when the top inch of soil is dry. Keep it in bright, indirect light and away from cold or hot drafts (such as your doors and air vents).

Costa Farms Peace Lily Live Plant

Peace lilies tend to be a great low-fuss plant option.

How to Prevent Yellow Plant Leaves

Preventing yellowing leaves in the first place is the best way to keep your plant happy. This starts with getting to know your specific plant and understanding its needs.

Always consider water, light, and soil preferences to set your plants up for success. Balance these three things and most plants will thrive. Make sure you pay special attention to the moisture and light needs of your unique plant.

All plants should have adequate drainage to prevent root rot. You can achieve this by choosing high-quality soil and ensuring all your potted plants have a hole in the bottom.

If you’re still facing yellowing leaves after making these adjustments, check for pests, consider the humidity and temperature of your home, and note the time of year. Some plants go through a perfectly healthy dormancy season even when they’re indoor plants.

The most common underlying issue for yellow leaves is watering problems, nutrient deficiencies, and incorrect sunlight exposure. Some environmental factors like temperature also play a role, but typically, by getting to know your plant and following their preferred plant care practices, you can keep all your plants happy.

Abbey Ryan Abbey Ryan
Abbey Ryan is a storyteller, preferably of stories in written form. Across the 5 years of her professional writing career, her work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Amazon, The Medical News Today, and more. When she's not writing (which is rare), she's likely traveling, painting, or on the hunt for a good snack. Read Full Bio »
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