Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow

If you have an orchid with yellow leaves , it is logical and understandable that you are alarmed and think you may lose your orchid. 
I’ll tell you something, if you do not act quickly you can lose it , but if you detect what the problem is and solve it in time, it will all finish in a happy ending.
There are four reasons why the leaves of the orchids turn yellow, three of them are very easy to solve, the worst is the last one:

  • Problems with irrigation
  • Poor lighting
  • Error with the use of fertilizer
  • Your orchid has fallen ill
  • The leaves have completed their lifecycle

In the fifth option, there is little that you can do. The leaves have finished their life cycle . In these cases it is normal for them to turn yellow, wilt and die.

orchid leaves turning yellow

If we talk about young leaves that are turning yellow, that’s when there really is a problem.

table Of Contents

  • 1 Orchid with yellow leaves, due to poor irrigation
    • 1.1 Insufficient irrigation
    • 1.2 Excess of water
  • 2 Yellow leaves due to excess lighting and temperature
  • 3 Fertilization errors
  • 4 Orchids that yellow because they are sick
    • 4.1 Mushrooms
    • 4.2 Virus

Orchid with yellow leaves, due to poor irrigation

One of the most common causes for which the leaves of the orchids can yellow, is in the undue irrigation … either due to lack of irrigation or over-watering. 
The most common is that they turn yellow when the irrigation is excessive, but depending on the variety and the state of the orchid, it can also be due to lack of irrigation.

Insufficient irrigation

In the Phalaenopsis orchids it can happen that, even with a correct irrigation and leaves of normal appearance some of the leaves begin to turn yellow. 
If it is not a new leaf, which will have a light green color, or a very old leaf, which may be losing its color as a result of age, sometimes the watering is not enough and some or some leaves begin to yellow.

When the orchid leaves turn yellow for lack of irrigation, they become yellow from the ends towards the interior.

It is easy to solve. In these cases it is best to use irrigation by immersion, then let the orchid release the excess water. 
The problem should be solved in a few days.

Excess of water

This is the most common and probable cause of the orchid’s leaves turning yellow. 
The most common orchids at home, the phalaenopsis , do not require frequent watering , on the contrary … they must be spaced and above all, controlling the needs of the plant through the roots.


I recommend taking into account the variety of your orchid, to determine your irrigation needs. 
As a generic norm, the orchid with yellow leaves is affected by excessive watering when:

  • Most of the leaves are yellow, not just the lower leaves.
  • Black spots appear on the leaves.
  • The leaves have become softer to the touch than normal, are soft and have lost vitality.
  • We can observe how the roots have a darker shade than usual, we can even detect dark spots.
  • It is possible that the excess of water is causing rotting in the roots, in this case it is convenient to change the pot, eliminating the affected roots.

Another reason why the leaves of the orchids can turn yellow, and in which the irrigation water becomes important, is in the amount of salts dissolved in the water (hard water, excess calcium and other salts). 
These salts end up staying in the substrate of the orchid, and can cause the leaves to turn yellow. In this case the solution is to change the substrate .

Yellow leaves due to excess lighting and temperature

Orchids need (mostly) good lighting, but they detest the direct sun. 
When the lighting is excessive, many varieties of orchids show it through their leaves, which take a lighter green or turn yellow,and their flowers can take on a darker color. 
Sometimes, when the exposure to the sun has been direct, we willappreciate burns on the leaves, easily detectable because the affected area withers. 
So that leaf is not so ugly, you can cut the affected part of the leaf. Remember that for many of the orchids their leaves are organs for storing water and nutrients, it is not advisable to eliminate the leaves completely if it is not necessary.

Fertilization errors

Fertilization errors in orchids can also cause yellowing of the leaves and their fall. 
You have to be very careful with fertilizers for orchids, as they have to be specific and use them in the proportions marked by the manufacturers. 
An excess of fertilization will cause the opposite effect of what we want to achieve, the orchid will begin to weaken and its leaves will turn yellow. 
The doses and the periods in which fertilizers must be used, will depend on the variety. The golden rules for using fertilizers are:

  • As a rule, orchids are fertilized during their growth period.
  • Always be fertilized after irrigation or in combination with irrigation water . It is never fertilized with the dry substrate.
  • Depending on the variety, when the winter arrives, the subscriber must be reduced or eliminated.
  • If we have a weak or sick orchid, it should not be paid.
  • Do not pay during the first days after a transplant.

A lack of nutrients and fertilizer could cause the leaves to yellow, although the excess of fertilizer is always more dangerous. 
In these cases the orchid yellows due to lack of potassium, usually because the substrate is already old. This circumstance is easy to solve, transplanting the orchid to a new substrate.

Orchids that yellow because they are sick

The diseases that usually cause orchids with yellow leaves, have to do with infections caused by fungi or viruses. 
Whenever we observe an orchid with yellow leaves we must isolate it from the rest, until we have clear what the problem is, preventing the disease from spreading and ending up being a plague.



When the attacks are caused by fungi, we will see leaves with yellow dots and the black center. 
Many Asian orchids suffer attacks by fungi, without it being a serious problem for the orchid. 
The main reason for fungi to appear is in poor ventilation, too high humidity, accompanied by poor lighting. 
To avoid the appearance of fungi, we will avoid watering the leaves, we will improve the ventilation of the place destined to the orchids, and we will improve their lighting. 
It should be complemented with a systemic fungicide, to completely reduce the problem.


If the attack is caused by a virus, the solution is simple “if it is solved”, although the attack by virus is irreversible. 
In these cases the only thing we can do is to improve the orchid’s situation , how I have commented a couple of lines above and wait for the virus to subside. 
After a while, if it does not return, it is better to get rid of the affected sample … which of course should remain isolated from the rest. 
Orchids that have been attacked by viruses no longer flourish in the same way.

Other Colors In Orchid Leaves

After the observation of the roots, the periodic control of the leaves can avoid many problems. We must be attentive to the coloring. A dark green color pulling brown is an indicator of excess light and can burn the exposed part. The different shades of green in its mid range would indicate an adequate light. The yellowing of the leaves may indicate lack of light. 
Another important parameter is the texture of the leaf. The leaves of orchids are stores of nutrients for the plant. Fallen and weak leaves can suppose lack of water, nutrients or disease. Contrary to this, fleshy leaves that project upwards with force are indicative of good health.

Finally we must observe the presence of spots, changes of color or texture in some area, breaks or marks on the sheet. It is about detecting in advance the presence of insects, fungi or bacteria and treating it in time as it is exposed in our Diseases page .

Don Burke

I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide.  I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.

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