Orchids are indeed one of the most beautiful and impressive indoor plants, with their glossy and yellowish-green leaves amplifying the beauty of your living room, office, or kitchen.
Indoor plants like orchids function like natural air purifiers by absorbing harmful airborne toxins like xylene and other disease-causing air particles.
Of course, orchids are popular not just because of their impressive flowers and leaves; these indoor plants are beneficial in releasing a lot of oxygen and improving your overall physiological and psychological well-being.
But what happens when those gorgeous green leaves start getting stripped of their lustrous appearance and turns yellow and brown? Well, the aged leaves do turn yellowish brown when they start falling off the plant.
But what if a lot of leaves face the same issue? Either way, you must understand the root causes of your orchid leaves turning yellow and brown.
In this article, we will focus exclusively on the common causes of orchid leaves yellowing and the possible remedies to help you breathe a new life to the leaves of your favorite indoor plant.
Why do orchid leaves turn yellow and brown?
Overwatering and too much exposure to sunlight are two of the most reported causes of yellowing of orchid leaves. However, leaves turning yellow is not always an alarming sign. Here are a few common causes of these gorgeous leaves turning yellow and brown:
1. The life cycle of old foliage
Most of the time, the old foliage, before falling off the trees, turns yellowish-brown. You don’t need to worry about this specific plant problem as this yellowing is part of the biological life cycle of the orchid plant.
With the death of the old foliage, fresh new leaves will gradually adorn your decorative houseplant.
In maximum cases, leaves from the lowermost part of the plant start withering away over time.
So, if you notice the lowermost leaves are drooping or turning yellow, be sure that your orchid leaves are safe and not invaded by some disease-causing parasites, bacteria, or other factors.
Orchids do have this habit of consistently prioritizing the growth of new blossoms and leaves over old foliage.
Here is one point to keep in mind for the orchid or any other indoor plant enthusiasts: You must not permanently sever the withered and yellow leaves from the plant manually.
It may attract infections. It would help if you waited for the natural shedding of those leaves for the proper growth of your orchid.
However, in certain unavoidable situations, you must remove the infected leaves carefully, followed by a strict anti-infection treatment.
2. Exposure to excessive sunlight
Being a tropical plant, orchid prefers to thrive best with little sunlight. In the tropical forests, you may spot the orchids under the canopy of sky-high tropical tress with scanty sunbeams straying on the plants.
When you plan to domesticate orchids, you must not forget their natural habitats and adaptation capabilities.
Every plant has its thriving instincts.
Too many changes may negatively affect its growth.
It would help if you never placed your orchid under direct sunlight; neither should you put them completely away from sunlight exposure.
So, before you plan to rear orchids as your indoor houseplant, you must strategically choose a location where the orchids will thrive best.
3. Exposure to cold temperature
Orchids thrive best in temperature ranges between 600 and 850 F during the daytime, whereas the ideal night-time temperature ranges between 600 and 700 F.
Orchids are not nurtured in shallow temperate zones.
In the United States, the temperature is often too low for orchids to survive. Reason enough, in the countries with colder climes, orchids are nurtured as an indoor houseplant, often with artificial heat emitting lights.
Orchids are kept beside the window or the balcony where the winter chill can be felt, and chances are your orchid leaves will turn lifeless and yellowish.
You should purchase those plants during the warmer months.
It would help if you were extra careful while transporting your orchid from one place to another.
As much as it is affected by the direct sunbeam, exposure to shallow temperature, chilly air too adversely affects the health of the glossy leaves.
You might be under this false assumption that excessive watering may help in the ultimate growth of the plant. In sharp contrast to your belief, overwatering prevents the soil from absorbing essential nutrients and the required amount of water, too.
Much like other indoor plants, orchids are prone to root rot problems. Root rotting attributes to the yellow or dark brown color of orchid leaves.
Since houseplants like the orchids are grown in a pot or container with limited space, excessive watering may trigger moderate to severe plant-related issues.
If your plant growing container does not have drainage holes, you may face even worse root issues such as rotting and infected roots.
Unlike the garden, plants orchid needs little water for its growth and nourishment.
If you want to safeguard your orchid leaves from drooping and turning yellow and brown, you must maintain a proper plant watering regime.
5. Radical environmental changes
If you minutely observe and find all the factors in favor of orchid growth, specific environmental changes might hinder the proper thriving of the orchid plants.
Have you changed your plants’ location off late? Or considered a repotting? The chances are that the orchid plant is incapable of coping up with the changed location or the replantation in a new container.
It’s natural for delicate plants like orchids that are susceptible to sudden changes in the ambiance.
As an immediate response to the changes, the leaves may droop or wither into a yellowish-brown appearance.
The same problem may trigger when you bring home the new plant from the plant store.
This issue is almost unavoidable, and you are barely left with an option to take precautions so that the drooping or yellowing is not triggered.
However, if you can create the same orchid-friendly ambiance, it will not take too much time to overcome the stress caused by the change in location.
6. Improper Fertilization
You know it’s tempting to use excessive fertilizer to expect faster growth of the orchid plants. Much like overwatering, over-fertilization also triggers specific irrevocable plant issues.
So, it’s always wise to educate yourself regarding the correct doses of nutrient-rich fertilizer.
Fertilizers contain all the beneficial nutrients or minerals essential for the proper nurturing of the plants in all the phases.
An appropriate fertilization routine will provide all the nutrients such as calcium, copper, zinc, manganese, etc., in a balanced and proportionate form.
Excessing any of these nutrients makes it difficult for the plant to absorb a single required nutrient like iron from the soil.
Iron deficiency is one of the common causes of withering, drooping, or yellowing of the leaves. On the other hand, too little fertilization will not help the plants thrive at their best either.
7. Root Rotting
Root rotting is a typical fungal infection common to houseplants.
The fungus starts infecting the root due to a few underlying causes: a) You must be overwatering the plants b) The pot you chose to for orchid plantation is too tiny, c) Your container may not have any drainage holes at all, or d) The drainage system is blocked by soil clogging or any other causes.
Root rotting is such an issue that it has the power not just to wither or droop your orchid leaves; it can even become the cause behind the premature death of your plant.
8. Humidity in the air
Apart from exposure to excessive sunlight and the problem of overwatering, another factor that leads to orchid leaves turning yellow and brown is the humidity in the air surrounding the orchids.
Orchids prefer a bit of humidity for sure.
But too much moisture in the air is detrimental to orchid plantations, specifically the leaves.
High humidity and high temperature are the worst combinations ever for the thriving of orchid leaves. It will turn the leaves yellow and brown within just a few days.
Should I cut off yellow orchid leaves?
As you notice your orchid leaves are drooping and gradually getting a yellowish-brown hue, the first thing that comes to the mind of many houseplant nurturers is: Should I cut off yellow orchid leaves?
Well, though it may sound tempting to cut off the worn-out leaves to retain the luster and impression of a gorgeous orchid plant, you should stay refrain from any such attempt.
Any cut or wound in any part of the plant body is highly susceptible to dangerous bacteria and fungus.
Moreover, a vast amount created by removing old foliage is an accessible invitation for the microbes to feed into the plant.
In case microbes find their way to the plant body even for once, it’s going to be difficult to safeguard your orchid.
On the other hand, if your orchid is weak and unable to cope with the environmental changes, then cutting off the yellowish leaves would be proven fruitful.
It saves a lot of energy and assists in the process of photosynthesis.
In general, if the new foliage is turning yellow and the leaf texture is losing its luster, there could be a different plant issue altogether, which you need to investigate upon.
Leaf yellowing is not always a sign of the end of the leaf cycle; instead, it is a warning to check the plant’s health.
What do you do when orchid leaves turn yellow and brown?
Though you tried to avoid it with all your possible manners, the leaves of your favorite orchid are gradually turning lifeless, lackluster and there is this yellowish-brown patch on the leaves.
You are worried. Naturally, the withering of your favorite plant leaves is a cause of concern.
But there are ways to restore your favorite leaves, and here we are going to share a few things that will be helpful to save the orchid leaves from yellowing or restore the already lifeless leaves:
Place the orchids in a position that suits the plants:
If your orchids are getting too much direct sunlight, you must consider changing the location of the plants in a strategic manner.
As winter is not going to last forever, you need to plan to place your orchids at a position away from direct sunlight exposure.
The trick lies in positioning them at the correct location.
If you have a north-facing or east-facing window at your home, you may place the orchids beside that window.
If you don’t have such a window, you can relocate the plants in a shadowy place that is not open to the direct exposure of the sunbeams.
During the chill, east-facing windows bid farewell for the orchid’s thriving as the sunlight is less intense as shallow temperature might also trigger yellowing of the leaves.
Water your plants the right way:
The indoor gardeners have this tendency to overwater their houseplants to achieve growth at a faster rate and get blooms earlier. There is nothing wrong with caring for your plants, but often too much attention reverses the expected results.
Watering is pivotal for the growth and proper nurturing of plants.
But it would help if you watered your plants the right way.
Here is a quick fix to the problem. Since orchids thrive in less water than other indoor plants, you must check the humidity of the soil before you water the plants.
The best idea is to poke your finger into the ground and check whether it is dry or wet. If the soil is still moist, you must refrain from watering them at least for a single day.
You were fixing the over-fertilizing issue:
Again, like overwatering, applying too many fertilizers to your houseplant is naturally tempting. Unlike garden plants, indoor plants, specifically the Phalaenopsis, respond reversely to over-fertilizing.
But once you have used too much fertilizer, there is barely any way to remove the excess fertilizers.
So, you must wait for a few days before applying fertilizer again. Next time you feed your plants, you must remember that orchids require a scant amount of fertilizer for best results.
If you want to decrease the strength of the fertilizer, you can dilute it in water and then use it.
Most of the time, you buy your orchids in full bloom, and there is no need to fertilize them then. As the blossoms start falling, you may use a small amount of fertilizer to enhance the blooming of new flowers and overall plant growth.
Find an antidote to nutritional deficiency:
In contrast to over-fertilizing, nutritional deficiency too may be led to the orchid leaves turning yellow and brown.
Perhaps you bought the plants from the store with the blooms and assumed no need to fertilize them further.
If the plant is not getting the required nutrients, chances are you will face this leaves yellowing issue.
To resolve this issue, you need to feed your plants at least once a week. Try to get a fertilizer enriched in manganese, iron, zinc, and nitrogen for proper orchid nourishment.
Fix the root rotting problem:
Although it might sound odd, the best you can do to fix the root rotting problem is to notice whether the roots have turned black or brown and remove the rotten roots using a sharp and sterile cutting tool. A pair of sharp scissors would be of much use in severing the rotten roots from the plant stem.
Use a fungicide to get rid of fungal spots on the leaves:
Often you find yellow pustules on the underside of the foliage.
This is an example of a fungal leaf spot.
If the areas start appearing larger and yellowish, and dark brown, you may use any fungicide available in the market and spray it onto the leaves or wipe the foliage with the spray.
In case of severe fungal infection, it is recommended that you cut off all the infected leaves and start caring for the fresh new leaves.
Use a humidifier to balance the moisture around the orchids:
As humidity is an essential factor in the growth of orchid plants and nurturing their leaves, investing in a good humidifier is the best bet if you are extra careful regarding maintaining the luster of the leaves forever.
The ideal humidity level in the air for the proper thriving of orchid leaves ranges between 40% and 70%.
The sensors in the humidifiers track the moisture in the air and adjust the required humidity levels accordingly.
Or if you don’t want to splurge in a humidifier, there are some homely methods too. Just place a water tray near the group of plants.
It will also maintain the humidity in the ambiance. Sometimes, this passive method results better than an artificial humidifier.
Orchids are nurtured worldwide as indoor plants with pretty flowers and impressive leaves.
The beauty of this plant lies in its glossy and beautiful foliage too.
By following some tricks and adhering to a proper plant care regime, you may keep issues such as orchid leaves turning yellow and brown at bay.
However, simply fixing one or two problems will not stop the leaves from drooping and fading away. It would help if you nurtured the plant leaves with great care and attention.