Do you have yellow leaves? Are you worried about killing another plant? Do you believe you have a black thumb? Do not despair. After you identify what caused the problem, you may be able to save the plant if you jump in quickly enough.
Generally speaking a plant’s leaves will be green, but there are always exceptions. Especially in the fall, who doesn’t love the golden colors of the foliage? If your plants are supposed to have green leaves, and they suddenly turn yellow, you might find yourself baffled by the problem.
Yellowing leaves could be the result of a number of factors, and usually indicate that your plant is in distress. Unfortunately, there are dozens of potential causes of this one problematic symptom, making it difficult to narrow it down.
Nevertheless, if you are trying to diagnose a sick plant, you can start by excluding some of these common causes first.
Why Are My Plant Leaves Turning Yellow?
Not Enough Water
Obtaining adequate water is one of the best ways to prevent yellowing leaves. When water is scarce, your plant’s leaves will droop to prevent excess transpiration. This conserves water.
Usually, the leaves will turn yellow before they fall off the plant. If your plant is dry – you can check it by sticking a finger in the soil – make sure it gets regular waterings.
You can tell that your plant isn’t getting enough water by looking at the way its leaves curl inward, droop down, or become “crunchy” looking.
Too Much Water
Additionally, a plant that receives too much water may suffer from yellowing leaves. When the soil cannot drain properly, it becomes heavy and waterlogged. Due to a lack of oxygen, the roots of the plant will essentially drown, which will cause the leaves to yellow.
Overwatering can be indicated by spotting root rot, which is typically indicated by a mildewlike smell. Check the soil about an inch below the surface of your plant to see if it feels damp.
It will be necessary to adjust the watering schedule if your plant seems to be overwatered. In the meantime, you may want to relocate the plant to a container that has better drainage.
The leaves of a new plant often yellow because they are just getting accustomed to their new surroundings. When you transplant a house plant or even just buy a new house plant, you might notice the leaves turning yellow and staying that way for quite a while.
It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on these leaves, but don’t panic about it right away. Give the plant time to settle in before you provide any other care.
The presence of root binders is another reason for yellowing leaves. If the roots of a plant don’t have space to grow, they might become overcrowded and the leaves will turn yellow as a result. An indoor plant that needs to be transplanted outside should be moved out and fertilized as soon as possible. For houseplants, they should be repotted in a larger pot.
Chemicals or Minerals in the Water
If you are watering your plants with tap water, you may want to double-check that the water is actually safe for them to drink.
It is possible for plants to be sensitive to certain minerals and chemicals found in tap water, such as chlorine and fluoride. It is also possible for plants to be sensitive to trace salts found in water.
If you suspect this might be the cause of your plant’s yellowing leaves, simply fill the watering can up the night before you plan on watering. You can also water the plant with distilled water or even rainwater collected from your roof. Your plant will grow better if you allow the minerals to evaporate.
Too Much or Too Little Light
Flowing water is not the only element that is extremely difficult to manage. If plants don’t receive enough light, their lower leaves will turn yellow.
Ensure that your plants are receiving enough light – plants should not be placed in direct sunlight for the entirety of the day. Make sure you research the exact lighting requirements of your plants – you might be surprised to learn that not all plants thrive in direct sunlight.
In order to determine if light is a factor here, you need to look closely at the leaves. Plants that are suffering from a lack of light will display yellow leaves on the side facing away from the light source. In most cases, this is because the leaves closest to the light are blocking the light.
It may help to move the plant to a more sunny location (if it’s being grown indoors and this is possible), or to put up an artificial light.
Yellowing leaves are often caused by nutritional deficiencies. Nitrogen is the most common culprit. If this is the problem, you will probably notice the top leaves turning yellow first, or that the leaves have an odd pattern in addition to the yellowing – the veins might look dark, or the tissue between them might appear yellow.
If you have yellow leaves on your plant, but the new leaves are still green, it’s likely due to a nitrogen deficiency. You may need to supplement your plant with a nitrogen-containing fertilizer if it doesn’t seem to be getting enough nitrogen. If not, you’ll need to figure out what nutrients your plant needs.
Nutrient requirements in plants differ significantly depending on species – some have more selective requirements than others. Your soil may require testing to determine if it is lacking any nutrients or if it has too many.
Calcium and boron are also common nutrient deficiencies, so make sure your fertilizer is full of them both if you suspect that may be the problem.
You don’t have to turn to synthetic fertilizers, either. Even adding Epsom salts to the soil around your plant can boost the magnesium content, which is necessary to prevent yellowing leaves, as well.
Leaf Spot Disease
Viruses and bacteria produce leaf spot diseases, which cause your plant’s leaves to turn yellow. This disease is usually marked by a yellowing on the leaves. Regardless of the symptoms, you should be convinced that it’s leaf spot disease and nothing else.
If you have a leaf spot problem, your plants are likely to have tiny brown spots trimmed with yellow instead of yellowing overall or losing their color. In order to isolate the plant from the other greenery you have growing nearby, you should prune the leaves.
Next, add one tablespoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of mineral oil to a spray bottle full of water. Spray the leaves with water, and that should eliminate the bacteria. You may have to do this several times before you see results.
Especially wet soil around your plant, or a blackened base of the plant stem, could indicate that fungus gnats have taken up residence. These are usually signs of overwatering in your plant. The leaves usually drop down first, but you might notice they’re all affected.
The best way to prevent gnats is to reduce watering and add new pots to the plant in order to improve resistance (if the plant is grown indoors).
Plants are occasionally attacked by other pests as well, but fungus gnats are the most widespread. Other types of pests, like mealybugs or spider mites, can also be detected, and other signs will appear in addition to yellow leaves.
The leaves may have holes in them, for example, which mean something is eating them. Usually, spider mites are responsible. If the plants show the appearance of a fluffy substance, mealybugs might be causing the problem.
You may need to prune the infested leaves and remove bugs by hand from the plant. You can also make use of natural insecticides like neem oil and insecticidal sprays to get rid of the pests.
Growing plants indoors can lead to their death due to a cool draft due to the leaves turning yellow and dropping. Plants grown outside will typically not react to cold in the same way, since they often experience outright browning on their foliage due to more intense cold.
Generally, yellowing leaves are caused by temperatures that are too cold, but sometimes too hot temperatures can also cause your leaves to appear dry and yellowed. You may need to mist your plant if it appears to be drying out, and adjust the temperature if necessary.
The relationship between temperature and moisture is intricate. Often, plants in too cool or drafty locations can become waterlogged, too, as they do not absorb moisture as efficiently. It is possible to take care of one of these issues and the other at once by solving one of them.
Yellowing Leaves in Aging Plants is Normal
There’s not much you can do about the yellowing of leaves that occurs with age; it’s just a natural part of plant growth.
Some plants, such as Dracaena, are more prone to this ailment than others. In some cases, you may be able to just trim the main stem to promote new growth, or you can trim away the dying yellow foliage to allow for fresh new growth.
Will the Yellowing Leaves Become Green Again?
You will most likely not be able to turn your yellow leaves green again – that’s the bad news. The good news is you can prevent the yellowing from spreading to other leaves. There is no need to think that a few yellow leaves are the kiss of death for your plants.
If you notice some leaves are turning yellow, first determine the cause and fix it accordingly. Then prune the yellow leaves to give your plant a fresh start. It won’t be long before you’re experiencing lush green growth!