Why Do Orchid Leaves Turn Yellow? 7 Reasons And Solutions

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Real Men Sow

Orchid leaves can turn yellow because their roots are dying. They cannot transport nutrients or water around the orchid. This causes them to yellow. The sunburn and temperatures below 55°F can also cause orchids to turn yellow.

Most common reasons for orchid leaves turning yellow:

  1. Too much water can cause root rot. Orchids should be watered only once every 7-14 day.
  2. Root rot can occur when the potting medium is too moist. The orchid cannot tolerate ordinary potting soil and moss.
  3. Orchids should not be planted in pots with drainage holes at the base. This is because they do not tolerate water pooling around their roots.
  4. The orchids don’t get enough water or are too dry. This causes them to lose their roots and can no longer provide nutrients and water for the leaves, which in turn causes them to turn yellow.
  5. Too much sun can cause yellowing of the leaves. Orchids should not be exposed to direct sunlight as they are susceptible to sunburn.
  6. Regular fertilizer for houseplants can cause orchids to become yellowed and burn their roots. Orchids need a specific fertilizer for orchids, since regular fertilizer for houseplants is too strong.
  7. Orchid leaves can become yellow if they are exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees F.
  8. Yellow orchid leaves can occur after repotting due either to root rot or transplant shock. This is a sign that the orchids are stressed.

Orchids can turn yellow when their roots die or the environment is not suitable for them. Continue reading to find out why your orchid leaves are turning yellow, and how you can save them.

1. Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow Due to Root Rot (Overwatering)

Root rot is a problem that causes orchid leaves to turn yellow due to slow draining soils or overwatering. The leaves turn yellow because the dying orchid roots cannot transport nutrients or water around them. Epiphytes are orchids that grow on trees, in loose aggregate or in soil.

Use Breathable Potting Medium 

Orchids need a breathable potting medium that allows enough oxygen to circulate around their roots to enable them to breathe and function properly. This means that orchids can only grow in dry soil. Roots can also get rotten if they are in moist soil. Too much watering can cause root rot by reducing the oxygen available to the roots, which is essential for root respiration.

Watch Out For Potting Media That Keeps Moisture

Potting media that retain too much moisture, such as moss or ordinary potting soil, can also cause overwatering. They reduce the oxygen around the roots and cause them to shrivel and eventually die back. This causes the leaves to turn yellow. Although the potting medium doesn’t retain excessive moisture, it may be too dense and not have the necessary porous properties to allow the orchid roots to function properly. 

The Best Potting Medium

Pine bark is the best potting medium for orchids. It closely matches the growing conditions of the orchids. The large size of the chippings of pine bark allows for plenty of oxygen to circulate around roots for efficient root respiration. It also promotes drainage which reduces root rot risk even if orchids are overwatered. 

Pine Bark Chips

Pine bark chips absorb moisture, which evaporates. The roots then absorb water vapor. This mimics how orchids take water from their natural environment. Because of their smaller particles, moss and potting soil can deprive roots of oxygen and trap too much moisture around roots for orchids to handle, which results in yellow leaves.

How to Save Orchids with Yellow Leaves due to Overwatering

Reduce The Amount Of Weekly Watering

Overwatering orchids more often than once a week can cause yellowing. The top inch of the orchid potting medium should feel dry. Root rot is prevented by watering orchids once a week in Summer and Spring, and once every two weeks in Winter and Fall. Depending on many factors, the frequency of watering can vary.

Take The Orchid Out Of The Potting Medium

Examine the roots. Healthy orchid roots are green or light gray and plump. This means that they store water, function properly and are well hydrated. The roots may be rotting and dying back if they are thin, shriveled, brown, yellow, or papery. Dead or dying roots can cause rot to spread and may not be revived. It is crucial to remove them to save your orchid.

Use A Pair Of Scissors Or Sterile Pruners

To prevent the spread of rot, remove any roots that are yellow or brown with a mushy texture. Although cutting back roots may seem drastic, orchids are resilient and can grow new healthy roots that can absorb the nutrients and moisture that the orchid needs to recover.

You can replace the potting medium by pine bark or a ready-made orchid potting mixture. Replanting the orchid in a new medium is essential. Old potting media can harbor fungal pathogens which can cause root rot. It is important to repot your orchid every two years if it has been planted in pine bark. This can cause root rot and decrease drainage.

What to Expect

After you have removed all diseased and dying roots and placed the orchid in a new medium for potting, your orchid will be able to grow healthy roots again and eventually recover. Although the yellow leaves may not recover, they can eventually turn brown and fall off. However, if the roots are healthy, the orchid can begin to grow healthy new leaves as long as it is properly cared for.

Is It Best to Cut The Yellow Orchid Leaves Off?

The yellow orchid leaves should not be cut or pulled off. Once the nutrients are depleted, the yellowing leaves will fall off by themselves. You could endanger the orchid’s health if you force the leaves to fall off.

Orchid leaves usually turn yellow and shrivel before eventually becoming brown and falling off by themselves. The point where the leaf was attached to the plant is sealed. If the leaf is removed forcefully, it will not fall off. The fungal pathogens can infect your orchid if you force or cut the yellowing leaves.

2. Orchid Leaves Yellow and Wrinkled (Drought Stress)

Low humidity, insufficient watering or a lack of watering can cause orchid leaves to turn yellow. Roots that are not watered properly can turn white and shrivel, which causes them to die. Additionally, this means its leaves turn yellow because of the roots’ condition.

Meeting Orchids’ Watering and Humidity Needs

Orchids require less water than other house plants. However, the potting medium should be soaked after each watering. This will ensure that the orchid roots are able to draw on the moisture and absorb the water vapor from the surrounding air.

Water The Plant Up Until The Top Inch Of Its Pot

To avoid yellowing leaves and drought stress, the orchid should not be watered more than the top inch of its potting medium. Orchids should be watered at least once a week in Spring and Summer, and once a month in Fall and Winter.

Low humidity can cause yellowing of leaves because orchids are used to living in low humidity environments. Our homes are more humid than this which can cause leaves to become dry and yellowed.

3. How To Save Orchids With Yellow Leaves Due to Underwatering

Place the orchid pot in water for 10 minutes 

Make sure the root ball is completely submerged, because this allows water to penetrate the potting medium, allowing the roots to get the moisture they need. After 10 minutes, remove the orchid from the basin and let the water drain out of its base.

Watering Again

Wait until the orchid’s potting medium is dry to the top before you water again. This usually takes about 7 days. Give orchids a good soak before watering again. To ensure that the potting medium remains evenly moist, you can either water it under a tap or in a basin.

Watering Schedule

Orchids should be watered once every seven days in Spring, Summer, and once every fourteen days in Fall and Winter. Between watering, ensure that the top inch of the pot medium is dry. This will ensure that the orchids have a healthy green color and prevent root rot.


Mist the roots, leaves and stems of orchids once every two days. The orchid may be suffering from drought stress, but it is possible to improve the humidity by misting the orchids with a spray bottle. Regular misting creates a humid microclimate which mimics the humidity of the orchid’s natural environment.

Correct Temperature

Make sure your orchid is kept in an area that is at the correct temperature. To grow and bloom, orchids need a temperature range between 55 and 75 degrees F at night. Indoor heating can cause the temperature to fluctuate or increase significantly, which can lead to increased evaporation and lower water retention. This can result in the development of drought stress, which kills the roots and causes the leaves to turn yellow.

Humidity Needs

The humidity can be reduced by air conditioning or draughts. This can lead to orchid yellowing and stress. Make sure your orchid is protected from the elements.

Sunlight Exposure

If the orchid is suffering from severe drought, keep them out of direct sunlight. Bright indirect light is best for orchids. This gives them enough light to grow and produce energy, while protecting their delicate leaves from burning. The greater the need for water, the more sunlight. A dying orchid will have yellow leaves because the roots cannot provide moisture at the same pace as a healthy plant.

What to Expect

The orchid can be regenerated as long as the roots remain alive. Although the yellow leaves might fall off, new leaves are possible when the environment is more favorable.

Clear plastic pots can encourage orchid growth and help the plant recover faster. The orchid’s roots can photosynthesise to provide energy for the plant in the absence of leaves. The orchid can recover if it has new roots that produce new green leaves to replace the yellowing leaves.

4. Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow Because of Too Much Sun

Too much sunlight can cause orchid leaves to turn yellow. Orchids grow in forests, and are protected from direct sunlight. Sunburn can cause sensitive orchid leaves to turn yellow if they are placed in direct sunlight.

Orchids are best suited to being grown in shaded areas. However, they will tolerate some sunlight. Sun-burnt orchid leaves have a yellowish and slightly brown-scarred color. This is especially evident if the leaves are in direct sunlight. The orchid can be saved as a whole, but individual leaves that have been sunburnt will not heal or turn green again.

Also, scorched leaves can cause problems in the functioning of the entire plant. The leaves turn brown and die back. Sunburnt plants are usually also suffering from drought stress. The intense sun damages the leaves, roots, and potting medium much faster, which causes drooping, damaged stems, and worsens any blooms.

5. How to Save Yellow Orchid Leaves from SunBurn

Indirect Light

Place your orchid in a bright area with indirect light to reduce heat stress and protect sensitive leaves. Because orchids thrive in shade, it is essential to keep them from direct sunlight.

Don’t Cut Damaged Leaves

Instead of cutting off the damaged leaves, wait for them to fall off. The sun-burnt yellow leaves will turn brown and die back, then fall off the orchid when it is ready. The orchid can be damaged if you remove them yourself.


For maximum recovery, it is a good idea to repot your orchids in a clear plastic container. The unusual thing about orchids is that their roots can photosynthesize to give the plant energy. This is usually the function of the leaves. Although photosynthesizing does not serve the primary purpose of roots, it is an important mechanism that allows the orchid to recover from damage. Clear plastic pots let light through the roots, which gives the orchid energy to grow new leaves and function.

What to Expect

An orchid can grow new leaves eventually, but they are often smaller and can be rehabilitated with proper care. The severity of the damage will determine how quickly an orchid recovers from sunburnt yellow leaves. The orchid will recover much faster if some leaves are damaged but others are protected by shade.

Even if all the leaves have fallen off, signs of recovery can still be seen over the next few weeks. However, this may take longer and result in a slower rate of recovery.

6. Too Much Fertilizer Turns Orchid Leaves Yellow

Ordinary fertilizer can cause orchid roots to burn or die. Too much fertilizer can cause orchid roots to become brittle and eventually die. The roots that have been burned are no longer able to transport water and nutrients around the plants. This causes orchid leaves to turn yellow, which is a sign of stress.

Although orchids don’t need to be heavy feeders, specially formulated fertilizer for orchids supports healthy growth and encourages flowering. A specific orchid fertilizer has all the nutrients in the right amount for orchids to thrive. It reduces the risk of roots burning or excessive salts accumulating in soil, which can cause problems with orchid roots’ ability to uptake water. 

How to Save Orchid With Yellow Leaves due to Excess Fertilizer

Scaling Back and Washing the Roots

Reduce the amount of fertilizer used and wash the orchid roots under the tap (tap) for approximately 10 minutes. Use a gentle stream of water to rinse the roots. This will help dissolve any salts that may build up from frequent fertilizer use. The roots will be more able to absorb water when they need it if there is less salt in their potting medium. This is temporary and the potting medium should not be changed if the orchid needs to fully recover.

Allow the water to drain through the drainage holes. Then, let the top inch dry over the course of one week

Inspection of Roots

It is a good idea after a week to inspect your orchid’s roots. If you have a clear plastic container, this is easy. However, if the container is not available, remove the orchid from the potting medium and inspect the roots. If the orchid is healthy, its roots should feel plump and be either green or light gray.

These roots may be brown, black or thinned and white. These roots can be removed from the base of your orchid. They are no longer capable of transporting water or nutrients.


You can repot your orchid in a new medium, such as pine bark chips or an orchid potting mixture. Avoid moss because it retains too much moisture and encourages root rot. The orchid will recover faster if the new potting medium does not contain excess fertilizer or accumulated salts.

Don’t Cut Yellow Leaves

Yellowed leaves are more likely to fall off by themselves. You should not try to remove leaves that are still attached, as this could cause damage to the orchid.

What to Expect

The best orchid care practices will allow the plant to recover in the following weeks. New leaves should begin to emerge in Spring or Summer depending on how severe the root damage was.

Special orchid fertilizer should be applied at the right frequency and in the correct quantity. This will promote healthy growth and flowering. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions.

7. Cold Temperatures Cause Orchid Leaves to Turn Yellow

Orchids are sensitive to cold and need a temperature range between 55 and 75°F at night. They can tolerate a temperature drop of 55°F, but they will yellow if the temperature drops for too long. This is often the case when orchids are near cold windows or in a drought.

The orchid potting medium also needs to remain moist longer around roots due to cold temperatures. This promotes root rot. Orchids can be more resilient than people think. However, it is more difficult to save orchids that have suffered cold damage because of their sensitive nature.

The extent of cold damage to orchids will determine the likelihood of recovery. Orchids with severe damage are likely to die and not recover. However, orchids with light damage to a few leaves that were exposed to cold windows may be able to recover.

How Often Should You Water Your Orchids?

For the orchid to recover the best, it must be kept in a room that is between 55 and 75 degrees F. Follow all best care practices, such as watering every 7-14 days and placing it in indirect, bright light.

Avoid fertilizing orchids when they are stressed. This can encourage foliage growth and cause damage to the plant. Your orchid will recover if it grows new green shoots in the spring and summer.

Orchid Leaves Yellow After Repotting

Transplant shock and too much moisture are the most common causes of orchid leaves turning yellow. Yellow leaves are a sign of stress from high levels of moisture, fluctuating temperature, humidity and air currents. Moving or potting your orchid can be a difficult task. You must correct the environmental conditions that cause stress to save it.

Repotting in with Pine bark chips

Repotting should be done every 2 to 3 years. This is because the roots of orchids need oxygen to breathe and the potting medium must be aerated to enable this to happen. Pine bark chips are the best potting material for orchids because of its porous, porous structure. This promotes drainage and keeps roots healthy.

Repotted orchids in moss or potting dirt can retain too much moisture and cause the roots to become dry. This causes the leaves and roots to turn yellow, and the orchid will die back. For a healthy orchid, you should pot them in pine bark potting media (or orchid bark based potting mixes) to ensure that they are protected from the elements.

The Right Pot is Important

Also, it is important to plant orchids correctly in the right pot. Drainage holes should be made in the pot base for orchids. They can be placed in decorative pots, or on saucers or trays to keep water from splitting. Orchids are not able to tolerate soil saturated so it is essential to regularly empty the saucer.

Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.