What Causes Yellow Leaves

Why do the leaves on my plants turn yellow? What can I do to fix them?

By: Lively Root
May 22, 2019
What Causes Yellow Leaves
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Yellow Leaves

Did you know that water is generally the reason for your indoor plant's leaves turning yellow? It can be a sign of moisture stress associated with either over-watering or under-watering.

Moisture Stress

With potted indoor plants, it is important that you only water to meet your plant's needs. Over-watering or under-watering are generally the issue when leaves turn yellow. While we think touching the soil can give us a reading on the whole plant, even down to the roots, that’s not always the case. For instance, if you plant is in a larger container, your finger isn’t going to be that long to really feel if the roots are still wet or not. That’s why we recommend our digital thermometer to take the guess work out of watering.

Too much water can also be damaging to leaves and shows similar yellowing signs. Sometimes the bases of stems may blacken. When the soil doesn't drain well or the soil is waterlogged, the root systems can literally drown. This means that your plant is overwatered. Without oxygen, roots start to die. You may even notice fungus gnats if your plant's soil remains wet of too long.

If you find that your plant is holding water too long, take the grower pot out of the cache pot and put it where it can get good air circulation. If it’s dripping wet, remove the roots and all out of the pot and place newspapers around the root mass to soak up the moisture several times. This should remedy and extract the moisture. To avoid those nasty gnats, sprinkle some mosquito bits (safe for pets) onto the soil and each time you water, it will dissipate into the soil and kill the larvae that could destroy the roots. Sticky traps are another source to catch them, and many nurseries use this organic method too.

On the flip side, when plants don't receive enough water, they drop leaves to prevent it from sweating or transpiration. Before they fall off, they will turn yellow which is your heads up to check the moisture with your digital thermometer!


Cold Draft

Cold drafts on tropical plants will often cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop. Outright cold causes browning or pale transparent spots. Check and see if your plants are near an air-conditioner vent, door or a drafty window. If so, just move it to a place where it isn't exposed.



For many plants, as they age, the lower leaves will turn yellow and drop off. This is a normal part of their growth and nothing to be concerned with. It is especially true with Ferns, Pothos and Dracaena varieties. Don't hesitate to just pick these leaves off and your plant will be fine!


Poor Lighting

When an indoor plant receives too little light you often see yellowing prior to the leaves dropping. This generally happens to the location of a plant that receives less light. Try rotating your plant regularly and if possible, relocate to an area with improved lighting. If you don’t have adequate light, consider adding some grow lights close to the leaves to give it the extra boost it needs to sustain photosynthesis.


Nutrient Deficiency

Most of our indoor plants enjoy once-per-month fertilizing. This will offer the plant beneficial nutrients it needs for optimum health and growth. Check out our organic line of products from Arber. Arber offers a plant food concentrate (kid and pet safe) that is from biological compounds made from recycled supermarket food compost! We love that idea because it’s reusing and sustainable. They infuse it with rosemary oil which both gives aromatherapy and antioxidant benefits. Use the dosage recommendations on our website for each plant as each one requires different schedules.

For foliage sprays like any of our epiphyte plants or low light condition plants that like to be spritzing on their aerial roots, try our Foliage-Pro* (corrosive, avoid contact with skin or eyes and inhalation).

Start your fertilization regiment from the soil up. Healthy soil creates healthier plants. That’s why a dose of John and Bob’s Organic Fertilizer (people and pet safe) mixed into the top of the soil will add humus, calcium and iron and increase moistness retention and nutrient uptake.

For lots of blooms for your flowering plants, add Dyna-Gro Bloom Liquid Plant Food* to your cart to keep continuous color. The plant food has 10 essential micronutrients, and the formula is ideal for flowering ornamentals as well as fruits, veggies and herbs!

From time to time, it’s a good idea to flush your plant, (we tell you how here) especially if you bottom water. This garden chore will help leech out any accumulation of minerals resulting from tap water or fertilizer salts. Your plant’s roots will thank you and the soil quality will remain healthier too.

*Note: This product is corrosive. Wear gloves, glasses and avoid contact with skin or eyes. Do not use on a breezy day or near fans do not inhale. MSDS here.