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Yellow Leaves Causing Problems for Your Orchid?

Find Out What You Can Do About It

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yellowing leaves - orchids

Yellowing leaves are a symptom that something is not right with your orchid. Find out what your orchid is telling you.

If you’ve only had the orchid for two days and the leaves are already turning yellow, the problem started before you acquired the orchid. You could try and return the Cymbidium and get another one. Sometimes the abundance of flowers and buds on Cymbidiums can be distracting.

Let’s talk about what may have caused the yellowing leaves in the first place. Yellowing leaves can indicate several different problems: aging, too much sun, lack of nutrients, and pests.

Find out how to treat your orchid's yellowing leaves

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Aging Leaves

This is the simplest answer, which isn’t even a problem. It’s just part of an orchid’s natural growth cycle. Older leaves will turn yellow, shrivel up and die. New leaves grow and take their place. If all the leaves or newer leaves are yellowing, then that isn’t the problem.

Sunlight

Too much sun can cause orchid leaves to turn yellow. Before assuming that your orchid is getting too much sun, find out what color your orchid leaves should be. Cattleyas, for example, bloom best when their leaves are a light, bright green.

Cymbidiums require a lot of light. Usually, as much light as you can give them if you are growing them indoors. It is possible that your orchid was given too much light before you got it. If you are growing your Cymbidium outdoors, assuming you live in a temperate climate, place the orchid where it will receive filtered sunlight.

Nutritional Deficiency

Sometimes yellowing leaves indicate a lack of nitrogen or iron. On my orchids I use DynaGro. For yellowing leaves use Foliage Pro. This fertilizer has a nitrogen content of 9%. Dilute the fertilizer recommendation by 1/2 to 1/4 of the recommended dosage, mix with water and apply 3 out of 4 weeks in a month. Use a light hand when fertilizing orchids.

Pests

Augh bugs! This is the worst-case scenario. Boisduval scale can be a nightmare. These insects have a thick detached shell that is difficult to remove. Even once the bugs are gone the leaves will remain discolored. Treat scale by scrubbing leaves, sheaths and even rhizomes with 70% alcohol using an old toothbrush. Spraying with horticulture oil will also help treat scale.

You’re the Doctor

Now that you know what may be causing your orchid’s leaves to turn yellow, it’s time to take action. Your orchids will thank you. Don’t expect immediate results. Sometimes it can take a while for the orchid to recover.

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4 Comments
  1. Jane Marinello says:

    Anna, I’m so glad I found you. Reading thru the questions and your answers help a lot. I got bitten by the orchids bug 3 years ago with my 1st purchase of a beautiful blooming Vanda. I’ve since learned that’s not the one to start with….never have had a bloom since and roots refuse to grow long like I see in the stores. Any suggestions. On the bright side I do have 5 blooming others out of 6.:) They are on my lanai in Fl. Looking at them makes me so happy even though I don’t have a clue.

    1. Anna says:

      Jane,
      It sounds like you know more than you know. Congratulations on your 5 blooming orchids! You’re right, Vandas are not a beginner orchid. I don’t grow any myself as I can’t give them the right growing conditions here in Utah. That said, Vandas need lots of bright light, water and humidity. Since you live in Florida, you can give them what they need. Many people successfully grow Vandas attached to trees. Water the roots daily.
      I’d love to hear how it goes. Vandas do produce exceptional flowers.
      Yours,
      Anna

  2. Vickey Ferrer says:

    Anna,
    I received a miltonia orchid that had 3 spikes to it with few flowers on them and some flower pods that I thought would bloom but instead they fell off. The leaves started to turn yellow and soon the bottom bulbs turn brown. The leaves then fell off. Is there any hope for this plant?

    1. Anna says:

      Vickey,
      In addition to my other comment about Miltonia care, I wanted to add that brown pseudobulbs and leaf drop indicate overwatering. So, just be extra careful to let the potting medium almost dry out before watering.
      Best,
      Anna

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the ONE email you'll open every week

Saturday mornings I send out an exclusive email sharing my best tips on how to grow healthy orchids.

YES! THANK YOU!