Yellow Leaves On Houseplants: Causes and Solution

Before you panic and throw the plant away because it has died, review this guide that explains the reasons why you have yellow leaves on houseplants and how to fix it.

The yellowing of leaves on houseplants can be caused by several factors: overwatering, lack of water, inadequate sunlight, temperature variations, or even a draft. The symptoms are easily identifiable: part of the leaves are affected by yellow spots which spread quickly and more or less uniformly, then fall off, and growth is stunted.

What Do Yellow Leaves Mean On Plants?

The yellow color in the leaves of plants has a name – chlorosis. This occurs when the leaf lacks chlorophyll, which is the nutrient that the plant produces to feed itself and which is responsible for the color of the plant.

The problem is that without enough chlorophyll, photosynthesis will not occur properly, so the leaf will dry out and fall. Also, a leaf with chlorosis is more susceptible to pests.

If the problem is not fixed, then the plant could die. Chlorosis can occur from various causes, so you will have to review your plant and find out which of them applies.

Causes Of Yellow Leaves On Houseplants

If you have observed yellow spots on the leaves of the plants check for the reasons discussed below:


Watering Indoor Plants

When all the leaves of the plant or a large number of them turn an intense yellow color on a regular basis, it is very likely that we have overwatered the plant.

If you have water as recommended for your type of plant, it may be that the potting soil is not draining well and mud is forming. There is a very simple way to check this: touch the ground with your hands. If the soil is very wet, it does not move but is caked, forming mud, which means that it does not have good drainage.

Lack Of Water

If the leaves turn yellow into a wrinkled texture, the soil is dry, your plant is unevenly yellow and losing strength, it will most likely need more water. When this happens, the plant sheds the leaves to avoid perspiration and save what little water it receives. When one of your plants has suffered a severe drought, don’t overwater it. Instead, soak the entire planter in water for a few minutes, then let the soil drain off the excess.

Check our article on When to water plants to do it correctly and prevent their leaves from turning yellow.

Lighting Problems

To photosynthesize, the plant requires sunlight. If it is too shady for its species, then you will notice that the leaves that are in the darkest or shaded part turn a very pale yellow, almost white.

Now, excess light can also be detrimental to certain types of plants that must be grown in the shade or semi-shade. An example of this occurs with the leaves of zamioculcas and kalanchoe daigremontiana, which turn yellow if you leave them in direct sunlight.

Cold Weather Or Draft

Some plants can experience cold periods by showing yellow spots on their leaves, even when they are in climates suitable for their species. The usual thing is that it occurs, above all, in plants that are not used to these conditions because they have been raised in greenhouses or more sheltered areas. If this happens but the climatic conditions remain at those recommended for the plant, don’t worry, when the warm months arrive it will recover.

There are indoor plants that should not be in locations exposed to drafts on a regular basis. If this is the case, you will see that the tips of its leaves are dry or yellow and the plant could lose them. So if you have observed yellow leaves on indoor plants, simply change their location to a more sheltered one.

Iron deficiency

If the potting soil where the plant is planted has a PH incompatible with the needs of the plant, the absorption of iron may be affected and iron chlorosis occurs. You will notice this problem when you check the leaf, which will turn yellow but the rib will remain green. This problem is typical of acidophilic plants, such as rhododendrons, azalea, camellias, and hydrangeas.

Lack of nitrogen

The main compounds that plants absorb to synthesize their sustenance are phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen. Nitrogen enhances the green color of the leaves, also contributes to growth, while phosphorus and potassium act directly on the roots and flowering of the plant.

This can be observed in the Adam’s rib, corn plant and even in the pothos when they have spent too long in the same pot, which begins to be small and the substrate has exhausted all the nutrients.


Nematodes are microscopic worms (about 0.2 mm) that adhere to the roots, interrupting the transport of nutrients. It is very difficult to know if a plant is being attacked by these annoying critters, especially if it is planted directly in the ground. The plant becomes weak, loses its leaves, which turn yellow. It is more common in fruit trees and bulbous plants.

Other viral infections can attack your plant. If you see yellow spots, misshapen stems, battered leaves, and discolored flowers, you may be dealing with a diseased plant. In this case, it is best to treat it with a fungicide or discard it, if you see it very badly. This as a preventive measure, as this can be transmitted to other plants.

Normal Aging

It is not always bad if a leaf turns yellow and dies. Often this is part of the natural cycle of the plant, especially if it is an old leaf that is dying. Sometimes a leaf is just gone and when your plant is growing beautiful new leaves, they take over from the old leaf. You can leave the leaf on the plant until it has completely dried out. In this way, a plant can still extract nutrients from the leaves.

Do you mind an ugly leaf? Then simply cut it off so that you can enjoy your plant to the fullest again. Your plant will continue to grow healthily with new leaves and you will forget about that yellow leaf in no time.

How Do You Fix Yellow Leaves On houseplants?

If The Problem Is Watering

Rectify the watering patterns, to see if the problem is that you are watering more or less. If not, the soil must be checked. For small or potted plants, check that you are using the right type of potting soil for the plant and add gravel to the bottom to facilitate drainage. Check that the drain holes are not clogged. It is also possible to mix the soil with a little river sand to improve its permeability.

If The Problem Is Lighting

Check the ideal conditions for your type of plant. Plants in a lot of sun cannot be in the shade, so move them to a sunnier location. The shade ones should not receive the direct rays of the sun, you should also relocate them.

If The Problem Is Iron Chlorosis

In this case, the plant substrate must be balanced. You can buy iron chelate, a powder that you can add to the soil, or look for a specific fertilizer for the type of plants that require a more acidic PH.

If It Is A Lack Of Nitrogen Or Other Nutrients

A specific fertilizer or nitrogen tablet, which you have to bury in the substrate before watering, will be enough to replace the nutrients in the substrate. In case the plant has grown and you see the roots stick out, it is essential to transplant it to a pot with more space. Don’t forget to pay regularly to avoid this problem.

If The Problem Is Cold Weather Or Draft

If your green plant is near an air-conditioner vent in summer or near a drafty window in winter, move it to a less turbulent place. Keep an eye on your plant it to see if the yellow leaves spread any further. It’s also a good idea to mist tropical plants that you’re overwintering to increase the humidity.

If The Problem Is Infection

Infections in indoor plants may not be able to be cured completely and can infect all plants nearby. As soon as a sick plant is identified, quarantine it from the rest of your plants. Check the nearby plants to ensure the spread is contained. You can take the necessary steps to save the plant, but you must first attempt to identify the infecting virus. Some remedies can involve fungicides, while others may require removing healthy parts of the plant and propagating.

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