How Do I Save an Orchid with Yellow Leaves?

Last Updated on August 15, 2022 by Stephanie

The reason that orchid leaves change color is due to root systems are degrading and not carry nutrients or water around the orchid, causing the leaves of orchids to change color, indicating the stress of excessive watering or drought. The orchids may also change color due to temperatures that are colder than 55degF or due to sunburn.

The most common reason for leaves of orchids turning yellow are:

  1. Too often watering can cause root decay (Orchids are best watered at least once every seven to 14 days).
  2. Potting medium is a reservoir of excessive moisture, which results in root decay (orchid should be placed in a potting medium made of pine bark chips. The potting soil, which is a mix of moss and regular potting clay holds too much water around the roots for the orchid to withstand).
  3. Orchids that are planted in pots with no drain holes at the bottom (orchids dont like the water pooling around their root due to the decorative exterior pots that do not have drainage holes or saucers and tray that hold water since the water must be able to easily escape from the bottom of the container).
  4. Orchids arent watered frequently enough or is watered insufficiently (a absence of water can kill the orchids roots, so they are unable to longer provide their leaves and nutrients, which causes the leaves to change color to yellow).
  5. The suns rays can turn the leaves turning yellow (orchids are best located in indirect light as their leaves are prone to sun-induced damage).
  6. Regular fertilizers for houseplants burn the orchids roots, and makes the leaves to yellow (orchids require a specific orchid fertilizer, since normal fertilizers for house plants are too powerful).
  7. The colder temperatures than 55degF could cause orchid leaves to turn yellow (orchids are extremely sensitive to temperatures that are cold).
  8. Orchids turn yellow after repotting due to root rot or transplant shock (a change in the environment can result in shock, resulting in the leaves of orchids turning yellow as an indication of stress.

The orchids usually turn yellow due to the roots of their plants are dying, or due to the environment they live in is not the conditions to which they have adjusted. Read on to find out the reason your orchid leaves are turning yellow and the best way to stop it…

Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow due to Root Rot (Overwatering)

The reason that orchid leaf leaves become yellow due to of root rot caused by the slow draining of soils or overwatering. The soil that is saturated deprives orchid roots of oxygen, causing root rot to take place. These dying roots will not carry nutrients or they lose water to the plant, causing the leaves to change color to yellow.

Orchids are epipthyes, which means they are cultivated either on the tree or as loose aggregates instead of in soil.

So orchids require an aerated container to allow for air to flow around the roots to ensure that they are able to breathe and function normally.

Also, orchids can thrive in areas with good drainage. Orchids dont like their roots to be in soil that is damp, which can cause roots to rot.

Too often watering orchids reduces the oxygen levels within the root (which is essential to allow the root to breathe) and creates conditions that cause root decay. When the roots die back, they are unable to transport nutrients and water within the plant, which keeps the orchid healthy and leaves change color as a result of stress.

Potting media that hold excessive water (such as moss or ordinary pot soil) also suffer the same effects as overwatering, in that they reduce the amount of oxygen that can be absorbed by the roots, which causes them to shrink and die, resulting in the leaves becoming yellow.

The medium used for potting doesnt have to be a necessity that hold in excess moisture, it could be just too compact and not have the permeable qualities that an orchid needs for its roots to function properly.

Orchids should be placed in pine bark, this is the medium for potting which most closely mimics the conditions that grow in orchids preferred habitat.

The huge size of pine bark chips allows for ample oxygen to circulate around roots to ensure that the root is breathing properly and encourages good drainage which greatly reduces the chance of root rot, even if you are overwatering your orchid.

The pine bark chips absorb moisture , which evaporates to allow the roots to absorb water vapor that is similar to the way orchids absorb water in their natural environment.

The moss and the potting soil are known to deprive roots of oxygen because of their smaller size of particles and they contain too many moisture in the soil around the roots for orchids to withstand which results in yellow-colored leaves.

How to Restore Orchids with yellow leaves because of overwatering

  • Reduce the amount of frequency of watering to once a week. If you water your orchids frequently throughout the week, then you are the reason for the leaves of your orchid turn yellow. The orchids should be watered only at the point that the top inch of the medium is dry. Typically, watering once a week during the summer and spring and every two weeks during Winter and Fall is sufficient to meet the requirements of orchids for watering without the risk of root rot. However, the frequency of watering can differ based on a variety of variables. (Read my article on on how you can water your orchids to find out the ideal frequency to water your orchid based on the season and the conditions).
  • Take the orchid out of the potting medium and examine the roots. The healthy orchids roots look green (or lighter gray) and appear plump, that means theyre holding water, working properly and properly and well-hydrated. If the roots of your orchid are thin and shriveled thin, or brown or yellow, and have a foul smell and a bad smell, it is likely that they are root is decaying or dying. The dead or dying roots dont revive and may spread the rot, so it is essential to trim them back to keep the orchid.
  • Cut off any dying or diseased roots. If the roots appear brown, yellow or have an amorphous texture or are completely shriveled , then the roots arent able to carry the water and the nutrients (resulting with yellowed leaves) within the plant. They must be removed to stop the spread of the rot.
  • The dying root can be cut back to at the root of the plant, or back to healthy tissue with sterile pruning scissors or pruners. The process of cutting back roots may feel extreme, but orchids are much more durable than their name suggests, and they are able to regenerate healthy, new roots that actually absorb the nutrients and moisture orchids require to revivify.
  • Replace the potting medium using pine bark (or an orchid pot mix). It is essential to repot the orchid in a new potting medium as the old medium could be a host for fungal pathogens that can cause root decay. Even if your orchid was placed in pine bark, it is recommended to plant the orchid once every two year or so using a new potting media as pine bark degrades (like any organic material) over a period of 2 years, which could reduce the drainage and aeration around the roots.

After youve cut back all diseased and dying roots and repotted the orchid into a new pots, the orchid is now able to develop healthy new roots, and then get back to normal.

The leaves that are yellow might not be able to recover in the same way they will eventually turn brown before disappearing, but when there are healthy roots the orchid will begin to develop healthy, green leaves, provided that the orchid is taken care of properly.

Check out this YouTube video to get a visual guide to saving orchids from root rot:

Should I Cut Yellow Orchid Leaves Off?

In general, dont cut or remove the leaves of your yellow orchid off. The leaves that are yellowing disappear on their own after they die back because of a deficiency of nutrients. If you try to force the leaves to fall off of the orchid, you could damage the plant in a way that isnt necessary.

The leaves of orchids typically change color, then shrivel before turning brown, and eventually disappear on themselves. If the leaf falls off by itself, the place where the leaf was tucked in is covered with a seal. They dont leave an open wound, which occurs when the leaf is removed forcibly of the orchid.

The wounds that result from forcing or cutting the leaves that are yellowing off could be infected with fungal pathogens that could further harm your orchid, therefore it is always recommended to allow the leaves to fall off on their own.

Orchid Leaves Yellow and Wrinkled (Drought Stress)

The leaves of orchids turn yellow if they arent watered frequently enough, or if they are watered insufficiently or due to low humidity. The roots of orchids that are not adequately watered become white, shrink and then die again. The dying, shriveled roots are unable to transport water and nutrition to orchids,, which results in the leaves turning yellow.

While orchids generally require watering less frequently than other house plants, but the potting medium requires an adequate soak every time you water to ensure that the orchids roots are able to draw on the moisture and absorb the water in the air around the roots.

If the orchid has been watered in a way that is too light, just the upper inch two of the potting medium will be damp, while the whole medium for potting should be uniformly moist after watering to prevent drought stress as well as yellowed leaves.

In general orchids must also be watered at least once every seven days in the Spring and Summer and every 14 days during winter and fall to ensure they are watered.

Healthy orchid roots will appear green after watering , and change to a light grey hue throughout the time of a week with a soft feeling to them.

The orchids roots that are not watered shrivel up because of the lack of water. They then turn thin, papery, and then die back.

After the roots die due to a deficiency of water, they will no anymore function as they should and cannot transport the nutrients as well as water into the leaves, which causes the leaves to become brown and appear shriveled.

The low humidity may cause the leaves turning yellow because orchids are used to living in conditions that have a standard humidity between 40 and 60%.

The humidity of our homes is considerably lower than this, which could drain water from the leaves, and cause drought stress, which causes yellow leaves.

How To Save Orchids With Yellow Leaves Due to Underwatering

  • Put the orchids pot in the water basin for about 10 minutes, making sure your root ball remains completely submerged. This lets water penetrate the potting medium, so that the roots are able to access the water they need. Take the orchid out of the container after 10 minutes, and allow any excess water drain out from the bottom of the pot.
  • Make sure the top inch of your orchids potting medium is dry prior to watering again (typically watering every 7 days). Always give your orchid an adequate soak. It can be done in the tap (tap) or, in a basin of water to make sure the medium for potting is equally damp.
  • In general, you should water orchids every 7 days during the summer and spring and every 14 days during winter and fall. Make sure the top inch of medium for potting has dried between watering sessions. This is often enough to meet the requirements for watering orchids, ensuring that the leaves remain healthy and green instead of yellow, and also avoids the risk of excessive watering, which could cause root rot.
  • Mist the orchids leaves, stems, and roots every two days. If the orchid is stressed, its an ideal idea to boost the humidity of the air surrounding the orchid by regularly misting it using spray bottles. Regular misting creates an arid micro-climate which mimics the humid conditions found in the natural orchid environment.
  • Make sure that your orchid is placed in a space that is that is at the correct temperature, and away from heat sources or air flow. The orchids require temperatures between 55degF in the evening and a maximum temperature during the day of 75 degrees F to flower and grow. When the temperatures are too hot or changes significantly due to heating in the indoors, this could increase the rate at which water evaporates from the potting medium as well as sap moisture that is emitted from the leaves more quickly. This is drawn into the roots, causing the stress of drought that causes the roots to die and makes their leaves yellow.
  • The air currents of air cooling and draughts can also reduce levels of humidity, eventually straining the orchid, causing conditions that turn the leaves of the orchid yellow. Make sure that your orchid is located in a dry area of the home.
  • Make sure orchids are kept out of direct sunlight when the orchid is suffering from the drought. Orchids like indirect, bright light that gives the plant enough light to generate energy and flowers, while protecting the delicate foliage from scorching. The more sun you get, the higher the need for water. When the plants roots are suffering due to drought, they will not provide water at the same pace that a plant in good health, which causes yellowed leaves and dying orchids.

orchid flowers

The primary factor to protecting orchids that have yellow foliage from stress caused by drought is to alter the way you water. Dont let the medium for potting dry completely, instead wait until that the upper inch the medium is dry before you water it.

In most homes, this will take about a week during the Summer , and 14 days in the winter, however I suggest you read my post on watering orchids to ensure you are aware of the best way to care for the orchid in a way that is appropriate for your climate and environment because there are a variety of factors that can affect the frequency at which you should keep your orchids hydrated so that they remain healthy.

Other best practices for taking care of your orchid is making sure it is within the right temperature range and avoiding sources of heat and cold can help keep your orchid healthy.

If some roots remain alive, the orchid will be able to recover. The yellow leaves can fall off and then die, but new leaves will grow when the conditions are favorable.

Plastic pots with clear plastic lids can be a great method to stimulate growth, and also for the orchid to recuperate faster as the roots of orchids can photosynthesis to provide an orchid with vitality even in the lack of leaves that are healthy.

(Read my article on selecting the most suitable pots to grow orchids in).

When new roots are established, new green leaves begin to appear to replace the dying yellow leaves, and the orchid could recover.

(Read my article on on how to revive an orchid that is dying to get the complete guide).

Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow Because of Too Much Sun

The most common reason why orchid leaves turn yellow is due to excessive direct sunlight that is damaging the foliage. They are natives of forests, and thrive in a shade, away from direct sunlight. If an orchid is placed in a bright window their delicate leaves may be affected by sunburn.

Since orchids are designed to being in the forest They are not tolerant of extreme sunlight, but they can thrive in filtering light. However, the ideal orchids should be grown in direct, bright light since it provides the plant with sufficient energy to flower and isnt at risk of damage by sunburn.

Sun-burnt orchid leaves have as a brown and yellow scorched color. This is most noticeable on leaves facing towards the sun.

While the orchid is able to withstand the individual leaves that have been burned by sun are unable to get rid of their scorched appearance or return to their green.

The leaves that are scorched also dont perform as they should, which means that the entire plant is affected. The leaves can become brown, then die and drop off the orchid.

If your plant is burned by sun, its likely to be suffering from drought stress because the suns intense heat dries out the leaves, and potting medium and roots faster and causes drooping leaves and stems, and causing damage to any flowers.

The orchid will regenerate and produce new leaves after you have relocated the orchid to a location that has more favorable conditions.

Too Much Fertilizer Turns Orchid Leaves Yellow

The roots of orchids are much more sensitive than the majority of houseplants. They can get burned and then die if you apply a regular fertilizer for your houseplants.

A lot of fertilizer can burn the orchids roots, causing the orchids to die. The damaged roots are incapable of carrying water or nutrients throughout the plant, which results in the leaves of orchids to change color as a result of stress.

Orchids arent necessarily heavy feeders, but a specially-formulated fertilizers for orchids promote healthy development and promotes flowering..

The specific orchid fertilizer is formulated to contain all the nutrientsneeded, in the proper concentration to allow orchids to flourish and minimizes the risk of roots burning or excessive salts that accumulate in the soil, which hinder orchid roots ability to absorb water. Both could turn their leaves to yellow.

If the fertilizer youre applying is too strong or you use frequently it could result in the foliage of orchids to become sloppy and stop displaying flowers.

How to Conserve the Yellow Orchid leaves from Sun Burn

  • Place your orchid in a place with indirect, bright light that reduces the risk of heat stress and damages to delicate leaves. Orchids are designed to shade in the canopy of the forest and it is essential to replicate these conditions by not allowing direct sunlight to grow your orchids in your home.
  • Allow those damaged leaves to drop off , rather than cutting the damaged leaves off. The sun-burnt yellow leaves will turn brown and fade and then fall from the orchid once they are at their best. If you remove them yourself, they can harm the orchid.
  • It is recommended to repot your orchid inside a transparent plastic container to ensure that it is able to recover. Orchids are unique in that their roots can photosynthesizing in order to supply an orchid with energy (usually this is the job of leaves). The photosynthesizing process is not the main purpose of the roots, but if they are injured and are not capable of photosynthesis, this is an effective way to help the orchid recover. Clear plastic pots let sunlight to the roots, which gives the orchid energy to function and develop new leaves.

The orchid may eventually develop new leaves (which tend to be smaller) and, with proper care, the orchid may recuperate.

The speed at which the orchid recovers from yellow and sunburned leaves is contingent on the extent that the injury has occurred. If certain leaves are damaged but others are shielded by shade, then the orchid generally recovers faster.

If the leaves are all broken and drop off,, the orchid, it may be able to show signs of recovery in the next few weeks, however on a longer scale and with a slower rate or the rate of recovery.

How to Save Orchid With Yellow Leaves due to Excess Fertilizer

  • Reduce the application of fertilizers and rinse the orchids roots and potting medium beneath the tap (tap) for about 10 minutes using a slow stream of water. This will help dissolve the salts that build up from frequent use of fertilizers. When there is less salt in the potting medium, the roots are more able to absorb water as needed. This is a temporary solution, and the potting medium needs to be replaced to allow an orchids full recovery.
  • Let the water run off into the drain holes, and let the top inch of the medium to dry over the time of a week.
  • After about a week, its an excellent idea to examine root systems of the orchid. It is simple if you have an unglazed plastic pot however, if you dont, pull the orchid from the container to examine its roots. The roots of the orchid are likely to be light or green gray, and they should appear full, which means they are healthy.
  • If you notice any roots that are brown or black, or are thin and white, then the roots have begun to die back. Cut these roots back towards the bottom of the orchid because the roots are no anymore able to move water or nutrients to the orchid.
  • Repot your orchid in new potting media made consisting of pine bark chips or a specially-formulated orchid pot mix (avoid moss since it holds excessive moisture and creates the conditions that can cause roots rot). The new mix of potting mixes does not contain the salts that accumulate or other negative effects of fertilizers that are too high, therefore your orchid will have a higher chances of recovering.
  • If the leaves have become yellow are likely to fall off on their own. Dont attempt to take off the leaves while they are until they are attached, as this could harm the orchid.

If you follow the most effective treatments for orchids, the orchid should be recovering in the coming weeks and new leaves starting to appear in the spring and Summer. However, it is contingent on the severity of the root damage.

It is crucial to stress that you must apply a specially-formulated orchid fertilizer (available at garden centers and through Amazon) for feeding your orchids instead of normal fertilizer for your houseplants.

Orchids can be described as epiphytes (which means they prefer to be a part of trees and usually get nutrients from rainwater or water vapor around them in their natural habitat) and their roots are too delicate to fertilizers that are commonly used.

Special orchid fertilizer , applied in the right frequency and in the appropriate amount, helps to promote healthy blooming and encourages flowering. Therefore, always adhere to the manufacturers instructions.

Cold Temperatures Cause Orchid Leaves to Turn Yellow

Orchids are extremely sensitive to cold temperatures. They require temperatures of 55degF in the evening and the maximum temperature during the day that is 75 degrees.

While they are able to tolerate occasional drops in temperature that is below 55degF, a prolonged time under 55degF could cause the leaves of orchids to become yellow as an indication of stress.

It is common when the orchid is close to an unheated window, especially when the leaves come into contact with a window that is cold.

The cold temperatures can make the orchids potting medium to remain moist longer, which creates conditions for root decay.

Orchids are stronger than they usually get credit however it can be harder to save an orchid that has sustained the effects of cold due to their vulnerability to cold.

The likelihood of recovery is contingent on the severity of the damaged orchid by cold If the damage is severe, the orchid could be unable to recover and die however, with a little damage to a couple of leaves that were close to an unheated window it is possible for the orchid to recover.

For the orchid to have the greatest chance of recovery make sure it is placed in a space that has temperatures that are stable and stay between 55degF to 75degF. Also, adhere to the most effective methods of care, such as regular watering every 7-14 days and placing the orchid in a place with indirect, bright light.

Do not apply fertilizer when the orchid is stressed because it can encourage the growth of the foliage at a time when the orchid is already under stress.

If you notice new growth of green in the spring and summer, your orchid will be able to recover.

Orchid Leaves Yellow After Repotting

The most frequent reason for the leaves of orchids turning yellow following transplanting is because of shock or potting mediums which hold excessive moisture. The yellow leaves are a sign of stress caused by fluctuating temperatures and humidity, air flow and levels of light, or excessive water around the roots.

Moving or potting your orchid could mean a change in conditions for your orchid that is in opposition to the conditions it prefers.

To prevent it from happening, you need to address the environmental factors which are causing the stress.

Orchids need to be repotted every two years due to the fact that orchid roots require a specially sized container to allow air to flow around them to aid in the process of respiration. Pine bark chippings are the ideal potting medium to grow orchids because of its spaced porous structure which promotes drainage and keeps the roots healthy.

If youve repotted your orchid in moss or pot soil, these substances hold excessive water around the roots. They also reduce the oxygen levels in the roots which results in the leaves turning yellow, and the orchid to die again.

So, you must always plant orchids in pine bark pot mediums (or specially designed orchid bark-based pot mixes) to ensure a healthy orchid instead of moss or regular pot soil.

It is also essential that orchids are planted in an proper pot. Orchids must be planted in pots with drainage holes at the base and sides of the container.

If they are kept in a decorative pot, or are set on trays or saucers to stop the water from spilling out, it is essential to drain the saucer of any excess water frequently as orchids are not able to tolerate being in soil that is saturated.

If your orchids have been in a watery pool because of trays, saucers or other decorative pots, follow the steps to save the orchid from excessive watering in the beginning in the post.

So long as the orchid is exposed to bright indirect sunlight with a temperature between 55degF and 75degF , watered with a good soak every 7-14 days, and kept clear of wind and misted on a regular basis in order to make a moist micro-climate , then the orchid will be able to adapt when it is repotted in the next weeks.

(Read my article on the best way to revive an orchid that is dying).

Key Takeaways:

  • The most common cause for the yellowing of orchid leaves is root rot due to excessive watering and slow draining soils. If the orchids roots are dying from roots rot, then they will not carry water or nutrients to the plant, which results in the leaves turning yellow.
  • The leaves of orchids turn yellow when there is too much moisture surrounding the roots, which creates conditions that cause root rot. The moss and soils retain moisture and may block oxygen in the soil, which causes roots to die and re-grow, resulting in yellowed leaves.
  • Pine bark is the perfect potting medium to grow orchids because it lets oxygen circulate around the roots , and is able to drain well, preventing the growth of rot in the roots and yellow leaves.
  • Orchids that are planted in pots with no drain holes at the bottom or in saucers beneath the pot can cause water to collect around the orchids roots, causing root rot that makes the leaves of the orchid yellow.
  • The yellow orchid leaves could indicate that the roots of orchids have shrunk and died due to underwatering. If the orchid isnt regularly watered, the roots die back and are unable to absorb the nutrients or water, so the leaves become yellow in an indication of stress.
  • The leaves of orchids turn yellow as a result of sunburn. Orchids have evolved to grow in shade in their natural habitat, therefore the leaves of orchids are extremely vulnerable to sunlight direct. When orchid leaves are exposed to direct sunlight, they burn and become yellow.
  • The leaves of orchids can become yellow due to excessive fertilizer. Orchids arent heavy feeders therefore if fertilizer is applied too frequently or in a high amount the roots may be burned and cease to function, and result in the leaves of orchids becoming yellow and dying.
  • Orchids may turn yellow when exposed to temperatures lower than 55degF. Orchids are extremely sensitive to temperatures that are cold. If the leaves of an orchid come into contact with the cold glass of a window or in a room that is cold, then the leaves will turn yellow, which is an indication of stress.
  • Orchid leaves change color after transplant shock causes repotting. Changes in the potting medium temperature, airflow, or humidity could result in leaves turning yellow, which is a indication of stress. Repotting orchids in moss or pot soil instead of pine bark could cause leaves to turn yellow, which indicates root decay.


Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)