Yellow leaves are a plant’s distress signal. Here’s how you should leap into action.
Think of your plant’s color as something of a stoplight system: green leaves are your cue that all is well, but yellowing leaves are a signal to slow down and assess the situation. If you need to help your plant restore its healthy hue, here’s how to get started.
Knowing the Signs
Leaves can turn yellow for any number of reasons — think overwatering, pests or plain old aging — and each will present a little differently. You may see:
- One or two fully yellow leaves
- Multiple leaves turning yellow, either at the edges or all over
- Yellow and brown spots in the center of leaves, sometimes accompanied by translucent leaf edges
- Pests, like mealybugs or spider mites, on the leaves
Treating Your Plant for Yellow Leaves
Once you’ve spotted a yellow leaf, it’s time to inspect your plant and determine what it’s trying to tell you. Often, new growth turning yellow or developing translucent edges are the first signs of overwatering.
- Remove your plant from its pot by turning it on its side, gently gripping the plant’s base and pulling. Shake the roots to remove loose dirt so you can see the roots more easily.
- If the roots are brown and mushy, your plant is suffering from root rot, a condition caused by overwatering. Not all plants recover from this, but if the roots appear mostly healthy (white and firm), it’s worth a shot at saving your plant. Rinse the roots under running water and cut away any dead, mushy roots above the rotted area. Replant in new, dry soil with better drainage.
- If you notice pests infesting your plant, carefully research how to remove them. Check in on your plant regularly after treatment to ensure it was effective, and prune away any leaves that were fully yellowed by damage from the bugs.
- If your plant is pest-free with happy, healthy roots, a few yellowed leaves may just be a sign of your plant aging. It’s letting its oldest leaves go so it can produce newer, healthier growth. Simply prune away the yellowing foliage.
Preventing Yellow Leaves
Once you determine the cause of your plant’s distress, you can put new routines in place to help them thrive going forward.
- Avoid overwatering by offering your plant some H2O only when the top two inches of soil are completely dry. Never pour more water than what would fill the top third of your planter.
- Before buying a new plant and bringing it home, research how damp or dry it likes its soil. This will help you start an appropriate watering schedule from Day 1.
- To prevent pests from coming indoors after your plants, only pot plants using sterile soil from trusted retailers. If you bring in a new plant purchase, or let your plants spend time outdoors, inspect the thoroughly for any insect hitchhikers before you bring them back inside.
Sometimes when we get sick the road to recovery isn’t an easy one, and the same goes for your plants. A plant with root rot or pests may take a few weeks, or even months, to show you the fruits of your labor. But don’t worry — your plant babe will be very thankful you stepped in to help. Soon enough, it will sprout you some new, green foliage to prove it.
Visit our Plant Care page to find resources to help you care for you houseplants.
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