why do plant leaves turn yellow? Tips on how to solve it

You have bought a plant that is supposed to be easy to care for, such as a Pothos or a Raven Plant. You've made the effort to learn the basics of care. One day you wake up and notice that instead of a beautiful and very green plant, it has turned yellow.

Before you panic and resign yourself to throwing it away because it has died, check out this guide to the reasons why plant leaves turn yellow and how to fix it.

The causes of yellow leaves

Yellow leaves have a name: chlorosis. This occurs when the leaf lacks chlorophyll, which is the nutrient that the plant manufactures to feed itself and which is responsible for the colour of the plant.

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

If the problem is not solved, then the plant may die. Chlorosis can occur from a number of causes, so you will need to check your plant and find out which one applies:

  • Inadequate watering

If almost all the leaves of your plant have turned a deep yellow colour, even across the entire surface, you are probably over-watering.

If you have watered as recommended for your type of plant, it may be that the substrate is not draining well and sludge is forming. There is a simple way to check this: feel the soil with your hands. If the soil is very wet, it does not move, but is caked together, forming a sludge, it means that it is not draining well.

On the other hand, if the soil is dry and your plant is unevenly yellow, it may not be getting enough water. When this happens, the plant sheds its leaves to avoid transpiration and save the little water it receives.

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  • Lighting problems

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

Now, too much light can also be detrimental to certain types of plants that should be grown in shade or semi-shade. An example of this occurs with the leaves of Zamioculcas and Kalanchoe daigremontiana, which turn yellow if left in direct sunlight.

  • Lack of iron

If the substrate in which the plant is planted has a pH that is incompatible with the plant's needs, iron absorption may be affected and iron chlorosis may occur. You will notice this problem when you look at the leaf, which will turn yellow but the veins will remain green. This problem is typical of acidophilic plants, such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias and Hydrangeas.

  • Lack of nitrogen

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

This can be observed in Monstera deliciosa, Corn plant and even in Potos when they have spent too much time in the same pot, which starts to become too small and the substrate has exhausted all the nutrients.

  • Nematode and other pests

Nematodes are microscopic worms (about 0.2 mm) that attach themselves to the roots, disrupting the transport of nutrients. It is very difficult to tell if a plant is being attacked by these annoying bugs, especially if it is planted directly in the soil. The plant becomes weak and loses its leaves, which turn yellow. It is most common on fruit trees and bulbous plants.

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Other viral infections can attack your plant. If you see yellow patches, deformed stems, battered leaves and discoloured flowers, you may be dealing with a diseased plant. In this case, the best thing to do is to treat it with a fungicide or discard it if it looks very bad. This is a preventive measure, as it can be transmitted to other plants.

how to solve yellow leaves on plants?

  • If the problem is watering:

Rectify the watering patterns, to see if the problem is that you are over-watering or under-watering. If not, check the substrate. For small plants or plants in pots, check that you are using the right type of substrate for the plant and add gravel at the bottom to facilitate drainage. Check that the drainage holes are not blocked. It is also possible to mix the soil with a little river sand to improve its permeability.

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  • If the problem is lighting

Check the ideal conditions for your type of plant. Plants that get a lot of sun cannot be shaded, so move them to a sunnier spot. Shady plants should not receive direct sunlight, so relocate them as well.

  • If the problem is iron chlorosis

In this case you need to balance the plant's substrate. You can buy iron chelate, a powder that you can add to the soil, or look for a specific fertiliser for the type of plants that require a more acidic pH.

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  • If there is a lack of nitrogen or other nutrients

A specific fertiliser or nitrogen tablets, which you have to bury in the substrate before watering, will be enough to replenish the nutrients in the substrate. If the plant has grown and you see the roots protruding, it is essential to transplant it into a pot with more space. Don't forget to fertilise regularly to avoid this problem.

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About the author
Ame Rodríguez

Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.

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