How to Fix a Philodendron Turning Yellow (Common Causes & How to Fix)
Nothing will stop you in your tracks faster than spotting a yellow leaf on your beloved Philodendron. That sudden feeling of dread in your stomach that your beautiful plant is sick, or worse, on its way out. It may sound dramatic. However, Philodendron leaves turning yellow is a sure sign that something is wrong. And it requires your attention quick, smart!
Fortunately, we have put together a helpful troubleshooting guide to assist you in getting to the root of the cause (pun intended 😛).
In this guide, we’ll be exploring:
- The common causes of philodendrons turning yellow,
- Treatments, remedies for each cause, and
- ways to prevent your philodendron leaf from turning yellow.
So, grab your magnifying glass and keep your eyes peeled because we have a mystery to solve!
The Garden Bench Top Approach…
We have a specific process and mindset for troubleshooting indoor plant problems, and we think setting your expectations up the right way from the beginning is essential.
The not-so-good news – your Philodendron will not magically look happy and healthy tomorrow.
This process will take time and patience – with a big emphasis on the latter of these two factors. As you work through the troubleshooting guide below, you will make a change and wait.
And test and wait again.
Hopefully, you are beginning to realize it is a bit of a waiting game.
At each check-in point, you look for positive responses to any changes we make to your plant.
Those changes may be as small as the leaves look slightly less limp than the previous day. Or maybe the leaves are looking more vibrant than before.
As you progress through the process, you will become a more mindful gardener and pick up skills that you can apply to other aspects of your gardening.
becoming a more mindful gardener with skills that can apply to all aspects of gardening
Okay, that’s enough of a motivational pump-up – let’s get into the troubleshooting guide.
Why is My Philodendron Turning Yellow?
When conditions become unfavorable for houseplants, leaves are one of a plant’s first signs of distress.
So, the fact that you have noticed a yellowing philodendron leaf is a positive step. Your plant parent instincts have caught the issue early.
Now, the next step is the tricky part – IDENTIFYING the cause of your Philodendron’s yellow leaves.
What Causes Philodendron Leaves to Turn Yellow?
If you posted a picture of your Philodendron yellow leaves in any indoor plant community asking for help, you would get a flood of responses listing any number of reasons for your yellow leaves.
And there is a good reason for it – yellow leaves can result from numerous causes.
Here is a list of potential reasons why you have yellow philodendron leaves.
Below each cause, we’ll list the solution or ‘next steps.’
Remember, as we mentioned earlier, the troubleshooting process is a slow and methodical approach. Which involves two steps:
- Choose the most likely CAUSE, implement the suggested SOLUTIONS, and
- WAIT and look for a positive response from your plant.
Okay, we’ll be the first to admit we’ve been guilty of this issue.
We want to shower our plants with love and water (literally), and why not – they deserve it.
Unfortunately, our overzealous watering regimes can lead to many issues, including pests and bacteria infections (such as root rot).
And, YES, as you may have guessed, yellow leaves are a sure sign that the soil is overwatered and oversaturated.
Philodendrons prefer well-draining soil that can retain moisture for the roots. However, not too much water that the soil remains soggy and wet.
We use the soil moisture finger test method to confirm if your Philodendron’s soil is too wet.
It is a tried and tested method for guiding you when to water your plants, using your finger and the topsoil as an indicator.
Next Steps: How to Fix an Overwatered Philodendron
If you suspect that your Philodendron is overwatered, we recommend implementing these steps:
- The quickest way to get your Philodendron out of soggy soil is to repot your plant. This will remove the saturated soil and replace it with fresh soil.
- Inspect the root ball for any signs of rot or infection during the repotting process. If you suspect the presence of root rot, refer to our treatment guide for philodendron root rot.
- Once you have finished repotting your Philodendron, give it a light watering and ensure any excess water drains out of the pot.
- Place it in a position where it receives indirect light and monitor it over the next week for positive changes.
At the other end of the watering spectrum, a philodendron not receiving enough water can also develop yellow leaves.
It sounds strange, but this is why you can find many conflicting answers in plant forums.
The lack of water stresses the plant, preventing it from carrying out its usual physiological processes. One such process is photosynthesis, which is the process that produces energy and chlorophyll, the green pigment in the leaves.
Without photosynthesis, the plant becomes nutrient deficient, causing stress and yellow leaves.
Next Steps: How to Fix an Underwatered Philodendron
If you suspect that your Philodendron is underwatered, we recommend implementing these steps:
- Use the soil moisture finger test described above.
- If your soil feels dry, give your Philodendron a healthy watering, ensuring excess water exits freely from drainage holes.
- Severely dry soil will be hard and cracked. It will also be difficult for your finger to penetrate the surface. In this case, you may need to employ a water bath for an hour. This allows the soil to absorb the water and regain its water absorption properties fully.
Philodendrons are tropical plants that originate from warm, humid forests. They require the ambient air around them to have a medium humidity level.
If the humidity levels drop too low, it can accelerate the evaporation rate of moisture from the Philodendron’s leaves. Unfortunately, this results in the leaves becoming dry and dehydrated, causing them to turn yellow.
To determine the humidity around your Philodendron, we recommend using a hygrometer. They are affordable devices that can be sourced online or at your local nursery. Look for the 2-in-1 gardener tools that combine thermometers and hygrometers into one device.
Next Steps: How to Fix Low Humidity Around Your Philodendron
If you have a humidity problem, follow these steps to increase the moisture levels in the ambient air:
- Group plants together – By placing plants next to each other, the collective evaporation of all the plants helps to provide an immediate boost to relative humidity.
- Avoid drafty areas – Keeping your Philodendron away from drafty positions will help to reduce the transpiration processes, which will help your plant stay hydrated.
- Increase water evaporation – One of the most effective techniques we have used to increase humidity for plants is to place them on humidity trays. It is easy and has minimal impact on the overall aesthetics of your plant.
- Use a humidity chamber – Using a humidity chamber is a super efficient way to increase humidity for singular plants. Check out how to build humidity chambers for your Philodendron HERE.
In their natural habitats, philodendrons grow in the lower sections of tropical forests, where they receive filtered sunlight.
Philodendrons do not cope well with direct sunlight, as the bright light can quickly dehydrate the leaves, causing them to turn yellow.
At the same time, they cannot live without sunlight. The lack of light will cause a nutrient deficiency from the lack of photosynthesis, similar to what we described earlier in the underwatered philodendron section. This also results in yellow leaves developing on your beautiful Philodendron.
Therefore achieving optimal light conditions is necessary.
Next Steps: How to Fix Poor Lighting For Your Philodendron
Poor lighting is a problem where patience is your strongest ally. It involves playing musical chairs with your Philodendron.
- Move your Philodendron to a new location with bright indirect sunlight (where the leaves are not exposed to direct sunlight).
- Monitor your plant for any positive signs over the next week (this can take a while).
- With each new location, the humidity levels change as well. So you may be dealing with many challenges at one time.
Pests & Disease Infections
If we notice a yellow leaf on any of our plants (including our philodendrons), we thoroughly inspect the leaves and soil for any presence of pests or diseases.
The reason is yellow leaves are usually one of the first noticeable warning signs, and we always recommend acting sooner rather than ignoring the signs and allowing the problem to manifest.
The pests that commonly cause yellow leaves include:
- mealy bugs,
- spider mites, and
These insects are known as sap-sucking insects and feed off the nutritious sap of the plant. You can generally find them attacking around new growth, where the skin of the Philodendron is easier to penetrate.
The most common disease to look for is root rot (which we discussed in the overwatered philodendrons section). The other disease that can cause yellow leaves is bacterial leaf spots. However, your Philodendron’s leaves will also have a notable presence of brown spots dotted around the yellow and green leaves.
Next Steps: How to Treat Your Philodendron for Pests and Diseases
Once you have confirmed the existence of a pest or disease, the treatment is relatively straightforward.
- For pests, a commercial insecticide is usually the best form of treatment. If you prefer to avoid chemical solutions, try using some natural remedies that include Dawn Dish Soap, water, and vinegar.
- For diseases, a fungicide will help to treat your sick Philodendron. Multiple applications a few days apart are sometimes required to ensure you have treated the entire plant.
What to do with the Yellow Philodendron Leaves?
Okay, here is the bad news. Once a leaf turns yellow, it will not return to its original color.
The best solution is to remove all the yellow leaves on your Philodendron. Especially if you suspect the yellow leaves developed due to disease.
DO NOT compost your yellow leaves – otherwise, you risk spreading the disease to the organic material in the compost and other plants in your garden.
If you are like us, and the presence of a yellow leaf on your Philodendron irks you, the best way forward is to take a proactive approach and understand what you can do to PREVENT it from happening.
This is precisely what we are going to discuss in the following section.
Methods to Prevent Yellowing of Leaves on Philodendrons
Obviously, the best way to prevent your Philodendron yellow leaves from developing is to work out ways to combat the primary causes (identified above). Here are our recommended ways to avoid each cause:
- Overwatering / Underwatering – mastering your watering technique and schedule is something every plant parent must perfect to achieve a thriving indoor plant collection. One technique we wished we had learned at the beginning was the soil moisture finger test (you can read about it HERE). It would have saved countless hours and frustration along our parenting journey.
- Inadequate Humidity – to achieve the perfect humidity for your philodendrons, experiment with the techniques we identified earlier for increasing the ambient moisture levels. This includes employing humidity trays, grouping plants, and avoiding strong drafts.
- Inappropriate Light – Trial and error is the only way you will achieve the perfect lighting conditions for your Philodendron. If you are worried about intense light, try filtering the light with a sheen cloth. Alternatively, if you need to boost light, grow lights may be your solution in darker periods of the year, like Winter.
- Pest and Diseases – strangely, the best way to ward off pests and diseases is to correct all of the above recommendations. A healthy philodendron will be the best protection from pest attacks and infections.
- Photosynthesis. (2023, April 14). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis