11 Reasons for Houseplant Leaves Turning Yellow with Solutions

Are yellowing leaves of houseplants the cause of your sleepless nights? This article discusses the causes of houseplant leaves turning yellow and what you can do about it!

Whenever we see our houseplant leaves turning yellow, it’s a cause of concern as leaves denote the well-being of the houseplant. If the houseplant leaves turn yellow, it indicates the plant is under stress. Various causes include overwatering, underwatering, too much sunlight, or too little light. Let’s discuss all such causes that lead to the houseplant leaves turning yellow and what we can do about it.

1. Overwatering

Leaves turned yellow due to overwatering and root rot

Overwatering is the leading cause of houseplant leaves turning yellow, especially among novice gardeners. More is always better does not work for a watering houseplant. Overwatering makes the soil soggy, which in turn causes root rot and reflects as yellowing houseplant leaves. Make sure to do some research on the watering needs of the plant and water accordingly. A general rule of thumb is to water only when the soil becomes dry a couple of inches below the surface.


  1. Cut back watering entirely and move the pot to a shaded spot.
  2. Cut back the dead and decaying leaves and the leaves that have completely turned yellow. If the health of the houseplant does not improve, take out the plant and check if there is root rot.
  3. Cut back the dead and dying roots and repot in a well-draining potting medium.
  4. Wait for a couple of weeks before resuming watering. You can also treat the plant with a fungicide to improve the chances of the successful revival of the houseplant.

2. Underwatering

Leaves turned yellow due to underwatering

Another common reason for the leaves turning yellow is underwatering! Dry soil, brown tips, wilting, and yellowing leaves show that the houseplant is underwatered. Underwatering is even more fatal in summers when the soil dries quickly. So, it’s essential to stick to the watering schedule to keep plants healthy. If you cannot water plants due to a busy schedule or forgetful nature, choose houseplants with low watering needs, such as snake plants and succulents.

Solution: Revive the plant by watering it as soon as possible and soaking the houseplant in water for a few hours. Keep the soil consistently moist and move the houseplant to a shaded spot. Misting around the plant will also help significantly in dry conditions.

3. Lack of Light

houseplant in sunlight indoors

Sunlight plays a crucial role in the overall well-being of the houseplant. The lower leaves of the plant will turn yellow first when the plant does not receive enough sunlight. Also, if the leaves turn yellow from the side farther away from the direction of light, it means that one side isn’t receiving proper sunlight. It generally happens when you place the houseplant near a window.

Solution: Locate the houseplant where it receives plenty of sunlight, such as a balcony, porch, or nearby well-lit window. Rotate the houseplant once or twice weekly so that all sides receive natural light. In the absence of natural light, installing artificial light can work.

4. Deficiency of Nutrients

Fertilizing houseplant

When the potting soil lacks nutrients, especially nitrogen, the leaves might turn yellow. In case of nutrient deficiency, the top leaves may turn yellow first, with newer leaves emerging unnaturally light. In magnesium deficiency, usually, the veins remain green, and patches of yellow form between the veins, whereas yellow edges can be due to potassium deficiency. Iron deficiency in houseplants causes yellowing of the tips of the foliage.

Solution: Fertilize once or twice a month using a well-balanced houseplant fertilizer that contains all nutrients that houseplants need. Adding aged compost to the potting mix is a natural way to increase nutrient availability and organic matter.

5. Unsuitable Water

Watering indoor houseplants

Water used for watering houseplants can cause yellowing of leaves if it’s not suitable for houseplants. You can use hard water, but if it has a very high concentration of magnesium and calcium, which can lead to a buildup of calcium and yellowing of leaves. Soft water isn’t suitable either as it causes a buildup of sodium in the soil, which causes a problem for houseplants. Tap water is your best bet for houseplants, whereas, for delicate houseplants, reverse osmosis is ideal.

Solution: Use tap water or reverse osmosis for watering houseplants to prevent buildup. You can also use hard water but not for delicate houseplants or houseplants that are acid-loving.

6. Improper Container

A container or pot also plays a vital role in the overall health of the houseplant. A container without drainage holes at the bottom tends to turn potting mix soggy, which leads to root rot and yellow foliage. Also, the small container size leads to houseplants running out of space, reflecting on the foliage. Roots from drainage holes at the bottom indicate that the houseplant has outgrown the container.

Solution: Make sure the container has drainage holes at the bottom; if not, drill some. Repot the houseplant to a bigger container periodically, depending on the growth rate.

7. Pest Problem

pest on foliage

Common pests such as aphids, mites, spider mites, and thrips can wreak havoc on the houseplant. These garden pests multiply quickly and cause damage to the leaves, which appear in the form of holes and yellow spots. Not only are these spots ugly they also affect the health of the plant. Some pests can even cause damage to the roots of the houseplants.

Solution: Treat the houseplants with neem or soap solution to get rid of the pests quickly and effectively. Do not forget to check the undersides of the foliage, as this is where pests lurk.

8. Viral Infection

Yellow rings, necrotic spots over the foliage, stunted growth, and discolored flowers are some tell-tale signs of viral infection in houseplants. Mosaic and mottling patterns over foliage and distorted stems accompanied by wilting indicate a viral infection. The virus can spread to other houseplants through tools, hands, and pests such as aphids, thrips, and mites.

Solution: There is no cure for viral infection, so discarding the houseplant that shows signs of viral disease is essential. Disinfecting gardening tools and pots keep the virus from spreading to other houseplants.

9. Cold Draft of Wind

houseplant near open window cold draft of wind

A cold draft of wind can also cause premature yellowing of leaves. Be it a cold draft of wind from the air conditioner vent in summers or drafty widows in winters, both can adversely affect the plant’s health.

Solution: Make sure to locate the houseplant where it’s not in the way of the cold draft of wind.

10. Dormancy

dormant houseplant indoor

Many houseplants go through the dormancy stage from late fall throughout the winter. During dormancy, it’s normal for the foliage to turn yellow and fall. There is no need to worry as the houseplant will bounce back once winters are over.

Solution: During dormancy, do not feed the houseplant and cut back watering to a bare minimum. When the houseplant comes out of dormancy, move it to a spot with bright indirect light, water thoroughly, and move outdoors only when there is no danger of frost.

11. Aging Leaves

aging houseplant after pruning

Aging is a normal part of the leaf cycle in which old leaves turn yellow and fall off. There is no need to worry if some old leaves turn yellow here and there. Prune back the yellow leaves if you find them unappealing, as it’ll redirect plants’ energy towards healthy growth.

Solution: This problem does not require a solution as aging is a normal part of houseplants’ life cycle. Cut back the dying leaves to improve the overall appearance of the houseplant.

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