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The Top Five Reasons Your Philodendron's Leaves are Turning Yellow

Posted on May 21 2021

The Top Five Reasons Your Philodendron's Leaves are Turning Yellow

A yellow Philodendron can make you anything but mellow, especially after entering the google vortex where “everything” is the problem. Take a few deep breaths and examine your plant’s current situation. See the need for changes? Make them slowly and one-at-a-time, so you clearly diagnose the problem. So, let’s get to it: Why are your Philodendron’s leaves yellowing?


The #1 Reason Your Philodendron Leaves Are Yellowing

Are you ready for this? Improper soil moisture. Why is it so vital? Moisture levels in the soil determine the oxygen and nutrients your plant’s root system is soaking in. Too little or too much water cuts off the healthy supply to both, resulting in “chlorosis” (yellowing). The solution?


Maintaining healthy levels of soil moisture involves more than just the watering can. To diagnose where you may be going wrong, reexamine your Philodendron’s current environment:


Finding the Perfect Size Container

In the world of pots, bigger is not better. A container that is too large for your plant’s root system will cause ‘waterlogging’ (aka wet feet). What are the dangers? Yellow leaves and eventual root rot, which can result in your Philodendron’s death. 


You should plant your Philodendron in a pot that’s 1-2 inches larger than the root system. Don’t be fooled by those luxuriously large leaves: Many Philodendron’s root systems are smaller than you would imagine. So take an honest evaluation of the roots. 


Does it look like your Philodendron is wearing “small pants”? If the leaf-to-pot ratio seems off to you, plant your Philodendron in a nursery pot and place it in a larger cover pot.


Picking a Container with Drainage

Let’s be honest: Can you plant your Philodendron in a container without holes? Yes. Will it survive? If you’re very careful, probably. Is it the best bet for a healthy, lush plant? Nope. If you want to prevent yellowing leaves, choose a container with ample drainage. That means at least one adequately sized hole per 1 gallon of soil.


Are you bent on making a success of your drainage-free pot? While we don’t recommend it, here are a few hacks to minimize leaf yellowing: (1) Water your Philodendron less frequently. (2) After you water, gently place the pot horizontally for 20 minutes (flipping sides at the halfway point). This will let some excess water drain and saturate the soil more evenly.

Selecting Soil

Philodendrons require fast-draining soil. Their roots will quickly become damaged in wet, muddy potting mix, resulting in yellow leaves. Why? In the wild, many Philodendrons are epiphytes for most (if not all) of their lives. What does this mean? They aren’t your traditional ground-growing plant. Instead, they grow on the bark of tropical trees! So what’s the solution? Modify a conventional potting mix with extra perlite and orchid bark. Are you looking for some additional how-to tips? Check out our blog!

Watch Your Watering Frequency

Now we get to the most obvious culprit: water. How frequently should you water your Philodendron? When the first 2 inches of soil is dry and crumbly. How often will that happen? The answer to that question depends mainly on your environment. On average, every 1-2 weeks.


The biggest danger is overwatering your Philodendron, which will result in overall yellowing and leaf drop. Routine underwatering will cause leaf edges to brown and the oldest, bottom foliage to yellow and drop. It’s much easier for your plant to recover from an underwatering here-and-there, so if you’re ever unsure, don’t water. Little (to no) harm will come to your plant if you wait a day or two.

Factors that Determine Watering Frequency

Temperature

Philodendrons require temperatures that range from 65-80 degrees. Plants that are kept in lower temperatures need less frequent watering. (Remember always to keep your leafy friend away from drafty vents!) 

Humidity

If you employ a humidifier, your Philodendron’s soil will not need to be watered as often. No humidifier? Environments that lack humidity will evaporate moisture from the dirt, which means you’ll need to amp up your watering routine.

Light

Generally speaking, Philodendrons require bright indirect light to thrive. Plants in these conditions will need to be watered more frequently (light = evaporation!) than those placed in low-light conditions.

Season

Philodendrons require the first 2 inches of soil to dry out during their growth period (Spring-Summer). If a new leaf is developing, keep a close eye on the soil’s moisture levels! All that hard work can make a plant thirsty. During the winter months, you should allow the soil to dry out further.


Reason #2: Lighting

Whether it be too much or too little, lighting can also cause your Philodendron’s leaves to turn yellow. What will it look like?


Low Light: Bottom leaves will gradually yellow.

High Light: Leaves will yellow and also appear bleached, with patches of sunburn.


Ideally, you should provide your Philodendron with bright indirect light. Place it out of the direct path of a South-facing window or in a window with a sheer curtain. Are you still trying to figure out the window placement in your home? We have an article for that!


Reason #3: Temperature

Your Philodendron requires temperatures ranging from 65-70 degrees at night and 75-80 degrees during the day. Temperatures that are too chilly will cause your plant’s leaves to yellow. Keep your Philodendron away from AC vents. If you’ve given your plant an outdoor “summer vacation,” make sure to bring it indoors if temperatures make an unexpected dip.


Reason #4: Pests

Many common houseplant pests feed on pigment found in the leaves, which leads to yellow spotting. This means: it may be time for a pest check! Inspect the backs of your plant’s leaves. What are you looking for? Two bugs in particular: Spider mites and Mealybugs. 


Spider mites leave a delicate webbing with white pen-dot-sized eggs on the fronts and backs of leaves. Mealybugs are small, mobile, fluffy critters but usually easy to spot. How do you treat your infestation?


  1. Quarantine your plant. (You don’t want an epidemic on your hands!)
  2. Spray leaf fronts and backs with Neem Oil or another natural insecticide.
  3. Carefully wipe the leaves with a soft, microfiber cloth.
  4. Keep your plant in a humid environment, away from other plants.
  5. Regularly inspect and re-treat as needed.


Reason #5: Nutrients

Most varieties of Philodendron should be fertilized once a month during the growing season. If you’ve kept up this routine, this is definitely not your issue. A lack of nutrients in the soil will lead to your Philodendron’s leaves turning prematurely yellow


What if you’ve never fertilized? And haven’t repotted your plant for a year or two? Well, that means it’s overdue. Start a healthy fertilizer regimen and stick to it. Are you thinking of repotting? Remember, you should wait 1-2 months before fertilizing a newly repotted plant. Why? Your Philodendron needs time to root, plus the new soil already has the nutrients your plant needs.


Getting Rid of Your Philodendron’s Yellow Leaves

Sadly, once a leaf has yellowed, there’s no going back. Instead of letting it kill your jungle house vibe, safely remove the unsightly leaves with sterile scissors.


Vining Philodendrons: Snip the leaf off directly from the vine.

Upright Philodendrons: Snip the leaf off as close to the “trunk” as possible.


Remember, Philodendrons are listed as toxic and can cause skin irritation. Wear gloves when pruning or wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face.

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