Philodendron Yellow Leaves? Here’s How To Fix It

Philodendrons are easily some of the most popular houseplants around. And they have held that title for many, many years.

One of the main reasons the philodendron has made its way into so many homes is its low-maintenance personality. Sadly, these plants aren’t entirely impervious to stress, disease, and other issues.

The most common problem encountered by philodendron owners is yellowing leaves. In my experience, this unsightly symptom is generally easy to treat. It’s the narrowing down of a diagnosis that can be the tricky part.

Here is all you need to know about the possible reasons why your philodendron may be producing yellow leaves, and the steps you should take to return your houseplant to perfect health.

Why Does My Philodendron Have Yellow Leaves?

With the exception of some of the more unique varieties like ‘Lemon Lime’, yellow leaves on a Philodendron are a sign of stress or disease.

A singular yellow leaf is nothing to worry about as the leaf could have been damaged or just reached the end of its lifespan.

But, if your philodendron’s leaves continue to turn yellow, or new foliage fails to turn green in the first place, then you likely have a bigger problem on your hands.

Philodendron Yellow Leaves

With so many potential causes of yellowing leaves, it’s important to pay attention to how your Philodendron foliage changes.

Leaves may become yellow all at once. You might also notice that the yellowing starts at the leaves’ edges — called margins — and works its way toward the center of the leaf.

Leaves that turn yellow while the veins remain bright green (or vice-versa) are very distinctive and often easier to diagnose than general yellowing. The same is true of leaves with yellow spots.

Yellow Leaves With Brown Tips

Philodendron leaves that turn yellow and develop brown tips are usually the result of environmental stressors.

Too much sunlight can cause heat stress or physically burn philodendron foliage. This generally happens when the plant is moved to a sunnier location without an adjustment period.

Cold damage can also materialize as brown, yellowing leaves. Bring potted philodendrons indoors when temperatures are forecast to drop and avoid placing plants directly next to drafty windows.

Nutritional causes of yellow leaves with brown tips include fertilizer burn and potassium deficiency.

Yellow Leaves And Brown Spots

A philodendron with yellow, brown-spotted leaves likely has a case of leaf spot. This disease is very common in philodendrons and other tropical houseplants.

Leaf spot disease can be caused by bacteria or fungi. While both varieties cause brown spots, bacterial leaf spot disease is far more likely to cause yellow leaves too.

If you suspect that leaf spot disease is to blame for your philodendron’s discolored foliage, your first step should be to quarantine the plant away from all others. Leaf spot disease is very contagious — consider treating nearby plants preemptively in case it has already spread.

Leaf spot disease caught early enough can be contained and cured. But to prevent it from coming back, you’ll need to address the root cause.

Ensure your philodendron’s container has adequate drainage. Repot the plant if necessary. Also, avoid watering from above the plant in the future. Water that collects on the leaves is a breeding ground for leaf spot bacteria and fungi.

Philodendron Leaves Yellow And Curling

Philodendron leaves curl when the environment is too dry. If your home’s humidity levels are particularly low, you may need to offset them by watering or misting your philodendron more frequently.

Another potential cause of yellowing and curling leaves is exposure to cold air.

A bit of detective work should reveal if your philodendron is too cold: Is the plant set directly under an AC unit? Or is it adjacent to a poorly insulated door or window? If only some of the leaves are curling, you can more easily narrow down the source of the cold air.

Philodendron Leaves Yellow And Drooping

Philodendron leaves that have sped right past curling and gone straight to drooping are the result of either severe dehydration or extreme overwatering.

While the symptom is the same, the potential causes are dramatically different.

The best way to diagnose this type of leaf discoloration is by taking a look at the plant’s environment and care routine. Consider how often you water your philodendron and check moisture levels in the soil.

Causes Of Philodendron Yellow Leaves And How To Fix

When a philodendron’s leaves turn yellow, you can normally pin the blame on practices like overwatering, underwatering, or using too much fertilizer. Discolored foliage could also be caused by the environment — e.g., poor soil quality, dry air, or excess sunlight.

Diagnosing and treating the cause of your philodendron’s yellow foliage is only the first step. But with a bit of patience (and some light pruning) there’s a very good chance your philodendron will return to its former glory.

Overwater Or Underwatering

Overwatering is one of the worst things you can do to a houseplant. If your philodendron’s leaves are turning yellow, I recommend examining your watering practices before anything else.

When a potted plant is overwatered, it can no longer take up enough oxygen. If the soil remains too wet for too long, the plant will essentially drown. Water-logged soil means that there is no room for oxygen to circulate and roots become saturated with water.

Underwatering a philodendron can also result in yellow foliage. As I mentioned above, however, this issue is usually accompanied by symptoms like dry or curling leaves.

How Often And When To Water Philodendron

On average, indoor philodendron plants should be watered every one to two weeks.

For the best results, don’t rely on the calendar to determine when to water your philodendron. Instead, monitor the soil and water when the top half is dry.

It’s better to water philodendrons less frequently while fully saturating the soil than to add only a little water at a time.

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Philodendrons are famous for their ability to thrive in low light. This makes the plants ideal for most households. But it also means they are at particularly high risk of sunburn.

If your philodendron is receiving too much sunlight, the leaves will be the first to show it. More specifically, you’ll notice yellowing or browning in the leaves closest to the light source.

Nothing can be done for philodendron leaves that have already been damaged by the sun. Once the plant is relocated to a less sunny location, however, new damage will stop occurring.

Low Humidity

Most philodendron varieties prefer humidity levels between 65 and 80%. These levels mimic the plant’s natural rainforest habitat.

Since average household humidity tends to sit anywhere between 30 and 60% — humidity is largely dependent on geographical region and time of the year — low humidity is a common concern for philodendron enthusiasts.

Philodendrons suffering from stress caused by low humidity will appear droopy. Leaves will begin to brown along the edges and subsequently, leaves will turn completely yellow.

Before taking steps to boost humidity around the plant, I suggest testing the air with a hygrometer. Whilst not essential, this is a great tool for anyone who keeps tropical houseplants to have on hand.

Do Philodendron Like To Be Misted?

Yes, but only if humidity levels are not to your philodendron’s liking.

If your philodendron shows signs of insufficient humidity (beginning with brown leaf edges that quickly lead to totally yellow leaves), then misting may not be enough to solve the problem. Personally, I find that setting up a household humidifier near your philodendron works much better.

Not only will a humidifier deliver more consistent moisture than a handheld spray bottle, but it will also minimize the amount of water that comes into contact with your philodendron’s foliage.

Over-Fertilizing

Overzealous fertilization will hurt your philodendron, rather than encourage healthy growth. Yellow leaves are one of the most obvious signs of over-fertilization.

Using a high strength N-P-K such as a 20-20-20 fertilizer, fertilizing too often, or using a granular formula that remains present in the soil for an extended period of time can all lead to this problem.

A clear indication of over-fertilization is salt build-up. This is a hard, white crust that forms on the top of the soil’s surface. This crust is most visible when the soil is dry.

If you think your philodendron has been over-fertilized, you should flush out excess nutrients by running clean water through the container. From there, re-examine your fertilization schedule and the type of fertilizer you use.

Obviously, over-fertilizing should be avoided. But watch for signs that your philodendron is not receiving enough nutrients, such as slow growth or foliage that is smaller than previous leaves.

New leaves that are pale green or yellow in color and that don’t transition to a rich green can be a sign of under-fertilization.

How Often To Fertilize Philodendron

Most potted philodendrons perform best when fertilized monthly throughout the growing season.

During late fall and winter, you can decrease fertilization to approximately every two months or cease fertilizing altogether (if your philodendron shows no signs of nutrient deficiencies).

Soil Conditions

Philodendron should be planted in lightweight potting soil. A good rule of thumb is to select a soil mix with high levels of organic matter.

The biggest impact your philodendron’s soil quality will have is on drainage. Poor drainage is frequently the true culprit when gardeners believe that they are overwatering their houseplants!

Yellow Leaves After Propagating A Philodendron

If the leaves of your philodendron cutting are turning yellow, I have one question: are you rooting the cutting in a cup of water?

Rooting philodendron cuttings in water is definitely possible — many gardeners use this method with great success. However, it can increase the odds of nutrient deficiencies in the new plant.

Yellow leaves may appear after propagation if the cutting fails to put out roots in a timely manner. Again, the true cause of the yellowing is probably a lack of one or more key nutrients.

As for yellow leaves appearing on the mother plant following propagation, it’s likely a coincidence. Taking cuttings from a philodendron shouldn’t impact overall foliage health.

Yellow Leaves After Re-Potting A Philodendron

While necessary, repotting is one of the most stress-inducing things you can do to a houseplant. So don’t be surprised if your philodendron leaves turn slightly yellow following this process.

You can minimize the stress of repotting (and lower the chances of your philodendron turning yellow) by ensuring the new container has proper drainage and placing the container in a similar location as the previous one.

Give your philodendron one to two weeks to adjust to its new home. You may want to forego fertilizer while the plant adapts to its changing environment.

How And When To Prune A Philodendron

While pruning is a great way to get rid of unsightly yellow leaves, it can also be used to manage your philodendron’s size and shape. I recommend performing any dramatic pruning during the spring when your plant is out of winter dormancy and fired up to grow.

As always, prune your philodendron with sharp, sterile shears or a clean knife or pair of scissors. Doing so will prevent the spread of any potential diseases that may be present on one part of the plant.

Cut leaves where they meet the stem. Stems that contain many yellow leaves may be best removed entirely. Prune primary stems at the soil level.

If possible, avoid removing leaves when the plant is under stress — e.g., immediately after transplanting.

Removing Yellow Leaves from Philodendron

Removing yellow leaves from your philodendron is 100% safe. It may even benefit the plant by conserving resources for newer, healthier growth.

Damaged leaves can be removed during any time of the year.

If yellow leaves are not removed, they will eventually fall off on their own. Particularly damaged leaves may be removed with little more than a pinch of the fingers.

Pruning Philodendron Yellow Leaves

The large leaves of upright philodendron varieties can sometimes be trimmed rather than completely removed. This technique is most effective when only the tip or margins of a leaf have turned yellow.

Using clean shears or a knife, cut away the yellow or brown parts of the leaf. Preserve as much of the healthy green leaf tissue as possible.

Be aware that trimmed leaves may not be as attractive as their intact counterparts. So, you might be wondering, what’s the point of this method in the first place?

Plants need green leaf tissue to perform photosynthesis. In some cases, especially in young plants with fewer leaves, completely removing partially yellow foliage would leave the plant without enough chlorophyll to soak up the sun.

Leaves that are predominantly yellow can be removed outright. As your philodendron puts out new, healthy leaves, trimmed ones can be removed as well.

Final Thoughts On Philodendron Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves are an unavoidable part of cultivating philodendrons. More often than not, yellow foliage is just a natural progression of growth. The leaves have done their job and are now dying off to be replaced with new ones.

If you feel that your philodendron features more yellow foliage than normal, don’t panic. I recommend double-checking for signs of leaf spot disease, then using the process of elimination to determine which environmental factors might be to blame.

With a refined care regimen and a bit of pruning, your philodendron should be back to its lush, green self in no time!

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