4 Reasons Why Your Orchid Stem Is Turning Yellow

Orchids are beautiful and exotic flowers that can be a wonderful addition to any home. However, orchids require specific care to thrive. One common issue orchid owners face is yellowing of the orchid stems. There are a few key reasons why an orchid stem may start to turn yellow.


One of the most common reasons for yellow orchid stems is overwatering. Orchids prefer a wet-dry watering cycle, meaning they should dry out moderately between waterings. If the potting mix remains soggy for too long, the orchid roots can start to rot. This root rot prevents the plant from taking up water properly. As a result, the leaves and stems will start to turn yellow.

To remedy overwatering, allow the potting mix to dry out completely before watering again. Water once the mix turns dry and silver in color. Providing good drainage by potting in orchid bark also prevents waterlogging. Cut off any severely rotted or mushy roots before repotting in fresh orchid mix.

Insufficient Light

Orchids thrive in bright, indirect light. Lack of adequate sunlight will cause the leaves and stems to appear pale, limp, or yellowing. Place the orchid near an east or south facing window where it gets plenty bright light without direct afternoon sun. Some direct sun in the morning is acceptable.

Supplement with artificial lighting if natural light is insufficient. Use full spectrum or grow lights for 12-14 hours daily. Slowly acclimate the orchid to increased light levels over 2-3 weeks to prevent leaf scorching. The vibrant green return of leaves indicates proper lighting.

Nutrient Deficiency

While orchids are adapted to low nutrient environments, severe deficiency can still cause yellowing. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and iron are particularly important for preventing yellow leaves. Use a balanced orchid fertilizer at 25-50% strength every 2-4 weeks during active growth.

Slow release fertilizer pellets can provide a constant low dose of nutrients too. Avoid overfertilizing which leads to fertilizer burn. Flushing the pot once a month prevents buildup of excess salts.

Pseudobulb Dehydration

The swollen pseudobulbs of orchids store water and energy reserves. If the pseudobulb starts to shrivel and yellow, it indicates dehydration. Causes include underwatering, low humidity, or root damage.

Immediately increase watering frequency and amount to rehydrate the orchid. Misting and pebble trays can also boost moisture levels. Remove any desiccated pseudobulbs by cutting above the node. New growths may emerge from dormant eyes. Support the plant with stakes until reestablished.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I fix an orchid with yellow leaves and stems?

Identify and correct the underlying issue, whether it is overwatering, insufficient light, low nutrients, or dehydration. Increase water and humidity for a dehydrated plant. Move to a brighter location if light is lacking. Use fertilizer for nutrient deficiency. Allow the potting mix to dry out completely between waterings to prevent rot from overwatering. Remove damaged roots or pseudobulbs.

Why is my orchid turning yellow after flowering?

It is normal for the flowers to fade and fall off after blooming. However, yellowing of leaves and stems afterward can indicate the plant expended all its energy on flowering. Provide optimal care with enough light, water, and fertilizer to help it recover. The pseudobulbs should plump up again with time.

How much light does an orchid need to prevent yellowing?

Orchids require 1000-1500 FC of bright, filtered light daily. An east or south facing window is ideal. Supplement with artificial light if sunlight is inadequate. Slowly increase light levels over a few weeks to acclimate the plant.

Should I cut off yellow orchid leaves?

Remove only severely yellow or dying leaves by cutting at the base. As long as the leaf is still partially green, it can recover with proper care. Too much trimming can further stress the plant. However, cutting off rotted roots and pseudobulbs is advised to stop the spread of infection.

When should I water an orchid to prevent yellowing?

Water orchids just as the potting mix becomes dry. The frequency depends on factors like temperature, humidity, light levels, and potting medium. Orchids prefer a wet-dry cycle, so don’t allow the potting mix to remain soggy. Wait until the mix turns dry and silver before watering again.


Yellowing of orchid stems is generally indicative of improper growing conditions. With some attentive care and corrective measures, an orchid with yellow leaves can often make a full recovery. Be sure to identify and address the underlying issue, whether environmental, cultural, or pest related. With the right adjustments to lighting, watering, humidity and nutrients, the orchid’s foliage should return to a vibrant green. Seek immediate help from an orchid specialist if the causes remain unclear or problems persist despite treatment. With a little patience and TLC, ailing orchids usually bounce back surprisingly well.