They only play a minor role in the breathtaking appearance of orchids; Without healthy and vital leaves, however, the dreamlike bloom would be lost. All the more worrying when the leaves turn unnaturally discolored out of the blue and in large numbers. Ailing leaves can no longer fulfill their task of caring for orchid flowers. In order to save the exotic flower beauty now, there is an urgent need for action. Embark on an in-depth research into the causes of yellow or brown leaves on orchids. The following lines provide practical information about what helps.


  • Orchid family of plants (Orchidaceae)
  • More than 1,000 recognized species and 30,000 varieties
  • Native to the tropical and subtropical regions
  • Predominantly epiphytic (on other plants) or terrestrial (on earth) growing
  • Perennial, herbaceous flowering plants
  • Single or multiple shoots
  • Depending on the species with basal leaves or completely leafy shoots
  • Growth height up to 100 cm
  • Further name: orchid herbs

Both the number and the shape of the leaves on orchids vary. While some species produce a single leaf, the shoots of other orchids are covered with leaves. Every conceivable shape can be discovered, from egg-shaped to elliptical to oblong and circular.

Top premise: Don’t cut it off

Regardless of the actual cause, do not cut yellow or brown leaves under any circumstances. The risk of germs, bacteria or pests entering the orchids via the cut is too great. With regard to the health of your tropical beauty, you should accept the impairment of the appearance for some time. If the leaves are completely withered, they either fall off or can be plucked.

Tip: A large number of orchid species keep their leaves for a single season in order to be drawn in and shed at the end. With the beginning of the next growing season, another generation of leaves flourishes. A single, yellow or brown leaf can therefore be traced back to a natural growth process. It is only when there is an increased incidence of discoloration that there is cause for concern.

Common cause: waterlogging

Yellow discolored leaves on orchids are one of the most important symptoms of waterlogging. If the roots do not have a chance to dry out in the meantime, they become rotten and die. As a result, the supply of the leaves comes to a standstill until it comes to a complete standstill. The foliage turns yellow and is no longer able to supply the flower with water and nutrients.

That helps: repot and dip instead of watering

It takes too long for a completely wet substrate to dry. If the leaves are already turning yellow, repotting in fresh soil as soon as possible helps to modify the watering behavior afterwards. How to do it correctly:

  • Pot the orchid to shake off or rinse off the wet soil completely
  • Cut off rotten roots with disinfected, sharp scissors
  • Coarse orchid substrate on the bottom of the pot, e.g. B. pine bark, spread
  • Insert the flower into the substrate with a gentle twist
  • Fill the voids between the roots with pieces of bark that are pressed down with a wooden stick

No fertilizer is administered for the following 14 days and the water supply is limited to regular spraying. Then avoid the risk of waterlogging again by dipping the orchid in soft water every 2 weeks. If the roots are soaked, the excess water must be able to run off completely.

Frequent cause: nutrient deficiency due to excess calcium

Due to their tropical origin, the organism of orchids is adjusted to rainwater with little calcium. If the gardener does not pay attention to this and pours with hard tap water, an excess of lime builds up in the substrate within a short time. In a chain reaction, the lime determines valuable nutrients, such as iron. Regardless of a constant dose of fertilizer, the preparation does not get into the leaves, which then turn yellow and later die off in a brownish discoloration.

That helps: Use rainwater or decalcified tap water

Since soft water falls from the sky in our regions too, prudent orchid friends catch the rain to water their tropical flower queens. If that is not possible, the tap water is filtered or boiled. Decalcifying is easy with the help of peat. Put 1 liter of peat in a cotton sack and hang it in a watering can with water for 2 days.

Yellow leaves trigger: drought

If orchids suffer from drought, they initially take on a wrinkled, soft consistency. The foliage then turns yellow and then turns brown.

That helps: Dip and spray

If yellow or brown leaves on orchids can be traced back to drought, the solution to the problem is very simple. Fill a vessel with soft water at room temperature. The root ball is allowed to soak in water until no more air bubbles rise. When the previously shimmering whitish roots have turned a lush green color again, take the plant out and let the excess water run off. If you proceed in this way every one to two weeks, discolored leaves will be a thing of the past.
Likewise, too low humidity can lead to yellow leaves. Regular watering or immersion, especially during the heating season, does not cover the water requirement. The very dry air still makes the leaves yellow and brown. Therefore, spray the orchid daily with decalcified, lukewarm water.

Cause: sunburn

In order to develop their phenomenal bloom, orchids do not require direct sunlight. In their natural range, the flowers thrive high up on the trees to be close to daylight, but are shaded by the canopy of the rainforest giants. As a result, the blazing midday sun in particular has a counterproductive effect on the longed-for abundance of flowers. It is primarily the leaves that can get sunburned in the unsuitable location, after which they turn yellow or brown.

That helps: shade and fog

If the orchid foliage suffers from sunburn, the location should be changed immediately. Place the flower on the partially shaded windowsill on the west or east side of the house. It should be bright, but not full sun at noon. Pamper the troubled beauty every day with a lukewarm spray or set up a humidifier in the vicinity.

Initiates yellow leaves: overfertilization

The topic of nutrient supply takes up a lot of space in the correct care of orchids and requires a maximum of tact. Even though orchids cannot do without fertilizers entirely, the demand is low. Commercially available flower fertilizer is dosed far too high and therefore completely unsuitable. The high proportion of salt and nitrate slows down the roots, which manifests itself within a short time in the form of yellow and brown leaves.

That helps: repot and fertilize marginally

If the excessive use of fertilizer or the use of an unsuitable preparation has been found to trigger the yellow leaves, the first step is to repot the orchid. Examine the roots after potting. Cut off any black-brown strands that can be squeezed together like an empty tube. Pressure-resistant, white-yellow and green roots remain unaffected. Then rinse off the over-fertilized substrate thoroughly. When placed in fresh substrate, the stressed orchid is allowed to recover until the next season without fertilizer being administered. Only add a few drops of algae extract to the irrigation water or immersion water. Following the well-deserved pause in growth, this fertilization prevents yellow leaves:

  • During the growing season, add liquid fertilizer to the water with every 3rd watering
  • Apply fertilizer that has been diluted by 50 percent to weak-growing orchids
  • Never apply fertilizer to a dry orchid substrate
  • When the flowers are shed, the supply of nutrients ends

If in doubt, apply the smaller amount of fertilizer, effectively prevent yellow or brown leaves.

Tip: The risk of over-fertilization is reduced to a minimum by using a purely natural tonic, ‘Orchid Care’ from Neudorff. The ready-to-use preparation contains horsetail extract, guano, copper sulfate and worm humus for a harmless supply of nutrients to orchids.

Malefactors: mealybugs and mealybugs

Orchids have their sights set on a particularly insidious species of insect. Mealybugs and mealybugs suckle on the leaves and shoots. As if that weren’t enough, they also release toxins into the foliage during this nefarious drift. As a result, the leaves partially curl up, turn yellow, remain in growth and ultimately die.

That helps: fight pests biologically

Most of the mealybugs and mealybugs protect themselves with a white, cotton-wool-like protective shield that is easily visible to the naked eye. You should therefore check the orchids daily for an infestation by these pests. Because of their ability to produce young ones, the lice are capable of an explosive reproduction. Since the use of chemical insecticides is taboo in living rooms, the following biological control methods are available:

  • Dip cotton swabs in alcohol to dab individual specimens
  • Moisten a soft cloth with alcohol to wipe off the lice
  • Spray sensitive orchids with a mix of 1 liter of water and 15 ml of soft soap

Particularly sensitive orchids should not come into contact with alcohol or soft soap. Here you put an end to the pests by packing the flower in a plastic bag for 2-3 days. Because the mealybugs are cut off from oxygen in this way, they do not survive the procedure. Shower sturdy orchids with water upside down every day until no more pests are up to mischief.

Yellow or brown leaves on orchids indicate that the delicate flower beauty is out of whack. Do not panic cut off the discolored leaves, but go in search of the cause. Failures in care can be just as responsible for the deficiency as diseases or pests. Ideally, just follow the process of elimination until you find what you are looking for. With a little luck, the bottleneck in cultivation will be resolved quickly and the queen of flowers will once again be presented in all her glory.

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