Why Is My Philodendron Turning Yellow? (3 Likely Culprits)

The large impressive leaves of most philodendron varieties are the first thing you notice. This family of plants adapted to make the most of all available light filtering through the forest canopy, and their ability to thrive indoors has made them popular houseplants. When a philodendron starts turning yellow, it is a clear signal that something is wrong.

Philodendron turning yellow typically results from inadequate light, insufficient magnesium, or overwatering. However, there are other possible reasons too – including the natural aging of older leaves, underwatering, and sunburn. Philodendrons are tropical plants and require nutrient-rich, fast-draining soil to remain healthy.

No matter what variety of philodendron you have, you want it to look healthy, so if it starts turning yellow, quick action might be required to restore its gorgeous healthy green color. Let’s explore the most likely causes and what to do to remedy the situation.

Why Is My Philodendron Turning Yellow?

Browning Philodendron

The yellowing of leaves, called chlorosis, signifies that some aspect of a plant’s environment needs attention. The condition refers to a reduction in the amount of chlorophyll that the plant is able to produce.

Chlorophyll is responsible for the green tone in leaves and allows plants to absorb energy from light. If something disrupts chlorophyll production in the plant, the color fades, and it will start to turn yellow.

Philodendrons usually have large leaves because they are tropical plants that evolved to thrive below a leafy forest roof. They spread out their big leaves to have the best chance to absorb the available dappled light filtering through to the ground from the canopy above.

When assessing what the problem could be, look at the patterning of the yellow leaves. If it is apparent on all the leaves, the cause is probably nutrient or water-related. If only a few of the leaves are yellowing, the reason may be environmental, like too much direct sunlight burning some of the leaves. If the older lower leaves are turning yellow, it may just be natural aging as they make way for new growth above.

Before starting the investigation process about why your philodendron is becoming yellow, ensure that you know what variety you have. There are many variations, and some types have a naturally yellow tinge or even yellow patterns in their leaves. The philodendron Moonlight and Philodendron Brasil are good examples of this color variation, and healthy leaves are naturally vibrant shades of lime and yellow.

If you have a philodendron that was previously healthy, take a look at the following factors, which are the usual culprits for yellowing in philodendron plants:

  • Incorrect light
  • Lack of magnesium
  • Watering issues – either too much or too little.

Fortunately, philodendrons aren’t too demanding about their care, and you don’t need to be a plant expert to figure out why the plant is turning yellow. 

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Incorrect Light As A Cause For Yellowing Philodendron Leaves

Most varieties of philodendrons can tolerate low-light conditions. However, they do need sufficient light to photosynthesize. Alternatively, too much light can also cause havoc as the large green leaves can quickly burn. The best light for philodendrons is plenty of indirect light.

A philodendron that is not getting enough light will cope for a while but will gradually begin to decline. The color in the leaves will fade as the plant struggles to make energy.

However, too much direct sun on the giant, waxy leaves can burn them. Too much sun can usually quickly be diagnosed. Sunburnt leaves will be particularly noticeable on the top leaves that face the source of the sunlight. The foliage on the other side of the plant, or lower down, might show less yellowing and damage.

Remain observant and note how much direct sun your plant is getting. If your plant is positioned near a window, the amount of sunlight might change as the seasons change. A plant that might have received no direct sun during the summer months may be in full sunlight during winter.

Hanging a sun filtering curtain is an excellent way to ensure that your philodendron can receive enough light without burning, no matter the season.

Philodendron Turning Yellow

Lack Of Magnesium Can Cause Philodendron Leaves To Yellow

To keep a philodendron in tip-top condition isn’t difficult. So long as it is planted in a suitable medium and fertilized regularly with a houseplant or time-release fertilizer, it will reward you with impressive growth and lovely healthy color.

While any imbalance in the plant’s soil may cause the leaves to become yellow, one of the most common problems in Philodendron plants is a lack of magnesium. This micro-nutrient would occur in abundance on a forest floor due to the decomposition of leaves.

Fortunately, this is easy to rectify in a home pot-plant setting. Adding a layer of nutrient-rich compost around the plant’s base will help to keep moisture in the soil and mimic the natural forest floor conditions.

It is also possible to give your philodendron a fast burst of magnesium using Epsom salts. Mix one teaspoon of Epsom salts with a gallon of clean water. If possible, use rainwater or distilled water. Then drench the soil. Ensure the drainage holes under the pot are open, so excess water runs through.

If you decide to try this remedy, do not overdose the plant – if the concentration is too strong, salts can build up in the soil and burn the roots. It is also essential to only add the additional magnesium feed to the ground without splashing it on the leaves or stem of the plant.  

Read more: How Often To Water Philodendron (Effective Tips To Protect Your Plant)

Philodendron Leaves Can Turn Yellow Because Of Incorrect Watering

The most common problem for most houseplants is too much or too little water. Even though philodendrons are very easy to care for, they need to be watered enough to remain hydrated, but not so much that they develop root fungus.

  • Underwatering. Philodendrons are not drought resistant. If they don’t get enough water, it quickly becomes evident in dry, limp, unhealthy-looking leaves. However, it is still better to err on the side of underwatering because overwatering can rapidly become fatal.

A plant that has dried out a bit can usually be saved by drenching, but diseases caused by soggy, waterlogged soil are hard to beat. Add water to a philodendron plant whenever the top couple of inches of the soil feels thoroughly dry.

  • Overwatering – One of the top reasons that will cause a Philodendron to turn yellow is overwatering. These plants are surprisingly sensitive to getting too much water.

Plant owners who maintain a strict watering schedule are often surprised to find that their plants are getting too much moisture. The buildup often isn’t because of the amount of water being added but rather because of other factors in the plant’s environment.

Philodendron Turning Yellow

When a philodendron starts showing signs like yellowing leaves, a few things need to be checked.

  • Is the plant’s soil airy and loose? Philodendrons do well in moist soil, but they must never be waterlogged. Add a good mix of rough compost like pine bark to add some texture and improve drainage.
  • Are the drainage holes open? Excess water should drain freely through the pot’s base every time the plant is watered. Check that there are no obstructions to this process. Sometimes, the plant’s roots can cover the holes, signaling that it may need to be moved to a bigger pot.

Inside plants often stand on saucers to protect the surface the plant is standing on. Ensure that the pot’s base is not standing in a layer of water. Although having a pebble tray below your plant can assist with adding humidity if the air is too dry, the pot must always be raised above it, so excess water drains out quickly.

  • Are the roots mushy or slimy? It may seem a little drastic to remove the plant from the pot, but if there is no other explanation for your philodendron turning yellow, it is worth checking.

Sometimes when the soil around the roots of a plant remains waterlogged for too long, the dreaded root rot fungus sets in. The color drains from the leaves as the plant slowly rots from the roots. This condition kills roots and robs the plant of the ability to move nutrients from the soil to the leaves.

Check the roots of your philodendron by carefully removing the plant from the soil. Try not to damage the roots and ease them out by gently tipping the container or using a small garden tool to lift the roots from below. Roots affected by root rot will be mushy or slimy. They may fall off on contact. Healthy roots will have a firm, solid texture. 

If your plant has root rot, the prognosis is poor. If enough healthy roots can be saved, you may be able to save your philodendron. However, identification and swift action are the first steps in treatment.

Treating root rot requires several steps, including removing the affected sections, treating the remaining roots with a fungicide, and changing the soil.

Conclusion on Philodendron Turning Yellow

Philodendrons are popular and easy to care for houseplants. Many factors can cause yellowing of the leaves, but the most common reasons are insufficient light, lack of magnesium, and overwatering.