Yellowing Calathea Leaves? Find Out the Causes

If you are growing calathea, you may have noticed that some leaves are turning yellow. This issue is common in calatheas and can happen for various reasons. The good news is that it can be cured by following some easy steps. Not only this, but you can prevent this problem from happening again if you follow the proper care protocol for this plant.

A calathea plant with a few yellow leaves

Calathea leaf yellowing is caused by a wide variety of factors. These include improper watering, fungal infections, inadequate light/temperature, overfeeding, and poor drainage.

This article will explore the various causes of calathea leaf yellowing and give practical solutions and preventive measures to avoid this problem.

Let’s get started!

Why do Calathea Leaves Turn Yellow?

Calathea leaves turn yellow for various reasons, including overwatering, dry soil, low humidity, and overfeeding. Additionally, some factors may indirectly contribute to calathea yellow leaves. These factors include drafts, watering with tap water, and lack of acclimation.

Let’s break down all the factors that cause the leaves of calathea to turn yellow and see how each contributes to this issue.

Dry Soil

Calathea plants are susceptible to dry soil conditions. When they are exposed to dry soil, the leaves will start to turn yellow. This can happen because of the soil properties or underwatering.

Generally, calathea loves to grow in soil that drains well. However, soil that drains too quickly is not suitable for this plant. The best soil for calathea is the one that offers good drainage and can remain slightly wet for a long time.

Even if you grow calathea in the perfect potting mix, you may still get dry soil if you don’t water this plant.

Remedy

Add perlite to your potting mix to avoid growing calathea in dry soil. Perlite will help the soil dry out slowly, and your plant absorbs water slower. Another option is to use soil with a high percentage of sand or gravel. 

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Overwatering

When the soil is constantly wet, the roots of your calathea will remain damp, and this can lead to rotting. When the roots rot, the plant cannot absorb water, and this causes the leaves to turn yellow.

Additionally, overwatering will deprive your calathea of oxygen and make it unable to absorb nutrients through its leaves. This will make the plant stressed and weak, which causes the leaves to turn yellow.

Remedy

The best way to avoid overwatering when growing calathea is to wait until the top of the soil feels dry to the touch before watering the plant. All you have to do is to check the soil regularly by digging your finger into it. If your finger comes out wet, then there is no need to water the plant.

You can also avoid overwatering by using a moister meter. This device measures the water content in the soil and then recommends how much water you need to add.

Additionally, you can reduce the risk of overwatering by using soil and a pot that offers good drainage.

Tap Water

Most of the time, watering a calathea with tap water will cause it to develop yellow leaves because this kind of water contains a lot of minerals, salts, and other chemicals that are harmful to plants. In fact, these chemicals may cause the leaves to turn yellow, wither, and fall off.

A lot of people do not realize that when using tap water, they are actually watering with chlorine. This substance is added to tap water to prevent bacteria and, sometimes, algae growth. In the end, chlorine ends up in the soil causing the leaves to turn yellow.

Another reason that makes tap water not suitable for calathea is the pH level of this kind of water. In fact, the pH of tap water is too alkaline, which is the exact opposite of what a calathea plant needs.

Remedy

The best alternative for watering calathea plants is distilled water. This type of water has a pH level of 7.0. It is also free of chlorine and other chemicals that can harm your plants.

Rainwater, reverse osmosis water, and spring water is good alternatives to tap water. 

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Extreme Temperatures

Extreme temperatures cause calathea to lose water faster than usual. Since the water in the cells is lost quicker, it leads to cells that have less water which can result in the death of the plant leaf tissue. In addition, when you grow your calathea in high temperatures, you increase the plant’s risk of heat stress which can cause the plant to lose its leaves.

Calathea, or Christmas Cactus, are very susceptible to heat stress. In fact, calathea can die within a few weeks when the weather gets too hot. When the temperature is over 80 degrees, the leaves of calathea will begin to yellow.

Remedy

If you notice that your calathea is turning yellow because of extreme temperature, it is best to immediately move it to a shaded and cooler location. You can also mist your plant during hot days to keep it cool.

The best location for calathea is near a south-facing window where they can get indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours a day.

Overfeeding

When you overfeed a plant, it means that you are giving it too much food. The excess food may come from fertilizers or from feeding the plant too often. Overfeeding can cause several problems in a plant, including leaf yellowing. This sign indicates that the plant is under stress and needs to adjust its nutrient level.

Remedy

To avoid overfeeding calathea, you should measure the amount of fertilizer used. Then, divide that amount into smaller doses and give them at specific times. For example, you can fertilize the plant every other week or every month.

Additionally, you should reduce the fertilizing frequency significantly during the winter months and increase it during spring and summer.

Another thing that will help you avoid overfeeding your plant is diluting the fertilizer before use. Dilution will help prevent the concentrated nutrients from harming your plant.

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Low Light

Low light conditions are one of the most common causes of calathea turning yellow. When the amount of light is not enough, the plant will stop producing chlorophyll, which is responsible for making the leaves green. 

Low light can also cause calathea to wilt and stop growing because, without chlorophyll, this plant cannot create the energy needed to carry on with its daily tasks.

Remedy

To provide your calathea with the amount of light it needs, try to grow it near a sunny windowsill. But, if you live in a location where the sun is not consistent, you can use grow light to avoid the problems with low light.

The intensity of artificial lighting can be adjustable, which helps give plants light closer to the spectrum they need.

Low Humidity

Calathea plant is sensitive to low humidity levels. In fact, when calathea plants are growing in humid conditions, they tend to stay green all year long. But, when the humidity levels drop, the leaves turn yellow.

Remedy

You can try to increase humidity around the plant by using a humidifier, misting it, or grouping it with other plants.

A humidifier is a device that increases humidity by adding water vapor into the air. It works by heating water and releasing it into the air.

When choosing a humidifier, it would be best to consider the plant’s preferences. For example, if you want to mist your calatheas, you should buy a humidifier with a misting feature.

If you don’t want to invest in a humidifier, you can grow multiple calatheas grouped. This will make the air saturated with moisture because the crowded plants release water during transpiration.

Lack of Acclimation

Lack of acclimation refers to plants being moved or transplanted from an environment where they grew happily into an environment they are unfamiliar with. This could happen when you move your calathea into a shady area or a different part of the house. 

Not acclimating your calathea can also contribute to yellow leaves. Transferring your plant to high temperatures or low humidity environments will react to the new conditions in many ways, including yellow leaves.

Remedy

The best way to acclimate your calathea is by exposing it to a gradual temperature increase over a while. For instance, you could keep your plant outside in the early spring and then move it indoors when the temperature rises. 

You can also use a heating mat to gradually raise the temperature of your plant before transferring it outside. Put the heating mat near the plant and allow it to warm until it reaches the desired temperature.

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Drafts

The yellow leaves of calathea can also be caused by drafts when the plant is grown in a greenhouse or a home with a large open window. 

A draft is often caused by air movement from one spot to another. For example, a draft may be caused by a fan blowing the warm air inside a home or a room. Drafts can also be caused by a door that opens frequently.

Remedy

 To keep your calathea safe from drafts, make sure that all of the windows and doors in your house are sealed tight. Next, try to keep your house at a consistent temperature. The best way to do this is by installing a programmable thermostat that can automatically change your home’s temperature when it drops.

You can also prevent drafts from harming your calathea by covering them. Plastic, foam, or other materials can protect plants. Ensure the fabric is breathable and allows air and sun to contact the plant.

Pests (Spider Mits)

Spider mites are tiny parasites that attach themselves to the leaves of a plant and suck its sap. As a result, the leaves will become yellow or brown in color. When spider mites infest a plant, the leaves will curl, and the plant will look unhealthy.

Spider mites can cause other plant problems, such as blossom end rot, fruit rot, and wilting.

Remedy

The best way to get rid of spider mites is to use a pesticide specifically designed to kill spider mites. Some popular products include Spinosad, Neem Oil, and Orthene. These products are safe for humans and pets.

If the infestation is not severe, you can use a natural remedy to eliminate spider mites. You can make a mixture of vinegar and water. Mix one cup of vinegar with one gallon of water. Then, soak a cotton ball in this mixture and apply it to the plants. Please wait for a few minutes, then rinse it off. This mixture can help to kill spider mites.

Diseases (Fusarium)

Fusarium disease is caused by a fungus that attacks the plant’s leaves and stems. The most common symptoms of Fusarium are yellowing in the leaves and stems.

The Fusarium disease may be caused by insects or pest feeding on the plants. In other cases, contaminated water may introduce Fusarium into the plant.

Remedy

The first step to eliminate the Fusarium disease is to isolate the affected calathea from the rest of the plants.

After isolating the infected calathea, you can start spraying them with fungicides. However, it is essential to know that some fungicides will kill the plant. For this reason, make sure you use a fungicide that does not harm the plant.

If the disease spreads, you should move the infected plants to another location.

Drainage (Soil or Pot)

Drainage issues are caused by the soil or the pot. When the earth does not drain well, or the pot does not have drainage holes, the roots will not be able to absorb enough oxygen. This causes the leaves of calathea to become yellow or brown.

Poor drainage creates an environment that is prone to mold. When the soil becomes moldy, this can cause several problems for your plants, including yellow leaves, slow growth, and weak stems.

Remedy

If the drainage problem is caused by the soil, then you must amend with it a layer of gravel or sand. This layer will allow the water to flow through the soil and into the drainage holes.

If the drainage issue is caused by the pot’s material, try to use a clay pot to grow your calathea. Clay pots are porous and allow water to drain away from the plant. This means that they will not hold moisture and will not rot. Clay pots are also easy to clean.

Age

It is common knowledge that plants lose their green color as they age. Generally, old calathea leaves are less likely to absorb sunlight than younger leaves. As a result, the older leaves will lose their color and turn yellow.

Remedy

As your plants get older, they might need a little extra care. A few things should be considered when keeping calathea healthy as they age. First of all, make sure you don’t let them overheat. Plants should be kept in a warm but not hot environment.

As your calathea ages, it becomes more difficult to absorb water, so you should start giving it more water as it matures. You should also make sure it has access to plenty of nutrients.

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Can Yellow Calathea Leaves Turn Green Again?

Yellow calathea leaves will not turn green again. Instead, they will fall off by themselves, and the plant will produce new green leaves if given proper care.

So, instead of waiting for the yellow leaves to turn green again, we should look for the source of the problem and take action accordingly. Then after a few weeks, the plant will give us more green leaves.

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Should I Cut off Yellow Leaves From Calathea?

It’s highly recommended to cut yellow leaves from calathea, mainly when this issue is caused by pests and diseases. Doing so will stop the sick leaves from infecting the healthy ones.

Cutting yellow calathea leaves requires doing it carefully to avoid causing any harm to the rest of the plant.

Here is the correct process for cutting yellow calathea leaves:

1. When you remove the yellow leaves from a plant, you should use a sharp pair of pruning shears. Using a dull or serrated blade can cause the leaves to break off and then be damaged.

2. You should also be careful not to cut too deeply. You want to see the vein on the underside of the leaf. This is a sign that you are not cutting too deep.

3. As you remove the leaves, continue to pull them away from the stem and gently shake the plant to dislodge the leaves.

4. Once the yellow leaves are removed, rinse the plant with water and gently wipe off any dirt from the leaves with a soft cloth.

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