Does Your Monstera Have Yellow Leaves? Here’s What to Do
Does your monstera have yellow leaves, but you aren't quite sure why? There are a number of different reasons this can happen, and luckily many can be fixed fairly easily. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton walks through why this can happen, and what your next steps should be to help revive your plant.
In the world of houseplant problems, yellowing leaves are undoubtedly one of the most common. That’s because there are many reasons for the issue, from incorrect watering to transplant shock and more.
Monsteras in particular are quite prone to many issues, including yellowing leaves. Regardless of what type of monstera you have, yellowing can lead to an unsightly look in their sought-after foliage. While the problems are generally easy to fix, they do require quick action as they can signal the demise of your plant if not resolved.
If you’ve encountered yellowing leaves on your Monstera, ask yourself these few questions. Your response will tell you whether these issues may be a potential cause or not. From there, apply the relevant fix and adopt preventative measures to stop their leaves from yellowing again in the future.
Is The Soil Too Moist?
Whenever your Monstera leaves start yellowing, the first place to look at is the soil. If you haven’t just watered and the soil seems excessively moist, your problem is likely overwatering.
Overwatering is one of the worst problems a Monstera can face, and one of the most common mistakes houseplant owners make. Excess moisture in the soil leads to root rot, a condition that leaves the roots unable to draw up any more moisture or nutrients to keep the plant alive. If not resolved quickly by limiting watering or repotting, it will lead to the death of the plant.
Creating the right environment around the roots is vital to the health of your Monstera. As they are accustomed to lightly moist but well-draining soil in their native habitats, these plants are quite sensitive to overwatering and can quickly face root rot when watered too often. This stops the plant from drawing up vital nutrients and moisture, causing their large leaves to turn yellow.
Start by assessing the watering schedule for your monstera. You should never water when the top layer of soil is still moist. Allow the top 2 inches or so to dry out before watering again, making adjustments depending on the size of the plant and the pot it’s in.
For minor issues, simply leaving the soil to dry out before watering again may be enough. However, if several leaves are yellowing, the problem is likely more severe, requiring immediate repotting.
Remove the plant from its container and wash out any surrounding soil. This removes any fungus residing in the soil that causes root rot. Using clean shears, trim away any mushy roots right back to the healthy growth to stop the spread of the problem. Plant in brand new soil and a new container, making sure to avoid overwatering in the future.
Is The Soil Too Dry?
If the soil is not too moist, also check that it has not dried out too much. Signs include compacted soil that is pulling away from the sides of the pot and a container that is much lighter than usual.
Underwatered Monsteras begin to turn yellow due to the lack of moisture and, by extension, nutrients reaching the leaves. This is usually accompanied by wilting and curling leaves. Watering should return the leaves back to normal, although heavily yellowed leaves are unlikely to regain their coloring.
Water is used by plants to transport nutrients from within the soil around the plant. That is why the nutrients in liquid fertilizers are made available to plants much more quickly than any other type. It also means that plants that lack water unfortunately also lack nutrients, leading to discoloration in the leaves.
Luckily the fix for this issue is much easier than with overwatering. Saturating the soil should resolve the issue and prevent any more leaves from turning yellow. You can prune away the leaves that have turned yellow as they are unlikely to turn back to green again.
If the soil is very compacted, it may be difficult to water completely. Dry soil repels water, causing most of it to fall down the sides of the pot and not to the roots where it is needed. In this case, consider aerating the soil before you start or watering from the bottom.
To bottom water, place the pot in a large bucket or sink filled halfway with water. Rest the pot inside the container until the soil has stopped drawing up moisture. Allow the excess water to drain from the drainage holes before placing the plant back where it was.
Once you’ve resolved the issue, don’t forget to adjust your watering to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The soil should never get completely dry – test with your finger regularly to determine the perfect time to water.
Did The Temperature Drop Suddenly?
External factors also have an impact on your Monstera, potentially causing leaves to turn yellow. Recent dips in temperature around your plant, especially if it is placed right next to a window, may be the cause of your yellowing problems.
Monsteras come from tropical environments where temperatures rarely dip below 60F throughout the year and don’t fluctuate often. Sudden drops in temperature lead to stress, causing yellowing in the leaves. Severe cold can also lead to permanent cell damage that turns the leaves brown or black in parts of the plant exposed to the cold.
One of the reasons Monsteras make such wonderful indoor plants is their tropical origins. Although they cannot be grown outdoors in most climates, they appreciate the same temperatures we do and so are great for growing inside.
However, temperature is not always easy to manage indoors, especially in areas with harsh winters. Cold snaps can sneak indoors, affecting houseplants and leading to stress. If temperatures dip too low for your Monstera to handle, they will stop growing completely and will begin to yellow if the cold or fluctuations persist.
Unfortunately, there is no way to fix leaves that have yellowed for this reason. All you can do is move the plant to an area with more consistent warm temperatures, keeping them away from cold glass windows in winter. Prune away the affected leaves and try to keep all other conditions of care consistent to allow the plant to recover from the stress.
Is Your Monstera Placed In Low Light?
Another environmental condition to consider is low light. Although these plants appear on some low-light-friendly houseplant lists, they cannot live in these conditions for long periods. Eventually, the leaves may begin to yellow due to the lack of light.
Monsteras grow best when placed in bright indirect light. In low-light areas, they will struggle to grow due to stress and lack of photosynthesis. Evaporation is also lower in low-light areas, potentially leading to problems with overwatering that cause the leaves to yellow. Moving the plant to a better spot will stop any leaves from yellowing further.
Found under the canopies of trees in their native habitats, Monsteras are lovers of shade. Unfortunately, some gardeners take that to mean they can handle very low light areas indoors. When Monsteras are placed in rooms with small or north-facing windows, or are obstructed by other objects that limit the amount of light they receive, the leaves may begin to turn yellow after an extended period.
If low light is the problem, you’ll need to move your Monstera to an area with bright indirect light. However, sudden changes in conditions can cause further yellowing and may lead to the leaves burning.
Once you’ve identified a brighter spot, leave the plant there for an hour a day, slowly increasing the times for around one week. This will give the plant time to get used to the new lighting conditions without causing any more stress. Avoid areas with harsh midday or afternoon direct sun as this will lead to burning and brown, crispy leaves.
Did You Fertilize Recently?
Regularly fertilizing is an important part of Monstera care, but too much can also be a bad thing. If your plant begins to yellow soon after fertilizing, overfertilizing is the likely cause.
Excess fertilizer in the soil leads to a build-up of salts that damages the roots and leaves, effectively ‘burning’ them. This damage and nutrient overload lead to yellowing leaves, resolved by flushing the soil with filtered water and limiting fertilizing for several months.
When new gardeners experience problems with growth in their houseplants, they generally turn to fertilizer to resolve the problem. Touted as an important part of plant growth, the boost of nutrients is believed to provide a boost to growth that leads to new leaves and better plants. But too much is also a bad thing.
Problems with overfertilizing are far more likely than underfertilizing or a nutrient imbalance, especially when growing indoors in containers. The excess nutrients damage the roots, leading to yellowing above the soil and overall stunted growth.
The only thing you can do at this point is to flush the soil thoroughly until it runs clear and hope the damage is not too severe. Use filtered water to do this as the chemicals in some tap waters can also build up in the soil. Don’t fertilize for several months to give the plant time to recover.
Prevention is far better than a cure and is also easier to achieve. Simply follow the instructions on the packaging or your fertilizer product, never applying more than is recommended. Even better, apply the fertilizer at half strength to avoid any chances of overdoing it.
Did You Repot Recently?
Repotting is an important care task performed every year or two, depending on the age and size of your Monstera. It may also lead to slight yellowing in some leaves if done incorrectly.
Repotting is a traumatic experience for houseplants, disturbing the roots and drying them out with exposure to the air. This disturbance leads to stress that can cause some older leaves to turn yellow. The plant should recover quickly, but there are also steps to take to avoid this potential transplant shock in future.
No matter the type, size or shape of your Monstera, you can be sure it will need repotting at some point. Whether it’s adding more space to grow or replacing old soil, a refresh every few years is much needed.
But for Monsteras happy in their homes, repotting can be a stressful process. The disturbance and new environment can lead to a condition known as transplant shock which causes wilting and yellowing leaves.
There is nothing to do here but wait until the plant recovers. Eventually, it will adjust to its new environment and the leaves will stop yellowing. You can trim away any discoloration to make the plant look tidier but only do so once the plant has recovered completely and is growing normally again.
You can prevent transplant shock when repotting by limiting the time the roots are exposed to the air, handling them as little as possible, and watering immediately after repotting to allow the roots to settle. Don’t change any other elements of care or environment at this time while the plant gets used to its new home.
Have You Changed The Soil Mix?
Transplant shock isn’t the only thing that can lead to yellowing when repotting. Using the incorrect soil mix is also a concern, and one your plant won’t recover from without your intervention.
Monsteras require a very specific soil mix that holds onto enough moisture but drains well to prevent under and overwatering. Incorrect soil mix creates problems with moisture in the soil and can suffocate the roots, leading to yellowing. Only changing the mix by repotting again can resolve the problem.
With roots that grow up trees in their native habitats, Monsteras are not your typical soil dwellers. They are not accustomed to sitting in heavy, compacted soil and need plenty of air and oxygen to grow successfully. Soil mixes that are too dense and hold too much moisture quickly suffocate the roots and lead to the same issues as when overwatering.
Excess moisture in the soil, along with the drastic change in environmental conditions after repotting, will cause leaves to yellow rapidly. Unfortunately, only repotting once again using the right soil mix will fix the issue and save your Monstera.
When repotting, use a light and well-aerated houseplant soil mix. These mixes usually contain combinations of peat moss or coconut coir, perlite and bark chips to improve drainage while retaining enough moisture to keep the roots happy.
You can buy these mixes online or you can do it yourself by combining two parts potting soil with one part perlite and one part coconut coir (a more sustainable alternative to peat moss). Alternatively, try to replicate the texture of the soil the Monstera came in to limit change as much as possible and ensure your plant will grow successfully in its new pot.
Does The Container Have Drainage Holes?
A final consideration when repotting is the container itself. If you answered no to the above question, you can be sure drainage is the cause of your yellowing leaf problems.
Drainage is essential for any houseplants, but especially Monsteras. Lack of drainage eventually leads to waterlogging and root rot, a condition that is difficult to resolve once it takes over. Replanting in a new container with the right soil can stop the spread of root rot, preventing any more leaves from turning yellow.
Planting in a pot without drainage holes is one of the most common, and also one of the worst, gardening mistakes houseplant owners can make. With nowhere for excess moisture to go, it ends up sitting around the roots and slowly suffocating them, leading to root rot.
Even if you water lightly or use stones at the base to keep them off the soil, excess water or bacteria-filled water is bound to damage the roots at some point, causing the leaves to yellow and continue to wilt until the whole plant dies.
Repot your plant immediately into a new container with plenty of drainage holes. You’ll also need to trim the roots and remove all the soil when the plant has been overwatered. In future, never choose a container without drainage holes (no matter how good it looks). You can also drill additional drainage holes if your chosen container doesn’t have any.
Yellowing leaves are incredibly common in many houseplants, including the ever-popular Monstera. The good news is that yellowing doesn’t necessarily mean your plant will die. But it’s a good indication that something’s not quite right with your plant. Usually, with the right analysis and care, you can have your plant back to normal in no time.