Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow and Wrinkled  – Fix The Wrinkles!

While underwatering is mostly the cause for wrinkled and yellow leaves of orchid plants. If your watering schedule is on point, check out the other reasons that might be causing it.

Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow

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Wrinkly and yellow orchid leaves are not necessarily an alarming situation. In several cases, it is normal and natural for the older leaves to turn yellow and fall from the plant. However, if too many leaves on the orchids start yellowing, it is a tell-tale sign of something serious.


Thus, when your orchids start yellowing, you must immediately inspect their leaves, roots, and soil, as they can jointly or individually tell a lot about the plant’s health. Orchid leaves turning yellow and wrinkled may disappoint you if you are growing it for the first time, but fret not as the situation can be brought under control.


Moreover, these low-maintenance plants can thrive in various conditions. Hence, when discoloration happens, it can be frustrating for the home growers.


So, carefully inspect the plant and see whether it is the old foliage yellowing or the new one. If the newer leaves start turning yellow, it may be because of many factors, such as root rot, low temperatures, direct sunlight exposure, etc.


This guide will discuss all these factors in detail. Let us address them one by one.


Causes of Orchid Turning Yellow With Wrinkled and Floppy Leaves

Primarily, the most prevalent cause of orchid leaves getting yellow and wrinkled is underwatering. It results in underdeveloped, unhealthy roots that fail to transport nutrients across.


Consequently, the foliage starts yellowing, and the plant develops wrinkles. But that’s not the length of the problem. Here are the most prevalent reasons for yellow, wrinkly, and floppy leaves.


A. Underwatering


Julia Zemskaya/istockphoto

Underwatering – the most common cause of wrinkly yellow orchid leaves. Typically, the wrinkled leaves from underwatering feel leathery. But, you must immediately inspect the roots to assess the problem.


If the roots do not get ample water, they look shriveled, dry, and brittle. Consequently, the roots fail to transport the required nutrients or water to the rest of the plant, primarily because they do not receive enough water.


How to fix it?

Fortunately, you can revive an underwatered wrinkly orchid plant leaves turning yellow. Firstly, start bottom watering it. You can also fill a tray with an inch of water, put your orchid in it, and let it sit for twenty minutes before removing it.  It can rehydrate the plant and let the growing medium soak as much water as possible.


Maintain a fixed watering schedule and do not overcompensate by watering aggressively – you may not want to replace the watering problem with another more challenging one. Reviving an underwatered orchid should not be a problem if enough roots remain healthy.


B. Poor potting mix

It is one of the most common reasons for orchid leaves turning yellow. People usually plant the orchids in regular garden soil. When you grow them in a garden potting mix, the soil tends to trap extra moisture, resulting in the leaves turning yellow.


How to fix it?

To ensure your orchids grow well, plant them in an orchids-specified potting mix. You can add a blend of redwood bark, fine-grade coco chips, and fir bark to make up for the deficiencies.


Adding coconut husk chips and sphagnum moss can also help. All these can mimic the plant’s natural growing conditions, provide excellent drainage, and help the plant retain moisture.


C. Temperature too low

Temperature Too Low



When the temperature is too low for the plant to bloom, it goes against the plant, making orchid leaves wrinkled and yellow. Do not keep your orchids in temperature below sixty-degrees Fahrenheit.


How to fix it?

Bring your plant indoors if the outside temperature drops below the required limit. Always keep the thermostat set between 65-80 degrees when planted indoors for the plant to survive.


Please do not place the plant near the AC vents, fans, and open windows, as they tend to dry the orchids. As tropical plants, orchids also love humidity between 55 and 75 percent.


D. Natural aging

Sometimes, orchids turning yellow is part of their aging and life cycle. The lowermost leaf set changes color when the plant develops new flower spikes or leaves. As time progresses, they die and fall back off the plant.


It is because orchids love new growth, and the plant believes that the lower leaves become unnecessary when new growth spurts. Consequently, they cut off the water supply to these leaves to concentrate the resources on the fresh leaves only. Hence, they drop from the plant.


How to fix it?

It is a routine affair and needs no fixing. But how can you assess if this yellowing is natural? We do not recommend assuming that yellowing is ok because if you do so, you may often miss out on a severe problem.


So, what’s the difference?

Let it be if only one or two leaves on the orchid plant’s bottom turn yellow. It may be a natural phenomenon. With time, more leaves will start yellowing and wither off the plant.


You must not remove these leaves because that amplifies the risk of several diseases. So, wait till the leaves naturally undergo a shedding process, and then you can use a sterile knife to chop them off the base.


E. Too much light

Too much light

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If the orchids get too much direct and bright light, the sun may burn the leaves, resulting in orchids changing their color to yellow.


How to fix it?

You must immediately shift the plant to where it can get ample indirect sunlight. So, move it to the west or the north-facing window if placed near a windowsill.


But, even now, if you see orchid leaves wrinkled and limp, the plant is getting more light than necessary, which is washing its color.


F. Overwatering

Orchids are epiphytes. So, the tree preserves most of the water in the trunk. It helps keep the roots relatively dry. Pouring too much water onto the pots can smother the roots, resulting in yellow leaves in only a few hours or days. It also makes the plant susceptible to diseases, bugs, and pests.


How to fix it?

If orchid leaves look wrinkled and yellow because of overwatering, you can save them by removing the growing medium and pruning all the softened and black roots. In addition, you must always plant the soil in well-draining soil with a loose soil potting mix suitable for cacti and orchids to avoid yellowing leaves.


G. Too little light

Plants need sunlight or artificial light to perform photosynthesis, an energy production process. It supports new blooms and healthy foliage and boosts plant growth. The plant is not getting adequate light if you see orchid leaves wrinkled and floppy.


How to fix it?

You can easily damage your orchids by exposing them to direct sun rays, but they are not low-light plants. Of course, you can find low-light tolerant orchid varieties, but typically all orchids like some natural light.


So, if you planted your orchids in a place that receives little natural light, say a north-facing room or an office, you must reposition them to a spot receiving ample sun to trigger new growth.


H. Hard water

Hard Water

Elena Zaretskaya/istockphoto


When watering the orchid, you must also consider the quality of water used because it can make a massive difference to your foliage. If you reside in areas with hard tap water, the calcium and magnesium levels will also be high. It can make it tricky for the plant to absorb the nutrients. Consequently, the leaves may turn yellow.


How to fix it?

Here are some of the ways to fix this problem:


  1. Consider using distilled water for the orchids.
  2. Alternatively, you can also use bottled water, which is usually softer than tap water.
  3. Investing in a water softener can also help remove unnecessary minerals from the tap water.


Please know water softeners though expensive can be pretty effective. Hence, they are an excellent investment and can help with chores like laundry and washing dishes.


I. Pests and diseases

Pests And Diseases

Lucas Ninno/gettyimages


In some cases, viral, fungal, and bacterial infection may result in orchid leaves turning yellow and wrinkled. So, inspect the roots and the leaves for signs of infection.


How to fix it?

If you spot an infestation, you must immediately treat it with fungicide or anti-bacterial spray. However, use as directed by the manufacturer.


J. High temperature

Even though orchids are native to tropical regions, they live underneath tree canopies. Hence, they are used to moderate temperature. It provides the orchids with steady temperature levels and relatively high humidity, with a slight dip during the night.


So, exposing the plant to a hotter-than-required temperature might also result in yellowing in leaves.


How to fix it?

You must try to mimic its natural environment as closely as possible if you grow orchids indoors. Plants tend to get stressed if the temperature goes beyond 80 degrees. It can lower their efficiency in performing the typical metabolic processes.


Consequently, the leaves turn yellow. If you do not take measures to fix this at the earliest, it might result in a leaf drop or even kill the plant. In addition, if you plant the orchids under direct sun, they will get exposed to high temperatures.


So, immediately try to minimize the exposure to prevent scorching.


If the leaves are not yet wrinkled but turning yellow, these could be the additional reasons.


1. Transplant shock

Orchids have sensitive roots, and their roots are vital for survival. All the essential nutrients, including water, pass through the roots before they reach the leaves or the other plant parts.


At times, while transplanting, you may damage the roots, making it challenging for the plant to transport the water and nutrients across the plant. It makes orchid leaves yellow, irrespective of the care you offer to orchids.


2. Poor drainage in the pots

Orchids do not like the water pooling around the roots. So, when selecting the pots, ensure they have proper drainage holes. In addition, if you use trays or saucers that retain water, throw away the water daily to prevent root rot and the consequent yellowing of the leaves.


3. Excessive fertilization

When you employ regular houseplant fertilizer, it burns the leaves, leaving them yellow. So, if your orchid leaves look wrinkled and yellow, cease fertilization. Please note orchids strictly need orchid-specific fertilizer because the typical houseplant fertilizer might be too strong.


4. Soil retaining too much water

If the potting medium tends to retain excess moisture, it might result in root rot. Hence, always pot your orchids in a potting medium composed of pine bark chippings. Ordinary potting soil and moss tend to retain too much water, which orchids despise.


Related: Best Orchid Fertilizers | How To Make Orchids Grow Faster | Orchid’s Lifespan


Can You Save An Orchid With Yellow Leaves?

It is possible to save the orchids with yellow leaves, provided you can access the reason for the distress and implement a remedial action instantly.


In almost all cases, the yellowing leaves can be fixed, and you can prevent further damage. So, never assume the worse, and start with one remedy at a time and see how your plant responds to it.

Should You Cut Off Yellow Orchid Leaves?

Cut Off Yellow Orchid Leaves

Александр Довянский/istockphoto


Ideally, you must not pull or chop the yellow orchid leaves because these leaves tend to fall off on their own when they die back. Hence, there will be no open wound, which may be the case if you forcibly remove leaves from the plant.


These wounds can be a breeding ground for fungal pathogens, which might unnecessarily inflict more damage on the plant.


How Long Will It Take For The Orchid Leaves To Recover?

It can take one to two months, sometimes more, for the orchids to recover and rebloom.

Can Wrinkled Orchid Leaves Recover?

If you can find the reason for the orchid leaves wrinkled and yellow appearance, you can help your plant recover. Though wrinkled, the leaves mostly do their job and offer plants the needed energy. So, do not remove these wrinkled leaves unless you see them yellowing and are sure they are dead or possibly infected with fungus. After you take the desired remedial action, the leaves will return to their healthy self.


What Does It Mean When You Notice Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow With Black Spots?

Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow With Black Spots

Nadya So/gettyimages


If you see yellow leaves with black spots on the orchids, it indicates a fungal or bacterial disease. It is primarily because of high humidity or wet leaves. The excess moisture offers the perfect environment for these diseases to thrive. Hence, you must act immediately to save your plant and prevent the disease from spreading.


Start with cutting the infecting foliage. In all honesty, it might not be easy to distinguish between a fungal and a bacterial infection, so pruning is the best solution. You can use a sharp, clean blade to chop off the infected part with an inch of the green and clean area.


In addition, if you think it may be a fungal infection, follow it up with a fungicide to prevent the disease from spreading.


To Sum Up…

Anytime you notice orchid leaves turning yellow and wrinkled, inspect the plant and evaluate which of the above-listed reasons might be causing these signs. While understeering is the number one cause, your plant shows these signs because of stress or natural aging as well.


So, once you assess the reason, you can take adequate measures to fix the problem to ensure that this problem ceases.


Please remember the key to happy orchids is listening to your plants. So, next time you spot a yellow leaf, you must immediately try to understand what your orchid is probably telling you.