Alocasia leaves turning yellow can be worrying since as a home grower you know something is happening to your plant. However, keep in mind that these are resilient plants that can recover.
As such, don’t panic.
Instead, calm down and figure out what is happening. This will allow you to diagnose the issue and treat the plant accordingly.
In this article, I’ll take you through the different causes why alocasia have yellow leaves. And I’ll also discuss how to solve each of the potential problems.
Why Does Your Alocasia Have Yellow Leaves?
The most common reason your alocasia has yellow leaves is overwatering. This can be caused by too much watering, poor drainage or waterlogged soil.
But there are other possible causes as well. So, if the yellow leaves are not caused by overwatering, then consider lighting problems, humidity issues, nutrient deficiencies, pests and diseases.
All of these can make alocasia leaves turn yellow.
Causes Of Alocasia Leaves Turning Yellow (And Solutions)
An alocasia with yellow leaves means something is wrong. Almost always this is due to some kind of stress.
As such, it important to identify the cause of that stress and fix it.
But because there are many potential causes, you can’t just assume it is one of the many causes. Otherwise, you may apply the solution but yellow leaves keep developing afterwards.
Therefore, it is important to take the time to diagnose the issue before beginning treatment.
Below, I’ll explain each of the reasons why alocasia leaves are turning yellow. And for each, I’ll discuss the best options to fix the problem.
Normal aging is probably the best thing that you can hope for. That’s because there’s nothing wrong with your elephant ear plant.
Instead, your alocasia turning yellow is due to the natural aging process.
Simply put, each leaf has a time it will emerge, grow, develop to its maximum size and color, then fade before dropping.
Yellowing leaves occur towards the end of this cycle.
And it is important as the older leaves need to drop in order to give way for new leaves to emerge.
The biggest difference here is that only one or two leaves should turn yellow at a time. And they yellowing should not keep spreading.
If you’re seeing more and more yellow leaves develop, then the problem is likely something else.
Bottom line, if the yellow leaves are due to natural aging, there’s nothing to worry about.
It will resolve itself and new leaves will start to emerge later on.
Overwatering is the most common cause of alocasia leaves turning yellow. And this is the first thing you want to suspect if you see many leaves turning all at once.
I always give overwatering priority simply because it can lead to plant death.
The other reasons will give you more time to fix the issue. This one o the other hand will show no mercy. So, you don’t want to give it time to worsen.
The first thing I always do when I suspect overwatering is to check for root rot.
Normal, healthy roots are white in color, firm to the feel and flexible. They have an earthy smell to them due to the soil.
However, if you reach the soil and smell something bad, that’s usually an ominous sign.
Root rot has foul odor, black or brown roots that are soft and mushy. That’s because they’ve died and rotted.
As such, rotted roots don’t function anymore. So, they cannot absorb water or nutrients from the soil.
The problem here is that the longer the plant is overwatered, the more roots have likely rotted. And if too much of the root system has been destroyed, there’s no saving the plant no matter what you do.
This is why time is of the essence with an overwatered alocasia with yellow leaves.
If There is No Root Rot
Sometimes, there may not be any root rot once you unpot the plant.
This is a good sign. But it also means you need to adjust your watering schedule to avoid any potential overwatering and root rot in the future.
In this case, you have a few options.
One is to let the soil dry completely then water the plant with an adjusted watering schedule.
The second is a more conservative approach.
Here, you repot the plant into fresh, dry, well-draining soil. This way, you take the roots out of the overwatered situation immediately and let them recover.
After that, prune the yellow leaves.
If There is Root Rot Due to Overwatering
Here, the goal is to try to save the plant.
After unpotting and checking the roots, prune all the rotted roots. This is important since the rotted roots will keep spreading and destroy the remaining healthy roots.
Sanitize your scissors or pruning shears beforehand. And avoid cutting any of the healthy, white roots.
Next, prepare a pot with fresh, dry well-draining soil.
Plant your alocasia in the dry soil. Then remove all the yellow leaves.
Give the plant about a week to recover on its own in dry soil before you start watering again.
This time, make sure cut back on watering.
Ideally, wait until the soil is dry about halfway down before watering. This way, you don’t end up overwatering the plant.
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Another reason for alocasia leaves turning yellow is poor drainage.
This can happen due to two things.
One is using the incorrect soil.
The other is using a pot with no drainage
Both are very important because even if you water the plant correctly, the wrong soil could end up retaining too much moisture.
As a result, it negates you efforts since you end up with waterlogged soil anyways.
Thus, make sure you’re using well-draining soil for your alocasia. The plant needs a balance of water and air.
As such, good drainage is important since its roots don’t like sitting in water for long periods of time.
This makes ingredients like perlite, pumice, orchid bark and charcoal very useful. And avoid using standard houseplant potting soil on its own without adding any of these components.
That’s because regular potting mix will hold too much moisture.
In addition to well-draining soil, make sure your pot has drainage holes as well.
This way, the liquid that drains from the soil doesn’t just build up at the bottom of the pot. If this happens, the soil stays wet as well.
Drainage holes will let the excess liquid drip out which helps prevent waterlogging and overwatering.
In addition to overwatering and poor drainage, there’s another thing related to water that can cause yellowing leaves in alocasia plants.
That’s water quality.
This is often overlooked. So, if you’ve tried the others and the yellow leaves persist, check the tap water in your home.
Hard water or heavily mineralized tap water will cause alocasia leaves to turn yellow. In some cases, it can result in brown tips as well.
That’s because if you’re watering with tap water that has a lot of excess minerals it will eventually harm the plant.
The thing is, cities add chemicals to the tap to make it safe to drink. This includes fluoride, chlorine and a few other minerals.
However, some cities add more than others. And the alocasia is sensitive to too many minerals in the water.
So, if this happens, you have a few options.
These are filter your tap water, use distilled water or collect rainwater. These kinds of water are safe for your plant.
Another option is to let the tap water sit in room temperature for at least overnight. This will allow enough of the chemicals and minerals to evaporate to prevent yellow leaves on alocasia plants.
If your alocasia has yellow leaves and watering is not the issue, make sure to check lighting.
This is usually the second thing that causes alocasia to turn yellow.
Here, both lack of light and excess light can be the culprits. So, take the time to assess the plant’s current position and how much light it gets first before doing anything.
Also consider two things.
How much light does the plant get throughout the day? This includes the morning, noon and afternoon. Since the position of the sun changes as the day goes, check to see how much light the plant gets at each of these times.
Also, try to recall how much light that area generally gets during different times of the year. The two times to consider most are summer and winter.
Both summer and winter are the extremes. So, that’s when issues can happen.
While the alocasia can tolerate low light, there’s such a thing as too little light. If this happens, the plant’s leaves will turn pale, look dull in color and fade. Thus, you’ll get more yellowish leaves.
Similarly, lack of light will cause the plant to grow slower as well.
It will produce fewer leaves and those that do emerge will be smaller as well.
On the other hand, excess light will cause yellow or brown leaves.
This occurs when the light is too intense, strong or there’s excess exposure. As such, avoid direct sunlight during noon and mid-afternoon since the alocasia cannot tolerate more than 2 or 3 hours of this intensity on a daily basis.
Instead, the alocasia prefers bright, indirect light indoors. Medium light works just as well.
Outdoors, partial shade or slight shade is best.
The alocasia is a tropical plant. As such, it enjoys warm weather. Similarly, it is used to consistent temperature conditions.
That’s because the tropics feature only one climate. And that’s hot.
It does not matter if it is spring, summer, fall or winter, it is always hot and sunny in these regions because they are located near the equator.
As such, the plant has poor tolerance to the cold. And if your alocasia leaves are turning yellow, it could be staying somewhere that’s too cold.
Keep in mind that the alocasia prefers temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just as importantly, it is not cold hardy. And its experiences problems once temperature drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thus, keep it indoors during the colder months of the year.
Indoors, keep the plant in a warm spot. Be aware of where cold drafts can come from and air conditioners.
If you notice that your alocasia is turning yellow because it is staying somewhere too cold, move it to a warmer location.
During winter if it also gets cold indoors, you can place a heating pad or mat under the pot to keep its roots warm.
Lack of humidity can likewise cause alocasia yellow leaves.
Another feature of the tropics besides its hot climate is its high humidity. On average, humidity can reach a low of 55%. But for the most part humidity stays between 60% and 75%.
During rainy days, humidity can reach 85% to 92%.
As such, the alocasia is used to moist air.
This is why it is a good idea to keep humidity around your alocasia at about 50% or higher.
That said, it can tolerate slightly lower humidity as well.
However, if humidity drops too far down, you’ll see yellow leaves as well as brown leaf tips and edges. This will start with just a few leaves. But it will keep spreading if the issue is not addressed.
The best way to avoid low humidity is to keep track of it.
I like to use a hygrometer to know what the humidity is on a daily basis.
But if you live somewhere with dry air, you can just go straight to the solutions.
The most straightforward fix is a humidifier. Although, you can increase humidity around the plant by misting, grouping it with other plants or setting up a pebble tray.
The alocasia does need nutrients. And if it lacks nutrients it will struggle with growth. This become more obvious during its growing season when the plant it in its active growth stage.
As such, it needs sunlight, water and nutrients to sustain its development during this time.
This is why it important to feed the plant during its growing season.
If they don’t have the proper nutrients or use up what they have, leaves can turn yellow. Sometimes, this is caused by deficiencies. Other times, older leaves experience accelerated retirement due to this.
As such, it is important to feed the plant with a high quality fertilizer during spring and summer which is when it will grow the most.
The plant only needs to be fed once every 2-4 weeks. You can use a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to 50% its suggested strength.
Too Much Fertilizer
The biggest warning with fertilizer usage is not to overdo it.
That’s because too much fertilizer can cause yellow leaves in alocasia plants. And it does not stop there. In fact, it can outright damage the roots as well.
For this reason, don’t give the plant more fertilizer than it needs. Don’t apply more frequently that it needs. And never apply when the soil is dry.
Most people will use synthetic fertilizers because it is more affordable. And there’s more product for the price you pay for.
There’s no problem with that.
However, it is important to understand that fertilizer contains salt and excess minerals that come with the nutrients.
So, the more you feed the plant and the more nutrients it gets, the more salt that builds up in the soil as well.
These become toxic after enough as accumulated. And it can burn the roots which damages and destroys them.
When roots die, it affects how the plant can absorb water and nutrients from the soil. And this is when leaves turn yellow or brown along with other unpleasant symptoms appear.
Therefore, avoid over fertilizing the plant.
Also, flush the soil every 2 months or so to get rid of the excess salts in the soil.
You can flush the soil by running water for a few minutes through soil. This will dissolve the salts and carry them out of the soil (and pot) along with the water.
Pest infestations will cause alocasia leaves to turn yellow. That’s because the bugs will suck the life out of the leaves.
The alocasia attracts sap sucking insects like spider mites, mealybugs, aphids and scale thanks to its large, juicy leaves.
Since sap contains moisture and nutrients that’s meant for the leaves, pest infestations will rob the plant of these resources as they feed on the plant.
That’s why your alocasia is turning yellow.
This usually beings with yellow patches which turn into entire yellow leaves. Holes on the leaves may also occur after a while.
So, make sure to immediately take action if you notice any pests.
- The first thing to do is isolate the plant to avoid the pests spreading to other houseplants.
- Use a showerhead or garden hose to spray off as many of the bugs as possible. You can repeat this every few days. Sometimes, it takes 3-5 sprayings to get rid of them all.
- Make sure to dry the plant after and let the soil drain as well after each time.
- If the pests persist, you can use neem oil or insecticidal soap to get rid of them.
- The more bugs there are, the longer the treatment will be and the more times you’ll need to repeat before you’re able to eradicate them all. Sometimes it can take several weeks.