A prayer plant with yellow leaves is something that should catch the attention of any home grower. And you should not ignore it because more often than not, it means that something is wrong is your beautiful houseplant.
Why are your prayer plant leaves turning yellow? Yellow leaves on prayer plants is usually caused by overwatering, waterlogged soil or poor drainage.
Make sure to check this first because it can lead to root rot if not treated early enough.
That said, cold temperature, low humidity, pests, nutrient deficiencies and diseases can all cause yellow leaves as well.
Common Reasons for Prayer Plant Leaves Turning Yellow
Unfortunately, there are many different reasons why prayer plant leaves turn yellow. Yellow leaves on prayer plant can be caused by watering issues, lighting problems, pests, disease and excess fertilizer to name a few.
Therefore, you can’t just pick one cause and assume that is what’s happening to your prayer plant. Instead, to identify the cause of yellow leaves in prayer plant, you may need to use the process of elimination to narrow down the culprit.
Overwatering is the number one cause of prayer plant yellow leaves. When the plant gets too much water or watered too frequently, one of the most common symptoms is yellowing leaves.
And this won’t just happen to one or two leaves, it will quickly spread to many of them.
So, if you see this happening, it is important to give your prayer plant special attention.
That’s because overwatering can lead to more serious issues including root rot.
Watering is quite tricky with prayer plants because they do need a little ore water than your regular houseplant. As such, it is easy to give it more than it needs.
However, while it does like moist soil, it dislikes wet, soggy soil.
Therefore, balance is essential.
The best way to avoid overwatering is to always check the soil before you add more water. I check on my plants regularly. So, what I try to do is feel the soil about twice a week with a few days in between.
This allows me to get an idea of which potting soil are moist and which get dry faster.
If you feel the soil of your prayer plant once every 3-4 days, you’ll quickly notice when you accidentally overwatered. That’s because the soil will feel a bit more wet even after a few days.
On the other hand, once you feel that the top 2 inches of soil has completely dried, it is safe to water your prayer plant again.
This gives you enough of a safety zone so you don’t end up overwatering the plant.
This is the bare minimum. So, avoid watering before the top 2 inches have dried.
On the other hand, if you want to be more conservative, you can wait until the soil has dried about 25% to 50% from the top. Between this range, you are very safe from overwatering.
And the roots will stay moist.
Insufficient Soil Drainage
Another issue than can cause yellow leaves in prayer plant is poor soil drainage.
In fact, you can water properly. But if your soil holds on to too much of the water, you still end up with waterlogged soil. This will cause overwatering since the roots still end up sitting in water for long periods of time.
Thus, in addition employing a proper watering schedule, drainage is important.
I also want to stress that drainage is not limited to just the soil, it also extends to the pot.
So, let me explain each.
Because prayer plants come from tropical rainforests where the environment is damp, they like moist soil. However, they cannot be left sitting in water or waterlogged soil for too long because their roots will suffocate due to the lack of oxygen.
This results in root rot.
As such, good soil drainage is very important to avoid this.
For this reason, always make sure that the potting soil you use for your prayer plant is well-draining. This will allow the soil to hold enough moisture to keep the plant hydrated. But it will also quickly drain any excess moisture.
This way, the roots don’t end up drowning in water for long periods of time.
While well-draining soil is what you want, you also want to avoid any heavy soil or soil that tend to retain water. These do the opposite. And they may work for plant’s who like more water. But it will eventually cause yellow leaves in prayer plants (and possibly root rot later on).
In addition to soil drainage, make sure the pot you use has drainage holes at the bottom as well.
Again, this is very important.
That’s because the excess liquid that drains from the soil needs to be able to get out of the pot. If the pot has no holes, the water will just accumulate at the bottom of the pot and keep the soil wet.
This bring you back to where you started, wet, waterlogged soil.
Finally, if you do place a saucer or catch tray underneath your pot, make sure to throw away any excess water that collects there.
Prayer plants are tropical in nature as they come from regions near the equator. Thus, they enjoy warm weather all year round.
Just as importantly, they don’t experience winters in the tropics. Therefore, these plants have poor tolerance to the cold. In fact, temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit can turn some prayer plants leaves yellow.
In many cases, these plants can tolerate temperatures down to 55 degrees. However, depending on the variety, you may want to just play it conservatively and keep them above 60 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid any issues.
If left in the cold for long periods of time, prayer plants turn yellow and experience slow growth. And after a while, you’ll see them drop leaves and completely stop growing.
At colder temperatures, they will suffer cold damage.
For this reason, it is best to keep the plant in its ideal temperature range of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The more consistent the weather, the happier it will be.
If you want to keep the plant outdoors, it will do best in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 12 since the weather is sunny and warm 365 days a year.
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Lack of Humidity
Because prayer plants are native to tropical regions, they enjoy moderate to high humidity. As such, they prefer humidity of 40% to 60%. And this is where they will not only feel most comfortable but will also grow their best.
However, if the air is too dry, you may see your prayer plant’s leaves turning yellow or brown. In many cases, this will begin with the leaf tips and edges since these are the farthest points where moisture has to travel.
Thus, when you see the tips and edges of the leaves turn yellow or brown, it is your prayer plant telling you that it needs a spot with higher humidity.
The simplest way to monitor humidity indoors is to get a hygrometer.
And if you find that humidity in your home is below the plant’s requirements, you can set up a humidity tray.
You can do this by placing a tray and filling it with water. Then put rocks or a platform in the middle that is high enough to clear the water. And place the plant on top of the platform.
As the water evaporates, it increases humidity around the plant.
On your part, all you need to do is add water when the tray is almost dry.
Prayer plants needs nutrients. This is why applying fertilizer is beneficial for these plants.
Unfortunately, lack of certain nutrients can lead to yellow leaves in prayer plants.
And this can happen depending on whether or not you use fertilizer.
That said, it is important to use soil with the right pH so that the nutrients are available to the plant.
For best results, prayer plants like staying in soil pH between 5.5 to 6.0. This allows them to efficient take in nutrients and minerals from the soil. If you allow soil pH to go too high, it will prevent the plant from being able to access some nutrients.
One example is iron.
The problem is a deficiency in iron means that the plant will not be able to produce enough chlorophyll. That’s because it needs iron for this. As a result, you end up with yellow leaves (because insufficient chlorophyll means less green pigment in the leaves).
Thus, in addition to using a balanced fertilizer with micronutrients, it is important to make sure the soil pH level is ideal as well.
Prayer plants are not large plants. As such, in the wild they live under the canopy of the larger trees in the forest. This means that while they do get sunlight, they are not exposed to much direct sun.
For this reason, they cannot tolerate direct sunlight during the hottest times of the day and the year.
This is why for best growth, it is ideal to keep the plant in bright, indirect light.
However, it is worth noting that prayer plants grow the fastest in direct morning sun near an east facing window. That’s because morning sun is gentle. So, the plants actually like and appreciate it.
But you want to avoid direct sunlight during the hottest times of the day (10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) as well as during the summertime.
If you leave your prayer plant in the path of the sun’s rays during this time, its leaves will turn yellow and they may even get scorched.
Therefore, avoid strong direct sunlight during mid-day.
Pests are a well-known cause of yellow leaves in prayer plants. That’s because they feed on these plants by taking their sap.
Sap contains water and nutrients. As such, when pests grow in number and rob a lot of the plant’s internal juices, it ends up lacking in moisture and nutrients.
This is why pest infestations can be very dangerous.
Past a certain point, the pests can severely weaken the plant, cause it to have insufficient water and become nutrient deficient.
So, it is important to get rid of pests quickly once you notice them.
Diseases are another issue that can cause prayer plant yellow leaves.
Diseases are often caused by excess moisture in the soil and the leaves. And they can be bacterial or fungal. Each of these will have varying symptoms and present in different ways as well.
However, you need to treat them immediately because they will spread.
Allowing the plant to dry will help limit their growth. You will also need to remove the affected leaves and parts.
For bacterial disease, usually pruning all the affected leaves will work assuming the issue is localized. It is almost impossible to save the plant if the issue becomes systemic.
For fungal diseases, you can use a fungicide to treat the issue.
Water quality can likewise cause prayer plant leaves to turn yellow. That’s because the plant is sensitive to too much minerals in the water.
So, if your municipality happens to add a lot of fluoride, chlorine and other minerals in the tap, it is a good idea to switch to rainwater or filtered water for your plants.
Another option is to keep the tap water in room temperature and leave it there for at least overnight. This will allow the excess chemicals and minerals to evaporate before you use it to water your prayer plant.