Why Is My Orchid Stem Turning Yellow? (Causes & Solutions)

Healthy orchid stems are green. So, if you suddenly wake up one day and notice your orchid stem turning yellow, what should you do?

The first thing is not to panic, get anxious or stressed.

While this is a natural reaction, it isn’t productive. And you’ll just have a hard time seeing things clearly and focusing.

Instead, start identifying the problem.

In most cases yellow orchid stems mean something isn’t going right. Although, that’s not always the case as you’ll see below. Therefore, figuring out the cause should be what you spend most of your time doing.

Once you’ve narrowed down and identified cause, the solution is almost always straightforward.

Why Is My Orchid Stem Turning Yellow? Yellow orchid stems usually occur from excess light exposure. But overwatering, bacterial and fungal disease are the two other main reasons.

Other potential issues include underwatering, nutrient deficiency or overfertilizing.

Why Is My Orchid Stem Turning Yellow?

Your orchid stem is turning yellow because something is happening. This is a sign that you should not ignore since the plant is trying to tell you something by this.

Because there are a few different reasons for orchid stems to turn yellow, you’ll need to eliminate each of the potential causes and narrow things down.

While some causes are more likely, never assume that it is what’s happening.

 

Excess Light is the Main Cause of Orchid Stems Turning Yellow

The number one reason why your orchid stem is turning yellow is excess light. This can easily happen since many growers will keep the plant in a bright location like other houseplants.

Unfortunately, it can be easy to expose the plant to too much light.

This happens because there’s a difference between direct and indirect light.

Orchids like bright, indirect light.

In contrast, if you put it in the path of the sun’s rays during the hottest times of the day, it will get too much light.

It cannot take direct sunlight from the sun for many hours daily.

Therefore, try to keep the plant away from the direct rays of the sun, especially noon to mid-afternoon sun which is very intense and harsh.

In contrast, it will be happy with gentle morning sun and late afternoon sun.

Excess exposure to light will turn their stems yellow.

Why does this happen?

Orchids are tropical plants that live in the forest. Because they are not the biggest or tallest plants, they live under the shade of the larger trees.

Therefore, the light they get is what passes through the leaves and branches overhead.

This means that the light they receive is filtered and dappled instead of direct sunlight.

A such, they are accustomed to this.

 

Factors That Can Affect Your Orchid’s Lighting

Healthy orchid stems should be green. But when your orchid stem turns yellow, excess sunlight is usually the first thing to check for.

The reason is that it is easy to assume that light from the sun is light from the sun.

But that’s not the case. Some are brighter than others while some are less intense that others.

As such, it is easy to give your orchid plant excess light which turns its stem yellow.

 

The Time of the Day Matters

The sun rises at dawn and goes up. Because of the Earths rotation and tilt it will reach its peak around noon.

Then it will start to descend again.

Of course, this is all an optimal illusion since the movement is mostly caused by the earth’s own rotation, i.e. which part of the world faces the sun and away from the sun.

So, morning sunlight is gentler which makes it perfect for orchids.

But from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the sun because harsher and harsher peaking around noon and mid-afternoon.

This kind of sun exposure is too much for orchids. Therefore, keep it away from the sun’s rays during this time. This can turn your orchid stem yellow.

Then by 4:00 onwards, it the sun wanes. Again, late afternoon sun is something that orchids like.

But this is shorter compared to morning sun depending on the time of the year.

 

The Direction Where the Sun Comes From Matters

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

As such, both these directions have gentler direct sunlight that orchids like and thrive in.

However, during the middle of the day when the sun is hottest, its rays will come in through the south facing window.

This is for countries in the northern hemisphere.

For those in the southern hemisphere the north is where the strongest light comes from.

Again, this has to do with the Earth’s position relative to the sun.

Therefore, avoid the sun’s rays from this direction between 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Keep the plant at least 3 feet from the opening of the window or use sheer curtains to filter the sunlight.

 

Indoor and Outdoor Sunlight is Different As Well

Note that you can grow orchids indoors or outdoors.

And in both cases, it will need plenty of light to thrive.

However, be careful with here. Never assume that the light you get indoors and outdoors is the same.

Why?

Light outdoors is always bright than indoors. That’s because it is an open area. therefore, light bounces on walls and other surfaces giving more light to the surrounding areas.

Meanwhile, in your home or any indoor space, there are ceilings and wall.

Thus, the only way natural light can come in is through the window, door or any other glass wall.

Therefore, the amount of light that comes in is not only less than what you have outdoors, it also comes from only one direction.

 

Related

 

Other Reasons for Orchid Stems Turning Yellow

While excess light is usually the most likely culprit, it is not the only cause of orchid stem turning yellow.

Here are others to consider and eliminate.

 

Aging

Like people, orchids will age. And just like we grow white hair, the orchid’s healthy green stems will turn yellow as its ages and nears the end of its natural lifespan.

Since this is part of the plant’s natural life cycle, there’s nothing to worry about here.

While you can trim some of the spikes to encourage them to regrow and bloom, the plant itself will continue aging.

That said, this is one cause where you don’t have to do anything since there is no problem.

 

Overwatering

Another cause that should be high on your list is overwatering.

That’s because overwatering can turn orchid stems yellow. And it is one of the more serious problems to watch out for.

Overwatering happens when you water the plant too often.

This means that while the soil is still wet or moist, you tend to add more water. Unfortunately, orchids cannot take this much water.

Like other tropical plants they like the soil to dry a bit between waterings.

Another reason for overwatering is waterlogged soil.

This can happen if the soil holds too much of the moisture and does lot let it drain. So, while you may not be overwatering it, the moisture just stays in the soil keeping the roots wet.

Orchid roots don’t like wet soil.

And if left in too much water, they will drown. As a result, the roots won’t get enough oxygen. This will affect the all the different functions of the plant and result yellowing as the roots won’t be able to supple enough nutrients from the soil.

 

Underwatering

Just like overwatering, underwatering can also cause orchid stems to change color. This time they can turn brown or yellow.

While this is less likely compared to overwatering, you still want to check for this.

That’s because when the orchid plant is underwatered, this affects the different functions of the plant including transpiration and food production.

Similarly, it will later try to conserve all the moisture it can.

Together, this will cause the stems to turn yellow or brown.

 

Bacterial or Fungal Disease

This is the one of the more serious problems along with overwatering. That’s because can be difficult to fix depending on what the infection is.

The first step here is to figure out what is the actual pathogen causing the problem.

There are many strains of fungi and also many different kinds of bacteria.

You’ll need to diagnose the issue by observing the symptoms.

If it is a fungal, treat using fungicides. Bacterial diseases can be trickier.

If the infection is localized, meaning only a part of the orchid is affected, remove the affected part or parts.

Unfortunately, if it is systemic, that means your entire orchid is affected. There is no cure or fix for this. And the plant will eventually end up in the trash.

 

Nutrient Deficiency

Healthy orchid stems have a nice green color. When the stems turn yellow, it could be because they are not getting enough nutrients.

If you don’t use fertilizer or use a fertilizer that does not contain all the micronutrients, this can happen.

In addition to a possible deficiency in nitrogen which fuels the orchid plant’s growth, lack of calcium can also cause yellow stems.

In case, you haven’t fertilized your orchid in quite a while, this may be the cause.

If not, it is a good idea to try using a soil test kit that tests for nutrients in the soil. This will tell you which nutrients your soil has and lacks.

This way you can make the appropriate adjustments.

 

Overfertilizing

Overfertilizing is another reason why your orchid stem is turning yellow.

Like water, it is easy to feed the plant more hoping it will grow faster. Unfortunately, the real world does not work that way.

Instead, you can end up harming the plant more than helping it.

That’s because commercial fertilziers contain salt. And plants hate salt.

They can tolerate some of it. But once it builds up, it becomes toxic.

This is what happens you feed the plant too much. In addition to giving your orchid more nutrients, you also let more salt build up in the soil.

Salt is not only toxic to plants but they also draw out moisture. As such, the roots have a harder time getting sufficient water.

Together, this can turn your orchid stem yellow.

 

How to Fix Orchid Stems Turning Yellow

Now that you know the different causes of orchid stems turning yellow, here are the different solutions and fixes to try.

Again, you’ll likely spend most of your time identifying the cause of the problem.

And this is what I highly recommend you do. that’s because once you figure that out, the solution is often quite straightforward.

As such, it is just a matter of applying the fix.

 

Move the Orchid to a Less Bright Spot

If your orchid is getting too much light, move it to a less bright location.

Again, the goal here is to avoid the direct rays of the sun during mid-day. So, you can pretty much choose any other location that is well-lit in your home.

Outdoors, keep the plant in partial shade. Avoid full sun.

 

Check for Overwatering and Underwatering

If excess light is not the cause, the next thing to consider is watering issues.

To check for overwatering or underwatering, feel the soil.

If the surface of the soil is wet or damp, it is very likely that the plant is overwatered.

Here, you have two options.

One is to immediately repot. This is a more drastic measure. But also a safer one in that by repotting it into dry soil, you immediately give the roots relief from the drowning in moisture.

Second is to just allow the soil to dry. Only water again later on once the soil completely dries. This may take a few more days. So, the roots will have to get by in the meantime.

Either way, adjust your watering routine to avoid overwatering again in the future.

On the other hand, if the surface of the soil feels dry.

If this is the case, stick your finger as far down into the soil as you can to feel how far the dryness is. You can likewise just take out the root ball and check to see how dry the soil is.

If the entire root ball is completely dry or bone dry, it means the plant is underwatered.

Therefore, water the soil by soaking it and letting it completely drain after.

 

Flush the Soil

In case overfertilizing is the cause, you likewise have 2 options.

One is to repot the plant in fresh soil.

Then don’t fertilize it for a while to le the roots and plant recover. When you start again, make sure to cut down on your application.

The second option is to flush the soil.

Run water through the soil for a few minutes so that the liquid will come out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

This will allow the excess salts to wash out along with the water.

Then let the soil completely drain right after.

 

Orchid Stem Turning Yellow is Different from Orchid Spike Turning Yellow

Before I end, this article on why your orchid stem is turning yellow, its causes and solutions, I’ll take a bit of time to explain something important.

Make sure that what is turning yellow is not the spike but the stem.

To explain, the orchid stem is where the main orchid plant is growing.

This is what will allow the plant to sustain itself since the stem takes water and nutrients from the roots and distributes them to the different parts of the orchid.

On the other hand, the orchid spike is where the inflorescence and flowers will grow out of.

Therefore, the orchid’s stem is more important for the survival and health of the plant.

In contrast, the orchid’s spikes are what them very attractive to people and why we like growing these beautiful plants – their flowers! The spikes are also how the orchids produce seeds.

If it is the orchid spikes that are turning yellow, then it is likely lack of humidity. If not, it could be a sudden drop in temperature, high mineralization in your tap water, or improper soil pH levels.

Aging, which causes the spike to die out is another possibility.

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