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YELLOW LEAVES MEAN OVERWATERING – PLANT MYTH MONDAYS #7

September 18, 2017
MONDAY 09.18.2017 MYTH: YELLOW LEAVES MEAN OVERWATERING

I saw six solid yellow leaves on my beloved Aralia one day last week. “Why?” I asked myself. “I followed every plant care rule in the book!” It is one of the most frustrating things a plant parent can experience: you work so hard to maintain and care for something, yet it doesn’t end up right!

If I’m being honest with myself, I noticed the yellowing slowly happen in the past couple weeks… but I kept following my usual care routine. Eventually I panicked and announced the unavoidable death of my Aralia tree to all my plant-nerdy friends. “It could be stress,” one friend said. “It could be the season transitioning,” another friend chimed in. “Oh! It’s not you, it’s them,” said another friend trying to make me feel better.

Luckily – instead of giving up on my beloved tree completely – I chatted with our plant specialist, Christopher Satch, the next day at work. He explained that yellow leaves do not always signal plant problems! So what’s the real deal here? Is my Aralia OK? 

The yellow leaves!

According to Christopher, it comes down to the plant and the symptom. Plants can have similar symptoms for completely different reasons! For example – yellowing leaves could be a sign of nutrient deficiency, overwatering, underwatering, a pest attack, and more. It’s always advisable to combine symptoms for an accurate diagnosis.

Below are few common reasons why a houseplant’s leaves could be yellowing:

Too much *or* too little water 

A watering issue is the most common culprit of the appearance of yellow leaves on your houseplant. For example, if you see yellow leaves that are curling, along with dry soil, that usually means that the plant is underwatered. Another tell tale symptom of under-watering is a droopy plant. But on the other hand, too much water can be just as damaging to leaves as too little. If you see yellow leaves, and feel the soil and it is too wet, then you know that you have probably been giving it too much water.

Nutrient deficiency

Little did I know that yellow leaves can also be a good indication that your plant’s nutrition level is out of wack! You can easily solve this by applying fertilizer. Just make sure to dilute it to half the recommended strength on the fertilizer’s packaging to avoid overfertilizing. Giving a plant too much fertilizer can do more harm than good! It can actually burn a plant’s roots (ouch), and cause more yellowing leaves.

Natural aging

Yup, plants are just like us: they age, too! Think of each leaf as having a solid cycle – baby leaves are usually lighter and more fragile, and as it matures, it turns darker (greener) and tougher. Ultimately, yellowing, browning and leaf dropping are all part of the leaf saying goodbye to the world. There could be nothing wrong with the plant itself – just the leaf’s time to go. The rule of thumb here is that you never want to see all the leaves doing this together at the same time, or the majority of the leaves. It should be a gradual cycle. Think of this as normal shedding.

The bottom line is *pay attention to your plant*! One or two yellow leaves? No biggie. More? Give your plant a good once over. Check it’s soil. As you can see below – my beloved Aralia is back – loving life! After chatting with Christopher, we figured out it was just trying to tell me to give it a little bit more water. I’m sure glad I caught on before it got worse, but if it did (and I lost my beloved tree), it would have been a learning experience for me.

P.S. If you don’t want to freak out (like me) over nothing, read more Monday Plant Myths HERE.

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