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8 Reasons your Monstera Leaves are Turning Yellow

8 Reasons your Monstera Leaves are Turning Yellow

Monstera plants are a hot trend right now! Most plant keepers have at least one nestled away in their collection, if not more. The most common species of Monstera currently on the market are Monstera deliciosa and Monstera adansonii.

Monstera deliciosa is a large, fast-growing aroid that has big fenestrated leaves when it is mature. Monstera adensonii is much smaller and slow-growing, but also has leaves with fenestrations. Both of these plants can make great houseplants if given the proper care, but problems do sometimes arise.

If you have noticed one or more of your Monstera’s leaves are dull or yellowing, it could be a sign of a problem. In this article, we will cover 8 of the most common reasons monstera leaves can turn yellow.

8 Reasons Your Monstera Leaves are Turning Yellow

1. Too Much Water

One of the most common reasons monstera leaves can turn yellow is overwatering. As plant parents, we want to give our plants the very best care. This can often lead to us smothering our plants with good intentions by watering them too much or giving them too much sunlight or fertilizer.

Too much of a good thing can be bad, so it’s important you establish a regular watering schedule for your plants. Depending on the type of plants you have in your house, some may need water a few times a week and some may only need water once or twice a month.

Monstera plants are from tropical rainforests in South America and they usually need to be watered twice a week. This can definitely be affected by other factors in your home, such as temperature, humidity level, and the type of pot that your plant is in, so be sure to check the soil before watering and adjust as needed.

If you have a cool home with a humidifier you may only need to soak your plants once a week, but if you have a warm dry home it might need to be watered 2-3 times.

When you water you will want to stick your finger about an inch into the soil to see if the soil is still wet from your last watering. Ideally, the soil will be close to dry, but not completely dried out, before you water it again.

Some good methods for watering are to water from the top of the soil near the base of the plant until you see water coming out the bottom of the pot. This is the main method I use to water my plants, but I also like to use the shower method about once a month to make sure my leaves are nice and clean and my plant gets a good soak as well.

To do this, I usually take my plants outside in the morning and use the shower setting on my hose to give them a good spray down and soaking. I then let them drain outside before bringing them back in.

This removes any dust that may have accumulated on the plant and it seems to just make the plants happy. Be sure to keep the plants out of direct sunlight when employing this method or your leaves could get burnt.

If you don’t have a backyard, you can also do this method in the shower. Be sure to use room temperature water if you do, as cold water and hot water can cause shock.

A close up of a Monstera plant
My Monstera Plant!

2. Too Little Water

To make things confusing, too little water can also cause your leaves to wilt and turn yellow. If you have yet to develop a good watering schedule and you are letting your plant get completely bone dry between watering, you may have caused your soil to become hydrophobic or dried out.

Once the soil is completely dry, it can be hard to get it decently hydrated again. This can trick people into thinking they are giving their plant enough water when, in fact, the water is just running through the soil super quickly without being absorbed.

If you think dried-out soil could be your issue, bottom watering is a good method of rehydration. To do this, place your pot inside of a bowl or a bucket. Then fill the outer container with water up to about the halfway mark on your plant’s pot. Leave your plant in the bigger container until you see that the soil has absorbed enough water and is now damp.

Bottom watering isn’t an ideal method for regular watering as it can sometimes oversaturate your soil, and it doesn’t allow for fertilizers, but it is a great method to have in your toolbox for when you need it.

3. Improper Lighting

Too little or too much light can also be a cause of yellowing leaves. Monstera plants prefer to be kept in bright indirect light. In the rainforests where these plants are native, they live in the understory of the forest. They are epiphytic plants that usually grow on trees, and these trees shield them from damaging sun rays.

This means the ideal place for your Monstera is a few feet from a southern, western, or eastern-facing window. Here it will be able to absorb light that is coming through the windows without being buffeted by the direct rays it isn’t used to.

If you don’t have a window that works, or it’s already full of other plants, you can also purchase a grow light from most hardware stores. Grow lights can be as simple or as complex and expensive as you would like them to be. For my grow lights, I simply buy a cheap lamp and grow light bulbs from the hardware store. This setup works well for me but LED grow light bars are also readily available and I have several friends who use and love them.

Symptoms of too much light hitting your Monstera are yellow leaves that may have black burnt-looking spots on them. If you notice leaves like this, you will want to move your Monstera to a new location and remove the burnt leaves so your plant stops sending nutrients to them.

Symptoms of not enough light are a little different and yellowing is usually not a direct symptom. A plant not getting enough light won’t utilize as much water. This often leads to overwatering, which then causes the leaves to yellow and can cause root rot. Once a plant’s leaves turn yellow they won’t turn green again, so it’s generally a good rule of thumb to go ahead and remove them so your plant can dedicate its energy to growing healthy foliage.

Not enough light can also be identified by leggy growth in your plant as it tries to stretch itself closer to the light it needs. If you see leggy growth and yellowing leaves, you can almost guarantee it’s due to not enough light and overwatering.

4. Stress

Plants can become stressed just like people and animals. Often, this stress is demonstrated by yellowing or unhealthy-looking leaves and growth. There are several common types of stress your plant may be under.

Soil

Using the wrong soil can cause your plant quite a bit of stress. Monstera prefer a well-draining, high nutrient, slightly acidic soil mix. You can accomplish this at home by mixing your own soil. I use a mixture of 1 part peat moss, 1 part perlite, and 4 parts Fox Farm Ocean Floor potting soil. If the Fox Farm brand isn’t available where you are, it can be substituted for any high-nutrient potting soil. This mix gives your plant everything it craves and will keep it happy and healthy.

Pots

Choosing the right pot for your plant is just as important as choosing the right soil. Monstera like their roots to get plenty of air, so a terra cotta pot can be the perfect pot for your plant. Terra cotta is porous, so it will pull moisture from your soil and let air get in as well. If you don’t like the look of terra cotta or you aren’t able to find one big enough, any appropriately sized pot with drainage holes can work.

Humidity

All plants have a preferred humidity level and for Monsteras it’s about 40%. If you notice the tips of your Monstera leaves are turning black and getting crispy, it could be that your humidity levels are too low. Adding a humidifier near your plant can help solve this problem.

Repotting

All plants undergo some stress when they are being repotted, but there are steps you can take to minimize their stress. Be prepared by having the new pot and soil ready to go. It’s best when choosing a pot to select one that is only one size bigger than your current one and repot in spring as they begin to come back from their dormancy.

Be careful with the roots while repotting, as they can be quite fragile. Only loosen them if they are incredibly root bound, otherwise, just try and shake the current soil off before popping them in the new soil.

It’s fine when repotting to add soil around the plant’s roots, but it’s not recommended to put soil on top of the plant’s preferred soil depth. This just means you should take a look at how your plant is situated before moving it so you can see where your plant emerges from the soil, then try to keep it at the same level in the new pot.

A monstera plant next to a window

5. Temperature

Monstera comes from the rainforests of South America which are very much tropical. They have a very low tolerance for extreme weather of any kind and can suffer in both hot dry climates and cold ones.

Monstera leaves will begin to yellow if the plant is exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees. If you are keeping your plants outside in your yard or on your porch, you will want to bring them in well before temperatures drop below 55 at night. If you are keeping them inside, you need to make sure the window you have them in or near isn’t too drafty.

One way to keep your plant warm is to add some insulation to the top and sides of your pot. You can wrap the pot in a towel on cold nights and you can place decorative mosses such as reindeer moss or sheet moss on top of the soil. These methods won’t protect them in extreme cold but can help them inside during chilly winter months.

6. Fertilizers

Fertilizing your Monstera is an important part of caring for your plant. There are two main methods of applying fertilizer. They are liquid fertilizer and slow-release pellets. Both can work wonderfully and it’s really just based on preference which one you will want to use more.

Liquid Fertilizer

If you like to be in complete control of what your plants are getting and when liquid fertilizer is likely the ideal choice for you. There are tons of options for water-soluble liquid fertilizers online and in your local plant store. You can choose whichever houseplant fertilizer works with your budget, but a 20-20-20 mix is ideal.

You will want to dilute this mix to half strength (don’t worry, the instructions should be on the bottle) and then apply it every 2-4 weeks during spring and summer and every 4-6 weeks during fall. In the winter your plant will become dormant, so no fertilizer is necessary.

A close up of a monstera with condensation on it

Pelleted Fertilizer

If you are more forgetful or don’t think you will have time to fertilize on a schedule, slow-release pellets could be the perfect answer to your plant’s needs. To use the pellets, you sprinkle the amount listed on the bottle onto the soil of your plant. After that, every time you water, a small amount of fertilizer will be washed down into the soil and to your plant’s roots.

These pellets generally last about 6-9 months before you need to add more. I do utilize these pellets in a few of my more sensitive but lower maintenance plants and they do work really well. So, don’t feel like you have to use liquid fertilizer to keep your plants happy if the pellets will fit your lifestyle better. The most important thing about plant care is consistency.

Not having enough nutrients in the soil can definitely lead to your plant yellowing and starting to look droopy, but like most plant-related things, the opposite is also true. Too much fertilizer can burn the roots of your plant and cause the leaves and potentially even the whole plant to yellow and die back.

7. Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases are very common causes of yellowing or dropping leaves. The most common are scale, spider mites, leaf spot, and root rot. I have symptoms of each and the ideal treatments are listed below.

Spider Mites

These tiny plants are the bane of many houseplant enthusiasts. They can spread from plant to plant rather quickly and, unless you look closely, they can be hard to identify until they are completely established and have done damage to your plant.

Spider mites are often found under leaves and they can form small webs which act as their nests. If you notice your plant’s leaves are yellowing, you will definitely want to check your plant over for mites. If you find some, be sure to isolate your plant and treat it with a mixture of dish soap and water once a week until 2 weeks after you think the mites are gone.

To do this, you will mix 3 tablespoons of dish soap to a gallon of water, then use a spray bottle to drench your plant and the soil. Doing this weekly should take care of the mites.

Scale

Scale bugs are most commonly found near the joints of your plants where the leaves connect to the stem. They are most commonly a tannish color and quite small. These pests burrow into the nooks and crannies of your plant and then begin eating it. Scale insects can cause your plant to turn yellow and drop leaves and if not caught soon enough, it can even kill them.

Like spider mites, when you notice scale bugs you will want to isolate your Monstera from the rest of your plants. Using an application of neem oil over all the surfaces of your plant can kill the bugs, but for heavy infestations, an insecticidal soap may be necessary.

Monstera leaves close up

Root Rot

Root rot is usually a direct result of overwatering and is common in lots of other types of plants as well.

If your plant is yellowing and seems lacklustre, check the soil. If it’s overly saturated you will want to pull it out and check the roots for rot. Healthy roots are varying shades of white, so if you see any brown or black roots, those are likely roots that are rotting.

If there are any healthy-looking roots left, you may be able to save your plant by removing the rotten roots and rinsing the healthy ones in room temperature water. Then place it in fresh healthy soil and be sure not to overwater it again as it recovers.

Leaf Spot

If you notice small yellow or brown spots on your plant, this could be leaf spot. This plant disease is a fungus that will slowly eat away at your plant’s healthy leaves. If you believe your plant has leaf spot, it is best to isolate it from your other plants and then remove all affected leaves.

Having humidity that is too high can be a contributing factor to leaf spot, so make sure that if you have been misting, you stop until the symptoms are gone.

8. Natural Life Cycle

It’s not uncommon for even the healthiest plant to drop a few leaves here and there. Sometimes it may be frustrating, especially for newbies, to see that their plant has a yellow leaf that is barely hanging on or has fallen to the floor.

Before you panic though, keep in mind that it is natural for plants to shed their older leaves as they age and grow. At times it can seem random which leaves are yellowing and falling off, but your plant generally knows what it’s doing when it comes to the process.

If you are sure the other 7 reasons don’t apply to you, it’s probably safe to assume the leaf was just ready to go. If it is still attached, you should use a sharp pair of clean scissors to remove it, but if it’s already dropped, all you need to do is put it in the trash or compost pile.

I do recommend taking time to spend with your plants at minimum once a week, give them a good once over. Check the leaves for any signs of pests or diseases and make sure they seem happy.

Studies have shown that spending time in nature is actually a great stress reliever and can even lower your blood pressure, so weekly wellness checks on your plants are good for them and you.