There are few things more alarming to a monstera deliciosa owner than yellowing leaves!
Yellowing monstera deliciosa leaves can have a lot of different causes, but the good news is that most of these issues are very fixable. Think of your monstera deliciosa’s leaves as its advanced warning system. If there’s an issue with the plant’s environment or care, the leaves will let you know, and usually far enough in advance that you’ll still be able to save your plant!
In this article, we’ll discuss the various potential causes for yellowing leaves and what you can do about them to not only head off the problem but bring your monstera back to full health!
Is My Monstera Deliciosa Dying?
We know it’s hard, but when you see yellowing leaves on your monstera…don’t panic. It’s easy to fly into a frenzy and start making a bunch of changes to your plant’s environment and care in order to save it, but that approach almost always does more harm than good!
Instead of implementing every change and treatment you can think of in hopes of fixing the problem, approach your yellowing leaves like a detective: use deduction and the process of elimination to pinpoint the true cause so you can treat that instead of using a scattergun approach that will just shock your plant.
First things first: take a deep breath.
Now, let’s take a look at why your plant may be yellowing and what to do about it.
Why Do Monstera Deliciosa Leaves Turn Yellow?
In general, yellowing monstera deliciosa leaves have a few root causes (no pun intended): improper watering, improper light conditions, or nutrient deficiency. Insects can occasionally cause yellowing, but you’ll usually notice other signs first, like tiny brown spots or webbing.
Let’s talk about those three main causes and how to correct them.
The first, and most likely, potential cause of yellowing monstera deliciosa leaves is overwatering or underwatering. But how do you know which it is? Here are the signs to watch out for.
Overwatering Monstera Deliciosa
Overwatering is the most common cause of yellowing leaves in houseplants, so this is the first potential problem to look for.
If your monstera deliciosa is overwatered, you’ll most likely see leaves yellowing toward the bottom of the plant first.
You’ll also want to check the soil to see if it still feels wet several days after you watered. There’s a caveat to this, though: it’s possible for the root ball to be completely soaked even if the top few inches of soil are dry. If the soil is compacted or not draining well, there might be extra water hanging around deeper in the pot.
We suggest using a moisture meter to get an idea of what’s actually happening in the root ball and not just in the top few inches of soil. (This is the meter we recommend. It also measures light and soil pH!)
If you watered more than a week ago and the top few inches of soil still feel wet or if the meter reads higher than 4, your soil might not be draining well, which can lead to overwatering and yellowing.
Underwatering Monstera Deliciosa
Frustratingly enough, underwatering your monstera can also cause your leaves to turn yellow.
If your monstera is thirsty, you might notice yellow leaves all over the plant rather than concentrated in one area, like the bottom. You may also see dry brown spots (if this happens, your plant is probably VERY dry).
It’s also important to check the soil here. If the top few inches of soil are bone-dry, your plant probably wants a drink. If the moisture meter reads lower than 3, it’s time to water!
Direct Sunlight Exposure
If incorrect watering doesn’t seem to be the issue, check your plant’s lighting conditions.
Monstera plants, including monstera deliciosa, thrive in bright, indirect sunlight. “Indirect” is key here. If the strong midday or afternoon sun shines directly on a monstera’s leaves, the leaves can get scorched, which can show up as…yellowing.
Make sure to watch for this when the seasons change. The sun’s position in the sky will change throughout the year and might be more direct on your plant at certain times of the year than others. Keep an eye on this and notice whether the sun’s rays ever shine directly on your plant’s leaves; if they do, move your plant out of the sun’s path or to a different location altogether.
It’s also important to note that too little light can also cause leaves to yellow, and this can actually lead to or exacerbate overwatering because plants need light to use water efficiently. Again, pay attention to your plant’s lighting conditions, and remember that even bright light inside doesn’t compare to what a plant would receive outside. (The moisture meter we recommended also measures light, so that can come in handy here!)
As a general rule of thumb, an east-facing window is the best place for a monstera deliciosa. A spot near a south- or west-facing window can also work as long as the plant isn’t in direct sunlight. A north-facing window might not provide enough light for a monstera deliciosa. If you aren’t able to provide enough light to keep your monstera happy, try supplementing with a grow light.
If your plant seems to be happy with its lighting and watering conditions, the other likely culprit for yellowing leaves is nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen is essential in chlorophyll production, which makes plant leaves green. So when your plant doesn’t get enough of it, you wind up with yellow leaves.
In nature, plants usually get plenty of nitrogen because plant and animal material is constantly breaking down into the soil and providing a steady supply of nutrients. But your potted monstera only has access to the nutrients in its potting soil, and it can use up those nutrients in a matter of months. If you haven’t repotted your monstera in a year or more and haven’t been fertilizing it, it might very well be deficient in nitrogen and other nutrients.
How to Fix Monstera Deliciosa Yellow Leaves
So you’ve determined the most likely cause of your monstera’s yellow leaves (we hope!). Now what do you do about it? Here are the steps you’ll need to take.
Soil and Drainage
If watering is the issue (especially overwatering), it’s tempting to just water less often or give your plant less when you do water. This can work, but first make sure to check that your pot and soil are draining properly.
First of all, you are using a pot with drainage holes, right? If not, switch to a pot with drainage— pronto!
If your pot has drainage holes, make sure your soil is draining properly. When you slowly add water to the top of the soil, it should drain out the bottom fairly quickly instead of overflowing. If the water takes a while to settle into the soil or if it doesn’t come out the bottom in a few seconds, you might need to correct a drainage issue.
There are generally two solutions for this: repotting and aeration.
Aeration just means that you use a chopstick or dowel to poke holes in the soil to loosen it up. This works well as a temporary fix to hold you over until you can get better soil and repot, or just to keep the soil from compacting over time.
If your soil seems to hang on to water for a long time or if it’s very compacted, or if your monstera’s roots are growing in a circle around the inside of the pot, it might be time to repot into fresh, fast-draining soil.
A cactus soil with some additional perlite and a little peat moss mixed in can work in a pinch, but we recommend using a soil designed specifically for monstera plants.
We love this recipe if you’re a DIY person and like making your own potting mix. If not, try our Premium Monstera Potting Soil, which is ready to go right out of the bag! This mix was created specifically for monsteras, and it’s great for other aroids too! It’s the perfect balance of drainage and water retention, and also contains the ideal nutrient content and pH balance for monstera plants.
The best way to keep tabs on your soil’s moisture content and drainage is with a moisture meter, because it tells you what’s actually happening in the root ball. You can’t get that with a simple finger test!
Check for Root Rot
If you realized you’ve been overwatering your monstera or that the soil hasn’t been draining properly, you may want to check your monstera for root rot, especially if you’re noticing dark-brown or black spots on the lower leaves along with the yellowing, or if the stems are getting soft.
If you suspect root rot, the best way to check is to unpot your monstera and actually look at the root ball. When you see brown or black roots that are also mushy and smelly, you’ve got root rot.
If this is the case, get as much of the old, wet soil out of the root ball as possible and trim away any rotten roots. Then repot your monstera in fresh, fast-draining soil and a clean pot. (Use a new one or scrub and sterilize the old one.) After that, put your plant in a bright place and go easier on the water for a while. When you do water, use our Root Supplement to help the roots heal and negate further infection.
We recommend using a gentle liquid fertilizer during the spring and summer when you water to provide your monstera with all the nutrients it needs for growth and other functions. Our favorite is Monstera Plant Food, which is formulated especially for monstera plants. It’s also easy to use and gentle enough to mix into your plant’s water every week, so you won’t have to remember a fertilization schedule!
Other Common Monstera Leaf Problems
Remember when we said that leaves are a monstera’s advanced warning system? Well, yellowing leaves aren’t the only potential signal. Here are some other leaf issues to watch out for, what they mean, and what to do about them!
Monstera Deliciosa Black Leaves
Blackened leaves often indicate frostbite, so make sure that your monstera is well away from drafts, cold windows, and air-conditioning vents that could freeze them!
If you’re moving your monstera from one location to another, be sure not to leave it in a cold car or uninsulated moving van for more than a few minutes if it’s very cold outside. Your plant can quickly freeze and die!
Monstera Deliciosa Leaves Curling
Monstera leaves can curl up for a lot of reasons. This is one of those signals (like drooping) that can mean a lot of different things!
Do the usual checks to see what your plant might be unhappy about. Check the moisture level of the soil. Is it too wet or dry, considering when you last watered? Consider if your plant is getting enough bright, indirect sunlight? Or is it too hot or too cold? (Check for nearby vents, drafts, heaters, etc.) Is it getting enough humidity? (You can try a humidity meter for this.)
If you can’t figure out what on earth is going on, try switching to distilled water if you’ve been using tap. (Or just set out your plant’s water overnight to let chlorine and other chemicals evaporate out.)
Monstera Deliciosa Black Spots
Black spots are usually a sign of root rot, so make sure to treat for root rot quickly. Root rot can kill a plant in just a few days if left untreated!
Keep Your Monstera Happy!
When you know what signs to look for and what they mean, you’ll be able to read your monstera’s leaves like a book!
And when you can read your plant’s signals, you can tell when it’s happy and when it needs a little help, which will allow you to grow the happiest, most gorgeous monstera possible.
You’re on your way!