Reading Your Orchid’s Leaves

Orchids need healthy leaves to survive and thrive. If your orchid’s leaves look unhappy, take this list of common problems as a starting point to your diagnosis. Notice that some symptoms appear several times for different causes. For instance, certain signs of overwatering and underwatering are the same.

It helps to pay attention to the look and feel of your orchid’s leaves when the plant is healthy, so then you’ll have a good frame of reference to recognize a problem. While any one of these symptoms can indicate a problem, not every dark spot or yellow leaf is cause for concern. For example, older leaves (those lower on the plant) may yellow, develop spots, split down the middle, or fall off entirely. This is okay, as long as healthy new leaves are growing.

Mushy, wilted, limp, shrunken, or flattened leaves
Leaf split down middle
Yellow leaves
Leaves quickly turn soft and black
Wilted, limp, shrunken, or flattened leaves
Leaf has pronounced “ribs” or “veins”
Leaf split down middle
Edges of leaves curled under
Pleated leaves
Yellow or brown leaves
Sunburn or overheating
Large dried or dead spot on leaf; spot may start white and turn dark
Yellow leaves
Inadequate light
Yellow leaves
Dark green leaves
Leaves are floppy
Excessive fertilizer
Brown tips on leaves
Inadequate fertilizer
Yellow leaves
Low humidity
Brown tips on leaves
Wilted leaves
Allowing water to sit on leaves overnight
Mushy leaves
Needs repotting
New leaves turn to mush or turn black
Holes in leaves
Deformed leaves
Black spots
Leaves develop bronze color
Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
Black spots or soft spots, especially those with an unusual smell
Streaks or patterns with discoloration
Yellow leaves
Cold water on leaves
Black spots

Explore posts in the same categories: Fertilizing, Problems, Watering

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7 Comments on “Reading Your Orchid’s Leaves”

  1. Michael Says:

    thanks! this is so helpful!!! it’s always made me insane that i could never undrstand why leaf tips go brown.

  2. Howie Says:

    Cool post, just subscribed.

  3. Jan Jaeger Says:

    How fascinating to see that one thing, like under-watering, can exhibit so many different symptoms! Thanks for the helpful information!

  4. nancy Says:

    that’s a really useful list of problems. i’ve had orchids with leaves curled under, and didn’t know it was a problem. it’s good to know also that it’s not necessary to worry about every little spot

  5. paula Says:

    good post – thanks!

  6. ayang Says:


    I happy to found this. It is a great forum

  7. Dennis Says:

    Great article.