Calathea Leaves Turning Yellow? 5 Reasons And Effective Solutions

Calathea leaves turning yellow is pretty standard. Your plant isn’t dead although it may well be on its way! No need to panic though, these yellow leaves are quickly revived once you identify the problem and fix it accordingly. With yellowing leaves, the three basic needs of any plant are what you’d want to check first. These include proper irrigation, lighting, and feeding.

You don’t know how but you’ve done it again! Yet another house plant has died by your hands shortly after you’ve just bought it. Well, we don’t know if you’ve just bought it or not; however, we do know how to save it for you. No worries, your calathea plant is in safe hands.

Like any concerned parent, run a diagnosis first. Identifying the reasons why your plant has dying leaves is crucial. Understanding its needs will follow accordingly. This way, you can avoid any future near-to-death experiences that may reoccur.

1.  Calathea Leaves Turning Yellow Due To Inconsistent Watering

The most common cause of yellow leaves in any calathea plant is not having a clear idea as to when you should water it and how much water it needs. As a result, both overwatering and underwatering lead to yellow leaves. Remember, calatheas are originally rainforest plants and require soil that’s always moist.

Here are four factors to consider when tackling this issue:

Soil Moisture

Check how wet the soil is before watering; simple. More often than not, there’s already enough water beneath the soil surface, and there’d be no need for more. Never leave your plant drowning in above-soil-surface water, and conversely, never leave it till the soil dries out.

The best method to check the soil’s moisture, pros have found, is to use a moisture meter. But, say you don’t have the budget for one; then just use your fingers. Usually, when the top half-inch (about 1.27 cm or half a fingertip for easy math) is dry, then that’s your cue to water it.

Water Quality And Quantity

The amount of water your calathea needs is determined by the aforementioned factor, but did you know that how clean the water you give your plant is can also play a role in that horrid dying appearance?

yellow leaf isolated against a white background

Sadly, it’s true. Calatheas are picky plants. Their leaves react to the fluoride found in tap water, and if consistently watered by it, the yellow color will only worsen, turning brown and annihilating your precious plant.

What to do? Distilled water. A pro tip: if you don’t have access to distilled water, fill your watering can with tap water, and let it stay out overnight. This will neutralize the fluoride, and make it safe to water with. Rainwater has also proven to be tolerated by these fickle plants, so make sure to collect some next time it rains!

The Roots

Too much water equals root rotting, which then equals a stressed plant with yellow leaves. And don’t think you can just surgically remove the rot—well, you can, but it isn’t recommended since it’ll only stress the plant more.

Inadequate Housing

Placing your plant in a proper pot is essential. Calatheas do well in pots with drainage holes. If you can’t get the amount of water it needs right, let the plant do the watering for itself. It knows best.

Using a pot with drainage holes is especially helpful if you’re new to taking care of plants. However, make sure to use a plant saucer to collect the excess water to avoid creating a mess in your garden or room.

2.  Calathea Leaves Turning Yellow Due To Improper Lighting

Calatheas are quite particular about their wants. They need a lot of light, eight hours to be exact, and not just any light—indirect light. Otherwise, you get what you have now—a dying plant. If left unsolved, this issue will burn the leaves as well, so it’s better addressed sooner than later.

Here’s what to keep in mind when addressing it:

Sun’s position

Where does the sun stand in all this? North, South, East, or West? Figure that out, then place your plant accordingly.

Note that a south or west-faced position will hurt your plant. So, instead, consider an east-faced one. But, you might still need to protect it from direct sunlight exposure, so perhaps drawing the curtains won’t hurt.

A way around this hassle is to place the plant at arm’s length from the sunlight. Two to three feet [0.5 to 1m] is the perfect distance. And if the sunlight is scarce where you live, rest assured that your calathea can do well in low or medium-light. Just remember to change its position whenever there is sun.

3.  Calathea Leaves Turning Yellow Due To Cold Temperatures

A tropical plant like this one won’t be able to go against its nature and do well in cold temperatures. So, regardless of weather circumstances, do well to remember that your calathea can only live between temperatures 62ºF (16ºC) and 81ºF (27 °C).

Because this plant is pedantic, any slight temperature change can stress it out and consequently lead to the discoloring of its leaves.

Here’s what you should consider:

No drafts

Keep your calathea away from windows or air vents where breezes or cold drafts will tickle it funny. Putting them near a radiator or any heat-conducting machine will also harm them. So, how do we keep them happy?

Closeup of isoalted leaves of tropical prayer plant (calathea roseoptica)

A good middle ground is making sure that the room is warm and at the perfect temperature. However, don’t let the temperature slip even by one degree, and you should have a lovely green-leaved calathea all year round.

4.  Calathea Leaves Turning Yellow Due To Low Humidity

Since calatheas’ natural habitat is highly humid and always warm, these plants will only thrive under similar conditions. If the humidity is low in the room or where you live, this might be the reason why the plant’s leaves have yellowed.

A humidity of 50-70% is ideal for these plants, and here are three ways to reach that sweet percentage:

A Humidifier

This probably is the easiest method and the first of your go-to’s. Purchase a humidifier, make sure to fill it with distilled water (refer to the first reason), and voila, your plant can rest easy.

If you’re feeling extra special, why not purchase a hygrometer while at it? This will measure the percentage of humidity in the room at all times, thus helping you keep a close eye on your oh-so needy calathea.

Spraying or Misting

A more manual method would be this one. Use a spray bottle to mist the leaves regularly, but keep in mind two things:

  1. Don’t overdo it: Too much water on the leaves will cause fungal spots. Stick to 1-2 times a week.
  2. Be thorough: Don’t leave a spot unmisted. Remember to mist the underside of the leaves as well.

This method has also proven to keep away unfriendly pests such as spider mites.

Pebble trays

This is both a manual and meticulous method. First, place your calathea in a tray full of pebbles. Then fill it up with water. The pebbles act as barriers between the plant roots and the water, and as the water slowly evaporates, this helps create a humid atmosphere directly around the plant.

This method, just like the one above, will also protect your plant from any unwanted visitors that would enjoy eating it—just make sure that the pebbles are clean and regularly washed.

More Plants!

A more expensive and effort-increasing method would be to reward your calathea (and yourself!) with more plants. Putting multiple plants together in a group would naturally increase the humidity in the space.

This way, you’re letting your plants do all the work for you—well, at least when it comes to the humidity part.

5. Calathea Leaves Turning Yellow Due To Malnutrition

Well, not just underfeeding may stress out our calathea but also overfeeding it. So just like with water, make sure to moderate how much fertilizer you feed it.

While this reason is unlikely the answer to your problem, it does help to remember a few things:

Meal Time

Set your calendar to these three seasons: spring, late summer, and fall, during which your calathea would most likely need to be fed. It’ll also do well to feed it when it’s going through a flowering or growth period.

Meal Type

A standard and balanced houseplant fertilizer should suffice. Want to go the extra mile? Add a tablespoon of the fertilizer to half a gallon of water (around 2 liters), and once every month, water your plant with the solution.

Meal Waste

Incorrect flushing of the meal after eating will lead to yellow leaves over time. We’ve established you need a pot with drainage holes, but how do you flush correctly?

  1. Let the water run freely through the drainage holes for a minute or two.
  2. Leave it be till the excess has fully drained.
  3. Don’t water it again until the soil completely dries up.

Repeat this process once every few months.

Calathea leaves turning yellow


Calathea leaves turning yellow is a common issue, and these plants are more used to it than you think, and with proper care, these hardy plants will bounce right back to normal.

Remember, moderation is key. Moderate water, moderate feeding, moderate light, moderate temperature, combined with ideal humidity levels will help you rest easily at night.

Seeing your calathea’s leaves turn yellow might be discouraging, but caring for this gorgeous plant gets easier with enough patience and knowhow.