HELP! The leaves on my plant are turning yellow! What's happening?
You're probably dealing with: Overwatering + Underwatering
How can I tell?: A yellow leaf here or there isn’t a reason for concern. Instead, look at the overall health of your plant. If the yellowing is significant and widespread, then it is an indication that something is making your plant unhappy. Yellowing leaves, wilting, or mushy stems are usually signs of an issue with watering. Rule of thumb: it’s always better to underwater rather than overwater.
So how do I determine which is happening?
Overwatering: Common causes of overwatering are having a plant in a pot with no drainage hole, watering frequently but before the soil has dried out, placing a plant in a pot too large for its rootmass, or giving a plant inadequate light. Overwatering leads to a disease known as root rot, which causes the stem and leaves of the plant to be soft and mushy. Once a plant develops root rot, it is difficult to salvage.
Underwatering: This is caused by, you guessed it, not watering thoroughly or watering too infrequently! Be sure to drench the soil until excess water comes out the drainage hole to ensure that the entire root system has gotten a drink. If the soil has become hard and compacted (causing water to pool on the soil surface before being absorbed), use a pencil or chopstick to poke deep pockets around the soil before watering.
Let's fix this: It is best to always have a drainage hole when potting a plant directly into a planter. Many decorative planters are sold as cachepots, which simply means they are meant to conceal the nursery plastic pot plants are sold in. When watering, pull the plant out of the decorative planter, allow to drain, then place back into the cachepot. Instead of watering often in small amounts, it is best to water thoroughly but less frequently. As a general rule of thumb, tropicals like their soil to dry out about 2-3" and desert plants, such as cacti and succulents, like to dry out completely in between waterings; however, it is best to identify your plant and do some research on your plant’s specific needs! Please also note that many plants will naturally shed their lower leaves as they grow.