Peace lilies are popular plants in today’s world, and if you have one, you are probably in love with its rich green foliage. However, that might leave you wondering what’s gone wrong when that foliage is yellow, rather than deep, forest green.
Peace lily leaves may turn yellow because the plant is getting too much or too little water, or because they lack sufficient life. Too much light can occasionally be a problem, as can temperature fluctuations and nutrient deficiencies. All of these issues can be solved by good management and care.
When it comes to looking after peace lilies, you need to pay attention to all of their needs – and that covers water, food, light, temperature, and a lot of other factors too. We are going to look at some common problems and their solutions today.
What Are The Common Causes Of Yellow Leaves?
Many things can cause your peace lily’s leaves to turn yellow, and you may have to go through an extensive list to understand what’s going on if your peace lily is looking pale and sickly. However, with this list, you should be able to find a solution quickly.
Factors that may affect a peace lily’s color include:
- Too much sunlight
- Too little sunlight
- Temperature spiking or dropping
- Insufficient nutrients
- Pests attacking the leaves
- Certain diseases
- Poor water quality
- Leaf age
Problem 1) Too Much Water
Like all plants, peace lilies are vulnerable to being watered too heavily. If you give your peace lily a lot of water and its soil is consistently wet, it is likely to start suffering from a condition known as root rot.
This occurs when there isn’t enough oxygen in the soil and anaerobic bacteria start to form, attacking the plant’s roots. Because the roots are constantly wet, they will be more vulnerable to this kind of attack and will start to break down.
This will result in yellow leaves due to stress and loss of vital nutrients. Your plant cannot absorb the nutrients it needs from the soil if its roots are breaking down, and its foliage will become paler and paler.
Root rot can kill a plant fast, so you will need to step in to save your peace lily. To do this, you should tip your plant out of its container, wash off the soil, and inspect the roots. If the roots are firm and creamy, they have not yet begun rotting. You can dry them off with clean towels and then transfer the peace lily into fresh, dry soil.
If the roots have begun breaking down and rotting, you will need to trim them. Use sterile scissors and carefully remove any roots that are mushy or brown. Once you have removed enough roots, leave the peace lily to dry for a few hours, away from direct sunlight.
When the roots are dry enough, you should repot the peace lily into fresh soil, in a clean pot. Discard the old soil and wash the old container and dry it for use with another plant in the future. You don’t want to risk transferring bacteria with the plant, so use all fresh materials.
Your peace lily will hopefully start recovering at this point, and you will see its leaves perk up and gradually become greener as it gets the nutrients it needs.
Learn more about this subject in this article: Peace Lily Root Rot: 8 Warning Signs & How to Fix It.
Problem 2) Too Little Water
Consistently underwatering your peace lily can lead to the same problem. This is again because the plant will not be able to absorb nutrients properly. Peace lilies suck nutrients from the soil along with the water they drink, so if your plant isn’t getting enough to drink, its foliage will turn yellow.
Peace lilies are generally fairly tolerant of short drought periods, but these are rainforest plants that prefer humidity and moisture. Avoid giving your peace lily too little water, and make sure somebody is coming to water it if you are going to be away for a while.
If you think your peace lily is too dry, you should first check this by inserting your finger into the surface of the soil and pushing it to about half an inch or an inch down. If the soil feels dry right down, pick the pot up. A very light pot indicates that your peace lily is indeed too dry.
You should fill a basin with fresh rainwater (or tap water if you cannot access rainwater) and then place your peace lily’s pot in it. You will see bubbles rising from the soil as it fills with water.
Leave the peace lily in the water for about 20 minutes, and then lift it out and stand it on a saucer to drain for 15 minutes. When it has finished draining, empty the saucer.
Your plant should now have been thoroughly saturated and its roots will have swelled up with water and nutrients. Try to stay on top of watering it in the future.
Problem 3) Too Much Sunlight
Direct sunlight is a big problem for peace lilies. These are rainforest plants and they will not flourish if you put them in the sun. Too much sunlight tends to dry out the leaves, turning them yellow or pale green. You may also notice them wilting, and possibly developing crispy patches where the sun has burnt the tissues.
Your peace lily only needs limited direct light each day, so be aware of this when you choose where to place your plant. Don’t plonk it in front of a south-facing window in the middle of summer.
If your peace lily is getting too much light, relocate it to a different windowsill or move it a few feet away from its current sill. Even being a couple of feet further into the room may make enough difference to restore the plant’s health.
If you can’t relocate it, consider putting up a shade to block out some of the sun’s rays. Even a sheer curtain will make some difference to your plant. A thin blind or some other piece of fabric would also help.
Problem 4) Too Little Sunlight
Peace lilies are famous for being tolerant of low light conditions. This is a good thing in general, but it does, unfortunately, mean that a lot of peace lilies end up in really dark spots, where even they struggle to survive.
If a peace lily isn’t getting enough light, it will not be able to photosynthesize effectively, and this can mean that it turns pale and sickly looking. You might also notice the growth getting leggy, as it stretches toward the nearest light source and tries to get more sun.
A further sign that your peace lily isn’t getting enough sun is that it fails to flower. Peace lilies should produce beautiful white blooms from time to time, and if yours doesn’t do so, it’s likely because the plant is not getting sufficient energy from the sun.
The opposite to the advice above – put your peace lily somewhere sunnier. Do this with caution, because your plant will be even more vulnerable to light damage if it has been kept in the dark. You will need to increase the amount of light that it gets gradually.
You may place your peace lily a bit closer to the window each day, or move it to a spot that gets a few more hours of light, but no more direct sun. This may be enough to overcome the lack of light issues.
If you bought a peace lily because nowhere in your home gets much light, you might want to consider getting a grow lamp for the plant. A small one will usually be sufficient and could help to bump up the light levels to a more acceptable point.
Problem 5) Temperature Spikes
Because their natural environment is generally pretty stable, peace lilies are vulnerable to sudden temperature fluctuations.
If your plant is close to a radiator or a window and the temperatures regularly climb or drop, it is likely to get stressed, and it may show this by producing yellowed foliage.
Peace lilies like to be kept between 65 and 85 degrees F, and a significant spike or drop in temperature can damage the foliage surprisingly fast. In general, cold drafts are the biggest culprits. Any temperature below 45 degrees F will kill a peace lily quickly.
Try to put your peace lily somewhere with minimal temperature spikes or drops.
If the plant is near a window, you should move it away, especially if you want to open the window or the external temperatures are dropping. Put your peace lily somewhere sheltered. Do not position it close to an air conditioner.
Equally, protect it from sudden temperature spikes by keeping it away from radiators, open fires, or other sources of heat. While peace lilies are more heat tolerant than cold tolerant, they still will not cope well with a really hot environment.
Problem 6) Insufficient Nutrients
All plants need sufficient nutrients to build healthy leaves, including things like magnesium and iron. If these nutrients are lacking, your plant’s leaves will start to lose their shine and color. Peace lilies aren’t heavy feeders, but they still need the right nutrients to keep their leaves fresh and glossy.
If your peace lily has been in the same container without any fertilizer or repotting for a long time, this is quite likely to be the cause of yellow leaves. You can’t always see whether the soil is rich just from looking at it, but pale soil, flecked with white, and very crumbly may be depleted.
Similarly, if your plant is root bound, it won’t be able to access the nutrients even if they are there, and may develop pale yellow leaves as a result.
Generally, a lack of nutrients can be fixed by fertilizing your plant with an all-purpose fertilizer or topping it up with more compost. This is best done in the spring when the peace lily is just starting to grow after the winter, so it has plenty of resources. However, you can do it at any time of the year if your plant is hungry.
You should be careful not to fertilize it too often, as this may cause burning on the foliage and make the plant sick. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but most peace lilies only need to be fertilized a few times a year.
Before fertilizing your plant, take a few minutes to check if it is root bound. If you can see roots coming out of the bottom of the pot, repotting it may be wise. If you use fresh soil, this will also ensure the nutrients are there for the roots when they spread out.
Learn why and how to repot your plant in this article: 6 Signs Your Peace Lily Needs Repotting and How To Do It.
Problem 7) Pests
Pests can take various forms, but the commonest on peace lilies are brown scale insects and mealybugs. Both of these can cause pale leaves because they will drink the sap of your plant and steal its nutrients. They will also make it stressed and may stunt its growth.
You can check for these insects by regularly inspecting your plant. Mealybugs look like tiny balls of white cotton, while scale insects look like small, brown blotches on the leaves. Scale insects are hard to spot as they are flat and appear like leaf blemishes.
Both of these invaders will need to be treated before they do further damage to your plant. You can get rid of mealybugs by wiping your plant down with neem oil or blasting them off with a powerful stream of water. Be careful not to damage your peace lily’s leaves if you are opting for this method.
Scale insects can be a lot harder to get rid of as they are resistant to many kinds of insecticides. You might want to try using vodka, which kills scale pretty effectively. However, repeat treatments are likely to be necessary.
Problem 8) Diseases
Some diseases could also cause leaf yellowing, such as dasheen mosaic virus. The mosaic virus causes mottled yellowing across your whole plant, on both new leaves and old ones. Mosaic virus is not an easy disease to deal with.
In general, it is spread by insects, so if you have had pests on your peace lily, look out for this virus appearing. It can also be spread through tools and soil.
There is no cure for this virus, which is why you should be so careful if you think your plant may have it. Many people get rid of houseplants that suffer from mosaic virus to prevent it from spreading.
You may be able to stop it in the early days by removing afflicted foliage using sterile tools, and minimizing how much you handle the plant.
Problem 9) Poor Water
Sometimes, using tap water can cause your peace lily’s foliage to turn yellow. Tap water is convenient, but it contains chlorine, and sometimes other ingredients like sodium. These can build up in the plant’s soil and start damaging the roots.
Peace lilies are particularly sensitive plants in terms of both chlorine and sodium, so if you are going to use tap water, it’s worth checking out whether your local authorities add chlorine to the water.
If possible, use rainwater for your peace lily. This will contain beneficial micronutrients, and will not have chlorine or sodium in it. If you can’t use rainwater all the time, consider using it when you can to flush your peace lily’s soil out and remove the buildup of these contaminants.
Some people can’t use rainwater at all. In these cases, you should allow tap water to stand for 24 hours before giving it to your plant, as this will give the chlorine time to evaporate. Avoid water that has passed through softeners, and the sodium shouldn’t be a problem.
Problem 10) Old Age
Sometimes, yellow leaves are simply old leaves, and these are the cases that you don’t need to worry about. If your plant just has one yellow leaf and you know it has been around for a while, you can safely ignore it.
If you want to get rid of the yellow leaf, it’s fine to cut it off using sterile scissors. Your plant isn’t using this leaf anymore, so there’s nothing wrong with discarding it and making space for new growth.
Peace lilies leaves may turn yellow for a wide range of reasons, and it might take a bit of time to determine the cause. However, once you know what’s going wrong, you can take action to solve the problem and restore your plant to full health.