Chinese Evergreen, with its lush green foliage and easy-going nature, has become a staple in many households. Not only because it adds a tropical touch to every space, but it’s also a resilient, adaptable, and low-maintenance plant that needs minimal care to grow well.
But what happens when the vibrant green leaves start developing shades of yellow or brown? Is this a natural part of the aging process? Or is it a sign of a serious problem lurking beneath the soil?
In this guide, we’ll explore the reasons behind Chinese Evergreen turning yellow or brown.
By the end of the post, you should be able to nurture your botanical gem back to health.
Chinese Evergreen is arguably one of the most popular houseplants today, and it’s no surprise. It doesn’t only offer exceptional aesthetic appeal, but it’s also strong, versatile, and isn’t needy when it comes to water, light, and temperature.
For example, the Chinese Evergreen tolerates low and moderate light, so it’s an ideal leafy companion for spaces with limited sunlight. More importantly, it can adapt to a wide range of less-than-ideal conditions.
It doesn’t only tolerate low light levels, but it can handle extended periods of drought as well. So, in case you messed up your watering schedule, don’t worry. Your Chinese Evergreen will forgive you.
Despite their hardiness, Chinese Evergreens aren’t entirely immune to issues. Signs of yellowing or browning are likely to happen as in any other plant.
Sometimes, it’s a part of the plant’s aging process, but in many cases, it’s a sign of an underlying problem.
It’s not uncommon for plant owners to see their plants turn yellow or brown. We understand it’s frustrating not to see your Chinese Evergreen thriving, but the good news is, it’s never too late to save a yellowed Chinese Evergreen.
But first, you must understand the causes. Here are the most common reasons for Chinese Evergreen turning yellow or brown:
Overwatering is one of the foremost issues that lead to yellowing leaves. This isn’t just the case in Chinese Evergreens but in almost every other plant.
But aren’t Chinese Evergreens tolerant of various conditions? Yes, they are, and it actually takes a lot to hurt them. If you notice yellow or brown leaves on your Chinese Evergreen, then you probably have been overwatering it for quite a long time.
Even though these plants handle harsh conditions, they hate to sit in water for too long. That’s because overwatering waterlogs the soil, which restricts the roots’ ability to suck in nutrients and moisture.
The result? You’ve guessed it: root rot and yellow leaves.
You can easily know whether you’re overwatering your Chinese Evergreen or not by sticking your finger an inch into the soil. If it’s still soggy for days after watering, then you have been overzealous with your watering pot.
Many beginners stick to a regular watering schedule, but it’s a huge mistake, especially when it comes to plants that hate sitting in water for too long.
For the best results, check the soil state before each watering session, and water only when the top inch of the soil is completely dry. The key is to let the soil dry well between waterings.
Another useful tip is to ensure there are enough drainage holes in your pot so that it can eliminate excess water. That way, your plant won’t sit in a water pool for too long.
As we mentioned earlier, Chinese Evergreens thrive in low to moderate indirect sunlight. But that doesn’t mean you should place your Chinese Evergreen in a dark spot and expect it to flourish normally.
Even though these plants aren’t too needy when it comes to light, they still need to sit in light for a moderate amount per day. If your Chinese Evergreen isn’t getting enough light, the leaves will start to pale and yellow.
Be careful, though. Too much light can be harmful to your Chinese Evergreen, too.
Since these plants are native to tropical Asian forests, they prefer partial shade and indirect sunlight.
Why? Because direct sunlight can easily scorch the leaves, turning them yellow or brown.
To provide ideal lighting conditions for your Chinese Evergreen, place your plant in a dimly lit area that receives a moderate amount of indirect sunlight throughout the day. Avoid south-facing windows and ensure your plant is at least 3-5 feet away from sunny windows.
As tropical plants, Chinese Evergreens love warm and consistent temperatures. They’re not huge fans of extreme temperature fluctuations, which result in stress-induced yellowing or browning of leaves.
Ideally, your Chinese Evergreen will grow best in temperatures between 65°F to 75°F. If the room temperature is much lower or higher than these ranges, you’ll notice browning or yellowing of leaves as a sign of temperature stress.
That said, you should never assume the temperature of your room. Place your plant in a cozy spot with an ideal temperature, and use a thermometer to ensure the temperature isn’t too high or low for your plant.
It’s also crucial to keep your Chinese Evergreen away from cold drafts, air vents, ACs, and frequently opened doors or windows.
As with any other plant, Chinese Evergreens need essential nutrients to thrive and stay healthy. If you notice yellow or brown leaves on your plant, it can be an obvious sign of a deficiency in nutrients such as copper, nitrogen, and iron.
If you’re already using a plant fertilizer and still seeing yellow leaves, that means the fertilizer may be old or used up. For the best results, apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once in summer and once in spring.
Your fertilizer will complement the soil nutrients, allowing your plant to grow better in the growing season.
Be mindful not to over-fertilize your Chinese Evergreen because over-fertilizing can eventually burn your plant, leading to yellow leaves with crispy brown tips.
Despite being resilient, adaptable, and tolerant, Chinese Evergreen is still prone to diseases and pest infestations.
When pests invade plants, they absorb all the essential nutrients, leaving the plant malnourished and weak. The result? Vibrant green leaves turn yellow or brown.
The common pests that infect the Chinese Evergreen are spider mites, mealybugs, and whiteflies. Pests are more likely to infect weak, stressed plants. Weak Chinese Evergreens often result from over or underwatering or low humidity.
That’s why you should always check your plant for signs of weakness or stress before it becomes a home for unwanted pests.
Cutting off the yellow leaves on your Chinese Evergreen is generally good practice as these leaves won’t turn green again. Yellow leaves are unsightly and can make your plant look less attractive, so removing them enhances the overall aesthetic appeal of your tropical beauty.
Additionally, when a leaf turns yellow, it’s an indication that it no longer produces energy. When you remove these non-functional plant parts, you’ll redirect your plant’s resources to healthier parts, promoting better growth.
Finally, removing yellow leaves can actually save your plant from further damage. In cases of diseases and pest infestations, yellow infected leaves can spread these issues to healthier plant parts. So it’s best to cut them off.
Chinese Evergreens can develop brown tips for various reasons, such as overwatering, low humidity, overfertilization, and direct sunlight. But if you notice the leaves are turning brown only at the tips and edges, it’s likely a sign of low humidity.
Chinese Evergreens don’t mind the humidity levels in most homes, but if the air in your home is too dry, leaves develop brown, crispy tips.
Dark or brown spots on Chinese Evergreen leaves are usually a sign of overwatering, a common issue that often leads to nutrient deficiency and root rot. While these plants can tolerate harsh conditions, they hate sitting in water for too long.
When the soil is too soggy, it prohibits the roots from transferring water and nutrients to other plant parts.
If you suspect you’re overwatering your Chinese Evergreen, check the soil’s top layer and make sure it’s dry before each watering session.
Now that we’ve explored the common causes of Chinese Evergreen turning yellow or brown, remember that it’s crucial to address these issues promptly.
Whether by optimizing lighting conditions, adjusting the watering schedule, or safeguarding against pests, these care tips will help your Chinese Evergreen thrive.
Don’t hesitate to prune the yellow leaves to redirect your plant’s energy for new growth and prevent potential issues from spreading to healthy plant parts.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.