Monstera plants, also called Swiss Cheese Plants, are all the rage with their dramatic foliage sporting lacy holes and slits. But while these tropical plants are easy to care for, it’s a pretty common problem to realize one day that your Monstera leaves are turning yellow.
Yellow leaves on a Monstera plant typically indicate stress from improper growing conditions, ranging from too little (or too much) watering, improper light exposure and low humidity to improper fertilization techniques.
Keep reading to find out more about this, including how to fix yellow Monstera leaves so they turn green and luscious again in no time.
Table of Contents
Why are my Monstera leaves turning yellow?
Determining why your Monstera leaves are turning yellow requires a little detective work. The reasons for yellowing leaves on Monstera plants vary. Here are the most common issues responsible for yellowing Monstera leaves.
Both over and under watering can cause your Swiss cheese plant to develop yellow leaves that will eventually drop from the plant. This is why you need to keep an eye on how often you water your Monstera, as these tropical plants thrive in evenly moist soil that does not dry out excessively.
They will, in turn, suffer from either dry soil or soil that remains wet for too long.
Overwatering your plants is a common reason for your Monstera leaves turning yellow. This is because waterlogged soil drowns the roots making it impossible for them to get oxygen and uptake the nutrients your plant needs to thrive.
When Monsteras are overwatered, the water fills all the air pockets in the soil effectively cutting off the oxygen to the roots. If left unchecked this can lead to root rot that will eventually kill the plant. To avoid this, allow the top 2 to 3 inches of the soil to dry out before watering your Monstera plant again.
Underwatering your Monstera plant can also cause the leaves to turn yellow and eventually die as the roots are unable to uptake the water your plant needs for healthy growth. Yellowed leaves due to underwatering typically lead to your Monstera leaves turning brown, developing crispy edges, before they shrivel and die.
A good way to identify this is as follows: If the soil in your Monstera plant is compacted and dry or starts to pull away from the sides of the plant pot, your Monstera needs more water.
Water it to saturate the soil and water runs freely through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Empty the saucer or catch basin and monitor the moisture level in the soil. Water your Monstera plant again when the soil feels dry an inch or two below the surface.
Monstera plants need bright, indirect light to thrive, but some varieties require more light than others. As a rule, variegated varieties, like Monstera Thai Constellation or Monstera Deliciosa Variegata, require more light than Monsteras with solid green foliage because they lack chlorophyll in the variegated areas of the foliage.
This means that only the green portions of the leaves are able to harness the energy from the sun to convert it to energy for the plant. Accordingly, too little sun can cause yellowing of Monstera leaves.
Too Much Sunlight
Monstera plants that receive too much sunlight may develop yellowed leaves. Too much light may burn your Monstera’s leaves and damage them to the point that they yellow and fall from the plant. Leaves exposed to too much light (or direct rays from the sun) may look patchy with yellow, brown or black spots on your Monstera’s leaves, turn nearly white or gradually turn from yellow to brown.
Move your Monstera plant to an area out of direct sunlight. You can also place a sheer curtain between your Monstera and the window to soften the light.
(And this isn’t the only plant where this is an issue. In fact, it’s one of the similarities I found when doing our split leaf philodendron vs Monstera comparison. So if you have other houseplants, perhaps check if they have similar light needs and see if it’s worth grouping them in a similar place.
Not Enough Light
Some Monsteras do remarkably well in low light conditions, although their variegation will be subdued. However, they prefer bright, indirect light to thrive. Too little light often causes lower leaves to yellow and die. To know that your Monstera is getting enough light, move it to an area that receives at least 5 hours of bright, indirect light each day.
To figure out if this may be the problem, hold your hand about a foot over the top of the plant (between the plant and the light source) to measure the amount of light it receives. A distinct shadow with well-defined edges means your Monstera is getting too much direct sunlight. A very faint or no shadow at all means your Monstera is not getting enough light. Aim for a fuzzy shadow without defined edges for your Monstera plant.
Keep in mind that if you’re wondering when will your Monstera leaves split if they also haven’t formed the holes you expected, improper light may be the cause for this too.
Monsteras benefit from occasional fertilizer to keep them healthy, but both over and under fertilizing your Swiss cheese plants can cause yellowing of the leaves.
Over Fertilizing Monsteras
While you may feed your plan as a way to keep your Monstera leaves healthy, using a fertilizer that is either too strong or applying it too frequently can damage the health of your Monstera plant, resulting in the leaves turning yellow. Although it might be tempting to give your Monstera a little extra fertilizer to boost its growth, this can prove disastrous.
Too much fertilizer or too strong a formula can burn the tender roots making it impossible for them to transport the water and nutrients your Monstera plant needs to thrive. Always use a balanced plant fertilizer and apply it at the recommended rate when fertilizing your Monstera plants.
Under Fertilizing Monsteras
Monsteras need a balanced fertilizer once or twice a month during the growing period, typically from spring until fall. However, during the winter, they need a break for the plant to rest.
Failing to fertilize your Monstera plants during the spring and summer can leave them depleted of the nutrients they need to thrive. Without adequate nutrients, your Monstera plants cannot grow properly and may develop weak, yellowing leaves as a result.
Wrong Pot Size
Monsteras need adequate room in the pot for their roots to grow, otherwise you could find yourself with a root bound Monstera.
At the same time, they also need a pot that is small enough to prevent the soil from remaining soggy between waterings.
It’s for this reason that growing them in pots that are either too big or too small for their needs can cause stress to the plant resulting in your Monstera drooping and, ultimately, yellowing leaves.
Growing your Monstera in a pot that is too big is an invitation to issues with overwatering or soil that doesn’t dry out well between waterings. Because there is so much soil compared to the root ball, the roots of your Monstera plant may not be able to use all the water you provide for it. That means the soil will remain too wet which can lead to yellowing leaves and eventually to root rot that can kill your plant.
If the soil in your plant pot remains wet for more than a day or two, consider reporting the plant in a smaller pot to facilitate better control over the moisture in the soil
Pots that are too small do not provide enough room for the roots to grow. The soil may dry quickly leaving your plants struggling to get the water they need to thrive. This can cause the leaves on your Monstera plant to yellow and die.
If you suspect that the plant pot is too small, gently remove the plant from the pot to check the roots. If the roots are wound tightly or fill the entire pot, it is time to repot your Monstera to a larger plant pot.
A good rule of thumb is to always choose a pot that is one or two inches bigger than the root ball to give the roots room to grow.
Poor Potting Mix
In terms of the best soil for your Monstera, these plants need slightly acidic soil that provides plenty of aeration for the roots and that drains well after watering. Regular all-purpose potting soil is too dense for Monsteras and can lead to compacting and lack of proper drainage.
Grow your Monstera plant in an aroid soil mix – or you can even make your own! Mix four parts bark, three parts all-purpose potting soil, 2 parts peat moss and one part perlite to make a potting mix for your Monsteras. This creates slightly acidic soil that drains well and provides plenty of aeration for the roots.
As tropical plants, Monsteras thrive in high humidity and will suffer and develop yellow or dying leaves if grown in low humidity. Specifically, tropical plants, like Monstera, grow best in humidity levels between 60 and 80 percent.
That means they will need a little help from you to increase the humidity levels near your plants, especially during the winter when indoor humidity levels can drop dramatically. Try these tips for raising the humidity level around your plants.
- Use a Pebble Tray. Place a shallow tray filled with water-covered pebbles under or near your Monstera plants. Make sure the bottom of the plant pot is elevated above the water level to avoid soggy soil in your plant pot. The water in the pebble tray will evaporate slowly raising the humidity level around your plants.
- Group Plants Together. Grouping your houseplant together also helps to raise the humidity level in the area. Try to place several plants in attractive groupings to take advantage of the moisture they give off as they grow.
- Get a Humidifier. A humidifier is an effective way to add moisture to the air and your Monstera plants will thank you for it. Place the humidifier near your plants where they can soak up the extra moisture in the surrounding air.
How do you fix yellow leaves on Monstera?
While you can’t fix your Monstera’s leaves once they turn yellow, you can improve the growing environment for your Monstera plants to eliminate the cause of your yellowing leaves.
Monstera’s are fairly reasonable plants so, fortunately, this isn’t so hard to do. Assuming you’re pretty sure you’ve found the reason for this based on the earlier part of this article, the solution is simply to avoid what caused the issue in the first place.
1. Provide your Monstera plant with proper lighting
Monsteras prefer bright, indirect light. That said, as mentioned earlier, variegated Monstera varieties typically require more light, so the exact type of Monstera you have will determine what you do here.
In any case, depending on whether your issue is too much or not enough light, avoid placing your Monstera plant in direct sunlight but also make sure that it’s getting some light each day. Direct sunlight can burn your plant but keeping your Monstera in the shade all the time also won’t allow it to get the light that it needs.
Instead, find a spot in your home where there is indirect light, ideally for at least five hours a day. Placing your Monstera near north- and east-facing windows or shaded south- and west-facing ones can do the job. Alternatively, your plant will thrive a couple of feet away from unshaded south- or west-facing windows.
2. Water your Monstera plants regularly to keep the soil moist.
Overwatering and underwatering is one of the main culprits for many plants when they start to yellow. Too much water and your Monstera’s roots won’t be able to get the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Too little water and your thirsty houseplant won’t last very long.
The easiest way to strike the right balance is to let the top two inches of soil dry out before watering your Monstera again. You should also keep an eye on if the soil is getting too compacted or dry, as this is a good indicator that you may be underwatering your plant.
3. Adjust the pot size to meet the needs of your Monstera plant
Like any houseplant, your Monstera needs a pot that allows it to grow but isn’t too big for its needs. The plant pot should allow enough room for new roots to branch out but should not be so large that your soil remains soggy between waterings.
This is why you should check the size of your Monstera’s root ball. From there, put it in a pot that’s around one to two inches bigger than the rootball, to allow the roots to grow while also ensuring the amount of soil in the pot is perfect for your plant’s size.
4. Check that the potting mix is loose enough
Having soil that’s too dense won’t provide good aeration for the roots, nor will it drain well enough for your Monstera. This can lead to soggy roots and, in turn, root rot.
It’s why I recommended a bit earlier keeping your Monstera in soil that’s slightly acidic, as this type of potting mix helps a lot with aeration and drainage.
If you think this is why your Monstera leaves are turning yellow, you may wish to consider transplanting your plant to a new pot. That can be a good solution, although make sure you take note of one of the later sections in this article on how to avoid your Monstera leaves turning yellow after repotting.
5. Fertilize your Monstera plant properly
Giving your houseplants some extra food from time to time definitely makes you a great plant owner – but just be sure that you’re not giving them too much or not enough fertilizer love. Otherwise, all those good intentions can cause real damage to your houseplant.
Generally, you should aim to fertilize your Monstera once or twice a month with a balanced fertilizer from spring until fall. However, stop fertilizing the plant in the fall when growth slows and give it a rest until new growth begins in the spring.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re providing the right Monstera fertilizer. That way, you’ll avoid accidentally burning its roots.
6. Raise the humidity level around your Monstera
The Monstera is native to Central America and so it helps to do as much as possible to replicate that environment around your plant so it can thrive.
Importantly, ensuring the humidity level around your plant stays at around 60 to 80 percent is key here. The easiest way to do this is with a hygrometer, which can be found very widely and cheaply online. Alternatively, you can take a look at these ways to measure humidity without a hygrometer if you prefer.
If it looks like your humidity levels are too low, take a look a bit earlier in this article for some easy solutions. These include using a pebble tray, placing a humidifier in the room or grouping your houseplants together to take advantage of the moisture that each of them give off.
Should I cut off yellow Monstera leaves?
It’s best to cut off yellow Monstera leaves as they generally don’t return to being green again. To do this, cut each leaf at the base of its stem with a sharp knife or clippers. This won’t harm your plant overall as, assuming it has some remaining leaves, it will be able to photosynthesize and thrive again.
And even if you’re in the unfortunate position where all your Monstera leaves have turned yellow so they all have to be cut off, all is not lost. As long as the roots are healthy, it can regrow. It just may take a bit longer to recover than if you managed to save some of its leaves.
Will a yellow Monstera leaf recover?
A yellow Monstera leaf likely won’t recover, unfortunately. This is because yellow leaves lack chlorophyll and so cannot photosynthesize energy from the sun. While they may revive if you catch the issue early enough, in most cases, the leaf will turn brown or drop off the plant.
It’s because, essentially, the Swiss cheese plant’s leaf turns yellow when it’s dying and so it will continue by following the natural progression of a dying leaf, generally progressing from yellow to brown. This is why I recommend simply cutting them off unless your Monstera leaves are at a very early stage of turning yellow, as your plant will look better with fewer leaves that are green compared to more leaves that are yellow.
Can yellow Monstera leaves turn green again?
Only very slightly yellowed Monstera leaves can turn green again if you catch and address the issue early enough. If, however, the yellowing has progressed to the point of it being noticeable, it’s likely that your leaves won’t turn green again.
Instead, the best option here is usually to take steps to prevent new Monstera leaves from turning yellow. That is, addressing the problem can help revive your plant going forward, even if those leaves that have already turned yellow may not be salvageable.
What to do if my Monstera leaves are turning yellow after repotting?
If your Monstera leaves are turning yellow after repotting, it may be experiencing transplant stress. It’s fairly common for a leaf or two to turn yellow due to the stress of disturbing the roots and repotting the plant, so check that you’re providing the plant with the right lighting and correct watering, and it will likely soon recover.
All plants suffer some transplant shock when they are repotted, especially if they are repotted during a period of slowed growth during the winter. As such, you probably haven’t done anything wrong to cause this, although it’s important to give your Monstera the right conditions in its new pot. From there, with a bit of time, it will often simply sort itself out.
What nutrient deficiency causes yellow leaves in Monstera plants?
A nitrogen deficiency is the most common deficiency seen in houseplants, including Monstera plants, as nitrogen leaches through the soil and needs to be replaced regularly. Other nutrient deficiencies that can cause yellow leaves in houseplants include potassium, iron, sulfur, zinc and magnesium.
The best way to tell which nutrient deficiency your Monstera is facing is by looking at which leaves turned yellow first. If you noticed it on younger leaves before it possibly progressed inwards to older leaves, it’s likely an iron deficiency.
On the other hand, other deficiencies, like nitrogen, zinc and magnesium, are often seen first on inner or older leaves first and then spreads outwards.
That said, in most cases, it’s not strictly necessary to identify exactly which nutrient deficiency is causing your Monstera leaves to turn yellow. Instead, simply providing your Monstera plants with a balanced fertilizer should eliminate issues with nutrient deficiencies in the soil.