Why are my Aspidistra Leaves Turning Yellow? (Cast Iron Plant)


While a few aspidistra leaves turning yellow over a period of time is likely just a normal part of the plant’s lifecycle, if you notice leaves turning yellow at quite a high rate, it’s a sign of environmental stress.

It could be a sign of the plant not having the right temperature, water levels, pot type, inappropriate light levels or nutrients, or it could be spider mites, one of the aspidistra’s most common pests. 

Aspidistras are also known as cast iron plants, on account of the fact that they’re exceptionally hardy and have very low maintenance needs – they’re as tough as cast iron. Aspidistra care is usually straightforward but if your plant is turning yellow, then it’s a sure sign that something is not right.

So, why are my aspidistra leaves turning yellow? Read on to find out all the most common reasons for leaf discoloration, and what to do about it. As there are various conditions that can cause yellow leaves, you will need to be something of a detective.

Overwatering

Aspidistras like to dry out before being watered again. They need to drain off excess moisture, and are prone to root rot if their soil is kept too soggy. 

This is a frequent issue for owners and one of the first things to consider. Only water when the top of the soil is dry and reduce your watering frequency in winter.

Ensure your aspidistra is planted in a container that allows easy drainage – it should have drainage holes, and a ceramic or terracotta pot will help leach excess water from the soil. Make sure the top few inches of soil are dry before you water the plant. 

Under-watering is a possible issue if you forget for long periods of time – if the leaves begin to curl and turn brown and the soil is bone-dry, your plant may just need more regular watering. However, this is far less common than overwatering.

Too much or too little light

When it comes to light, aspidistras are moderate plants. They want to be in indirect light, or light shade. However, if it is being hit by direct sunlight throughout the day, or your plant is getting almost no light at all, it may struggle to survive. 

Too much light is a common problem for aspidistra owners. If your plant is turning yellow or brown on more than a couple of leaves, you should pay attention to its lighting situation. Check in on the plant a few times throughout the day; is the sun hitting its leaves directly? If it is, move it to a more shaded spot. 

Make sure the plant isn’t in complete darkness, either. Your aspidistra should be in a spot that gets some light during the day but where the sunlight will not hit it directly – it can handle quite low-light conditions. Shift it to a position that meets these needs, and the leaves may stop yellowing. 

Poor re-potting procedures

You should repot your Aspidistra from time to time, when it has outgrow its containers. Usually, this will happen every 1-2 years for a young plant and 3-4 years for a mature plant. You can tell an aspidistra needs to be re-potted when its roots start to show through the top of the soil. If you don’t re-pot often enough, the plant can become too root-bound, and struggle to survive. This could lead to yellowing leaves. 

However, don’t get too over-zealous and re-pot your plant when it doesn’t need it. Aspidistras don’t like their roots being disturbed, so you should only re-pot when really needed to avoid unnecessary trauma to the plant. 

Spider mites

One of the most common pests of aspidistras are spider mites. These little bugs can be quite hard to see and your first sign of an infestation may be yellowing or mottling leaves. Environments involving dry heat are particularly conducive to spider mites, so if your plant is in a room that’s air conditioned or has particularly dry air, spider mites could be the cause of your aspidistra’s yellowing leaves. 

You’ll often find spider mites on the back of the aspidistra’s leaves. Wipe the backside of the leaf with a damp cloth, and if it comes away green, you’ve probably got mites. 

To get rid of the mites, rinse the plant with cold water, as the mites hate cold water. You can also use neem oil, or hand-wipe the plant regularly until signs of infestation desist. Keep an eye on the plant to ensure the mites don’t return, and try moving the plant to a room with more humid air if possible. 

Nutritional deficiency

If the old leaves are yellowing and you’re noticing any new leaves on your aspidistra are paler, your plant could be lacking in nitrogen. Aspidistras are so low-maintenance that many people will forget they may need fertilizer. If the leaves begin turning yellow and none of the more common issues are present, this could be the problem. 

Aspidistras like to be fertilized during the growing period of spring and summer. A fortnightly application of a palm fertilizer is ideal. Make sure you water the plant before fertilizing to avoid root burn. 

The good news about this particular issue is that, if the cause of yellowing leaves is indeed nutritional deficiency, you may see the affected leaves return to a healthy green. With most issues, the yellow leaves will need to be removed, but if it’s a nutritional deficiency at play, you should see the plant perk up again with regular feedings. 

Why are my aspidistra leaves turning yellow? 

While fairly low-maintenance, aspidistras can run into a number of issues that will lead to yellowing leaves. Check for overwatering, too much or too little light in the first instance. Bear in mind that  spider mites, or a lack of fertilizer can also cause aspidistra leaves to turn yellow. 

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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