Why is my Polka Dot Plant turning yellow? Causes and Solutions

Last Updated: March 26, 2022

Polka Dot Plants come in a huge variety of colours, but one thing you don’t want to see is your Polka Dot Plant turning yellow. Whether your plant has leaves that have completely turned yellow, or if you have yellow patches or spots across the foliage, these are all signs that something isn’t right and your plant is suffering. But don’t worry, whilst you won’t be able to reverse the yellowing, there are plenty of things you can do to treat the issue and stop any more of your plant turning yellow. 

In this post, we will go through each of the main causes of yellow Polka Dot Plant leaves to help you identify the problem and revive your plant.

Direct sunlight can cause yellow spots

Intense, direct sunlight can be quite a common reason why Polka Dot Plant plants start to develop yellow leaves. Though a lack of light can also cause several issues for them, they don’t do well in harsh direct sunlight.

If exposed to several hours of direct sunlight each day, it can very quickly scorch and burn the leaves of your Polka Dot Plant which is, unfortunately, irreversible. It will dry out and burn the leaves, causing yellow patches or spots throughout the affected areas. The yellowing will mostly occur on the side of the plant facing the window, so that’s a good way to see if direct light is the cause. 

To solve the issue, you want to first remove the worst affected leaves as this stops your Polka Dot Plant from wasting valuable energy trying to keep these alive. Then you want to move your plant to a slightly shadier spot in your home. If you are unsure how much light your plant is getting throughout the day/year, it can be useful to use a light meter to keep track.

Yellow Polka Dot Plant leaves can indicate overwatering

If you notice that your Polka Dot Plant is developing yellow patches on its leaves, starting from the leaves closest to the potting mix, then the problem may be too much water. This is quite a common issue for Polka Dot Plant plants as it can be difficult to know until the problem has really developed. When watering your plants, always check back 30 minutes after watering and pour away any excess water that is in the saucer or at the bottom of the planter. This will stop your Polka Dot Plant’s roots sitting in a puddle of water for days and developing yellow leaves. 

The reason why overwatering is so dangerous for a Polka Dot Plant is that it can very quickly lead to root rot. Not only can the leaves turn yellow but it can also mean the plant becomes droopy and unstable. If not caught quickly, it can mean your Polka Dot Plant will not be able to survive.

To confirm that overwatering is the cause of the yellow leaves on your Polka Dot Plant, it’s important to check the soil right away and replace it if it is waterlogged. The easiest way to check the moisture level is by digging your finger into the top two centimetres of the soil to see how damp it is. If the potting mix is waterlogged, replace it straight away and adjust your watering schedule in future.

Natural yellowing can occur on Polka Dot Plants

If it’s only the oldest and smallest leaves on your Polka Dot Plant that are turning yellow then this may be 

natural ageing. Over time, your Polka Dot Plant will drop some of its oldest leaves in favour of growing bigger healthier new ones at the end of the stem. These leaves will often turn yellow before falling off your plant.

This is a completely natural process and isn’t caused by something you did wrong. It’s important here to keep track of how many yellow leaves are forming.  The rate of natural ageing should be about 1 or 2 of the oldest leaves every few months and should be a lot less than the rate of new growth during spring and summer. 

Yellow leaves can also mean a pest infestation

A rarer but more worrying cause of yellow leaves on a Polka Dot Plant is a pest infestation. Spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects can make your plant their home and dehydrate the leaves, turning them yellow. Although it’s rare for pests to find their way onto plants that don’t spend any time outdoors, it can happen!.

Most pests you can spot just by closely inspecting the leaves so use a magnifying glass to inspect the undersides of the leaves. If you do spot pests on your plant, make sure to move them away from any of your other houseplants. Pests can spread between plants if they are close enough so isolate your infected plant immediately.

Each type of pest needs to be treated slightly differently but the first steps are always to wash your Polka Dot Plant down in the shower before treating with an insecticidal spray or soap. There are other treatments such as neem oil that are also quite successful in curbing the infestations and preventing more yellow leaves. If you have caught the problem before it has turned the whole plant yellow then you should be able to get rid of the infestation.

Nutrient deficiency can also cause yellow leaves

Another reason your Polka Dot Plant may be developing yellow leaves is a lack of nutrients. This is quite a slow process so only really consider this option if the leaves on your Polka Dot Plant have very gradually turned yellow, rather than the entire leaf turning yellow in just a few days. This can happen if you haven’t switched out the potting soil in over a year or you don’t fertilise during the growth months.

We recommend using a diluted water-soluble fertiliser during spring and summer to make sure your Polka Dot Plant is getting the right nutrient balance.

Those are the 5 top causes of yellow Polka Dot Plant leaves. A few of these causes such as pests and overwatering can rapidly harm your plant so it’s super important that you start treating the issue as soon as you spot the first signs of trouble. If you have caught the problem early enough then you have a great chance at getting your Polka Dot Plant back to full health. However, if the problem has progressed quite far, then we probably recommend taking some stem cuttings from the healthy areas of your plant to propagate. This will allow you to continue growing your plant even you aren’t able to save the mother plant. 

To learn more about how to propagate your plant, as well as our general care top tips, check out our Polka Dot Plant care guide.

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