Fixing Yellow Leaves on a Chinese Money Plant – A Simple Guide

The foliage of a Chinese money plant is unmistakable with its dark green, glossy leaves that sit on the end of long thin stems. Unsurprisingly, this plant got its name from its unique coin-shaped foliage.

Chinese money plants or Pilea as they are also known, are a popular choice for house plants because they are thought to attract wealth and good luck. The healthier your plant, the more prosperity it is said to bring. 

Although fairly low maintenance, these houseplants are prone to developing yellow leaves when their environmental conditions are compromised. So, in this article, I’ll be explaining the reasons why your Chinese money plant may develop yellow leaves and what you can do to bring it back to a healthy green state. 

Why Chinese Money Plant Leaves Turn Yellow

If your Chinese money plant has yellow leaves in the place of dark green glossy ones, then this means your plant is suffering from a condition called chlorosis. 

The green color of healthy leaves and foliage comes from a pigment called chlorophyll. This pigment is found inside plant cell structures called chloroplasts. Chlorophyll absorbs sunlight but reflects green wavelengths, which is why plants appear green. 

Chlorophyll is a key component for photosynthesis. It is responsible for absorbing sunlight and turning it into energy that the plant can use for growth, maintenance, and reproduction. 

Chlorosis is defined as the yellowing of leaves caused by a lack of chlorophyll and means that your plants are unhappy and unhealthy in their current environment. 

Identifying the reason for a chlorotic plant is imperative if you want to rescue it promptly and resolve the issue fast. 

What Causes Chinese Money Plant Leaves to Turn Yellow?

Chinese Money Plant with yellow leaves

Identifying the cause of chlorosis is not always easy and can occur for a variety of reasons ranging from watering issues to sunlight exposure to nutrient deficiencies to pests and diseases. 

Yellow leaves normally occur alongside other visual symptoms. Combined, they can be used to narrow down the cause of your Chinese money plant leaves turning yellow. 

This article lists the major causes of chlorosis in Chinese money plants, the symptoms that manifest as a result, and most importantly how you can reverse them and prevent chlorosis from occurring in the future. 

Overwatering

Overwatering is one of the most common causes of chlorosis in all plants, including the Chinese money plant. Although water is essential for photosynthesis, too much can lead to the soil becoming heavily saturated.

Symptoms of overwatering include yellow and droopy leaves that fall off, mold and rotten roots, leaves, or stems, and soil that is wet to the touch.

Waterlogged soil prevents oxygen from reaching the plant’s roots, inhibiting it from absorbing essential nutrients and carrying out photosynthesis. As a result, the leaves will turn yellow. 

Continuous overwatering can lead to fungal growth which causes root rot. This is where the roots of your plants decay in damp and anoxic soil. Left untreated, root rot can kill your plant. 

To revive an overwatered Chinese money plant, you should stop watering it immediately. If root rot has occurred, you should remove the plant from its pot and brush away all the soil. Prune any rotten roots (those that are black or brown and squishy) and replant them in a new pot with fresh soil.

When potting your plant, you should use a pot with drainage holes at the base. Additionally, use light, well-draining soil with grit or sand mixed in, to prevent the soil from becoming saturated. 

Only water your Chinese money plant when the top 2 inches of soil is completely dry. On average this equates to once a week during summer and once a fortnight during winter. However, this can vary greatly depending on the temperature in your region. 

Underwatering

It is possible for plants to suffer from chlorosis due to underwatering. 

The symptoms of underwatering are similar to those of overwatering where leaves become yellow and droopy. However, a thirsty plant will also have dry soil and its leaves will be brittle and crispy. 

An underwatered Chinese money plant will become stressed and have reduced chlorophyll production, causing its leaves to develop chlorosis. The most common cause of underwatering is infrequent watering, although it can also be a result of draughts and low humidity. 

The easiest way to save a thirsty Chinese money plant is to water it straight away. These plants prefer deep watering to ensure the soil remains slightly damp for a few days.

Nutrient Deficiency

Nutrients are needed for the growth, development, and reproduction of all plants, and without them, they simply wouldn’t be able to survive. The three that are most important are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. In addition, plants need essential nutrients including iron, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, and manganese.

Deficiencies can occur due to a lack of nutrient availability in the soil, incorrect soil pH, or an inability to absorb nutrients due to poor plant health. Plants show varying symptoms depending on the specific shortfall but many overlap and can include yellow leaves (chlorosis), stunted growth, and leaves falling off. 

Nitrogen Deficiencies

Nitrogen is essential for protein production which enables the growth and repair of plants. A nitrogen deficiency is one of the most common and can be caused by a lack of nutrients in the soil, excessive irrigation, or alkaline soil. 

Older leaves become yellow and shrivelled whilst newer leaves develop pale green. 

Iron Deficiencies

Another common deficiency in Chinese money plants is a lack of iron and without it, chlorophyll synthesis and photosynthesis cannot occur. Waterlogged soil and/or a high pH range can lead to a reduction in the availability of this vital nutrient. 

In Chinese money plants ‘interveinal chlorosis’ occurs. This is where leaves turn yellow but leaf veins remain green. Young leaves are primarily affected but if left untreated older leaves will become yellow too. 

Lack of Sulfur

Sulfur is important for plant growth and inadequate amounts will stunt new leaf growth. A deficiency in this mineral is likely to be present in under-fertilized plants or where the soil is too alkaline. 

The leaves of your plant will appear faded and can present as pale green, yellow-green, and completely yellow.

How to Fix A Nutrient Deficiency

If you suspect your Chinese money plant is not getting the nutrients it requires, you should first run a soil test. 

This plant prefers a slightly acidic to neutral soil between a pH of 6.0 and 7.0. If your soil is too alkaline, you can add mulch, compost, or fertilizer to bring the pH down. This will make it easier for your plant to absorb the nutrients. 

You should add fertilizer to your plant once a fortnight until its leaves resume their green color. Repotting your plant in fresh soil every year can also help prevent nutrient deficiencies. 

Insufficient Sunlight

Sunlight is central to photosynthesis, hence insufficient light will reduce the rate of photosynthesis, leading to chlorosis. Signs your plant is not receiving enough light include yellow leaves that curl and overall wilting. 

Chinese money plants do best in bright light but not direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves. Dim light will result in the leaves growing larger to meet their photosynthetic requirements. 

You should place your money plant near a window, ideally east or west facing, so it receives bright but indirect light. Ideally, they should get at least 4 hours of sunlight every day. 

Excessive Sunlight Exposure

If your plant has yellow leaves with brown marks and feels crispy to the touch, then it’s likely receiving too much sun. Direct sunlight degrades the chlorophyll in the leaves causing them to turn yellow. 

Very harsh sun can also scorch the leaves which are seen through brown burn marks. Additionally, leaves become brittle and dry due to the cell membranes becoming damaged and shriveled. 

To rectify this, move your Chinese money plant to a location with less direct sunlight.

Rapid or Frequent Temperature Fluctuations

Chlorosis, alongside drooping leaves and overall wilting of the plant, may be caused by extreme changes in temperature. 

The Chinese money plant does not do well in cold temperatures and anything below 50 oF can cause its leaves to fall off due to cold stress. Ideally, your plant should be kept between 65 oF and 85 oF. Similarly, anything above 85 oF can cause your plant heat stress. 

Aim to keep your plant in a constant environment to avoid stress from temperature changes. Use a thermometer to track the temperature of the environment around your plant so you can adjust it accordingly.

Pest Infestations

Certain insect pests can cause the leaves of a Chinese money plant to turn yellow. These pests include aphids, spider mites, scales, and mealybugs. They suck the sap out of the leaf, causing a nutrient deficiency which is shown by a yellow patch where they inserted their mouthparts. 

Yellowing can also occur where pests cause physical damage or through the transmission of their diseases. 

To get rid of a pest infestation, firstly physically remove the insects from the plant using a horticultural brush or by flushing them off with water. 

You should then treat the plant with an insecticide to kill any remaining pests and prevent future infestations from occurring. 

If you enjoyed this article and have more questions about Pilea houseplants including how to propagate them. Click this link.

FAQ Chinese Money Plant Yellow Leaves

Why does my Chinese money plant have a yellow/off-white fuzz on its leaves?

White fuzzy leaves indicate your plant is suffering from powdery mildew. This is a fungal disease that can develop when the foliage is dry, but conditions are humid. 
You can treat powdery mildew by spraying the leaves with potassium bicarbonate.   

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.