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Yellow Water From Plants (Causes, Prevention & Cleaning tips)

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Yellow water from plants can be caused by a number of reasons. It can produce a yellow stain on floors and saucers beneath plant pots which can become difficult to remove over time.

The yellow-colored water that comes from plant soil is associated with tannins. Tannins are responsible for producing faint yellow color water as a result of decaying organic matter within the soil. Oxidized ferric iron and peat soil also contributes to the yellow runoff when plants are watered.

If your plant’s runoff is also coming a bit yellowish and you are wondering what exactly is causing it, read the article as we discuss everything you need to know about what causes yellow water from plants. 

What Causes Yellow Water To Run From Plants?

Yellow water from plants

The problem with yellow runoffs from plants is that it’s not uncommon to have multiple factors at work.

Any chemical or organic imbalance in the soil can have an effect on plant growth and, therefore, cause yellow runoff. 

In addition to nutrient deficiency, the yellow runoff can be caused by too much fertilizer, bugs, unbalanced soil, too much stress, elevated pH, insufficient water, overwatering, and many more reasons. 

Down below, we have discussed the top reasons that commonly result in yellow water from plants. 


Tannins are the secondary plant metabolite and have a vital role in plant growth. Tannins are astringent and a byproduct of the natural fermentation process of plants. 

Yellow-colored water droplets coming out of plant leaves, barks, or stems are due to the tannins. 

They are acidic, so they can turn watercolor from transparent to yellow to brown. You can notice small lesions or cuts with yellow runoff water due to the reaction of tannins.

Furthermore, during the decomposition of vegetation, tannins are produced. You will typically find them in shallow wells or surface water sources. 

While these compounds pose no health risks, they are visually unpleasant. Unfortunately, it is difficult to remove tannins from water. 

In addition to causing a yellow to brown cast in water, tannins may also affect the taste and odor.

Nutrients and Fertilizers

Yellow water runoff from plants can also be a direct symptom of nutrient deficiency. The nutrients are not being absorbed by the plant and are being pooled up within the soil. Yellow or red soil color indicates the presence of oxidized ferric iron within the soil.

When watered the nutrients are then washed out from the soil with a yellow hue.

Almost thirteen essential nutrients are needed for the proper growth of plants. Potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, zinc, and iron are a few of them. 

Micronutrients are also required, along with essential nutrients. Nitrogen Imbalance causes pale yellowish discoloration in plants.

The selection of fertilizers is essential and should be done based on the nutrients needed.

The leaf needs to be able to hold on to its nutrients so any excess fertilizer washes off to the ground. Organic waste used as fertilizers has significant biochemical performance like maintained chlorophyll content.

I have found that this Miracle Grow Potting Mix is a very cost-effective soil that solved most of my soil-related problems. You find it by clicking here.

Yellow miracle grow potting mix

Can Overwatering Cause The Water To Be Yellow?

If you are wondering about whether over-water causes yellow runoff in plants, then the answer is yes. 

Over-water is as damaging as the tannins are. The symptoms for this problem will appear slowly by yellowish runoff and yellowish to brown discoloration of leaves.

It is due to excessive soil moisture and can be distinguished from drought conditions. The pattern of decoloring of plants helps in differentiating these two problems.

Excessive watering will also cause soil with yellow color to leach out with the drainage water.

What is the Difference Between Yellow Water From Plants and Over-water Discolouration?

Yellow-colored water droplets coming out of leaves, barks, or stems of plants are due to the tannins. 

Because tannic acid, a naturally occurring protein, causes acidic PH in plant water. As a result of low PH, the color of water changes.

On the other hand, if your plant is shedding more leaves than usual then it can be perceived as over-watering of the plant.

What Can Cause Yellow Leaves Other Than Overwater Discolouration?

Irregular Watering

If you have green plants at your place, you must know the proper water schedule for it. Appropriate Water intervals with accurate temperature guidelines are a must-know thing.

Stressful water conditions are hazardous to the plants. Sometimes plant owners overwater the plant while low temperature also affects the plant. 

It causes the leaves to turn yellow due to less sunlight and suffocation to the plant due to more water.

Humid soil

Humidity is alarming in the soil as well as in the air. Higher-level Humid soil is more prone to the decomposition process. 

As a result, plants turned yellow due to excessive decomposition byproducts. 

Proper drainage of water from soil enhances the chance of healthy plant growth. A time-based watering schedule and plenty of sunlight can reduce this risk.


Sunlight-deprived leaves look yellowish. If you place your home plant in the shady corners, relocating them is an immediate need. Otherwise, sun-bath therapy will become a basic need.

Proper sunlight will allow the process of photosynthesis in the right manner. The plant will utilize all the nutrients in a good way and keep the plant greenish.

I have used a cost-effective Liquid Fertilizer called Purived to help strengthen my plant leaves, stems, and their overall health. You can find it by clicking here!

purvied for stronger leaves

Is Colored Runoff Water From The Plant Pots a Bad Thing?

If you observe colored discharge from your plant pot, then it’s something to worry about. Not only for plants, but yellow-colored runoff is also bad for your house.

If you have a plant in your room and the pot is overflowing, it can have devastating effects, especially on wooden floors. 

The observed phenomenon behind colored runoff is the overwatered soil. 

Excessive water blocks all places in soil, and more organic components and salts cause the brown color discharge. 

A hole in the pot for drainage purposes will be the best solution to this problem. A saucer will be a good thing to keep in mind while purchasing the plant pot to minimize the water mess. 

Can You Reuse Dirty Yellow Runoff From Plants?

Yellow runoff from plants is not harmful in all contexts as it has medicinal importance.

Tannins cause the yellow color discharge, and it has antiparasitic properties. Many tannin-rich plants have different properties. The list of plants is given as below;

  1. Oaks (antiseptic)
  2. Yarrow (homeostatic)
  3. Redress Berry (female reproductive system)
  4. Bill berry (cardiovascular system)
  5. Acacia ( reduce cholesterol level)
  6. Tragacanth (gum)
  7. Tea, coffee, and beer are also tannin-rich foods.


How Long Before The Water Runs Clear?

Tannin removal softeners/resins are used to remove the yellow color from water.

Tank backwash is recommended every two to four days. 

Plant Coloured water can last indefinitely. It is also observed that whenever we wash soil by pouring water repeatedly, water runs clear.

Nowadays, tannin water filter systems are introduced in the market. These are more advanced technologies and take less time to clear water.

How to Clean Stains Caused by Yellow Water

There are a number of ways to remove the yellow stains from the floor caused by the brown runoff from your plants. 

Stains From Fertilizer Residue

The stains caused by fertilizer residue (containing copper manganese, or iron) usually leave bluish-green or brown stains on the concrete floor.

You can remove these stains in the following ways:

Vinegar, Flour, and Salt:

Make a paste by mixing four cups of white vinegar, one teaspoon of salt,  and flour.  Apply the mix on the stains and let it sit for 30 minutes to one hour.

Thoroughly rinse with warm water and gentle scrubbing. 

Baking Soda, Lemon, and Salt:

Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in two spoons of lemon to make a paste. Rub the paste with a soft cloth or brush.

Wait for a few seconds and rinse with lukewarm water and dry. 

Soap and Warm Water:

If the stains aren’t stubborn, simply scrub them clean with warm soap and warm water. 

How To Keep Plants With Drainage Holes From Making a Mess?

You can minimize the effect of the potential mess caused by potted plants by using plant saucers. 

A plant saucer is a kind of deep plate that gardeners place beneath their plant pots to capture or catch drained water from the pots. 

Plants don’t utilize all the water that you give them, a large part of it gets drained out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the plant pot. 

A saucer is what keeps that water from spilling and creating a mess around your floor. 

The brown runoff draining from the drainage hole will be collected into the saucer and then can be removed by different methods. 

Plant in saucer

The Benefits of Having a Plant Saucer:

Plant saucers are usually used with plant pots or containers to catch and hold excess water which has drained out from the plant after it has been watered. 

The saucer will hold the brown runoff and prevent it from staining your patio or floor. 

Most plant pots usually come with saucers but if you have to get one I would suggest finding one that matches the pot and could hold a sufficient amount of water.

Holds The Excess Water

Using saucers on plants for both indoor and outdoor applications can prevent a brown runoff mess whenever the plant is watered. 

This is because every time you water your plants, the brown runoff will drain into the saucer through the drainage hole and hold within the saucers.

After that, you can simply remove the dirty water from the saucer. By removing the extra water from the saucer, you can prevent staining your floor. This water can be re-added to the plant to recycle leached minerals from the soil.

See our detailed post on removing excess water from plants saucer.

The Takeaway

Yellowish to brown color discharge from the plant is observed mainly due to tannin activity. It is not harmful at all, except the plant looks less attractive. 

Yellow water runoff has medicinal value as well and is used in daily life frequently. 

In addition to tannin activity, the yellow runoff can be caused by too much fertilizer, bugs, unbalanced soil, too much stress, elevated pH, insufficient water, and overwatering.

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