Orchid plants are highly desired for their beautiful, unique flowers. Some orchids are very rare, and most orchid species are very difficult to grow from seed, making full-sized plants fairly expensive.
After investing in such a lovely plant, seeing your blooms and leaves wilt can be quite an upsetting surprise!
One of the most common causes of orchid plants’ wilting is stress due to relocating to a new environment. Orchids need specific temperature, moisture, and sun requirements to bloom and be happy, and moving your orchid to a new location with new conditions may result in wilting of the flowers and even the leaves.
Orchids can wilt for a variety of reasons, including: insufficient water, poor drainage, too much or too little light, pest infestations, disease, or a lack of nutrients.
Other potential causes include under or over-watering, and insects or pests.
Also Check: Orchid Leaves Turning Yellow
6 Reasons for Wilting Orchids
Rest assured that your orchid is not a lost cause. There are a few things you can do to correct these issues and get your plant healthy and happy again!
1. Stress from change in the environment
If you’ve recently relocated your flowering orchid to a new room, the reason for the flowers or leaves wilting may have a simple answer.
Stress that is related to the relocation of orchids might cause flowers to wilt, as well as the changes in temperature, humidity, and sunlight that come with a new location.
If you just brought your new orchid home from a warm, steamy greenhouse, it might not be happy next to a cool, draughty window! A similar response can occur if you transplant your orchid into a new pot while it is already flowering.
How to fix
To fix this issue, consider why your plant is unhappy in the new location you moved it. When placing your plant, try and mimic the conditions it was just in.
If your plant just came from a greenhouse, maybe a warm, sunny window in your bathroom, which gets steam and moisture from your shower, would be a good fit.
Avoid transplanting your plant when it is in flower. Flowering already uses a lot of energy for your plant, so the added stress of re-potting could shock it.
If you must re-pot your plant, at least use the same potting medium it was planted in before. Changing to a new soil, as well as re-potting, could seriously stress your orchid out.
2. Lack of water
Not surprisingly, a lack of water will cause your plant to wilt and flowers to fall off. Leaves and flowers require a lot of energy and water to maintain, and if your plant is thirsty, it won’t have the energy needed to keep these parts alive.
Your plant will slowly allow leaves to die off in order to preserve energy and keep the roots alive, so it can grow back later when conditions are more favourable. If you are watering your plant less than once a week, you are likely not watering it enough!
How to fix
If you have been underwatering your plant, you will want to slowly increase the amount of water you give it. If the soil is very dry and compacted it may have become hydrophobic, where water only sits on top of the soil and does not absorb in properly.
Consider softening the soil with a little water and then gently removing it from the roots, repotting your orchid into fresh, new soil.
Gradually increase the amount of water you give your plant and maintain a regular schedule of once a week in the winter or off season, and twice a week when temperatures are higher.
Most plants react poorly to being overwatered, especially if planted in a pot without improper drainage. Orchids are the same, and there are a few easy signs to tell if an orchid has been overwatered.
Leaves will become wrinkled and limp, like when under-watered. Unlike an underwatered plant, however, the roots of an overwatered orchid will be brown, soft, and mushy due to rot.
How to fix
If you suspect your plant is being overwatered, it’s time to adjust your watering schedule. Orchids only need to be watered about once a week in the winter, and twice a week in the hot, dry summer.
Orchids are often planted in small pots and are at risk of getting too much water. Because of this, make sure your pot has drainage holes to allow extra water to drain from the soil.
In extreme cases, you may need to re-pot your orchid into new, fresh soil. This is often the case if root rot has developed in the roots, due to a lack of oxygen and too much sitting water.
Gently remove your plant from the pot and brush off any wet, soggy soil that might be contaminated with rot. If the roots are soft and mushy, cut them back with a sterile knife or shears until the point when roots are light in colour and firm to the touch.
Clean your pot thoroughly and be sure there are drainage holes present in the bottom. Re-pot your plant in a clean pot with new, dry soil.
Thoroughly water your plant to help promote root growth, allowing extra water to drain away and ensuring no water sits in the bottom of the pot.
4. Insects and pests
Insects and other pests that target orchid species may also cause leaves or flowers to wilt and appear unhealthy. These issues are often the hardest to cure, as it can be difficult to fully eradicate pests unless done properly, and the seasonality of pests may make it appear as though they have been removed, only for them to return.
Pests can also spread from plant to plant, so catching them as soon as possible will help to increase your chances of success.
As a species with normally thick, plump leaves, orchids are especially susceptible to pests that use their mouths to suck moisture from soft parts of your plant.
This includes aphids, mealybugs, and soft scales, which attach to various parts of your plant and can cause wilting if they become abundant enough.
If you notice strange webbing, sap or sticky substances, black spotting, or actual pests on any part of your plant (check the stem all the way to the bottom, tops and underside of leaves, open wounds or old scars) – you have a pest problem!
How to fix
Once you notice pests or signs of pests on your plant, remove it to a room that does not have any other plants in it. Most pests can take time to move from plant to plant, but some have wings and can spread quite quickly.
Then, use signs and photos to correctly identify the pests you have. There are many possible pests that might target your plant, but it is most likely to be one of the most common ones. This will help to determine what the best treatment for your plant is.
General treatments effective for most pests include washing leaves and stems gently with a mixture of water, pesticide, and diluted dish soap.
Spraying with a mixture of diluted neem oil is another effective treatment and can be sprayed on healthy plants to help keep them pest free.
Some pests, like scale, may be gently scraped off leaves to help speed up the process, although actual removal of the pests can be time-consuming. It is important to continue treatment even after no pests are visible, as pests can be easily missed or hiding in soil.
In extreme cases, you may consider repotting your plant in new soil and a clean pot, in case pests originated from soil in the first place. Only do this if your plant is very infested, as the added shock of being transplanted may kill your already stressed-out plant!
5. Lack of humidity
Most orchid species originate from tropical, humid regions like rainforests. Because of this, most orchids are grown and raised in steamy, humid greenhouses.
When you bring your plant home, the room you place it in is likely much less-humid than a greenhouse, and your plant may wilt as it adjusts to the new conditions.
How to fix
The easiest way to fix this issue is to increase the humidity around your plant. There are a few ways to do this, including misting your plant regularly, placing it around other plants to take advantage of the moisture they produce, or getting a humidifier.
A small digital humidity monitor might also be helpful to estimate the moisture around your plant, ideally an orchid will be in an area of about 40%.
Keeping moisture around 40-50% is feasible indoors, however any more moisture than that might cause damage to your walls or other furniture in your house, so be careful!
If your orchid is in a sunny window, placing a small dish of water that will evaporate into the air by your plant might be all that is needed to increase the humidity.
Also use caution if you decide to mist your plant. Misting can be beneficial, but over-misting can cause water to sit on leaves and flowers and cause rot and other disease issues. Only re-mist your plant after giving it ample time to try off, and don’t spray more than a couple times!
6. End of the season
Although orchids may bloom for most of the year when inside, the flowers themselves do not last forever. Depending on the orchid species, flowers will remain on the plant for a few weeks to even a few months, but they all eventually fall off.
Keep this in mind when you buy a new orchid and bring it home. Because the orchid is flowering already, you can’t know how long the flowers have been on the plant!
If some of your orchid flowers start to wilt shortly after you bring it home, but the rest of the flowers and the plant look healthy, you likely don’t need to be concerned.
Even if the whole spike of flowers wilts off and no new flowers seem to appear, your plant may just be entering the dormant season. Some orchid species will not flower for months, only to come back flowering the next year!
How to fix
Since this cycle is part of the natural life of the plant, there isn’t really much to do to prevent it. You can ensure the flowers on your orchid last as long as possible by providing optimal water, light, temperature, humidity, and soil conditions.
If your plant is near a window and the temperature outside drops, consider moving it slightly to avoid temperature change and even potential frost through the window that will wilt your flowers prematurely.
How do you revive wilted orchids?
To revive a wilted orchid, provide it with the optimal conditions for it to grow. This includes proper watering, temperature, light, and humidity. Water your plant once or twice a week.
If your plant is wilted and you don’t see signs of rot on the lower stem or roots, it may be underwatered. Fully submerge the pot and soil in a bucket of water and leave it to soak for 5-10 minutes. Allow the water to drain off after watering to ensure the roots don’t drown.
Humidity for your plant should be between 40-70%, and your plant should be in an area with bright but indirect light. If your orchid is receiving too much direct sunlight, it may dry out and cause the leaves to wilt.
Humidity can be provided by misting or using a humidifier. Finally, ideal temperatures for your orchid are a little warmer than room temperature, about 23 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit). Providing these ideal conditions should help your plant perk up and thrive.
Will wilted orchid flowers come back?
If an orchid flower has only just started to wilt, it may recover if you are very quick to identify and correct the cause. For example, if your plant is only slightly dehydrated it may react well to a watering and perk up quickly afterwards.
However, it is more likely that your flower will continue to fade until it eventually falls from the plant. Even in healthy orchids, flowers do not stay permanently on the plant and eventually every flower on a spike will fade.
It is important to remember that even a healthy orchid will go into periods of dormancy when they may not flower for months at a time.
Will wilted orchid leaves recover?
Unlike wilted flowers, wilted leaves will recover if you catch the problem in time and correct the issue. Orchid plants usually only have a few basal leaves at the bottom of the stem, so although they may not be attractive, you shouldn’t remove wilted leaves.
A plant with no leaves at all has a worse chance of survival than a plant with leaves, even if those leaves appear limp and unhealthy.
Unless the leaves are fully dead (dry, brown, and crispy) or diseased or rotten (soft, mushy, and brown in colour) they are still providing at least some energy to the plant.
Also, your plant used a lot of energy to grow those leaves in the first place. If you remove dying leaves too early, the plant cannot draw energy back in from the leaves as they die, further weakening your orchid.
Should I remove wilted orchid flowers?
When the flowers on your orchid start to wilt due to approaching the end of their natural life cycle, it usually does not take long for the rest of the flowers on the same spike to follow suit.
These flowers will continue to decline and eventually will drop from the plant, leaving a bare flower spike at the top of your plant.
If your plant is healthy, there is no harm in leaving your flowers to wilt off the plant, however for aesthetic reasons you may be tempted to trip the wilted flowers off before they fall.
There are also some gardeners who claim your plant will benefit from this trimming as it allows your orchid to redirect energy to a new flower spike.
Orchid stems can also become quite long and “leggy”, and the bloom size of flowers towards the end of the stem tend to get smaller. Finally, if your flower spike is brown, yellow, or thin, you should trim it off to allow your plant to grow a new healthy one.
To remove your old flower spike (with or without wilted flowers on it), use sharp, clean shears to cut the spike back to about 1 inch above a node along the stem.
Making cuts with clean edges will allow your plant to heal properly and regrow a new, healthy stem. If stems are brown or yellow and dried out, cut it back to the base of the stem where growth is firm to the touch and green in appearance.
Trimming your plant can open it up to potential pests or disease looking for ways to enter the plant. Keep an eye on your orchid after trimming, ensure the cut heals properly, and address any issues as soon as they appear to help keep your plant healthy and happy.