Help, My Orchid is Dying!

Chances are, your orchid isn’t dying and with a few adjustments you can help bring it back to its original healthy state! Like most plants, Phalaenopsis orchids go through a normal cycle of growth, blooming and rest, before the cycle starts again. Here are some things that commonly happen during an orchid's lifecycle, and some that indicate your orchid may be dead. 

Signs your orchid is truly dead:

If you find the part of your orchid that connects the leaves and roots (crown) is mushy, it is time to discard the plant.

My blooms are wilting or have fallen off:

pink orchid

Orchid flower loss is a normal part of an orchid’s lifecycle. However, premature orchid flower loss could be a result of:

  • Sudden temperature changes, low temperatures
  • The plant is too dry
  • The plant's roots are experiencing problems.

Try to avoid cold or warm drafts, such as near an open window or heat vent. Then, check the color of your orchid's roots. Well-watered roots should be a healthy green color, while grayish-white roots indicate more water is needed.

Don't forget to keep your orchid away from ripening produce, which gives off ethylene gas and can cause flower and bud loss.

The stem has changed color:


Once the flower stem starts to turn brown, no more flower buds will be formed on that stem. Remove the entire brown flower spike an inch from the base of the plant. The orchid will now be able to put more energy back into the leaves and roots.

The leaves have changed color or are dull:


The condition of your orchid's leaves can tell you a lot about the health of the plant.

Dark green leaves indicate your orchid is not getting enough light. White leaves, particularly if they subsequently die and turn black, indicate that your orchid is getting too much light. Move the plant out of direct sunlight and away from west-facing windows. Yellow leaves can be a bit trickier. If only the bottom leaf is turning yellow, your orchid is probably sloughing off a mature leaf to make room for new growth. If you find yellow spots and the entire leaf turns yellow, your orchid most likely has spider mites. Limp or dull leaves that eventually wrinkle are signs of dehydration. Increase watering and inspect your orchid’s root system for signs of stress. Repot your orchid if the root system does not look healthy. For more information, visit our Leaves FAQ section.

How can I tell if my orchid is just resting?:

Flowering can last from one to three months after which the plant goes into a period of rest. During this time, it stores energy for the next flowering period. During the resting phase, blooms drop from the orchid's stem, and the stem may shrivel and turn gray or brown. The orchid’s leaves gradually lose their bright green gloss and upright stance, turning dull and flattening out around the orchid’s base. Instead of tossing out your Phalaenopsis orchid when it goes into its resting phase, encourage reblooming by following these steps:

  • Continue weekly watering.
  • Cut back spike(s) one inch from the base of the plant
  • Fertilize your orchid every other week or at least once a month with a balanced houseplant fertilizer at half strength. Omit watering on fertilizing weeks.
  • Move your orchid to an area with a slightly cooler temperature.
  • Make sure your orchid receives plenty of indirect sunlight.

Why does my orchid have faint green spots on the blooms?:

white orchid

The spots indicate the flowers are aging, which is a natural process. This process is accelerated when the plant goes through stages of being too dry. Keep checking the color of your orchid's roots, as they are a great indicator for how much water your plant needs.

The smallest buds are dying:


The smallest buds on the flower spike are the most sensitive part of the orchid. If the plant starts to discard the unopened buds, this is called “bud blast”. Bud blast can occur because of temperature changes, low light levels, or even from touching the buds with your hands. Try moving your orchid to an area that receives plenty of indirect sunlight with a consistent temperature, and always be sure to wash your hands or use sanitizer before handling the plant.

I think my roots are rotting!:

If your roots are gray and mushy, and smell like mold, your orchid is overwatered. Let your orchid dry out, which may take up to 10 days. Then you may resume watering your Just Add Ice Orchid with 3 ice cubes weekly. If your orchid isn’t blooming, you can repot your orchid in new media and mist the leaves a few times daily the first week.

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