If you've been watching in horror as your orchid slowly loses its petals and leaves, you're not alone. This common yet misunderstood occurrence is why frantic plant parents often call us asking, “Is my orchid dead?”
Fortunately, the answer is usually “no." Your orchid is probably resting. Just as trees lose their beautiful leaves in fall and then grow new ones in spring, an orchid’s life cycle includes a resting stage — often in the winter months — during which they lose their flowers and some of their leaves to prepare for blooming in the spring and summer.
Although dormant orchids don’t produce flowers, taking care of your orchid during its resting stage is important for reblooming in the future.
Here are some proactive dormant orchid care tips to encourage regrowth.
Watering Schedule for Dormant Orchids
You may think that because your orchid isn’t flourishing with vibrant, colorful flowers that maintaining your watering schedule is unimportant, but this is far from the truth. Your plant is alive, well and just as thirsty! Continue watering as usual with three ice cubes a week for a regular size plant and one for mini orchids. Watering gives your plant the fuel it needs for reblooming.
Fertilizing Dormant Orchids
Dormant orchids still need nutrients, even in their resting phase. Fertilizing your resting orchid is crucial for reblooming. Unlike other houseplants, orchids don’t receive nutrients from their soil. Instead, they soak up the nutrients from fertilizer and their potting medium. Fertilizer is kind of like a vitamin for plant and powers regrowth. For optimum reblooming, fertilize your orchid every two weeks or once a month with a balanced fertilizer (20-20-20 or 10-10-10) mixed at half-strength. Do not water your orchid on the weeks you fertilize.
Where To Place Dormant Orchids In Your House
During dormancy, make sure to provide your orchid plant with plenty of indirect sunlight. Although your plant craves warmth and light from the sun, too much direct sunlight can kill your orchid plant at any stage of its life cycle. Add sheer curtains to your windows to give your plant the perfect amount of sunshine!
Once your orchid petals have all fallen off, you must remove the flower spike with a sterile knife or scissors to prevent infection. Once you’ve made a clean cut, apply a fungicide directly onto it. If you want to try a natural fungicide, sprinkle cinnamon onto the pruning cut to prevent fungus growth.
Your orchid receives nutrients from its potting medium, so repotting your orchid in a larger plastic pot will help it continue to grow. You should repot your plant every 1-2 years. If your potting medium begins to give a foul odor, repot immediately!
Pro Tip:Phalaenopsis Orchids will naturally lose between one and three leaves a year; usually these will be the oldest leaves at the base of the plant. This process starts with wilting. Next, the leaves yellow, eventually transforming into dried and easy-to-remove leaves. Be careful not to remove them early as the plant reclaims the nutrients in the leaves as they yellow!
Losing multiple leaves over a short period of time is not normal. This is your cue to check on the health of your orchid's root system!
Dressing Your Dormant Orchids
Waiting for your orchid to rebloom can take months. Not only do blooms fall off during dormancy, the orchid stem may dry and turn brown, and remaining orchid leaves may take on a dull and faded appearance or become limp and flat. This is why people often mistake resting orchids for being dead.
If you take good care of your orchid by following these tips, your plant’s next bloom might just be the best one yet!