How to Revive a Dying Orchid

How to revive a dying orchid

I love orchids, so I can fully emphasize your pain if yours is dying! This happened to me, too, when I first started growing houseplants. Since then, I have done my research and even spoken to some specialist growers to help pinpoint the reasons why orchids die and what you can do to save them.

In this post, I’ll share all my tips and secrets to help you identify the problem with your orchid and give you my step-by-step process (which has been developed and perfected with some trial and error) so you have all you need to revive your orchid…

In a nutshell, the most common reasons I see orchids dying are overwatering, slow-draining soils, and a lack of oxygen around the roots. They require the top inch of the growing medium to dry out between waterings. In consistently damp soil, orchids develop root rot, with leaves turning yellow and dying back.

We need to remember that our orchids are epiphytes that require more oxygen around their roots than most plants, as well as bright, indirect light with a temperature range of between 55°F (12°C) and 75°F (23°C), relatively humid conditions away from draughts and should only be watered when the top inch of the potting medium is dry, but the rest of the medium should not dry out completely.

Orchids often die because they are planted in a potting medium that retains too much moisture, which causes the roots to rot and the leaves to turn yellow and die back. (This happened to mine)

I have since learned that orchids should only be potted in pine bark or special orchid potting mixes rather than moss or ordinary potting soil.

We can revive our dying orchids if we create optimal conditions by emulating some of the conditions in their native environment and by cutting back dying roots.

I made a quick table with all the most common problems to help you pinpoint the problem with your orchid…

Reasons for Orchids Dying:Symptoms:
Overwatering, soil that retains too much moisture, pots without good drainage.Leaves and stems turn yellow and drooping. Roots turn brown, black, and mushy often with a bad smell.
Sunburn (orchids require indirect light not full sun)Yellow or brown scorched leaves that eventually fall off.
Not watering often enough or watering too lightly.Orchid leaves drooping with a wrinkled appearance. Leaves turn yellow with severe dehydration. Roots turn thin, white, and papery.
Too much fertilizer can burn roots. Orchids require special orchid fertilizers. Ordinary fertilizer is too strong.Roots can turn brown or black, leaves can turn floppy, and sometimes turn yellow. Too much fertilizer can prevent orchids from blooming.
The orchid is stressed due to several factors such as cold or hot temperatures, and low humidity. Low light or full sun can both cause the buds to drop and the orchid to die.Buds dropping, yellow or brown wilting leaves, roots dying back.

Keep reading to learn the cause of your dying orchid and how to revive it…

Why Are My Orchid Leaves and Stems Wilting, Turning Yellow? (Overwatering)

Orchid leaves turning yellow due to overwatering.
This is an orchid I came across that was dying due to overwatering; I could tell overwatering was specifically the problem as the potting medium was saturated and poorly drained.
  • Symptoms. Leaves and stems of the orchid wilt in appearance, turning yellow and dying back. Roots can appear yellow, brown, or black with a mushy texture and a bad smell and eventually turn grey and paper.
  • Causes. Stem rot or root rot is caused by overhead watering, overwatering, or potting soil that retains too much moisture or is too compacted for growing orchids (orchids require aerated soil). Cold temperatures lower than 55°F (12°C) also cause orchids to turn yellow.

I think if we’re going to save our orchids, it is important we understand how they grow in the wild (because, ultimately, we need to mimic some of these conditions in our homes).

Most species of houseplant orchids are either epiphytes (which means they are specially adapted to growing on trees, and the roots absorb water vapor from the air around them rather than uptake water from the soil) or they grow in loose, gravelly aggregate on the ground with very quick drainage so that their roots are not sat in standing water or even damp soil.

So, to avoid your orchid turning yellow, drooping, and dying and to grow orchids successfully, we can recreate some of the conditions of their natural environment with an emphasis on good drainage, watering correctly, and bright, indirect light levels.

Orchids turn yellow due to overwatering and slow-draining soils. What I learned from my own orchid mishap is that they require the soil to dry out between watering bouts. If the soil is constantly damp, the orchid leaves and stems turn yellow, droop down, and die back.

Yellow orchid leaves indicate that the roots are not in a condition to transport water or nutrients around the orchid due to root rot or excess moisture in the soil has excluded oxygen which required for root respiration so that the roots can function properly.

However, I should highlight that overwatered orchid roots can appear yellow, brown, or black and have a mushy texture, often a bad smell.

I find this depends on how long the orchid has been suffering in damp soil for. What I found with my orchid is that the roots turned yellow then brown. It was at the point they were turning brown that the also turned mushy and I really noticed the bad, rotting smell!

Eventually, the roots of my orchid died back due to root rot and appeared gray, thin, and papery. This is in contrast to healthy orchid roots, which are green or light gray and have a firm feel.

How to tell if an orchid is overwatered or underwatered
Healthy orchid roots are green (or light gray) and feel plump (on the left), whereas the overwatered roots on the right have turned gray, papery, and died back.

I received advice from specialist orchid growers that orchids should typically be watered once every 7 days or so in Spring and Summer and once every 10-14 days in Fall and Winter to meet the watering requirements and avoid root rot.

I’ve personally found this advice broadly true in most indoor environments, but you may need to make adjustments, according to your climate.

(Read my article to learn how often to water orchids at different times of the year and in different climates).

I learned the hard way that you should pot up your orchid with peat moss, as there is a much better potting medium to use…

To avoid yellow orchid leaves, we need to plant our orchids in the appropriate pine bark potting medium, as ordinary potting soil or even peat moss retains too much moisture for orchids to tolerate and lacks the aerated, porous structure for oxygen to reach the orchid’s roots so they can respire and function properly.

What I found frustrating was that I followed the expert advice and only watered every 7 days, but the moss just held on to the moisture for too long and decomposed relatively quickly and retained even more moisture.

So even if you water infrequently the orchid leaves and stems can still turn yellow if they are in potting soil that retains too much moisture or the particle size of the soil is too small which causes a lack of oxygen around the roots.

Pro tip: This is the best advice I’ve had for keeping orchids healthy. Orchids should ideally be repotted with a new potting medium once every 2 or 3 years.

This is because our orchids require lots of oxygen around the roots for efficient root respiration.

If the potting medium starts to decay (into a compost-like consistency) over 2 years or so, the size of the pores and amount of air around the roots decreases, which causes the roots to suffocate, and the orchid turns yellow and dies back.

This is the case with all potting mediums, whether it moss or pine bark however, I did a little experiment where I grew 1 orchid in moss and one in pine bark.

The orchid in moss needed to be repotted in after one and a half years as the moss had decomposed to the point where it resembled damp soil whereas the orchid in pine bark needed to be repotted after 3 years due to the slower decomposition rate of pine bark.

I think my experiment proves why pine bark is the potting medium of choice for serious orchid growers and even in commercial garden nurseries that supply orchids wholesale to garden centers.

Of course, we need to be conscious that our orchids can also turn yellow if they are planted in pots without drainage holes in the base or because saucers and trays underneath the pots cause water to pool around the bottom of the pot, which results in consistently damp pitting mix around the roots, increasing the risk for root rot and other fungal disease that cause the leaves of orchids to turn yellow.

Good drainage is imperative to grow orchids, so always plant them in pots with holes in the base that allow water to drain freely after watering.

(Read my article, choosing the best pots for growing orchids for more tips).

It should be noted that even if our orchids have yellow leaves and some roots appear to be rotting, the orchid can still revive if there are at least some roots that are relatively healthy…

Crown Rot Causing Yellow Leaves and Stems

We need to remember that the best practice is to water orchids at the soil level (or in a basin) and not water overhead onto the leaves and stems.

Orchid leaves can form a funnel shape that encourages water to pool on the crown of the plant (rather than drain off into the soil), which can cause crown rot due to stagnant water.

Crown rot can cause the leaves and stem of the orchid to turn yellow and eventually turn brown or black, causing the orchid to die back.

My Tips for Saving Orchids With Wilting, Yellow Leaves, and Stems from Overwatering

  • The first step is to scale back how often you water the orchid and let the soil dry out. As a general rule, orchids should be watered once every 7 days, but you should always wait for the top inch or so of the potting medium to feel dry before watering again, which can vary according to your climate, the type of potting medium, and the size of the pot. (Read my article on watering orchids for more details). I feel the soil with my finger to tell when it’s dry. In my opinion, this method is more precise than using a moisture meter.
  • Ensure that your orchid is planted in a potting mix specifically formulated for growing orchids. As I stated, a pine bark-based mix works best due to its aerated structure and good drainage, which emulate the soil conditions of the orchid’s native environment. So, repot your orchid to a special orchid potting mix of pine bark (rather than moss) to prevent root rot.
Best orchid potting soil.
Pine bark-based potting medium (on the left creates the optimal soil structure for orchid roots, whereas normal potting soil (on the right) is too dense and often results in root rot.
  • Inspect the roots for signs of disease. Healthy orchid roots normally appear green to light gray depending on how recently they have been watered and typically feel plump and firm. If your orchid’s roots are mushy, brown, or black, often with a bad smell, then this indicates disease or stress from a lack of oxygen around the roots, and you should cut back the unhealthy roots.
  • Snip back any diseased-looking unhealthy roots back to healthy growth. Use a sterile pair of pruners or scissors and cut back any roots that appear brown, black, or mushy, as these roots can no longer transport water or nutrients and can cause your orchid to decline further if they are not removed. I recommend wiping the blades of your pruners with hand gel or disinfectant between every cut to prevent potentially spreading fungal pathogens to otherwise healthy tissue. I always cut diseased roots back to healthy growth or back to the base.
  • If there are some healthy, living, green (or light grey) roots remaining, then the orchid can still be revived. Snipping off the diseased or rotten roots can seem fairly drastic, but I’ve always found that my orchids are hardier than their perceived reputation when it comes to reviving and growing back.
  • If the stems are yellow cut them back to healthy growth even if it means cutting the stem back to the base of the orchid. This helps to prevent the spread of disease and if the stem is yellow it no longer functions. Cutting back helps to stimulate the growth of new stems.
  • Yellow leaves often die back but do not force any yellow leaves off if they are still attached. I must caution against forcing the leaves off, as it can damage the orchid. What Happened to my orchid leaves is that they turned brown and fell off of their own accord.
  • Give the orchid a good soak after repotting to help mitigate transplant shock, and keep the orchid in an area of bright indirect sun, preferably in relatively cool (not cold) temperatures for a week or so. Your orchid can suffer some shock following the removal of roots, so it is important to keep any stress to a minimum. High temperatures and direct sun cause an increase in the orchid’s demand for moisture at a time when the number of roots that uptake moisture has been reduced to help save the plant.
  • Keep the orchid in a temperature range of 55°F (12°C) at night and a maximum daytime temperature of 75°F (23°C), in indirect light and water when the top inch of the potting medium is dry (typically around every 7 days or so) with a good soak.
  • Mist the leaves with water every 2 or 3 days to maintain a humid micro-climate which replicates the humid conditions of the orchid’s native habitat. This also helps to reduce transpiration (water loss) from the leaves which is important for reviving the orchid whilst it is growing new roots.

If you cannot mist your orchid every other day, then What I recommend that you do is to use a plant humidifier which has a similar affect. I also found grouping my humidity loving houseplants near each other helped to keep the atmosphere humid, which can help your orchid revive.

A steamy bathroom is also another good option!

As long as there are some healthy green (or light grey) roots that feel firm and plump, there is a possibility your orchid can be saved.

Our houseplant orchids are unusual in that the roots can even photosynthesize (usually exclusively the function of the leaves for most plants) which is how the orchid manages to produce energy and regrow even when the leaves are yellow and dying.

Pro tip: This is the reason I recommend clear plastic pots (rather than decorative pots) can improve the chances of your orchid reviving, as this allows light to reach the roots for photosynthesis in the absence of functioning, healthy leaves.

Clear plastic pots allow light to reach the orchid's roots for photosynthesis to provide it with energy.
This is the clear plastic pots that I use for my orchid to help the roots revive.

What I found is that the amount of time it takes to revive varies depending on how severely the orchid was affected and how many roots were removed, but as long as you provide the right conditions for the orchid, you should eventually see some new leaves starting to form, from the base of the plant and new roots emerging over the next few weeks.

I thoroughly recommend that you watch this helpful YouTube video for a visual guide if you are unsure of anything:

Orchid Leaves Yellow or Brown Because of Sunburn

  • Symptoms. Leaves of the orchid turn yellow or brown with a scorched appearance. Leaves and flowers can also fall off due to stress.
  • Causes. Orchids require filtered light or bright, indirect light and can burn in full sun or intense sunshine.

As we discussed, in their native environment, most orchids grow as epiphytes (which means they grow on other trees), so they are naturally adapted to growing in the shade away from full sun but still in relatively bright light.

Therefore, our orchid’s leaves tend to be sensitive to the effects of direct sunlight, so we should always place our orchids in an area of bright, indirect light or perhaps some filtered morning light rather than the full sun to replicate the conditions of their natural environment.

If the orchid is in too much sun, the leaves can scorch and turn yellow or brown depending on the severity of the sunburn.

I made this mistake when I first started growing orchids and placed it on a south facing window!

The leaves that were in direct sunlight socrched a kind of yellow brown colour, but some of the lower leaves were shaded and survived the solar onslaught.

Of course, too much intense light can also contribute to drying out the orchid too quickly from both the leaves and the potting medium and cause the symptoms of drought stress. When I felt the potting medium of my scorched orchid it was completely dry.

What happened to my orchid is that the leaf turned yellow, then completely brown, dried up and then just fell off. Unfortunately, individual sun burnt leaves usually can not be saved but the orchid can still revive by growing new leaves.

How I Managed To Revive My Orchid With Sun-Burnt Yellow Leaves

  • I placed my orchid in an area of bright, indirect light to reduce stress on the plant and prevent more damage. Orchids are adapted to the shade of the canopy, so it is important to emulate these conditions when locating your orchids.
  • Allow any severely damaged leaves to dry up and fall off of their own accord. Sun burnt leaves eventually dry up and die back but removing them too early can damage the plant. In my experience, this usually takes several weeks, so I must warn you that some patience is required!
  • Ideally, repot your orchid in a clear plastic pot. As we discussed, orchids are common in the plant world as their roots are capable of photosynthesizing and providing energy for the plant. This is not their primary function, of course, but we use this quirk to our advantage by placing orchids in clear pots so that roots have access to light, which is key to helping the orchid revive and grow new leaves.
  • The orchid should eventually start to grow new leaves (which are often very small) and with the appropriate good care (watering appropriately and ensuring orchids are in the correct temperature range) the orchid can start to revive.

Pro tip: The best place to grow orchids, in my experience, is either in a bright bathroom (with the bonus of increased humidity) that has frosted glass to diffuse the light (thus avoiding sunburn) or behind a sheer curtain, which has the same effect of diffusing light. In fact my orchid that flowers the most is in a south facing room with lots of light behind a sheer curtin. I attribute the increase in flowering to the bright light.

From experience, it can take orchids a long time to revive when their leaves are burnt because the leaves often drop off (which reduces the orchid’s ability to produce energy), and it takes a while for the orchid to grow new leaves. However, with some patience, My orchid eventually revived and flower again.

Orchids Dying From Drought (Drooping Leaves)

Roots turning white from severe dehydration.
Roots turning white from severe dehydration.
  • Symptoms. Roots appear shriveled, white, and die back. Leaves droop downwards, lose their shape, and feel floppy rather than firm. Leaves can also turn yellow and the flowers can drop off due to drought stress. Stem of the orchid can also turn brown and die back.
  • Causes. Not watering orchids often enough, watering too lightly, excess heat, low humidity, and too much sun.

Our orchids are usually at more risk of overwatering than underwatering due to their preference for good drainage and aerated, porous potting mediums and our tendency as indoor gardeners to care a little too much for our plants!

However i have had orchids still suffer drought stress if the are not watered often enough, watered too lightly which can happen if they are in a hot climate with low humidity which saps moisture from the leaves and dries the potting medium too quickly for the roots to uptake moisture.

As we know, typically, orchids need to be watered thoroughly around once every 7-14 days (depending on climate) so that excess water runs from the drainage holes in the base to ensure water reaches the roots.

A common mistake I see people make, which I think is very understandable is that if the orchid is watered too lightly then only the top inch or so of the medium medium becomes moist and the roots cannot access the water they require.

The first sign that your orchid is drought-stressed is the leaves starting to droop. With severe drought stress the leaves can even turn yellow and the roots shrivel up, turn white, thin, and papery, and die back.

If some of the roots become shriveled and die back the orchid can no longer transport water and nutrients around the plant properly which causes the leaves to turn yellow and the leaves and flowers can drop off.

However, if some roots are still alive, then we can save our orchids from drought if we correct the watering practices and ensure our orchid stays between a temperature of 55°F (12°C) and 75°F (23°C) and out of full sun to reduce stress whilst the orchid recovers.

My Tips for Reviving Drooping Orchids

  • Place the orchid in a basin of water for 10 minutes, ensuring the roots are fully submerged. Whilst orchids do not require watering as often as some house plants, they grow best when the potting medium has a good soak for each bout of watering. Placing a drought-stressed orchid in a basin of water allows much-needed moisture to reach the roots and ensures that your potting medium is evenly moist. Take the orchid out of the water after 10 minutes and allow excess water to drain freely from the drainage holes.
  • Always give the orchid’s potting medium a good soak. While it is not necessary to place your orchid in a basin every time you water (I only do this once in a while), it is important that we water our orchids generously so that water trickles from the base of the pot. This ensures that the potting medium is evenly moist and the orchid’s roots can uptake the water they require to replenish water reserves that are stored in the orchid’s roots (so that they feel plump rather than shriveled).
  • Increase how often you water your orchid (if necessary). Orchids require watering less often than most house plants, but the potting medium should not dry out completely between bouts of watering. In really hot climates, it may be necessary to water every 5 days, but I would inspect the potting medium to determine whether it is moist or not before watering.
  • To establish when you should water your orchid in your climate feel the potting medium with your finger to detect moisture. The top inch of the potting medium should be allowed to dry out between bouts of watering to meet the orchid’s watering requirements and to avoid root rot. If the top inch feels moist then I delay watering for a day or so. When the top inch feels dry this is the perfect time to water your orchid with a generous soak.
  • Mist the roots and the leaves of the orchid regularly. Mist the leaves and roots of the orchid to reduce transpiration (water loss) from the leaves while it is drought-stressed. Houses are generally much lower in humidity than the orchid’s native environment, so misting or the use of a humidifier is the best practice to prevent leaves from drooping. I strongly recommend misting the leaves AND any aerial roots every other day to create a humid micro-climate to help revive the drooping orchid.
  • Ensure orchids are in an area of bright, indirect light rather than full sunlight. Whilst you are trying to revive a drought-stressed orchid keep it out the way of direct or filtered sunlight as this can exacerbate the leaves and roots drying too quickly.
  • Keep orchids in a temperature range of 55°F 80°F as high temperatures exacerbate drought stress. The cooler temperatures provide the optimal conditions for the orchid to recover without stress from drying conditions.

Important watering tip: If you are submerging your orchid, then I would use some foil over the top of it (cut a slit to allow for the flower spike and leaves) as the potting medium is likely to float out the pot because it is so dry, so the foil or cling film can keep your potting medium in the pot whilst it absorbs the water. I had to start using this method because the first time I did this, my entire orchid floated around the basin as it was completely dried out!

It can also help to cut away dead white, papery roots as these roots do not revive, and cutting back can help stimulate the growth of new healthy roots. If the stems (or flower spikes) turn brown, cut them back to the base with a pair of scissors or pruners to stimulate new growth.

I advise keeping uo with consistent watering, and mist the leaves and root every other day for more humidity, place the orchid in bright, indirect light at the right temperature, and your orchid should start to show signs of recovery over the next few weeks and can eventually flower again.

Too Much Fertilizer can Burn Orchid Roots

  • Symptoms. Leaves turn floppy, the orchid displays fewer flowers or no flowers and the roots can turn brown or black. Sometimes the leaves can turn yellow.
  • Causes. Ordinary houseplant fertilizer is too strong for orchids. Apply fertilizer too often or in a concentration that is too high. Accumulation of salts from fertilizer can prevent the orchid’s roots from up taking water which turns the leaves yellow.

We talked about how our houseplant orchids are adapted to growing with their roots relatively exposed on other trees or in loose soil and, therefore, do not necessarily require lots of fertilizer.

However, some feed is necessary to support healthy growth and can encourage flowers but you must use a fertilizer that is specifically made for orchids.

A specifically formulated orchid fertilizer contains all the nutrients the orchid requires at the right concentration to support healthy growth and promote flowering.

Orchid fertilizer provides the rights balance of nutrients at the right concentration.
This is the orchid fertilizer that I personally use, as it provides the right balance of nutrients at the right concentration.

I tell all new orchid growers that fertilizer can be too much of a good thing for our orchids! Too much fertilizer can cause the leaves of the orchid to grow floppy and not display flowers. The roots can also burn which can cause the roots to not function properly and the orchid dies back.

Reviving an Orchid with Burned Roots

  • The first step is to scale back your use of fertilizer, and place the orchids in a basin and wash the orchid’s roots under the faucet for around 10 minutes. The reasons we do this is because this thorough watering helps to dissolve some of the salts that can accumulate in the soil after using too much fertilizer. Let the water drain out of the drainage holes and allow the top inch of the potting medium to dry.
  • After you have dissolved the excess salts under the tap and the top inch of the potting medium is dry, take the orchid out of its pots and inspect any roots. The orchid’s roots should be green or light gray and feel plump and firm when they are healthy.
  • If the roots appear brown or black, then what I advise is to snip these roots back to the base of the plant, as these roots can no longer function properly.
  • Repot your orchid ideally into a new potting medium of pine bark or special orchid potting mixes (avoid Sphagnum moss as it retains too much moisture). The new potting mix does not have the high concentration of salts, and if you replace the bark, you do not have to worry about a high concentration of nutrients in the potting medium.
  • In my experience, any leaves that have turned yellow are likely to turn brown, die back, and fall off the plant as they did with mine. Do not attempt to remove these leaves by force, as this can damage the orchid.
  • Take good care of your orchid and it should show signs of revival over the next few months with new leaves emerging or new roots replacing the old damaged roots.

I must emphasis the importance of using a specially formulated orchid fertilizer (available from garden centers and on Amazon) when feeding orchids.

Orchids’ natural growing conditions are fairly unusual (they like to grow on trees and often attain nutrients from rainwater or water vapor around them), and their roots are far too sensitive for ordinary fertilizer.

Special orchid fertilizer applied at the correct frequency and at the right quantity should support healthy orchid growth and promote flowering, so always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Why Are My Orchid Flowers and Flower Buds Falling Off?

  • Symptoms. Orchid flowers or flower buds falling off suddenly.
  • Causes. The orchid is stressed due to several factors such as a contrast in temperature or humidity. Low light or full sun can both cause the buds to drop. Stress from dehydration or overwatering.

If orchid flowers or flower buds are dropping off, then I see this as an indication that the environment in which the orchid is growing is contrary to the conditions to which orchids are adapted.

I’ve had this happen a few times myself, and from my experience, orchid flowers fall off suddenly when there is a significant contrast in temperature or humidity. Temperatures lower than 55°F (12°C) or higher than 75°F (23°C) cause stress and is most commonly the reason for flowers and buds to fall from your orchid.

Orchids prefer a relatively humid indoor environment, so if there is a fluctuation in humidity, the orchid can drop flowers due to stress. Indoor heating, draughts, and air conditioning can cause fluctuations in humidity.

Underwatering or watering orchids too lightly also causes flowers and buds to drop as a survival strategy to conserve resources.

Orchids are very sensitive to overwatering, which can cause a range of symptoms, including flowers and buds dropping off and leaves dying back.

How I Revive Orchids with Flowers Dropping Off

  • Once the flowers or flower buds have fallen off, then I’m afraid there is not much you can do other than to correct the environmental stress that caused the flowers to drop off in the first place.
  • Ensure that the orchid is in a room with a temperature between 55°F (12°C) and 75°F (23°C). Orchids are relatively sensitive to fluctuations in temperature even within their preferred temperature range so try to keep the temperature relatively consistent. Keep your orchid away from draughts from open windows, out of a direct current from air conditioning, and away from radiators or sources of heat.
  • The air in our houses tends to be much lower in humidity compared to the orchid’s native environment. Therefore, consistent misting of your orchid is required. However, if, like me, you cannot necessarily mist often enough, then you can do what I did, which is to buy a humidifier that works really well.
  • Bright, indirect light helps to promote flowering, so try to locate your orchid somewhere in the home where it is bright but not in direct sunlight. If the orchid is in a relatively dark room, then the plant does not have enough energy to produce flowers to the same extent.
  • Orchids should be watered less often than most house plants but should not be left to dry out completely. The top inch of the potting medium should be allowed to dry between bouts of watering, which ensures the orchid has sufficient water and avoids the dangers of overwatering, such as root rot.
  • Apply a special orchid fertilizer to the orchids following the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that the orchid has all the nutrients at the right concentration to promote flowering. Do not apply ordinary houseplant fertilizer, as this can kill the orchid.

I find that the fertilizer here is key. You see, the orchid has put a lot of resources into flowering, so the fertilizer can help replenish its energy to flower again. I found, through trial and error, that using fertilizer in this scenario made my orchids flower again more quickly compared to those orchids without fertilizer.

With the right conditions, orchids should retain their flowers and flower buds and bloom again, usually in the Spring, Fall, or Winter.

(Read my article, why are my orchid flowers and flower buds falling off).

Orchid Dying After Repotting

If your orchid is dying after repotting this could be as a result of:

  • Transplant shock. Transplanting orchids can cause stress, particularly if their roots are damaged, or they are moved from one location to another with contrast in light, temperature, or airflow. Always ensure your orchid is in the correct temperature range of between 55°F (12°C) and 75°F (23°C) in bright indirect light (rather than too much shade or full sun), and keep orchids away from draughts and air currents after repotting. I find they generally perk up after 2 or 3 weeks.
  • Orchid transplanting into a moisture-retaining potting medium. Orchids require aerated potting mediums and grow best in pine bark or specially formulated orchid potting mixes. Sphagnum moss often retains too much moisture for orchids to tolerate, and the orchid dies back of root rot (yellow leaves, wilting appearance, and roots that are turning brown or black with a mushy texture).
  • Overwatering. As we know, orchids are very susceptible to overwatering. Always wait for the top inch of the potting medium to dry out before watering again.
  • Pots without drainage holes in the base and the use of trays and saucers. When you repot your orchid, you need to remember to plant it in a pot with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape after watering. Decorative outer pots, saucers, and trays can also cause water to pool around the roots of your orchid, causing root rot. Always empty outer pots, saucers, and trays after watering orchids to prevent water from pooling around the roots of your orchid and causing root rot.

(Read my article, How to Care for Phalaenopsis Orchids Indoors).

Key Takeaways:

  • The reason for dying orchids is because of root rot due to overwatering or soils that retain too much moisture. Orchids require the top inch of the soil to dry out between bouts of watering. Overwatering causes orchid leaves and stems to wilt and turn yellow, and the roots to die from root rot.
  • Orchid leaves turn yellow and wilt if planted in moss or ordinary potting soil because they retain too much moisture, which causes root rot. Orchids should be planted in pine bark to replicate their natural soil conditions of good drainage and aeration around the roots to prevent yellow leaves and root rot from developing.
  • The reason orchid leaves droop is because of dehydration from underwatering and low humidity. Water orchids with a good soak once every 7 days and mist their leaves once every 2 days to create a humid micro-climate to emulate the orchid’s natural growing conditions and revive drooping orchid leaves.
  • Too much fertilizer can burn sensitive orchid roots, causing the roots to die back and the orchid leaves to turn floppy and yellow and preventing flowering. Orchids do not tolerate normal houseplant fertilizer and require fertilizer specifically formulated for orchids.
  • Orchid leaves turn yellow due to root rot caused by overwatering, sunburn, too much fertilizer, or cold temperatures. They are sensitive to overwatering and overfertilizing, which kills the roots and causes the leaves to turn yellow. Orchid leaves turn yellow and scorch in full sun.
  • The reason orchid flowers fall off is because of stress due to hot or cold temperatures, dehydration, overwatering, or low humidity. Orchids require a stable indoor temperature of between 55°F and 75°F in bright indirect light with some humidity to prevent flowers and buds from dropping off.
  • To revive dying orchids, create the conditions of an orchid’s natural environment with indirect light and stable temperatures, cut away any dying roots, and re-pot the orchid into a pine bark potting medium. Only water orchids when the top inch of the potting medium is dry.

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