If you are reading this post then you have likely had the misfortune of having a dying orchid on your hands.
And believe me, there is nothing more disheartening than thinking you didn’t do enough (or maybe did too much) to care for the unique plant.
But before you get too disheartened and give up on your once beautiful bloom, take my advice. You may be able to save your precious bloom.
Before we talk about some ways to revive a dying orchid, we need to address two important questions: How do I know if my orchids are dying? and Why are my orchids dying?
How do I know if my orchid is dying?
The most common way to know whether your orchid is dying or not is to observe its leaves.
Generally, when your orchid is on it’s way out, it’s leafage and stem will start to yellow.
In other words, the rich green color of a healthy orchid will slowly start to lose its luster and become a bit pale in color as it will eventually turn yellow.
It also may start to shed the leaves, another sign of an unhealthy plant. That being said, change in color will be your greatest indicator, as some healthy orchids do shed their leaves from time to time.
Another way to know whether your orchid is dying or not is to observe its root system.
If green, firm, healthy roots are not visible, then this may be a factor in why your orchid is dying. However, if you are able to find some signs of green, then you may be able to bring your prized plant back to life, and quite easily at that.
While down there, check the area in which the roots and foliage connect. If it has a mushy feel to it, you may have to accept that it will not come back.
The last, but also very common reason an orchid may start to die is that it is infested with mealybugs.
Mealybugs feed on orchids and thus in severe cases, can kill your beloved bloom.
Though there are several ways to deal with an infestation, if it is severe, it may be best to dispose of the plant and start with a healthy, new orchid, as it’s impossible to control the Mealybug takeover.
Why is my orchid dying?
Your orchid could be dying for a few different reasons, but most likely it is because it was either not cared for properly or you simply haven’t had much experience with orchids in the past.
Start by asking such questions as:
- Were you away for a few days?
- Did you go on vacation and have a friend or neighbor (with no experience) care for your plants while away?
- Has the weather been unusual in your area?
These are all common factors as to why a perfectly healthy orchid may start to show signs of impending death.
Additional Reading: Do Orchids Like Humidity?
How to revive a dying orchid
There are several ways to revive a dying orchid. They may sound obvious, but if administered correctly, they can make the difference in whether your orchid can be revived or not.
The appropriate amount of sun
While sunlight is very important in regards to your orchid’s health, too much sunlight can cause your plant to become dehydrated due to the intense heat.
Thus look for an area that your plant can receive a good amount of indirect light, at least 12 hours a day is sufficient, but where they will not be overpowered by the sun’s blazing rays. It’s important to recognize though that indirect sunlight does not mean shade.
If your orchid is in a permanently shady spot, you will end up with the same results as if it were in direct sunlight all day, an unfortunately fruitless flower.
The appropriate amount of water
Just as sunlight is so important in caring for your orchid’s health, water is just as important. Therefore, be ever more observant, especially when you notice your orchid is starting to die and check the amount of water it is receiving regularly.
You may also enjoy reading: 25 Interesting Facts About Orchids
A great way to do this is to lift up the planters pot and measure the amount of weight it is giving off. A very light pot is a great indication that your orchid needs water. If you notice this is the case, the next step, as obvious as it may seem, should be to water it.
Since this is not a routine watering however, you want to water your orchid at a gradual rate, allowing time for it to soak in and drain when needed. It is recommended to use lukewarm water, so as to not shock the plant, and put it right up to the edge of the pot.
This step should be repeated every 4 days in order to give the soil time to dry in between waterings. Next step is to examine your orchid pots once a day to determine where the weight of the pot is.
Once it returns to its normal weight, you can continue watering the plant only once a week, or when you recognize that the weight of the pot has decreased.
Some people are apprehensive about trimming their orchids, if you fall in that category, don’t be.
While it’s not always necessary to trim an orchid, sometimes it can be a big help in bringing life back into the flower.
If after several weeks no blooms arrive, then it may be a good opportunity to try trimming the spikes. You will know whether a spike is healthy or not by the color.
A healthy spike will be accompanied by a nice green color and a firmness to it. Unhealthy spikes will be brown and yellow. If after observing what type of spikes you’re dealing with and you decide to take the trimming route, the next step would be to get your tools.
It’s very important to sterilize your tools before use in order to not contaminate the plant. You can do this one of two ways- if the tools are coated, you can use hot water and soap to clean off the blades. If you are using non-coated tools, the flame from a gas stove is a great option.
Since not all spikes will be in the same condition, it’s important to take note beforehand and then determine the best way to trim. If you are dealing with brown or yellow unhealthy spikes, best to cut them all the way back to the base.
If the spikes are healthy, then look for a node under a low blossom and trim it about an inch or so above the node.
If your orchid is double spiked, then do both- cut one spike about one inch above the node a node and the other one to the base.
These steps may not seem like much, but what you are essentially doing is helping your orchid to regain/maintain energy so it can rebloom, one of the best ways for regrowth.
Tip: Cooler temperatures can encourage reblooming, but be sure not to expose it to blunt temperatures.
Fertilizing your plant can also help revive it. To do this, use fertilizer specific to orchids (I like this one) and mix it with ½ water (since fertilizers vary, best to follow directions on the package according to your choice fertilizer).
Then pour it into the already watered potting soil, allowing it to infiltrate the plant.
You may also enjoy reading a previous post: Choosing the best fertilizer for Orchids – My top picks.
While repotting your orchid may be the last thing you want to do, believe me, I understand, it may just be the best thing for your orchid.
It definitely is the most time-consuming option but can have a big pay off if the other means are not working for you.
Before repotting, keep in mind that many plants in general, especially orchids, get stressed when moved around. Therefore, be sure to give them the time they need to recover from the move.
That being said, if you decide that repotting is your last resort here’s how to do it:
How To Report Your Orchid To Bring It Back To life
Have your potting mix ready!
You probably already know well which mix you’re using, but if not, don’t be afraid to ask an expert for help. It will be best for your orchid in the long run.
To prepare your potting mix, get a bucket double the size of your mix and fill it with hot water. Add the potting mix and leave it alone overnight. The following day, strain it (a large colander can be helpful).
Next, get your sanitized tools ready, and carefully remove your orchid from its pot.
Next, clear out any rotten roots and old potting soil. Have your new pots ready. Smaller pots or something equivalent to the size of your orchid should do just fine. Be sure if you are using old orchid pots to sanitize them beforehand.
Afterward, place the orchid into the new pot.
It is best to have the old roots at the bottom while the fresh roots can take their place on the side. This will give them plenty of room to grow.
Then add the new potting mix. Be sure to press it in carefully so you don’t do any damage to the plant. It is recommended to add clips or stakes which can help with tilt.
Water the orchid once a week until you see new roots appear.
Why save a dying orchid?
Some may note that their orchid is dying, so they may come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to just start a new, and get rid of their dying plant.
In some cases, that may be the best solution, but in many cases, your dying orchid can be brought back to a healthier state.
So why take the time to revive it?
Well for one you likely already know much about the specific orchid you already have. You may even have purchased that one because of the color bloom, or because of some other trait, you enjoy.
Also, as a new or experienced gardener, you appreciate plants and don’t take their lives for granted, as some not so keen on plantlife do.
Last but not least, orchids, in general, have a high rate of survival.
Remember, they can be found in all types of areas- rainforests, deserts, mountains and even on the coast, so taking into account the variety of areas they can survive should give you even more reason to feel confident about saving your adored plant.
Will these same techniques work with my other plants that are dying?
Yes, these techniques can also be very useful with your other plants. Keep in mind, every plant is different, thus it may have different needs, but overall the principles are the same.
Before taking on this venture, just remember that like any other ‘dying’ plant, sometimes, it is just not feasible.
However, in my personal experience, I have been able to bring back to life many plants-with a lot of patience, time and let’s not forget, the most important ingredient-love.
Yes, I know that may sound a bit cheesy, but don’t forget orchids, as well as all other plants, are living things.
Whether they thrive or not is many times manifested in how we care for them. So don’t be afraid to take a few extra minutes to really give your best to your blooms.
The majority of the time they will repay you with new blossoms.
Have you been able to revive a dying orchid? Tell us about it in the comments below.