Steps on How to Save a Dying Orchid (10 simple ways to keep it alive)

Sharing is caring!

Orchids are notorious for being extremely picky plants. To grow orchids, one must have an accurate understanding of their needs during their specific growth period.

However, with the wide variety of orchid genera and species, each has its own peculiarities about care. It is important to understand the specific needs of an orchid plant before it has completely wilted to save its life.

How to bring an orchid back to life

Here are some ways on how to save a dying orchid

  1. Stop watering the orchid immediately if it begins to wilt. Consistent overwatering is one of the most common causes of wilting. In fact, some orchids can drown from too much water.
    1. What to do: If this happens, simply allow the potting mix to dry completely before applying water.
    2. After a week, if the orchid is still wilted, it might be a sign of root rot. In this case, you must repot the orchid in the new potting mix and stop watering for another week to allow the roots to dry out further to prevent root rot.
    3. If after two weeks, the plant has not recovered from wilt, mark this plant as “DO NOT WATER” and move it to a cooler location.
  2. Provide proper light for an orchid plant to thrive. While each type of orchid plant has unique requirements, one thing is common – they all need ample amount of indirect sunlight.
    1. In fact, orchids that are kept in a dark space will not only wilt, but they will also not bloom. There are some exceptions though, some orchids only need light that is equivalent to a four hour fluorescent lighting per day.
    2. If you’re not sure about the type of lighting your orchid plant needs or how much lighting an orchid needs, then check out this guide on how much light is needed for your growing orchids.
  3. If the orchid is wilting regardless of proper care, you MUST repot it. One common reason why an orchid plant will wilt regardless of how well you take care of it is due to improper potting mix and media.
    1. Different species or the orchid plant, such as the dendronium, cattleya, and vanda orchids, may have different potting needs, so be sure to research everything first before repotting an orchid. The potting mix should not be kept wet for long periods of time, but it should also hold enough moisture (not too moist).
    2. If you absolutely cannot repot your plant yourself due to safety concerns, make sure to seek out a professional to do it for you.
  4. Make sure the humidity around the orchid plant is right. Orchids, as a tropical plant, thrive in humid and warm conditions.
    1. If your room temperature and humidity fall below 60%, it might be too dry for an orchid plant to survive. If so, consider using a humidifier near the houseplants to increase the overall moisture around the area.
    2. Additionally, you can also spritz some water on the orchid leaves once a day to mimic natural rainfall.
  5. If you’re growing your plant under the sun, make sure that there are no nearby plants blocking its sunlight.
    1. Often times, when an orchid plant is placed in an area with too much shade (15% of direct sunlight or less), it might wilt due to minimal light.
    2. In this case, move the orchid plant in a more sunny area so that it can absorb enough sunlight to flourish.
  6. If you have other houseplants around the orchid plant, make sure they are not stealing all of its nutrients and water.
    1. Orchids use a very specific mix of nutrients and minerals to survive, so other plants placed near them might have a negative effect on the orchid plant.
    2. If you notice that your orchid is wilting even though it’s being taken care of properly, spend some time identifying any possible houseplants that could be stealing its water and nutrients.
  7. Lastly, make sure that your orchid plant has sufficient space to breathe. This is especially important during the winter season when windows and doors are often closed more frequently due to the cold weather (and also heating systems).
    1. If you notice that an orchid plant wilts during the colder months of fall and winter, then it might be because there is not enough airflow going around the plant.
    2. In this case, investing in a good air purifier for your house might help reduce the humidity and provide the orchid with fresh air to take in.

Related: Dendrobium Orchid- Easy Care Guide and Maintenance {proven tips that won’t kill the plant}

Why is my orchid dying?

There can be many reasons why your orchid is dying – the most common of which are overwatering and underwatering. To know whether you’re watering your orchids too much or not enough, you must check the potting medium to see if it’s dry (water thoroughly when dry).

a healthy purple orchid in a white pot that could be due to following the steps in the how to save a dying orchid article

If your orchid is wilted, it’s probably because you’re not watering it enough.

  • The easiest way to save a dying orchid is by putting the pot in a tray filled with water and allowing it to soak for 30 minutes.
  • You should then empty out the remaining water from the tray and let the orchid drain for at least 60 minutes.
  • Allow draining before placing your orchid back in its usual spot in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. It should perk up in a few days’ time.

On the other hand, overwatering is the second most common reason why orchids die. Overwatering can cause root rot and bacteria, which will ultimately kill your orchid – so it’s important to know how much water should be applied.

Related: 10 Minute Solution to Rehydrating your Wilted Houseplant

How to water an orchid

To bottom water an orchid plant, thoroughly immerse its orchid pot in a tray filled with water. Let it soak for 30 minutes, then empty out the remaining water from the tray and let the orchid drain for at least 60 minutes before putting it back in its usual spot in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

a close up of purple and white orchids

If you find that your orchid is too big to fit into a tray for watering or you want to water it without hassles, go ahead and use a hose with an adjustable nozzle. If your orchid is too large to carry around while watering, you can tie the pot in a hanging basket.

Related: 13 Simple Options to Keep Cats Out of Plants {for good}

How to save a drowning orchid

You may have watered an orchid plant too much or you simply don’t know how much it needs. Garderner Report that it’s common to overwater an orchid, which is one of the reasons they die easily. If your orchid doesn’t perk up after being saved from drowning or overwatering, it might be suffering from shock – thus moving it into better lighting/sunlight may help with its recovery process.

Overwatering happens when too much water is given at one time and the excess water remains in the potting medium to cause root rot. This causes the plant to rot and nodules on the roots will turn dark brown or black (source).

Usually, only one type of orchid needs less water than others – otherwise, all types of orchids like soaked potting media/orchid mix that’s evenly moist but not wet.

How to save a drying orchid

orchids in a pot placed on a chair

On the other hand, underwatering can cause your orchid to wilt and die – so if you feel it might be a case of underwatering, make sure you thoroughly soak its pot in a tray filled with water for 30 minutes before letting it drain for at least 60 minutes.

In general, orchids are composed of 90% water, so if the media is even slightly dry, it’s time to water. To know whether your orchid needs to be watered, stick your finger in the potting medium up to the first knuckle – if it’s moist then you don’t need to water just yet.

However, if this doesn’t help and it wilts, even more, you’ll need to re-pot your orchid in a potting medium that drains liquid faster – otherwise, you should cut off the wilted parts of its stem (source).

How to save a wilting orchid

Orchids are composed of 90% water – so if they’re not watered properly or allowed to dry up, they’ll wilt. On the other hand, wilting leaves can also be the sign of pests (aphids and mealybugs) or diseases (soft rot).

white orchids in a glass container

To save a wilting orchid, make sure that it’s thoroughly soaked in a tray filled with room temperature water for 30 minutes – after which you should let it drain at least 60 minutes. If this doesn’t help, you can re-pot your orchid in a potting medium that drains quickly (make sure the container has several holes at its base) to avoid root rot.

It’s also possible for an orchid plant to wilt due to low temperature, lack of sunlight, and insufficient air circulation – so make sure that your orchid is getting 3-4 hours of indirect sunlight every day and it’s also allowed to dry off before you water it again.

On the other hand, avoid overwatering your plant as this is one of the most common reasons why orchids wilt periodically. If your plant keeps wilting despite being watered thoroughly, then it may have root rot that needs to be treated as soon as possible.

Related: Tips to Easily Remove a Keiki and How to Repot it too {as EASY as 1,2,3}

Do indoor orchids attract bugs?

Yes, orchids can attract bugs. Sometimes overwatering and underwatering might be the root cause of death for an orchid plant.

However, there are also other possible reasons why orchids die, which include environmental factors (high/low temperatures and direct sunlight), pests (aphids and mealybugs), fungus (fusarium wilt), and diseases (soft rot).

a close up of orange/pinkish orchids

These problems can be prevented easily by making sure that your orchid is robust enough to fight them. This means making sure it can grow healthy, avoiding placing it near windows or doors where there are drafts, and keeping it away from direct sunlight.

Related: Do House Plants Attract Bugs?

Keeping the plant leaves clean will also help you eliminate pests and diseases – thus wipe down stems with 70% alcohol to kill any lingering bacteria that might be hitching a ride on your orchid. You should also keep a close eye out for any signs of fungus – if you find a strange-looking substance on the potting medium (like white spots on orchid roots or mold), remove it immediately before it spreads to other parts of your orchid.

In addition, see to it that there are no holes in its leaves as pests usually hide inside these tiny openings. In case there are insects hiding under the leaves, you should pick your plant and remove the insects carefully using a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.

How to keep bugs away from an orchid

Although bugs gravitate towards plants that bear sweet nectar, you can still keep them away from your orchid by placing stems in a container filled with 70% rubbing alcohol and covering the pot with a plastic bag (source). You can also use natural bug repellents like neem oil to keep bugs at bay (source).

On the other hand, you can also get rid of aphids by simply wiping down the stems with alcohol (using a cotton swab) or using insecticidal soap. You can also spray your orchid’s leaves with water mixed with dish soap to kill aphids.

However, you should take extra precautions when spraying soapy water on your orchid’s leaves as orchids are sensitive to chemicals – thus don’t spray it during the day if the plant is kept in direct sunlight. Instead, spray it in the early morning or late evening.

Related: How to Clean Water Spots off Plant Leaves {my secret weapon}

How to save an orchid infected with fungus

The best way to save an orchid infested with fungus is by cutting off all fungus-infested areas of the plant and sterilizing it using alcohol.

a close up of pink and yellow orchids

After this, you should repot the plant in a fresh potting mix (make sure there are sufficient perlite pellets at its base as orchids need well-draining soil).

In case the fungus has spread to other parts of the plant, you should dip a cotton swab in alcohol and wipe down all areas that have visible signs of infestation – do this at least once a week until the fungus is eliminated. You should also place your plant under bright indirect light to encourage proper growth.

How to prevent fungus and root rot

The best way to prevent fungus and root rot from developing on your orchid is by properly watering it – water your plant once its mix has dried out. The key here is not to over-water nor under-water your plant as both cause problems such as rotting roots, root rot, and leaf loss.

a close up of yellow orchids

You should also note that overwatering an orchid for a long period of time results in brown patches developing on its leaves. Furthermore, when the orchid’s pot is too small for it, it can experience root rot because air circulation isn’t sufficient enough to dry out the dead roots.

Related: Buying Guide for the Best Pots for Orchids 2021 Reviews (10 MUST know tips)

This is why you should repot your orchid every two years and make sure that it has sufficient drainage holes.

If your orchid’s leaves are turning brown, or have brown spots, then this is due to a mixture of overwatering and/or stem rot caused by fungi growing inside the plant’s pot. In fact, the only way to save an orchid from stem rot is by removing the affected leaves, disinfecting its pot, and using fresh potting mix.

Related: Best Soil Mix for Potting Orchids (7 recipes needed for your plant to flower)

How to save an orchid with root rot

Grasp the base of your orchid’s stem with one hand and use your other hand to tap on its pot. If the plant doesn’t feel firm, then it might have root rot – thus you should discard this plant immediately before the disease spreads to other parts of the plant.

a bunch of blue orchids

You can also try placing an orchid infested with root rot in an empty pot and try to prop the plant using wooden toothpicks and strips of raffia.

After this, you should water your orchid infested with root rot thoroughly and then cover it with a plastic bag. The goal here is to keep humidity levels high as fungus thrives well in moist conditions – so make sure that the plastic bag doesn’t touch your orchid’s leaves as this can damage them.

Related: Do Humidity Trays Really Work?

In case your indoor orchid plant has a hard time developing a healthy root system, you should place it in indirect sunlight until new roots have grown. Once they’re ready, you should prune any dead roots and repot your orchid in a fresh potting mix (don’t forget to add the proper perlite ratio).

How to save an orchid from droopy leaves

Droopy leaves are usually the first sign of an orchid not getting enough water – so make sure that you water your plant thoroughly before it dries out completely. Furthermore, ensure that there are sufficient drainage holes at the bottom of its pot as this will prevent root rot from developing.

On the other hand, droopy leaves can also indicate that your orchid has been exposed to very high humidity levels for a long period of time. This is why you should avoid overwatering your plant, under-watering it, and/or keeping it in standing water as well as areas with low light (source).

a small garden of orange orchids

How to revive orchids with flowers dropping off

There are several reasons why flowers on your orchid might be dropping off – high humidity levels can sometimes affect the flower’s scent and removal of its dead petals, the plant growing in a pot that is too small for it, or too much stress. If there is a yellowing crown on your orchid, then it might have experienced too much stress.

The best way to revive an orchid with flowers dropping off is by cutting the flower stem down to the node and repotting it in fresh potting mix (make sure that there are sufficient perlite pellets at its base). You should also keep your plant away from direct sunlight until it starts developing new leaves.

Related: How to Water Hard to Reach Indoor Plants (7 brilliant methods to try)

Final thoughts on how to save orchids

It’s not difficult to save an orchid – you just need to be patient and gentle with the root system. If your orchid doesn’t have any roots, then you can try repotting it without them but this is a risky move.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have a plant with healthy roots, make sure to cut off any dead or dying ones before potting in new mix. Be careful not to touch the green roots because they’re essential for the plant’s survival! After potting in new mix, water generously and enjoy your beautiful orchid!

You May Also Like: