How to Save A Dying Orchid

Orchids are very beautiful flowers to grow, but they can be fussy guests for your home. From needing the right amount of indirect light and water to requiring humidity, you will have to provide them with the right atmosphere to bloom. Despite your efforts, your orchid can sometimes get crinkled and brown, but fret not as I bring you the ultimate guide to revive your orchid no matter what condition it is in, we bring you a solution for everything right here:

How to save dying orchids

Is my orchid dead or dormant?

Orchids are among the most cherished flowers when it comes to gardening. However, they have become known as one of the hardest to grow flowers. 

I have noticed that it is common for the orchid flowers to fade and then fall off when their bloom season is over. It is a part of their growth cycle. If this happens to you, don’t panic as it doesn’t mean that your orchid is dead, it simply means that its bloom season is now dormant. 

Usually, during the dormant period, it is the time for leaves and roots to grow. Your plant will bloom again with proper orchid care and at the right time. I make sure to cut the spike when it turns yellow after the flowers have fallen off. You must cut it half an inch from its base so that the orchid can use all the energy for leaves and roots.

How do you know if your orchid is dying?

Now the question is, how do you know if your orchid is dead or it can be revived? Here’s how to know for sure:

If your orchid has leaves but no roots, I say you can revive it if you have determination as it can take some time to bounce back. Rooting hormones are sometimes helpful. But, mostly, it is your patience and perseverance that pays off while you apply the watch and see approach. 

However, when it comes to an orchid without leaves, it most probably is dead as it isn’t able to make food for keeping itself alive. The most common reason for an orchid’s premature death is overwatering that result in root rot. Once the roots are lost, it becomes impossible for the plant to stay hydrated, and so it dies out. 

Crown rot is also a reason for orchid’s death. You shouldn’t allow water to sit in its crown. The excess water can rot the crown killing the leaves, which eventually results in orchid’s death.

The crown is the point where the leaves join the plant. During watering, if you find excess water inside the crown, use a paper towel to gently wipe to remove the excess water.

Can you bring an Orchid Plant back to life?

If the beautiful blooms of your orchid fall of and it seem to be struggling, I’d suggest that you don’t panic. Orchids go through bloom cycles, and dormancy and falling blooms don’t necessarily mean that your darling plant is dead. All you need to do at this point is looking after it and watering it when needed so that the orchid leaves and roots keep growing during this time until it blooms again.

The right way to bringing your orchid back to life is by bringing it inside your house and watering it just once a week. Make sure the roots don’t dry out between each watering. Another great tip is to place your orchid in a humid room like your bathroom as it loves humidity or maybe considers investing in a humidity grid.

Fertilizing your orchid regularly is recommended to keep it healthy. Fertilizing it once a month would do the trick. Invest in a feed or liquid fertilizer that drips slowly into the plant so that it gets consistent nutrients over the month.

Image: Orchid roots rot
An orchid plant with damaged roots. You can save this orchid.

An orchid that has all its roots rotten and no viable roots left can’t be revived most likely. This usually happens due to overwatering your orchid. However, if it has some viable roots left, you can re-pot those and revive your plant while getting rid of the rotten roots.

Another reason for an orchid’s death is crown rotting. Don’t let water sit that crown, which is the part where leaves join the plant. The sitting water can result in crown rotting, which eventually leads to the death of the orchid.

Steps to save a Dying Orchid

How do you get orchids to bloom back?

Orchids are beautiful flowers that bloom in cycles. As we have mentioned already, the falling of flowers doesn’t mean the orchid is dead; it only symbolizes its dormant phase. In order to encourage your orchid to bloom again, go for repotting and pruning. Here are a few tips to encourage your orchid to bloom:

1. Cut the Stalk

Cut the stalk that has stopped blooming about half an inch above the node. Use pruning shears or a razor for cutting and trimming the stalk. This process will help to encourage the orchid to start flowering again.

2. Repot your Orchid

Tug your plant out of its pot once you have watered it. Loosen the roots a little with the help of your hands and make sure to dust the growing media, if any. Next, place it into a new pot very carefully. Go for a pot that is designed for orchids. If not, then make sure the orchid pot you choose has enough drainage holes for the water to drain out and the air to circulate. If the orchid roots begin to grow out of the drain holes, it is time to repot your orchid, as the pot is small for it now.

3. Throw in Fresh Growing Medium

Another great tip for promoting reblooming of your orchid is by introducing a fresh growing medium to it to provide it a nutrient boost. You can make your own medium by mixing the following to create a growing medium:

  • 2 parts bark designed for orchids
  • 1 Part peat moss

You must fill the space surrounding the roots with this medium as well as add a layer on top without covering the orchid leaves. Don’t use the regular potting soil for orchids as they require well-draining media along with plenty of air pockets to bloom and flourish.

You should also ensure that your plant gets sufficient light. Remember that orchids require plenty of indirect sunlight. There are orchid growers who use artificial lights and root hormones. But as a home grower, I suggest you stick with shaded areas that get a lot of indirect sunlight and avoid apply proper orchid care.

I like to place my phalaenopsis orchids near the windowsill along with a couple of other fast-growing house plants.

How to save an orchid without roots?

Whether your orchid lost its roots due to dehydration or root rotting, there is still a chance that you can save it. Start by getting rid of all the dead weight by cutting it with the help of sterilized scissors. Next, spray it with 3% hydrogen peroxide to get rid of fungus/rot. Repot it using fresh media.

The next step is to place the plant inside a plastic container with lid-on. Make sure the container is see-through so you can view its condition. This will help to provide it with a humid environment as it will require additional humidity to help regrow its roots and survive. Make sure to give it fresh air daily.

How to revive an orchid with tea?

There is a very clever way of rehabilitating your dry and droopy orchid plant known as the teabag method. As gorgeous as the orchid plant is, it can be really fussy about growing as well. So, I brought you this amazing teabag method to help you restore its glory and rebloom. The teabag method is helpful as it releases tannic acid in the roots of the orchid. This will produce the effect of steady natural rain for the orchid signaling its roots to bloom again. What makes this method so great, you ask? Its imitation of the nature that forces the dehydrated orchid to trigger its natural healing process.

Things you need:

  • Black tea teabag
  • clippers
  • 70% isopropyl alcohol
  • Small container (for catching dirt)
  • Small bowl (to hold it overnight)

Teabag Method:

  • Submerge your plant clippers in a container full of alcohol.
  • Remove your orchid from its pot carefully and examine its root system.
  • Remove the old soil as well as old flower spikes with the help of clippers.
  • Rinse the roots quickly. Examine the roots for greener parts. Leave these parts alone while clipping off the beige and dried ones.
  • Next, make your teabag solution. Take distilled water and let your teabag steep in it for 5 minutes. Don’t make it strong just give it a slight color.
  • Now place your orchid in a small container and pour the tea so that it covers the roots and leaves.
  • Leave it for a day like this, and then remove it during night.
  • Repeat this method for four days, and your orchid will start looking healthy again.

 Now you have sufficient information on the common problems and solutions it is time to turn the sick orchid into a healthy orchid.

Orchid Care FAQ

Is my orchid dead when the stem turns brown?

A brown stem is usually the dead flower spike. While this spike will never bloom again and you should cut it so that the energy can be used by the leaves and the roots. This usually happens when the orchid is done blooming, but it doesn’t mean that your orchid is dead. It simply means that it has gone into a state of dormancy.

What is the average life of an orchid?

Orchids don’t have a definite life span. However, this plant becomes naturally weak after about 15 to 20 years of its life. It produces fewer blooms after this. The immune system of plants become weak and worn down due to fungi and bacteria over their life. Repotting orchids regularly every two years can be helpful in preventing diseases and enhancing their life span.

What does an overwatered orchid look like?

Overwatering is dangerous for the health of an orchid as it stops the oxygen from reaching the roots of the plant. The orchid roots that are exposed to too much water turn them extremely soft and brown/black. This means the roots are rotting and are unable to absorb the nutrients as well as water from the soil. As a result, leaf growth becomes slower and makes them appear pleated and yellow in color. An overwatered orchid can be restored if it has some viable roots left.

What does orchid root rot look like?

An orchid with root rot has brown/black roots, and its leaves turn yellow and pleated as you have overwatered the plant. It is best to remove the dead and rotten roots every time you repot your orchid to keep it healthy and prevent root rot in the future. Only water your orchid when the medium is dry to prevent the roots from rotting.