Many people choose to grow orchids mostly because of their truly fabulous and beautiful flowers – so when those flowers start wilting, it’s a problem. So, why are my orchid flowers wilting?
Wilted flowers can be caused by a few different problems, but some common ones include environmental changes, over-watering, pests, and the orchid’s natural flowering cycle.
In this article, we will go over the different causes and fixes you can quickly implement.
What Causes Wilted Flowers?
So, if your orchid is looking a little bit droopy, what is the likely reason for the problem?
Well, there is more than one possible cause, so we’ll cover the most common ones.
Reason One: Temperature Change
Orchids do not like fluctuating temperatures, so if your orchid is somewhere that the temperature goes up and down a lot, it is much more likely to wilt.
These flowers have a preferred temperature range between 60 and 80°F and if the temperature rises above or drops below this range, it is much more likely that your orchid’s flowers will wilt.
The orchid is stressed, and so it puts its focus on the crucial parts of its being, such as its roots. Flowers, not essential to survival, get less attention and resources.
If you have to transport your orchid for any reason (when you purchase it, moving house, etc.), it is likely to suffer from temperature shock unless you are very careful. Even a warm car may not be as snug as your living room window, and if the change is noticeable, the orchid is likely to start wilting.
This can happen even in your home, of course. You might decide to move the flowering orchid from its windowsill to a spot in the center of your living room so you can better enjoy its blooms, but you need to check the area is suitable first.
If there is anything that would alter the temperature around your plant, you need to think about this before putting the plant there. For example, an open window could cause a chilly breeze, or a radiator or overhead vent might overheat the orchid.
Any of these things can cause wilting due to temperature stress.
Reason Two: Poor Watering Routine
One of the commonest causes of wilting is lack of water – or, frustratingly, too much water. If you don’t water your orchid correctly, you are very likely to see both its leaves and its flowers wilt quite quickly.
Unfortunately, orchids can be tricky to water correctly. They like to be soaked, but only briefly. In nature, where orchids usually grow on the branches of trees, rainwater runs straight off them and down toward the ground, so they are not accustomed to sitting in water.
You need to make sure that your orchid is planted in well-draining material so that this effect is replicated in your home. If you plant your orchid in heavy soil, or even just neat compost, it is likely to get over-watered.
Of course, you need to pair good drainage material with proper watering. You should only water your orchid when it is getting dry, and you need to check this by pressing your finger into the top surface of the growing medium to about an inch down.
If there is moisture there, the orchid doesn’t yet need watering, and you should wait until it has dried out before giving it another drink.
It is possible to under-water an orchid too, although this is less common than over-watering as orchids will hold water in their roots and don’t need to drink as often as some other plants.
However, if you have recently neglected your orchid a bit, you may need to give it a good drink. Make sure you water it until the water runs out of the bottom of the pot, and then drain its saucer so it is not standing in water. This should keep it happy.
Reason Three: Pest Attack
If your plant is looking sick but you are sure you’re keeping up with all its needs, it’s important to check it for pests. An orchid can be troubled by many different kinds of pests, and you should learn the common ones and look out for them so you know when you need to rescue your plant.
Pests cause wilting because they usually steal the plant’s resources, and in particular, many drain sap from plants. This will leave the plants trying to produce more all the time, spending their energy and nutrients on regenerating lost sap.
So, what insects should you look out for in particular? It is a good idea to check your plant’s leaves regularly, both on top and on the undersides, as well as around any flower stalks as these are often tender places that insects like to bite.
On occasion, you may even end up with pests in the orchid bark that your orchid is growing inside.
Look out for aphids on your plant. These will excrete a sticky sap, so if you notice this on or around your orchid, the chances are that the plant has aphids or another sap-sucking bug on it.
You can get rid of aphids by washing your plant’s leaves with soapy water. Don’t make the soap too concentrated or you may damage the plant too.
Alternatively, if your orchid’s leaves are turning silvery in conjunction with the wilting, your plant may well be infested with mites. These can be killed by wiping the leaves down with alcohol, which will also take care of many other predatory insects.
Scale insects are another common issue, and these – like aphids – will drink the sap on your plants and leave sticky residue affecting the leaves. These are little brown insects that are usually flat against the leaves and can be almost invisible, particularly against the stems of the plant. They become more visible as they age, but they are still hard to spot.
These are another pest that can be taken care of by wiping them down with alcohol; this is one of the most effective ways to kill them. The only other option is to manually scrape them off the plant, but this can be slow and challenging, and usually needs multiple attacks to be successful.
Reason Four: Natural Cycle
If your orchid flowers are wilting but the leaves themselves seem healthy and the plant still appears perfectly happy, it is probably nothing to worry about. When the plant reaches the end of its flowering cycle, the flowers will wilt and then eventually drop off.
This is not something that you can change, because no matter how well you look after and tend to your orchid, its flowering season is finite and it will drop its blooms eventually.
After this, your orchid will probably go dormant because it has expended a lot of energy while flowering. You should expect it to remain dormant for at least six months, possibly more. This is normal and can’t be changed.
One thing that you can do, however, is to move your orchid away from your fruit bowl. That might sound surprising, but fruits produce ethylene gas, which speeds up ripening. If your orchid is too close to the fruit bowl (or even certain vegetables), it is much more likely to lose its flowers quickly.
Separate your orchids for longer-lasting flowers, but otherwise, if your orchid flower wilts and the rest of the plant seems perfectly happy, it has probably just reached the end of its flowering season.
You can cut off wilted flowering spikes if you choose to, but use sterile scissors and remember that you don’t need to do this. Some types of orchids will produce a second flower if you cut just below the lowest flower, such as Phalaenopsis. These are the most common kind, so if you don’t know what sort of orchid you have, it may be worth a try!
Otherwise, all you can do is accept that your orchid’s flowers will end after a certain period of time, and sadly, this is just part of keeping these beautiful plants!
Reason Five: Environmental Change
Changing your orchid’s environment is likely to cause it as much upset as any of the other things, and if it has started to wilt just after you have moved it, this is probably the cause. It takes a little while for any plant to adjust to the settings of a new environment.
Even if there are not many noticeable changes to your eyes, your plant will probably feel things. Small changes such as different light levels or a different angle of light will mean that the plant has to readjust itself and this causes it stress.
At such times, it won’t put as much energy into flowering and will struggle to support any flowers that it already has because its focus will be elsewhere.
If the flowers wilt after you have moved your orchid, don’t panic. The plant may recover and refresh its flowers, or it might wait until the next flowering season. However, once more, wilting flowers probably aren’t a major cause for concern unless the rest of the plant also seems sick.
Reason Six: Low Humidity
Occasionally, your orchid’s flowers may wilt because it is not in a humid enough space. Remember, orchids like at least forty percent humidity, and some varieties require more than that. To keep your plant’s blooms fresh and delicate, you need to humidify them reasonably frequently.
How often will depend on your setup. You need to be cautious because wet leaves invite fungal infections and pest attacks. However, not humidifying your orchid is a sure way to make it wilt.
You should aim to gently mist the leaves a couple of times a week, and consider installing a hygrometer near your orchid so that you know how humid the air is. Depending on where you live in the world, you may need more frequent misting to keep the plant happy.
Humidifying should be done in the morning so that the leaves have plenty of time to dry before cooler temperatures set in at night; this reduces the risk of disease.
You can humidify your plant with a spray bottle, gently spritzing the leaves and potting medium. Alternatively, you might want to buy a plug-in humidifier or make a humidity tray. This will keep your orchid nice and damp, and keep its flowers fresh for as long as possible.
Orchid flowers wilt for a range of different reasons, but hopefully, you now know what to look out for and how to fix it when something goes wrong!