Why is My Orchid Dying? (8 Solutions That Actually Work)

Why is My Orchid Dying? (8 Solutions That Actually Work)

Overwatering or planting in the incorrect potting material are two common causes of orchid deaths. Overwatering or potting materials that retain too much moisture encourage the development of root rot, which results in the wilting, yellowing, and eventual death of orchid leaves.

However, a variety of environmental variables might cause orchids to die back since they are sensitive to them.

The following table lists the most typical causes of orchid death:

Common causes of orchid deathExplanation:
Overwatering:Typically, orchids only need to be watered once a week. Root rot is a result of over watering.
Too Much Moisture Is Retained in the Potting MediumPine bark or other aerated, well-draining potting soils are ideal for orchids. Moss or ordinary potting soil can restrict the amount of oxygen that is available around the roots, causing root rot.
Underwatering:Underwatering or using too little water causes orchid roots to shrink and the leaves to turn yellow and seem wilted. Water your orchids well once every seven days.
Too Little Humidity:Tropical plants like orchids prefer humidity levels of at least 65%. The leaves and roots of orchids will visibly shrink if the air is too dry.
Draughts, air currents, and heat sources can cause orchids to dry out.Orchid blossoms may fall off due to excessive air movement or temperature changes brought on by chilly draughts, and the orchid itself may become yellow under stress.
A surplus of sunlightPartial sun or filtered light is necessary for orchids. Leaves that receive too much direct sunshine turn yellow or brown.
Insufficient sunlightThe orchid suffers from poor growth and has fewer flowers to show for too much shade.
Too Cold or Too Hot a TemperatureThe ideal temperature range for orchid growth is between 55°F (12°C) to 75°F (23°C). An orchid’s demise may be brought on by temperatures that are hotter or colder than these for an extended length of time.
King Rot:Crown rot is a fungal disease infection that turns the leaves and stems yellow and finally spreads around the orchid, killing the roots. It is brought on by stagnant water that collects in the plant’s crown as a result of overhead watering.
Fertilizer overuse can burn roots:Regular houseplant fertilizer is too strong for the roots of orchids and will kill them, so they need use a specific fertilizer to avoid scorching their roots.

With greater humidity, indirect light, well-draining aerated pine bark based potting media, and weekly watering, it is vital to mimic some of the circumstances of the dying orchids’ natural tropical forest canopy environment in order to rescue them.

Read on to find out what’s causing your orchid to die and how to fix it.

1. Orchid Dying due to Overwatering (Root rot)

Overwatering is the most frequent cause of orchid death. Too much watering of orchids causes root rot, which causes the leaves to turn yellow and appear to be dying. Ordinarily, orchids need to be watered once a week. Your orchid is dying because you are watering it more frequently than once per week.

Overwatering and root rot symptoms include:

  • Yawning, sagging leaves.
  • Roots decay and release a foul odor.
  • The roots eventually wither away, becoming papery and white in color.

The majority of the popular orchid species found in homes, like the phalaenopsis or “moth” orchid in the photo, are epiphytes, which means they develop on other trees in moist woods as opposed to growing in soil.

This indicates that they are accustomed to growing in environments with high humidity, moderate rainfall, and great drainage.

The orchid is actually capable of absorbing water vapor from the humid air around it rather than drawing moisture from the soil, which is why the roots extend out of the potting medium in the manner that they do.

Too much watering will cause the potting medium to remain too wet for the orchid roots to tolerate, which will cause root rot.

Individual roots may occasionally appear to rot before they shrink, die, and turn papery white. Because the plant can no longer transfer water and nutrients, the leaves begin to yellow and droop.

How to Save Overwatered Orchids with Root Rot…

  • Reduced watering is the key to rescuing overwatered orchids with root rot. In the spring and summer, orchids should only be watered once per week, and in the fall and winter, once every 7 to 10 days.
  • After letting the potting soil dry down, look for diseased roots. Healthy roots have a green (and light gray) appearance and a rich texture. Root rot in orchids can cause the roots to appear brown, feel squishy or rotting, and even smell bad. The roots eventually turn papery white and disappear.
  • The orchid should be removed from its growing medium, and any roots that appear to be sick or dying should be cut back to the plant’s root ball or to healthy growth. As a result, the rot won’t spread and kill off the entire orchid.
  • To prevent the transmission of fungal disease infections to otherwise healthy areas of the plant, trim the roots with sterile pruners or scissors and always clean the blades with a cloth dipped in alcohol disinfectant after each cut.
  • Any green, withered, or grey roots that are not rotten can be rejuvenated and still work well.
  • Once the infected roots have been cut back, replant your orchid in fresh pine bark-based potting media to enhance drainage. You can either replant your orchid in a new pot with drainage holes in the base, or you can clean the existing pot with a disinfectant before doing so.
  • To lessen transplant shock, give the orchid a deep bath after replanting it in its new potting soil. Then, water it once more a week later.
  • Sometimes the yellow leaves of orchids keep withering and eventually fall off. Because orchids can photosynthesize via their roots, they may still be able to survive even if their leaves are lost.
  • Every few days, mist the orchid to provide a humid microclimate that mimics the humid conditions of its natural environment and helps to reduce stress after the roots have been cut back.

The orchid’s ability to recuperate mostly depends on how long it has been overwatered and how many of its roots are dead or infected with decay.

The orchid is not likely to recover if nearly all of the roots are dead or infected. The orchid has a better chance of recovering the more strong roots that are still there.

The most crucial actions are to remove the diseased or dead roots and replant them in fresh pine-based potting soil since doing so stops the rot from spreading and the pine-based soil’s improved drainage lowers the danger of root rot.

Always place orchids in containers with drainage holes in the bottom so that after watering, extra water can drain. (Read my post on selecting the best orchid pots.)

2. Potting Medium Retains Too Much Moisture Around Orchids Roots

If orchids are grown in moss or soil-based potting mediums, they may wilt and turn yellow. Tropical orchids demand an aerated pine bark-based potting media and naturally thrive in trees rather than in dirt. The orchid dies from root rot as a result of moss and soil that absorb too much water and obstruct air flow.

The vast majority of orchids we keep in our homes are tropical “Moth” (phalaenopsis) orchids, which are not rooted in soil like most plants because they grow on other trees in tropical woods.

Therefore, soil- or moss-based potting media hold too much moisture and do not allow for adequate air or water vapor passage around the roots, which helps to foster the conditions for root rot.

Both root rot brought on by excessive moisture and air flow restriction around the roots cause the leaves of orchids to become yellow and wilt. Another early indication of stress is the dropping off of flowers.

As a result, the orchid’s roots change from being healthy and voluminous green or light grey to being shriveled grey roots that finally die back.

The orchid’s ability to absorb and transport water and nutrients decreases with weakened roots, which causes the leaves to wilt, become yellow, and wither.

Because orchid roots are unique in that they may perform photosynthesis, a soil-based potting media would likewise block light and limit their ability to perform.

However, pine bark is an organic material that naturally breaks down over time into a structure resembling compost.

Since the pine bark has degraded and no longer maintains the same aerated and well-draining structure, even if your orchid is planted in the proper potting medium, root rot will still cause the leaves to wilt and turn yellow.

How to Save Orchids Turning Yellow and Wilting

  • Take the orchid out of the pot, carefully scrape out the dirt or moss from the roots, and look for any symptoms of illness or stress. Healthy roots feel full and have a green or light gray appearance. Unhealthy roots are papery gray, brown, or yellow and are thin and withered.
  • Cut any unhealthy, diseased roots back to the plant’s base with sterile pruners or scissors, wiping the blades between each cut to stop the spread of any potential fungal diseases to otherwise healthy growth.
  • New, orchid-specific pine bark potting media should be used in place of the old potting soil. The bits of pine bark are sufficiently big so that more air may circulate and that any extra water can drain effectively. To mimic the conditions of its natural habitat, the pine bark fragments absorb some water. This water then evaporates, creating the water vapor from which the orchid takes moisture.

Even if the leaves turn yellow and drop off, the orchid can revive if there are enough strong, plump roots left.

The orchid plant can still survive and regenerate in the absence of leaves because its roots are capable of photosynthesis, which is typically performed by the leaves. New leaves should start to appear from the plant’s base in a few weeks.

Your orchid has the highest chance of recovering with new potting soil and the right maintenance procedures.

3. Orchid Dying Due to Underwatering

The roots of the orchid will die back and the leaves will droop and turn yellow if it is not watered frequently enough or if it is watered too lightly. This is because the roots cannot get the moisture or water vapor that they need.

Growers occasionally take the suggestion “orchids do not need much water” to indicate that only a modest amount of water should be used to water orchids.

When you water orchids too lightly, the water only reaches the top inch or so of the potting soil and does not penetrate deeper to the roots.

As a result, the roots experience drought stress and die back since they can’t reach water. Less water and nutrients are pulled up by the plant when there are fewer strong roots, which causes the leaves to droop and turn yellow.

In the spring and summer, orchids should be watered once a week with a deep soak so that extra water drips from the base of the container, and in the fall and winter, when the plants’ growth slows down in response to less daylight hours, they should be watered once every 7–10 days.

Your orchid is underwatered if you water it less frequently than once every seven days, which will result in the leaves turning yellow and the plant withering away.

Check out my article on how frequently to water orchids.

How to Save Underwatered, Drooping and Yellowing Orchids

How to Save Underwatered, Drooping and Yellowing Orchids

The orchid can be preserved with the correct care. Nevertheless, depending on how severe the drought stress is, the yellowed leaves may fall off and part of the roots may not recover.

Ideally, if they are reachable, snip off any dead roots with a pair of sharp, sterilized scissors.

However, if they are deep in the orchid pot, it is usually best to leave them alone because roots that die from underwatering are not sick (as may be the case with orchid roots that have been overwatered), but rather have shrunk and died as a result of drought stress.

The plant has a higher chance of recovering because you won’t have to disturb the healthy surviving roots as much.

The orchid should begin to show symptoms of new growth in the coming weeks, or by the following spring if it is in the fall or winter.

(Read my post on how to identify whether an orchid needs more or less water.)

4. Low Humidity and Air Currents (Flowers and Buds Drop off)

Moth orchids, which are native to tropical woods with typical humidity levels of 60–70%, make up the majority of domestic orchids. Low humidity conditions and air conditioning drafts can rob orchid leaves of moisture, leading them to lose too much water and eventually die.

Our indoor humidity is nearly usually lower than the outside humidity and lower than the 60 to 70% humidity range that moth orchids require to survive.

Because of this, the rate at which water is lost from the leaves rises, the soil dries up too quickly, and the roots of the orchids use up their reserves of moisture, leading them to shrivel. This may also result in the orchid drooping, yellowing of the leaves, and dropping of the flowers or flower buds.

Orchids may shrink and wither due to air currents created by indoor heating or air conditioning systems.

How to Save Orchids Dying in Low Humidity

The secret to rescuing orchids that drop their blossoms and perish in low humidity is to mimic those conditions in their natural habitat. Place your orchid away from air currents and drafty regions, and mist the leaves and roots of your orchid once daily to prevent additional excessive water loss from the leaves.

Low humidity can stress out orchids, and one of their first symptoms is frequently the loss of blooms or the development of flower buds.

Because they often have significantly higher humidity levels than other rooms in the house, orchids are frequently well suited to bathrooms or kitchens. However, if they are frequently misted, they can develop perfectly fine.

It might be required to sprinkle orchids daily in especially dry locations in order to recreate their ideal circumstances.

Because the roots may absorb moisture from water vapor, misting both the leaves and any roots that are protruding from the potting medium can assist reduce stress.

In order to maintain the ideal level of humidity for your orchids and avoid dry air from sapping moisture, make sure the orchid is out of the path of any draughts from air conditioning or doors that open frequently.

The orchid can start to recover during the next weeks once it is in the proper setting with the appropriate humidity level.

5. Too Much or Not Enough Sunlight

Due to their high sensitivity to light, orchid leaves can quickly turn yellow or brown when exposed to intense sunlight. Because they are suited to the forest canopy, orchids need filtered light or partial sun in the house to provide adequate sunlight for flowering while also shielding the leaves from burning.

Direct sunlight from the window can burn the leaves of your orchid, which can stop it from blossoming or cause the blooms and flower buds to fall off. These effects are similar to those of drought stress since the additional heat and light dry out the orchid’s roots and leaves.

The orchid often produces considerably fewer flowers and may have limited growth if it is in a room with unusually low amounts of light.

An area with bright, indirect light or filtered light is the greatest setting for orchids since it mimics the levels of light intensity that the plants would normally experience in their natural habitat and gives them enough light to flower.

The specific leaves are unlikely to recover and typically turn brown before dropping off if the leaves do turn brown or yellow. Avoid attempting to push a dying leaf to fall off because doing so could lead to an unintended wound that becomes infected and worsens the plant’s condition.

The orchid should be able to recuperate with new leaves developing from the base of the plant in the spring and summer if you place it in an area of bright, indirect light, spray the leaves, and water thoroughly once a week.

6. Hot and Cold Temperatures- Dying Orchids

A minimum nighttime temperature of 55°F (12°C) and a maximum daytime temperature of 75°F (23°C) are needed for moth orchids. If orchids are exposed to temperatures outside of this range, they may stop growing, lose their blossoms, turn yellow, and droop in a way that seems they are dying.

In addition to being susceptible to temperature extremes, orchids are also especially sensitive to fast changes in temperature, which can be brought on by the opening and closing of an exterior door, which lets all the cold air in and causes the temperature to drop suddenly.

Fortunately, it is frequently not an issue because room temperature is normally between 55°F (12°C) and 75°F (23°C).

However, when an orchid rests on a window sill and its leaves come into contact with a cold window frame, the leaves often start to die and turn brown or yellow.

Additionally, orchids that are too close to heating sources in the house frequently lose their blossoms or budding blooms if the temperature rises significantly.

Relocating your orchid to a space with the appropriate temperature range that isn’t frequently exposed to draughts or heat, which can drastically change the temperature, is the only genuine answer to this problem.

New leaves can sprout throughout the main growth season in place of any damaged leaves, which may die back and fall off. If excessive heat was the issue, watch for signs of drought stress because higher temperatures will likely cause the orchid to dry up much more quickly.

To aid in its recovery, mist-spray the leaves and thoroughly bathe the orchid.

7. Causes of Dying Orchids- Crown Rot

The leaves of orchids can twist themselves into a funnel shape around the stems, collecting water and preventing it from draining away. The orchid’s leaves and stems may turn yellow and wilt, giving it the illusion that it is dying, due to crown rot, which is brought on by the stagnant water inside the funnel.

Although it doesn’t always happen, the shape and arrangement of the leaves can frequently lead to water gathering around the orchid’s crown.

In its natural habitat, the phalaenopsis orchid often grows on trees at an angle of around 45 degrees, which allows any water to securely drain away from the crown rather than being caught by the leaves.

In a domestic setting, where orchids are planted vertically, watering the leaves from above causes the water to flow directly onto the orchid’s crown rather than having an opportunity to properly drain away.

Watering straight onto the potting material at the base of the plant rather than overhead onto the leaves is the simplest technique to prevent it.

Use a hairdryer on a cold setting to help dry up the crown if water gets on the leaves inadvertently and settles there.

Although it can be very challenging to salvage an orchid with crown rot since the fungi that cause the disease might spread to other plant parts, there is a chance that it can be done with certain radical measures.

I advise viewing the video for a visual tutorial on how to save orchids with crown rot because doing so is a difficult, visual process to describe:

8. Too Much or Not Enough Fertilizer- Dying Orchids

8. Too Much or Not Enough Fertilizer- Dying Orchids

Use only specialized fertilizers made for orchids because they are designed to give the plants the ideal ratio of nutrients in the proper amounts.

– Fertilize your orchid once or twice a month using a balanced houseplant fertilizer at half strength. … In the event that the leaves do become brown or yellow, they are usually brown before falling off and are not likely to recover. Avoid attempting to push a dying leaf to fall off because doing so could result in an unneeded wound that could become infected and further injure the plant.

The orchid should be able to recuperate with new leaves sprouting from the base of the plant in Spring and Summer if it is placed in an area of bright, indirect light, misted the leaves, and received thorough watering once a week.

The ideal temperature for moth orchids is between 55°F (12°C) and 75°F (23°C) during the day. Temperatures outside of this range can cause orchids to cease growing, drop their petals, turn yellow, and droop, giving the impression that they are dying.

Orchids are not only susceptible to temperature extremes, but they are also highly sensitive to fast temperature changes that can result from opening and closing an outdoor door that lets all the cold air in, causing the temperature to drop suddenly.

Key Takeaways:

  • Thankfully, the range of ambient temperature is between 55°F (12°C) and 75°F (23°C), so this is usually not a problem.
  • As the orchid is on a window sill and the leaves are in contact with a cold window frame, the leaves can become brown or yellow and eventually die. However, it is typical to observe individual orchid leaves perish.
  • Furthermore, if the temperature rises dramatically, orchids that are too close to heating sources in the house frequently lose their flowers or budding flower buds.
  • Relocating your orchid to a space with the correct temperature range that isn’t frequently exposed to draughts or heat, which can drastically change the temperature, is the only effective answer to this problem.
  • However, new leaves can appear during the main growing season after any damaged leaves have died back and fallen off. Since higher temperatures are likely to cause the orchid to dry up more quickly, if excessive heat was the issue, check for symptoms of drought stress.
  • To assist the orchid recuperate, mist-spray the leaves and thoroughly bathe it.
  • Around the stems, orchid leaves can congeal into a funnel shape, collecting water and preventing it from draining away. The orchid’s leaves and stems may turn yellow and wilt, giving it the appearance that it is dying, if the funnel’s stagnant water is the cause of crown rot.
  • Water may collect around the orchid’s crown, while this is not a universal symptom of orchids; it occasionally happens. This is due to the form and arrangement of the leaves.

When growing on trees in its natural habitat, the phalaenopsis orchid normally does so at an angle of around 45 degrees, which allows any water to securely drain away from the crown instead of being caught by the leaves.


Can you bring a dead orchid back to life?

In the domestic setting, orchids are planted vertically, and watering from above onto the leaves causes the water to flow directly onto the orchid’s crown rather than having a chance to drain away properly.

Is my orchid dead or dormant?

The simplest technique to prevent it is to water the plant directly from the base onto the potting soil rather than from above onto the foliage.

How do I make my orchids live again?

Use a cool setting on your hairdryer to help dry the crown if water gets on the leaves by accident and settles there.

What are the signs of a orchid dying?

However, with certain severe measures, there is a chance that an orchid with crown rot may still be salvaged. This is because the fungi pathogens that cause the disease can travel to other plant organs.