Orchids are beautiful flowers that bloom in cycles. And there’s nothing more rewarding than helping your best bud grow and reach its full potential. Yet, these delicate flowers are prone to sickness and disease and often die prematurely if not taken care of properly.
But that doesn’t have to be the end of that story!
In this article, we’ll teach you how to revive an orchid and make it thrive once more. We’ll also provide expert tips on how to recognize whether an orchid is dormant or dying.
Don’t stop be-leafing and check our full guide below to keep your orchid from withering away!
Why Do Orchids Get Sick?
There are three reasons why an orchid plant can become lifeless: disease, distress, or a combination of the two. Moreover, different orchid species require different growing conditions — hence why your orchid may look like a shadow of its former self if you “mistreat it.”
For example, the Phalaenopsis orchid — one of the most popular types — requires at least 12 hours of sunlight each day, year-round to stay healthy. In temperate climates, this is a bit tricky, whereas in tropical climates this isn’t an issue.
To bring an orchid back to life, most people instinctively drown a plant in water, thinking that will help save it, when in fact, it does the complete opposite.
Namely, orchids don’t tolerate excess moisture very well. Couple that with inadequate air circulation and you have a recipe for disaster; your potting medium plays a big part in keeping your precious plant alive — if it’s dense and non-porous, it won’t drain all the excess water, causing root rot.
Now, let’s take a closer look at what you can do to revitalize your green friend.
How to Revive an Orchid With Limp Leaves
Limp, leathery leaves, and yellow spots are all telltale signs of dehydration. Having particularly dry weather can make your plants go limp in the sun. But this is only temporary.
Check the soil first thing in the morning. If it feels dry, it needs more water.
Ironically, this can also be the result of overwatering your plant. The main difference is that too much water makes the leaves soft and limp whereas too little makes them dry and crispy.
Here are a few ways to remedy that:
Modify Watering Frequency and Method
Your plant is probably just hungry, and as a result, is not producing enough chlorophyll — hence why the leaves turn yellow. To revive an orchid with limp leaves, simply increase the watering frequency from once to twice a week.
There’s even a neat little trick that you can do to help your green buddy out. Instead of pouring water, place three ice cubes on top of your potting mix but avoid touching the plant. As they melt, the cubes will humidify the air, which will make your plant look more lively and refreshed.
Conversely, you might be watering your plant too much. In that case, revert back to your standard once-per-week routine to avoid drowning it with love.
Remember, there are many ways to water your orchids effectively. We recommend picking one that suits the potting mix and life cycle of your plant.
There’s a quick and easy way to rehydrate your dying orchid — give it some black tea! It’s true. You can revive an orchid with tea thanks to the rich mineral contents of this exquisite beverage; black tea contains nitrogen and other essential nutrients your orchid needs to bloom.
So, here’s what you have to do:
- Place a tea bag in distilled, room-temperature water for five minutes.
- Remove the plant from its pot and rinse off any soil residue or potting medium you find.
- Plunge the roots in the diluted tea and keep the crown above the water.
- Let it rest for 15–20 minutes (preferably during the day).
- After that, take it out and dry it before nightfall.
- Repot your orchid and give it at least a day to “settle in.”
- If it still hasn’t recovered fully, repeat the process for a few more days.
Change the Environment
Sometimes all you need to save an orchid with limp and yellow leaves is a simple change in the environment. There’s a reason why leaves change color in fall — the plant is adapting to its surroundings, prepping for winter.
Ergo, you have to create a more suitable environment for your orchid by adjusting the optimal humidity, light, and temperature for its growth.
For starters, keep room humidity at an intermediate level (approximately 40%–70%). When it comes to temperature ranges, a 75℉ to 85℉ daytime and 65℉ to 75℉ nighttime temperature is ideal for orchids. And as previously stated, provide your plant with plenty of sunlight — between 12 and 14 hours per day if possible.
If not, you could just get some smart LED lights for your orchids. They not only provide the full light spectrum for your plants to bloom and grow but also protect them from getting sunburnt!
How to Revive an Orchid Plant Plagued With Disease
If your plant is still not recovering even after you’ve done all of the above, then you might have a bigger problem on your hands. Namely, diseases.
Fortunately, a plant’s leaves can tell a lot about its condition, and orchids are no exception. Black and brown streaks on the leaves are common symptoms of bacterial or fungal infections. The most common types include black rot, petal and southern blight, leaf spots, etc.
To help your plant recover from said diseases, do the following:
- Isolate the plant — you don’t want the disease spreading to your other plants.
- Remove the discolored leaves with a fine set of knives.
- Apply antimicrobial remedies to fight off the infection.
Note that blackened and wilting leaves are also symptoms of overfertilizing. Hence, we suggest skipping the fertilizer for a while before you cut any healthy parts by mistake.
How to Revive an Orchid With Root Rot
Yellow leaves during your orchid’s dormant season is no cause for concern. This is just its natural way of prepping for “sleep.”
That said, if the dormant period is behind you and your plant’s leaves are still yellow, you might have a serious problem on your hands, like root rot!
Though, worry not! Timely action is often enough to save your precious orchid from dying. If caught early, root rot is fairly easy to deal with. Just do the following:
- Inspect the infected area. Gently remove the potting mix surrounding your orchid’s roots. If they’re black, brown, and squishy, it’s definitely rotting. Now, whether or not you can save a dying orchid depends on the extent of root damage. Take a good look and determine whether the plant is worth saving; the blacker the roots, the less chance the plant has of surviving.
- Remove the plant from its pot. Rotting means infection, which is why you need to repot your plant in a clean, non-contaminated potting mix. But first, you need to make sure your orchid doesn’t carry the disease to its new home. Clean it thoroughly and shake off any remaining soil or potting media from the roots.
- Cut roots with clear signs of rot and place your orchid in a clean, dry cloth. Note that you can revive an orchid without any roots, so freely remove any and all affected parts.
- Apply fungicide to kill off any remaining germs. Alternatively, you can spray it with 3% hydrogen peroxide.
- Leave the orchid out to dry. Place your plant on a clean paper towel for approximately 12–24 hours. That way you’ll ensure that no fungi remain on the roots.
- Repot the orchid into a sterilized pot and use a new (preferably porous) potting mix. Also, avoid using soil for growing orchids; use other potting media like sphagnum moss instead.
How to Revive an Orchid Without Roots
No roots, no problem! As long as your orchids have healthy stems, crowns, and leaves, they’ll pull through.
Place the orchid in a glass vase next to a spot with plenty of sunlight; a South- or an East-facing window, for instance. Fill the vase with water and place the base of the stem slightly above the surface of the water.
Mist the plant regularly to increase moisture levels. From our experience, the humidity in the air will help you revive an orchid without roots in almost no time at all. Not only that, but it will also create a potent water culture that will help stimulate new root growth.
Note that depending on the severity of the damage, you might have to wait several months for the roots to fully grow back.
How to Recognize Dormant Orchids
Orchids are one of the most beautiful tropical plants that thrive indoors. Yet, even these gorgeous plants have to take a break sometimes; most commonly between two blooming periods.
Hence, if your orchid looks dead, chances are it’s just getting its beauty sleep!
So, before you throw a perfectly healthy orchid into the trash bin, take a good look at it. When dormant, Phalaenopsis orchids change their stem color naturally to either gray or brown. The stem may shrivel, and the leaves can get soggy and touch the base of the plant.
Therefore, to revive an orchid without leaves, all you have to do is wait! More often than not, the plant is merely dormant and will wake up for its blooming period.
This sleeping beauty sheds its leaves and flowers right before taking its “brief” power nap. And as long as you can feel plump and firm roots under your fingers, your orchid is alive and well; some orchid species like the Ghost orchid don’t even have leaves!
However, if you notice that the stem has turned black, the plant is most likely dying; the bottom of your plant might also turn dark and mushy. If so, find the root of the problem (pun intended) and provide prompt treatment to help save your flowery companion.
How to Bring an Orchid Back to Life After Dormancy
Dormant orchids won’t bloom immediately upon waking up; just imagine what you’d be like after sleeping for so long! It takes around nine to six months after the start of the hibernation stage for an orchid to start blooming again. So no pressure!
That said, what you can do is take good care of your orchid while it’s in its dormancy period. That way you’ll make sure it fully blooms once the time comes.
In fact, some orchid species require extra bits of attention during their dormant stage. We’ve compiled a full list of things to do to revive an orchid plant successfully after dormancy. Take a look at the following:
- Water your orchid once a week (stop during fertilizing weeks).
- Remember to fertilize your orchid at least once a month; a houseplant fertilizer at half-strength will do just fine.
- Get your plant away from the heat and place it in a mildly humid environment.
- Make sure your orchid gets plenty of indirect sunlight so it doesn’t get sunburnt.
- Take it easy — let your orchid “sleep in,” no rush!
As you can see, there’s no cause for alarm. There are ways to bring orchids back to life even when things look grim. Just follow these awesome tips we’ve provided you and you’ll be enjoying those lovely blooms before you know it. Good luck!
Why is my orchid dying?
Overwatering is the most likely answer. These delicate plants are highly sensitive to stagnant water, which causes root rot. Other factors include hot temperatures, lack of nutrients, pests, and diseases.
Can you revive an orchid with no flowers?
If other parts of the plant remain healthy — yes! Just because it’s not blooming doesn’t mean that it’s reached its end. Water it as per usual and provide plenty of light and essential nutrients and it’ll bloom again eventually.
Is an orchid dead when the flowers fall off?
Not necessarily. It’s only natural for your orchid to shed its flowers once the blooming phase is over and the dormancy stage begins; it may even shed its leaves during this period. Despite that, your orchid will ultimately revitalize itself once the blooming stage returns.
Is my orchid dying or dormant?
There are two ways to determine whether an orchid is dormant or dying:
- Firstly, check the body of the plant near the crown (where the leaves touch the stem). If it’s okay, it should be plump and green. If not, it’ll be black or dark brown.
- Secondly, even if the stem looks healthy, the roots could be the source of the problem. Take a sneak peek below and check whether they are firm and bright green or white in color. Dark and mushy roots are a clear red flag and you need to act accordingly.
If you want to know how to revive an orchid that is dying, read our full guide and follow our tips!