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Orchid Leaves Wilting (Here’s What to Do)

A well-developed and healthy orchid will have dense, smooth, and shiny leaves. However, the leaves or buds of Phalaenopsis can wilt dramatically, threatening the plant’s survival. 

In some cases, the tiniest misstep in cultivation can lead to major problems. If you don’t address the underlying cause of your orchid leaf wilting, it can become a costly and time-consuming problem.

Why Do Orchid Leaves Wilt And What Can I Do?

Before you freak out about the orchid’s sudden wilting, you need to figure out what’s causing the problem.

Phalaenopsis’ sharp wilting is most often caused by a lack of nutrition in the plant’s uppermost portion. 

The lower leaf plates begin to wilt first, as the plant tries to divert all of its resources to the upper parts.

In most cases, regular repotting and pruning of damaged or diseased parts will solve the issue.

However, orchid wilt is not always caused by a lack of nutrients in the substrate. Transplanting alone will not solve these problems, which include the following more common ones.

Incorrect Temperature

Orchid Leaves Wilting Due to Temperature Stress
Orchid Leaves Wilting Due to Overheating

For an orchid, both low and high temperatures pose a hazard (even though it is a tropical flower). 

The shaded glass in your window may heat up on a hot day at noon if you have an orchid in your window all year round. 

The substrate will warm up and evaporation will begin in the container with the flower if the leaves of the plant are exposed to such high heat.

The rhizome of the Phalaenopsis plant will not receive enough moisture and will begin to cool down (the heat of the substrate will be consumed by the evaporation of the water). 

This will cause the plant to overheat, resulting in the wilting of its leaves. In this case, take the following steps:

  • It’s best to leave it in the room for at least a couple of hours to allow the temperature of the plant’s leaf plates and roots to gradually even out.
  • After the orchid has cooled normally, spray it and wipe its leaves with a damp cloth (lightly water the soil if it is too dry).
  • Choose a location for the plant that will keep it from overheating and thus dying.

You can use plant stress-reducer products when irrigating your plants (such as Epin or succinic acid).

In the winter, low temperatures can cause orchid leaves to become sluggish. Instead of wilting, the leaf plates soften and become rag-like in texture.

If your phalaenopsis has been exposed to hypothermia, it cannot be saved. A window near the plant in the winter may lead to this.

Once it’s below the 60s (15 °C), there’s no turning back. For the time being, the only thing you can do is remove any diseased or damaged parts of the plant to prevent roots.

The Presence of Pests or Diseases

Phalaenopsis leaf wilting can also occur due to active pests or the progress of an infection:

If you suspect your plant has been infected, first and foremost, separate it from healthy plants, as infections spread quickly.

Do not start treatment until you have identified the exact pathogen. For bacterial infections, reduce watering and humidity, but increase air circulation in the room. 

All tools that you use when working with sick orchids must be treated with antiseptics immediately, and then the cut sites within 5 days are treated with bactericidal preparations.

Viral infections are treated by sanitary pruning, in which all diseased parts of the Phalaenopsis are removed. Also, be sure to correct the conditions in which the orchid grows.

If the plant has a fungal infection it is necessary to remove the rotted and diseased parts of the orchid with sterile, sharp secateurs.

Now, after the wounds have healed, treat the plant with a fungicide.

Mealybugs on Orchid
Mealybugs on Orchid

If the plant is attacked by pests, first of all, determine the type of insect. Usually, in such cases, here are things you can do:

  • Neem oil in half a teaspoon (preferably cold-pressed)
  • An unscented Castile Soap of about 1/4 teaspoon
  • Water, 4 Cups.

Soak the soap in the water first, then add the oil, and mix it thoroughly. Put it in a spray bottle and spray everything, really drowning the plant, shaking the spray bottle every now and then to keep it mixed, and dump any leftovers through the medium and discard what runs out.

To get the most benefit out of the neem oil, you’ll want to use the spray within an hour of mixing it up, as it begins to degrade in the soapy water after about an hour.

Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before using a paper towel to soak up any excess that may have pooled in the crown.

Spray once, wait two weeks, then re-spray a month later to make sure everything is in order.

Avoid direct sunlight for at least eight hours after applying a pesticide, as this will help protect the treated plants from sunburn until the spray degrades.

After 12 hours, you can wipe away any remaining residue and dead bugs with a damp paper towel.

Root System Diseases

Orchid Root Rot
Orchid Root Rot

It’s important to handle orchid rootstock with extreme care, as it’s the most delicate part of the orchid.  You’ve done everything right, but if the plant continues to drop wilting leaves, the root problem is to blame.

However, Phalaenopsis is a hardy plant. Even with only 5 cm of healthy roots left, it can literally “revive.”. If there is green, there is hope! That’s my belief and experience!

With the right strategy, even if there are no roots left, the flower can still survive and thrive.

Wilting and deformed leaves may indicate that the rhizome lacks calcium and phosphorus. If the plant in the container shakes, like a sore tooth, this indicates that the roots are unhealthy and that you should take action:

  • Take the orchid out of its pot and inspect its roots.
  • With a sterilized sharp pruning shear, remove all rotten, dry, mucus-covered parts.
  • Use an antiseptic solution that does not contain alcohol to clean the cut areas.
  • While the orchid is healing, do not use fertilizer.

To avoid wilting of the plant’s leaf plates, use extreme caution when applying fertilizer to Phalaenopsis.

  • You should read the instructions on the package of fertilizer thoroughly before using it.
  • Don’t mix different fertilizers in the hopes of getting a better result.
  • A droopy, wrinkled leaf on a Phalaenopsis indicates that the plant has been overfed by a high concentration of fertilizer in its water supply. if you don’t do anything, the plant could die from “overeating”.
  • If the leaf plates are starting to fall off, make sure the substrate is well-watered with pure water. If the problem persists for more than a few days, you may need to change the substrate or look for a different cause of leaf wilting.

Orchids are particularly sensitive to phosphorus, potassium, and other salts. Excessive amounts of these nutrients can cause the plant’s leaves to turn yellow and die.

Too Small Container

Orchid wilting due to potting mix
Orchid wilting due to wrong potting mix

An orchid’s leaves may wilt if they’re planted in the wrong container. In order for Phalaenopsis to thrive, the rhizome needs to be well ventilated. Wrong potting mix will cause dehydration or waterlogging condition which leads to wilting of leaves.

Small containers can lead to root congestion and excessive water buildup, which can lead to decay in a short time. You need to select a suitable container and transplant the plant to fix the issue.

Cold Draft

Temperature changes are directly linked to this factor. A tropical plant, the orchid is particularly vulnerable to temperature changes.

The rhizome will rot and the leaf plates will wither if you keep your orchid in a drafty place.

Getting Used to The New Condition

Make sure you know how to care for orchids, as they are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. 

Buying an orchid from a flower shop or center places it in a completely new environment, which can have an impact on its health. 

Relax, as the plant will take a little time to adjust to the new microenvironment.

It will take time for the orchid to recover after quarantine if it is in good health on both the surface and below the soil. 

Orchid Leaves Wilting After Transplant

“I transplanted an orchid, and it wilts!” is a common question on orchid forums. Why is this happening?

Turgidity of the leaves is immediately affected by incorrect flower pot size, substrate composition, or improper root pruning and treatment. 

The orchid’s root system isn’t working at its full capacity, so it’s taking nutrients from the leaf mass, causing it to lose elasticity.

Choosing the wrong container is the most common reason for flower growers to have a problem. 

A lack of oxygen is affecting the leaves because the roots aren’t getting enough of it. 

Large containers can lead to acidification of free substrate, which has an impact on root and leaf issues for plants.

When to Repot Your Orchid?

Orchids can be transplanted in two ways: planned and unplanned. Transplanting conditions are straightforward: after flowering, every 2-3 years, swap out compacted, saline soil. Emergency – in the event of disease and plant damage.

Should I Repot My Orchid After Purchasing It?

In most cases, a florist does not want to disturb the beauty of a flowering plant after purchasing it. 

Information on the Internet, on orchid grower websites and forums, varies – should the orchid be transplanted right away? 

The quality of the soil mixture is the most important factor to take into account. As long as the substrate contains all of the necessary components, it is not required.

An experienced florist can determine the substrate’s quality. A novice might wonder, “What now?” Most orchids travel long distances before arriving at flower shops or garden centers.

Manufacturers use “peat baskets” or formulations containing moss and coconut chips to plant young orchids for easier establishment and transportation.

New orchid buyers are puzzled by the leaf yellowing and lethargy that occurs after purchasing orchids preserved in peat, moss, and chips covered with pine bark. 

In contrast to peat or moss and chips “baskets,” the pine bark dries out much faster. So you need to adjust the watering frequency according to the growing media composition.

I recommend transplanting the purchased orchid as soon as possible to avoid root rot. If your orchid is in bloom, you can wait, but if it isn’t, you should transplant it right away.

The Impact Of Excessive Flowering on Orchid’s Turgor

There are times when orchid blooms but its leaves are wilted. This is mostly due to issues with the root system. Roots take moisture from leaves when there is not enough water in the soil.

Overwatered Orchid Roots
Overwatered Orchid Roots

Overwatering causes root rot and prevents adequate nutrition from being available.

A lack of light inhibits photosynthesis, which in turn inhibits growth. Pests, of course, have a major impact on the condition of the leaf plates.

If the process has not progressed too far, you can wait until the orchid has finished flowering before transplanting it. 

If the orchid’s leaves are sluggish and wrinkled, flowering will be interrupted. Repotting your orchid will be necessary for this situation even if it has already been done before.

What Nutrient Deficiencies Cause Wilting?

It is common for leaves to become droopy, lack turgor, or wilt as a result of nutrient deficiency. In most cases, a deficiency of potassium and phosphorus is the cause.

The condition of the leaf plates can also be affected by a lack of cobalt, iron, magnesium, sulfur, etc. As a result, in my experience, I always recommend using compound fertilizers for additional orchid nutrition.

Orchid Flowering Consumes A Lot Of Energy And Results In Wilting

Orchid leaves wilt when they have finished flowering because the process of flowering takes so much energy and nutrients to complete. 

This problem can be avoided if the plant receives adequate nutrition at an early stage of growth.

Lower leaves can wilt naturally as they age (although there may be a slight yellowing first). Inadequate care of the plant also results in higher consumption of energy.

As long as you give the orchid proper care and attention, it will be able to grow to its fullest potential.

Fertilizing When Buds Are Forming

If you’re just starting out as a new orchid owner, you should exercise extreme caution when administering fertilizer to your orchids. 

It’s better to feed too little than too much. Even a small amount of overfeeding will harm the orchid. This is particularly true just before and during the flowering stage of the plant.

To encourage blooming, nitrogen is stopped one month early. For this reason, potassium-rich fertilizers are preferred. 

There are now mineral complexes aimed at specific stages of development and flowering.

As the buds begin to form, the frequency of feedings is increased to twice weekly. In this way, the plant is able to conserve its strength and energy, which aids in the development of new buds. 

However, you need to reduce fertilizer application to a minimum once the active phase of flowering begins in order to avoid speeding up the process. 

Otherwise, the fertilizer will cause the plant to flower prematurely, preventing the growth of new buds.

Fungal Infections Are to Blame

One of the biggest threats to orchids is a fungal infection according to experienced growers.

And the primary cause of such an infection is excessive moisture.

It is critical that the orchid is not left without treatment because of a lack of time. If you don’t, you risk losing your exotic appeal.

Wilting Orchid Leaves Is An Early Warning Sign Of Disease

The first sign of the disease is a change in the appearance of the leaves.

The root portion is the most commonly affected by fungal infections because of the substrate’s prolonged moisture due to irregular irrigation, poor air circulation within the soil, or poor quality components.

Turgor loss and the appearance of leaf apparatus are immediately impacted by an inefficient root system.

An overdose of fertilizer or an increase in the concentration of it can cause damage to the root system, which can lead to fungal infections.

There is a similar problem if a large number of pests are present in the substrate The appearance of the leaf blades and their loss of turgor are immediately impacted by an ineffective root system.

The Leaves Have Wilted And The Growing Point Has Turned Black

Orchid Growing Point Has Turned Black
Orchid Growing Point Has Turned Black

You should be concerned about damage to the monopodial orchid’s single growth point.

In most cases, the blackening of it is caused by physical damage, sunlight burning, bacterial or fungal infections, and the constant presence of water at the point of growth.

If the damage is severe, there is a 50/50 chance of recovery.

Damage to the growth point causes the leaves to wither, as the plant’s supply of nutrients is subsequently cut off. 

Now, the orchid will probably begin to reproduce, which means producing offspring from the meristems that are on the flower stalk or the meristems on the stem.

They will eventually grow, especially if you use a Cytokinin hormone paste to aid their development.

Dormant buds may allow for this rescue option, which is followed by bud detachment. As a result, the leaves may remain sluggish for a while, but they will eventually begin to turn yellow and eventually die out.

The orchid can be revived if even a small amount of living tissue remains in the growth point. However, the complete restoration will take far too long.

Final Words

You should be aware that wilting leaves are the first indication of a problem with the root system. 

Only quick action can help save the tropical plant. If root damage isn’t the cause of leaf wilting, look for it in the maintenance conditions.