Problems with Orchids?

by admin on October 26, 2010 · 6 Comments

in Flowers & Trees, Problems and Solutions

Dendrobium Sonia


( If you are only looking for Orchid plants or supplies click HERE )

When I’m at my home in South Florida one of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to stroll through the farmers market.  Besides all the delicious foods and collections of crafts, there are several dealers that specialize in selling beautiful Orchids. They have them hanging from tent supports and lined up on tables and racks. Almost every color is present, and it seems like every flower is different. Every so often I am drawn in and succumb to the desire to have an orchid collection and plunk down some cash. Luckily for me, in South Florida the whole Orchidacea generally grow quite well, even when neglected.  Maybe someday I’ll try my hand at hybridizing.

My collection has grown a bit over the years, and I have learned a few things I thought would be worth sharing with other novices.  Plenty of websites exist for orchid info so I’ll keep to the basics here.


Orchid problems generally fall into two groups, cultural problems and pest problems. By cultural I mean the way they are cared for, the amount of light they’re exposed to, watering, potting media, fertilizer temperature, and so on.  Pest problems include fungus, insects, and diseases. This article discusses cultural problems.  Check back later for my article regarding the pest problems.

Below are a couple of causes for certain symptoms related to cultural problems:


Yellow spots on leaves.

This can be sunburn. Make sure your orchids do not have any direct sun exposure between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Yellowing on older leaves

This is probably normal and will occur as the plant grows.

Yellow leaves turning brown then black

This could be the result of water sitting on leaves too long.  Make sure you never water in the evening or allow water to sit on the leaves overnight.  Morning watering is best.  Another cause could be a shock to the plant caused by sharp changes in temperature.  Orchids like to be kept within a 10 degree range so if you keep them inside don’t think it is helpful to put them outside for a day or two. T he temperature change can be detrimental. (I have first hand experience with this one!)

Mottling on leaves

This is probably a fertilizer imbalance. Be sure you are using specialty fertilizers for orchids and that you are following the directions EXACTLY. If you have a Paphiopedilum or “Lady Slipper”  like this don’t panic – her leaves are supposed to be mottled.

Paphiopedilum or “Lady Slipper”

Limp or droopy leaves

There are a few causes for soft and tired-looking leaves. My first inclination is to make sure they have been watered recently. If not, then I suggest soaking them.  If that doesn’t work, here are a couple of other possibilities:  If older leaves are droopy you may have to re-pot to a SMALLER container.  Orchids in general like to have cramped roots.  If the newer leaves are droopy, they may be saying they need a bit more light.

White Orchid


After all, lets face it, the leaves of orchids are pretty boring. It is the flowers that we put all this effort into them for.

Flowers form but don’t open properly.

There are a few possibilities here but the most common is that the humidity is too low. Try misting more often or adding a humidifier to the room. Another cause could be a change in location after bud development.  Once you see a flower stalk forming, don’t move the plant around. If you want to move it to a spot where you can display its flowers better, just wait until the flowers are developed and at least half of them have opened. A cold shock is another possible cause. You’ll want to try and avoid these if possible.

Flowers form but drop off before opening fully.

There are two probable causes of flower drop.  One is that the plant is stressed by a recent location change or a cold location.  Another cause is that orchids orient the blooms towards the light source, so if you move the plant to water it or change locations for display purposes, you can only do this a few times unless you align the plant as it was before you moved it. If the blossoms constantly have to re-orient themselves towards the light source they will weaken and fall off.

Healthy plant that just won’t bloom.

If this is that cases with your plants then don’t give up. It could be that your plant is still in a juvenile form and is not mature enough to bloom, so just give it some time.  Different varieties mature at different rates so I won’t go into detail here.  Comment below, and I can give you details for your variety. Another cause is that the roots have too much room.  Try a smaller container and/or add more orchid media to the pot.  One other possibility is that you are using a fertilizer that is too high in nitrogen, which helps with leaf development. To get many plants to flower you will need to shift to one more conducive to creating blossoms. I suggest you use a 3:1:3 or a 4:1:4 specialty orchid fertilizer .

I’ll save my discussion of Pest and Disease problems for another post as this is getting a bit long winded. If you have specific problems, you can post your question below or in our new Forum section and see what else others have to say.

Pink Cymbidium Orchid

One last comment is that I am working on a new e-book on basic orchid care. If you are interested in having a copy, send me a note and I’ll be sure and let you know when I have finished it. If you need supplies or plants click HERE

Happy Gardening


Glad you liked the post Bougie,
Sign-up for my newsletter and I’ll make sure you get a notice when I finish the post on diseases and pests. I hope to have the eBook finished soon too. Thanks for stopping by.

bougwish gutatta

Thanks for the good information Rees. I’m looking forward to seeing your post on diseases.


That is a bummer Alexandrea. People wait for over a year sometimes for a plant to bloom only to have them drop prematurely. Without more details from you my guess is that they went through some abrupt change. Did you move them to a new location? Was there a major change on temperature?
Better luck next time. :(

alexandrea jones

Ok in just one day my orchids go from happy to falling off the stem I:00worried


if the crown leaf falls, do i have to consider the plant is gone? (roots are firm)


Sorry to say so, but yes most likely the plant is dead if the crown leaves die. The most likely problem was overwatering or a soil that retains too much water. You would be surprised how little water they really need.

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