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Limp Leaves: Signal a Watering Problem

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limp leaves - watering orchids

Orchid leaves should be upright, stiff and bright green.  If your orchid’s leaves are leathery and limp there is a watering problem.  

Over-watered orchids are the most common killer of orchids. Fortunately, it is a fate that can easily be avoided. Because limp, leathery leaves indicate that the orchid is not getting enough water, our first instinct is to water.  Then, when the orchid’s leaves are still limp, we water again, and again. This effectively kills the orchid’s root system. If the leaves are limp and leathery, make sure that the problem really is neglect. If you’ve been watering and watering, trying to water some life back into your orchid, hold off on the water.

Guess why I know so much about this cycle? That’s right. Guilty as charged. By sad experience, I’ve learned how to ascertain if limp leaves indicate that I’ve over watered or under watered my orchid.  I made that mistake simply because I lacked the knowledge. The orchid’s instruction tag said nothing about watering problems, or about how to solve them. I had to figure it out on my own.  After learning out how to spot watering problems, and how to prevent them, my orchids began to flourish. Now my orchids’ leaves are bright and stiff, happy and thriving.

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Under Watered, or Over Watered?

The first step is to determine if the orchid is in a drought or flood situation. When possible, the best course of action is to lift the plant out of the secondary pot and look through the clear plastic primary pot to inspect the roots. If the orchid is not growing in a clear plastic pot, peek through a drainage hole. Often roots will make their way out of the drainage holes in the pot. If you still can’t see anything, poke your finger into the hole and feel for dampness. If the potting media is damp, wait to water until it has dried out. 

Under Watered

Healthy roots are plump and silvery green. The roots may even be white, but they should not be shriveled or brittle. Be sure to inspect the roots that are down in the potting medium, not the ones climbing out of the pot.  It is okay if these roots are dry.  If the deeper roots are dried out, your orchid is thirsty.  Give your orchid a good soaking.  

Watering Orchids: Find Out What Works

Learn how to water correctly and you'll avoid the #1 cause of orchid death

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Under-watered roots

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Over Watered

If roots are over watered they will look like mush and have very little substance.  Orchid roots are generally only bright green right after they have been watered and will turn the silvery green after a few days.  If they are still bright green and you haven’t watered recently, they may be getting too much water.

Most orchid roots cannot abide wet feet. If they are left in standing water the roots will rot and will no longer be able to deliver water to the rest of the plant. Continuing to water will exacerbate the problem.  In this situation snip the rotted roots with a pair of scissors that have been sanitized with rubbing alcohol, and re-pot the plant.  If there are very few roots left, raise the humidity level for the plant and wait for the plant to grow more roots.  Again, my watering post gives tips on recognizing when to water, and when not to.

Over-watered roots

orchid-overwatered-roots-solve-orchid-watering-problems.png

Avoiding Future Problems

If your plants are under watered, simply soak your orchid more frequently.  Check once a week to determine if the potting medium had dried out. If overwatering is the problem, add a few days between watering.  Be sure to check the potting medium before watering.  If it is still wet, wait to water. Check again in a few days.  

Pictured below are the healthy roots of a cattleya orchid. If your orchid is not a cattleya they will not look exactly like the roots pictured below, but like the roots pictured below, they will be firm, not mushy or dried out. 

Healthy roots

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Successfully watering orchids is the most important factor in growing healthy orchids. Now that you know what unhealthy and healthy roots look like, you will be able to identify potential problems before they get out of hand. Let the dampness, or dryness, of the plant’s soil, be your guide.

One last tip: Don’t let dried out looking aerial roots trick you into thinking you need to water if the potting medium is still wet. 

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87 Comments
  1. Bess Falls says:

    I have shriveled aerial roots. The potting medium was dry when I stuck my finger down about 2″ so I watered. Should I cut off the shriveled aerial roots?

    1. Anna says:

      Generally I recommend leaving aerial roots alone, but if you’re sure their dead, go ahead and snip them off. Good Luck!

      1. Susan says:

        Hi Anna,
        Glad to see your blog. So far I am good In growing orchids and keeping them healthy. I could bring back to life couple of my almost gone plants. However I have some difficulty with one orchid . It was in full blooms when I got it as a gift and the flowers lasted for more than a year. However few months ago I noticed it’s leaves are getting limped and the roots are dried. Based on the experience I had on other dying orchids I removed all the dried roots and repotted it. Right now it has only a small aerial root and the plant still look limping. I usually water all my orchids with ice cubes and fertilize with pinch of epsom salt. All other orchids doing good and blooming well. Any suggestions?

        1. Anna says:

          Susan,
          If the orchid lost a lot of roots, it will take time for new ones to grow. In the meantime, you can make some fake roots. Take some pipe cleaners (chenille stems) and twist them around the base of the orchid where the roots should be growing and down into the potting medium. While there are no guarantees, these stems can do the trick.
          Best,
          Anna

  2. Hector Noronha says:

    Quite impressed with all the information. i would like to know how to deal with a lot of long areal roots hanging. Please advise.

    Thank you.

    Hector

    1. Anna says:

      Great question Hector. The simple truth is that the best way to deal with aerial roots is to do nothing at all. Just let them grow and do its thing. These roots may not be pretty, but it’s what orchids do. Aerial roots are important to the orchids as they aid in photosynthesis. Thanks for asking Hector. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Anna

  3. Dear Anna, thank you for all the great tips.

    1. Anna says:

      Dear Morag,
      You’re welcome! Let me know if there is any specific information you need that you can’t find on my site. I’m happy to help!
      Anna

  4. Amanda Shaw says:

    Once the leaves are limp and wrinkled can this be reversed for those leaves.
    I under watered my plant, am back on a track with watering…newer leaves are good but older leaves still limp and wrinkled.

    1. Anna says:

      Amanda,
      While the wrinkled leaves will improve, they may never fully recover. I wish I had better news, but the important thing is that you, and your orchid, are back on track.
      Best!
      Anna

  5. Judy jones says:

    Thanks for the information about how to keep orchids. I badly needed it. I was wondering if you could email me if you have time t tell me how to find my boards that I have saved. I can’t for the life of me find my boards that I have saved stuff to. If you don’t know or don’t want to answer, I’m fine with that lol. I can’t for the life of me find my boards that I have saved stuff to. Either way, thank you so much.

    1. Anna says:

      Judy,
      It was great to hear from you! And, I’m glad I could help!
      Anna

      1. Anna says:

        Judy,
        I’m glad I could help you with your orchids. Here is how to find your Pinterest boards. Believe me, I know how annoying it can be when you can’t find what you’re looking for 🙂
        Once you are logged into your Pinterest account, click on your profile picture, and then click . After that you will see three buttons , and . Click on and there’s your boards!
        Good luck with Pinterest!
        Anna

  6. Tracy says:

    I have my orchids in a South facing sunroom. They do great in the winter, but in the summer the leaves get very limp looking in spite of a regular watering schedule. I live in the south and it gets very hot and very humid. Do you think the humidity is doing this? My barometer registers the humidity at about 75% in there in the summer. Also they look good, but are not blooming. They get regular feedings with orchid specific fertilizer. Been growing for about 15 years under lights with great results, but since i moved them to the sunroom 3 yr ago they just are not performing. Got any suggestions?

    1. Anna says:

      Tracy,
      Your orchids seem to have excellent care. Still since they aren’t blooming, here’s some tips on overcoming bloom failure. It may be that it is too hot for your orchids.

      Anna

  7. Renda Bullock says:

    Hello, Anna!
    I’m enjoying your site! I have several orchids and most do well, but some need help.
    I was trying to view your post on cutting the stem for more blooms and this “thing” keeps popping up wanting me to sign up for something. It’s too big to see where to opt out, and you can’t access any more of the info on the stem-trimming page!
    I’m on a mobile device….Please check it out as I wish to see what that page says!
    Thank You!

    1. Anna says:

      Renda,
      Thank you for bringing the annoying popup to my attention. I have removed it.
      I appreciate your input. Here is the link to cutting the orchid spike.
      Let me know if there is anything else I can help you out with.
      Anna

  8. Linda VanderStelt says:

    My orchid has two babies. The mother plants leaves are now kind of limp but not really wilted. It also hasn’t bloomed in about 2 years. Do you have any suggestions on what I should do? Thank you.
    ..

    1. Anna says:

      Linda,
      Once the keikis (babies) have roots that are about 3 inches long carefully remove them with a sharp sterile knife or razor blade. Next, pot the keikis in a orchid mix formulated especially for young orchids. I recommend my affiliate: Bonsai Jack Miniature and Seedling Orchid Mix. It really is the best orchid mix. Then I would repot the mother orchid. Many times growing a keiki is a signal that an orchid is in distress. When you repot you will see what shape the roots and the potting medium are in. Over watering and soil break down are two common scenarios that can kill an orchid. After this process, you’ll be a much wiser orchid care-giver. And hopefully, you will end up with more orchids than you started with!
      Anna

  9. Ben says:

    After reading your article I went down to the shed where I have 3 orchids in a propagator. 2 of them from a friend who is leaving to go to New Zealand, 1 is mine. My orchid has a leaf that is yellowing where it connects to the mother plant and when I picked it up it fell off, mean anything to you?

    My friend’s pot is full of seedling Phalaenopsis. The small leaves which look like they’re emerging from brown leaf buds. Any suggestions on how to care for that one?
    All orchids are Phalaenopsis by the way,
    Thanks
    Ben.

    1. Anna says:

      Ben,

      It sound like you had a keiki, a baby orchid, that yellowed at the base and fell off. Sometimes a keiki will die if it does not receive enough humidity. Try misting the keiki with a spray bottle or placing the plant near a humidifier.

      How fun to have inherited your friend’s seedlings! To care for them, keep humidity levels above 50%. Watch for disease, like spotting on the leaves or fungus. Increasing air circulation will help prevent disease. When watering, use a weak solution of fertilizer.
      I wish you the best in caring for your orchid babies!
      Anna

  10. Barbara says:

    Hi Anna, I have just bought 2 Phal orchids and they don’t seem to have been potted with sphagnum moss, instead they’ve used bark. Ive been having problems keeping them watered adequately. Leaves are leathery and limp – at first I think I was under watering, now I think I may be over watering to compensate. Today I’ll pull the plant and have a look at the roots and compare to your pictures to find out. I’ve bought some sphagnum moss and will replace the bark with moss to return the potting medium to what I’m used to, so I hope that will also help to solve the problem. What I didn’t mention is that I usually pick up the pot to see how light it is, that is how I tell whether to water or not – I’ve had great success using this method. I am not able to do this with these two Phals because I potted them in a gorgeous blue and white Chinese porcelain bowl so I am unable to tell how dry they are based on weight of pot. I feel like I’m watering “blind.” While I love the look of the potted orchid watering is a challenge in this medium. As you suggest, I’ll have to pull the plants and check the roots. Thank you very much for your photos and guidance regarding watering, your info is invaluable.

    1. Anna says:

      Barbara,
      Let me know how your potting goes. I agree that you should stay with the moss if that is what you’ve been successful with. Could you place your orchids in clear liner pots and then place the liner pot inside the Chinese porcelain bowls?
      Keep in touch,
      Anna

  11. Aida F. says:

    Good morning Anna,

    I just found your site on Pinterest and was hoping you could help me. I purchased a mini “Just Add Ice” Orchid and was gifted a large purple Phalaenopsis Orchid that had split leaves on Valentine’s Day from my hubby, both with some blooms and some buds. So far because of this unpredictable Winter weather and being that my apartment’s heat is never consistently running, it’s been cold in my apartment so they both suffered bud blast and flower drop?.

    I cut the stems back on the larger orchid and repotted it and the mini in fresh bark. The mini orchid still has a bloom on it and now it’s growing new buds. I’ve been watering both with lukewarm tap water and growing both under my Aerogarden lights.

    My larger orchid has one limp wrinkled leaf and what looks like beige scrape marks under the leaves.

    I checked the bark and it was dry on top. And I had to cut some of the roots off because of root rot… please if you can give me any advice I would greatly appreciate it and I’m sorry for the long message but I really want to save her, thank you in advance and have a blessed say.?

    1. Anna says:

      Dear Aida,
      I’m so sorry to hear your orchids suffered bud blast! That’s always so disappointing! I’m glad that the mini is recuperating and growing new buds. How much does the temperature in your apartment fluctuate? Is it is one of lower or upper leaves on on the larger orchid that is wrinkled? It is normal for lower leaves to eventually wrinkle, turn yellow and die. But, if it is one of the upper, newer leaves that is wrinkling, there is a watering problem.
      Could you send me a picture of the scrape marks on the orchid leaves? Email me at [email protected].
      Bark is a good potting media for orchids, just remember that it will dry out a lot faster than sphagnum moss. Also, be sure that your orchids have excellent drainage. Are your plants potted in clear, plastic liner pots? Those help a lot in determining if the orchid needs more water.
      I hope this helps! I look forward to the picture of the orchid leaves.
      Anna

  12. Suvarna says:

    Dear Anna…could you please tell me the reason the leaves on my Vanda orchid have become leathery and are splitting at the tips and shaft…?

    1. Anna says:

      Suvarna,
      Thanks for reaching out. I personally do not grow Vanda orchids as my climate won’t support them, not enough humidity or light. Having said that, leathery leaves indicate a problem with watering. It is recommended that Vandas are watered daily. If the orchid needs a watering boost, you can set the roots in a bucket of water for about 30 minutes.
      I hope this helps!
      Anna

  13. Carmen says:

    Hi there, I’ve repotted my orchids about a month ago. Their potting medium from when purchased was mostly moss and rotten. I noticed they had some very dark roots, and some were really rotten. I cut those off with sterilised scissors and carefully washed off the rotted moss. I left the firm dark roots though. There were very few green roots but some new roots were starting. I potted them only in bark chips in clear pots. Now the past 2 weeks the leaves are all sagging. They are not shriveled, just sagging. They each have 2 new leaves. The other one that was really struggling before has literally only 3 roots left. I thought I did everything right and they’d be doing much better. But the leaves are really sagging. I’m soaking the pot in water for 15 min once a week. It’s been quite dry and hot here so I’ve started soaking them twice a week. Before I soak them, I check the medium and the bark is always very dry. They are still not very well anchored in their new pots and tend to lean to one side. I keep trying to keep them upright with sticks but I don’t like pestering them too much. The healthiest out of the 3 plants I only cut stem down to where it dried out… The others I cut stems down right back. I saw the start of a new flower stem just before I repotted. But now it looks like a baby keike growing. Are my orchids dying? I’ve really been spending so much time researching and watched so many repotting videos, I thought by completing illuminating moss and only using specific orchid bark would be good for them. Now I’m worried I’ve caused them more stress. Please help. Thank you so much!

    1. Anna says:

      Carmen,
      I am so glad you reached out to me! Bark is a great potting medium because it allows for plenty of air circulation, which the orchid roots need. But, as you’ve noticed, orchids potted in bark do have high water requirements, especially when they have been recently potted. My recommendation to to water the orchids frequently. Because you potted them in clear pots you can see if the wood has dried out. As time goes on, you will not need to water as frequently. Keep an eye on the wood chips and water as necessary.
      Keep in touch and good luck!
      Anna

  14. Bonnie says:

    Hello, I have 4 Phals that have wrinkled leaves. Have tried watering them to no avail. I received them last Nov. as gifts, so I hate to lose them plus they all were in full bloom. When I pulled the plants they had very little to no roots. What roots were left were brown and dried out so I clipped them off. So how do I get new roots to start growing and not lose those plants? We have a humidifier on our furnace plus plants sit on pebbles on a tray. Thank you for those pics and your advice.
    Bonnie

    1. Anna says:

      Bonnie,
      If your roots were brown and dried instead of soft and mushy, it sounds like you were under watering rather than over watering. When growing Phals, keep the potting medium barely moist–never let them sit in water. Phals don’t have any water storage, so barely moist potting medium is important. To try to save the orchids, place a clear plastic bag over the top to create a high-humidity greenhouse-like environment. It can take several months to grow new roots, so don’t give up!
      Best of luck to you!
      Anna

  15. Maite says:

    Hello Anna, your info is very useful! I have a small phal potted in a kokedama medium; lately i found three of its leaves are yellowing. I’ve got two other phals which are doing ok, and I usually water once every two weeks by immersing thm in water (it’s autumn over here so I’m cautious with trying not to overwater). Do you know what the problem could be? As it is in a kokedama I can’t see the roots, but it’s got me quite worried! If absolutely necessary I’m willing to break apart the kokedama and repot (even though I love the look of it!)

    Thanks in advance!

    Maite

    1. Anna says:

      Maite,
      Thanks for reaching out! It sounds like overall your orchids are doing well. But, yes, yellowing leaves are worrisome. Check out this post: What to do about yellowing leaves. This post will give you some clues about yellowing leaves. If none of my tips are seem to fit what’s wrong with your orchid, you could definitely check out the roots, as that seems to be the difference between that orchid and the others.
      Keep me updated,
      Anna

  16. Hang Kesinger says:

    Hi Anna, how do you feel about water culture? I have one phal that is recovering and doing well with new root growth in full water culture but I have anither phal that i started on water culture. Its roots were rotted to begin with being packed in moss so i cut those off and put it in water. The blooms haven’t dropped but they wilted and so have the leaves. They’re beginning to perk back up but I’m wondering if I should repot it back into bark, also my husband placed it in a window under an AC vent so I’m wondering if it had gotten too cold there so I moved it. Also back to the first phal I mentioned, it hasn’t spiked in almost a year. Is that normal? It’s been having great root growth so I know a lot of energy is going into that but when should I expect a new spike?

    1. Anna says:

      Hang,
      I haven’t tried water culture, but I do have several readers who have. Some have been very successful. If your orchid hasn’t bloomed in over a year, it may need more light. Check out these tips for blooming your orchid:
      Just For You: Tips to ReBloom Orchids
      The Top Tools I Use to Bloom My Orchids
      It may be that your orchid simply needs more light. At any rate, check out my tips and see if any of them fit the needs of your orchid.
      Wishing you the best!
      Anna

  17. Annika says:

    Dear Anna,

    After your excellent explanation I have examined my orchid. The most of the roots above are completely dried out and brittle (there are two heavy ones) but underneath seems to be suffering from over watering and appear like the picture somewhat mushy. Based on the above description it seems like the plant has been over watered. Is it possible to come back from that or do I need to chalk this up as a life lesson?

    1. Anna says:

      Annika,
      It’s always worth trying to save your orchid. Pot it in clear pot so you can see when your to water. Use a bark-based potting mix that will drain quickly, yet still retain some water. Using this method you will be able to see when to water and you’ll be less likely to overwater. Check out this post on how to repot for step-by-step instructions: HOW TO REPOT AN ORCHID
      Orchids are resilient! But, if your orchid doesn’t recover you will have learned that much more by repotting.
      I’m hopeful for your orchid and wish you the best!
      Anna

  18. Rita says:

    I have limp, leathery, wrinkled leaves on my orchid. I left my orchids and other flowers in the care of a friend last year and my other flowers died of not enough water. This one orchid was hanging on, so I tried to save it, it appears to no avail. It is still alive, but not doing well. It had two blooms this year, but neither bloomed. It also developed what you cal a keiki. Even its leaves are beginning to shrivel. I just removed my orchid from its pot, and found a dark matted mess.I don’t know if all the roots are dead. It probably suffered from underwatering and then overwatering when I returned, trying to bring it back to life.

    My question is what do I do now?

    Should I cut all the dead looking roots off? It seems the only roots that may be left are aerial roots.

    Should I cut the leaves off or will they come back?

    Can I place the orchid in water until the roots grow back?

    I know I can just toss it, but it would give me great pleasure if I can “rescue” my baby!

    Warm Regards,
    Rita

    1. Anna says:

      Rita,
      I totally agree! A lot of satisfaction can be gained by saving your orchid. And, what a pity to have so many of your other plants died!
      How to (hopefully) save a rootless orchid:
      Trim away the dead roots and fasten pipe cleaners to where the roots should be growing down into the potting medium. Don’t trim the leaves. Although they will not ever be as upright as they once were, they can bounce back. You can also place the orchid under a clear plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse. The higher humidity levels will help in the recovery.
      I haven’t ever tried placing an orchid in water. I’ve heard about water therapy, but since I haven’t tried it, I can’t recommend it.
      Best of luck!
      Anna

  19. Marty says:

    Hello Anna, I see a dried like pod on leaves, like a bug egg nest. Any suggestions how to treat? I am getting ready to replant in new soil and bark also new pots. They are blooming will this hurt? Or should I treat the bug eggs with spray?

  20. Michelle says:

    My son gifted me an orchid for Mother’s Day knowing I am terrible with house plants. Its been one week since I watered it and it still feels wet. The blooms are falling off of it and Im not sure what to do. I moved it to my bedroom where the sun is more filtered and the room is less drafty. I also removed it from the secondary pot and just placed it on a saucer in the primary clear container thinking it wasn’t draining well. Is this normal and if not do you have suggestions what I should do? Thank you so much!

    1. Anna says:

      Michelle,
      If the orchid isn’t draining well, I am guessing it is potted in sphagnum moss. Wait to water until the moss feels almost dry. Then, once the orchid has finished flowering, repot your orchid using a Fir-based orchid potting medium.
      Follow these links for tips on potting:

      How to RePot Your Orchid

      Tools for RePotting Your Orchid

      Orchids are actually pretty tough.
      You’ve got this!
      Anna

  21. Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thank you However I am experiencing issue with ur rss . Dont know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting identical rss problem? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thx

    1. Anna says:

      I’ve updated my site and given it a face lift. There are always bugs to fix afterwards. PLEASE let me know if you find any more broken links.
      Thanks for your help!
      Anna

  22. I discovered your blog site on google and checked a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good work. I just added your feed to my MSN News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you later on!

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Bester!
      ~Anna

  23. Michelle K says:

    Hi Anna,
    My oldest orchid is about 12 years old. It generally blooms once per year for several months. Over time i have lost lower leaves and gained new ones, but after 12 years i have a very “odd” looking Orchid. There is a rather long “stem” (about 9 inches) with lots of air roots and leaves only on the top 1.5 inches of the plant. What can/should i do with this? Its healthy enough, but really strange looking. Thoughts?

    thanks
    Michelle

    1. Anna says:

      Michelle,
      It sounds like you are growing a Phalaenopsis orchid. These orchids are monopodial. This means that they continually grow upwards on a single stem. Over time, they can look very wonky.

      I have three suggestions, the first is a just a way to make the orchid look prettier, the third suggestion is more extreme.

      First, you could place some air plants around the base of the plant. The result is both pretty and interesting. Follow the link below for tips on how to do this:
      https://orchidbliss.com/orchid-arrangements/

      My second suggestion is to simply pot the orchid deeper. Here are some tips on potting orchids:

      https://orchidbliss.com/potting-orchids/

      Here is another, more extreme, option:

      You can divide the orchid by cutting the stem. Be sure there are several aerial roots growing on the stem, and then pot the stem in sphagnum moss. Keep the moss moist and humidity levels high as a new root system develops. The base should not be repotted, but should be kept barely moist. Baby plantlets, keikis, may form at the base and are exact clones of the mother plant. This option is the most risky, but could also result in more plants.

      Keep in touch. I’d love to hear which option you try and how it works out.
      ~Anna

  24. Bonnie says:

    Hi Anna, Thanks for previous advice, just found you again. 2?s where can I get that gorgeous lavender and white Phal that is pictured on your sight, and do you know how or where I could get info on the grocery phals? My son bought one and it smells lovely, kinda lemony. Thank you, Bonnie

    1. Anna says:

      Bonnie,
      I think that you’ll find my reply about that lavender and white orchid. If we are talking about the same image, it is actually a Dendrobium, not a Phalaenopsis. They flowers are similar. Some are even called Phalaenopsis-type Dendrobiums.
      Have a wonderful day,
      Anna

  25. Bonnie says:

    Hi Anna, I lost previous message to you so here goes again. Could you tell me where I could get that lovely lavender and white Phal pictured on your site? Also any idea where I could get info on the grocery store Phals? My son bought one and it smells lemony, which is nice in a Phal usually with no fragrance.
    Thank you, Bonnie

    1. Anna says:

      Bonnie,
      Are you referring to the orchid found on this page? It’s not the top image, but the one that says: Having trouble reblooming your orchid? For best results start with the right tools.

      TOP TOOLS TO REBLOOM ORCHIDS

      I photographed that orchid at the Salt Lake City Orchid Show, so it is not one in my personal collection. The bad news is that I haven’t been able to find one on-line that will ship to the US. The good news is that I can tell you the name: Dendrobium Enobi Stripe Purple Splash.

      I do have a Dendrobium Enobi and it is an easy-to-grow orchid. Right now it is putting out a couple of flower spikes. The flowers are a deep magenta and are long-lasting.

      I’ll keep my eye out for you,
      Anna

  26. Pam says:

    I give my orchid 3 ice cubes every Sunday. I don’t have upright leaves. It hasn’t blossomed in quite awhile,. Should I be watering more ?

    1. Anna says:

      Pam,
      It is perfectly reasonable to expect your Phalaenopsis orchid to bloom at least once a year. If it has not bloomed within this time period, I recommend giving your orchid more light. If you have access a bright window, east-facing is ideal, that may initiate reblooming.

      HOW TO REBLOOM YOUR ORCHID

      Have a lovely day,
      Anna

  27. Debbie Alfieri says:

    Hi Anna,
    I recently purchased a beautiful Dendrobium which was shipped bare root. I soaked the plant before posting as recommended by the grower. The plant was exceptionally green and healthy when it arrived with a good root system. Since potting, the leaves are gradually turning yellow along the length of the stem and then dropping off. I do let the media get dry between watering. Is this normal for a Dendrobium? It looks like it had recently bloomed before I got it.
    Thanks, Debbie

    1. Anna says:

      Debbie,
      Yes, I would say that your experience is not unusual. It will take some time for your Dendrobium to adapt to its new environment. I have a Dendrobium that did the same thing. I moved mine to a couple of different locations to see where it seemed happiest. Now it is growing several new pseudobulbs, so don’t give up on it. Even if it loses all it’s leaves and looks dead. Don’t throw it out. Wait and see what happens. It may surprise you. Also, I recommend contacting the seller and letting them know what has happened and ask them for pointers.

      Good Luck with your new Dendrobium!
      Anna

  28. Danielle Lawson says:

    My leaves are starting to look limp and leathery. My roots are damp when I take the pot out and inspect the bottom. I think I may have been overwatering because the leaves are drooping. I’ve had the orchid for two years and I’m finally growing a flower spike for the first time. So should I let it go longer to dry out before watering again? What if I need to take off some rotted roots and repot? Will the bloom die?

    1. Anna says:

      Danielle,
      If you re-pot right now you will likely lose your flower. To keep your flowers, extend the time between watering. Wait until the roots are almost dry before watering again. If you have healthy roots, they will turn a silvery green when they are ready to be watered.
      Best,
      Anna

  29. Deb says:

    I appear to have a healthy plant but….my buds never develop on this blooming cycle. I have had success with prior blooming periods. The bloom stem keeps growing and producing buds but the dry up.
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks

    1. Anna says:

      Deb,
      Augh! That is frustrating and disappointing! Watch for any changes in your orchid’s environment. When seemingly healthy buds abort it is called bud blast and is caused by environmental changes, too little water, too much water, temperature fluctuations etc. Here is a helpful article that will help you identify what caused your buds to dry up:

      https://orchidbliss.com/bud-blast/

      Best,
      Anna

  30. Kathy says:

    I have a “moth” orchid with two stems, each having many blooms. But, several of the leaves have ridges and are turning yellow. Should I Leave these on the plants and let them fall off naturally or should I cut them off. If I cut them off, how and where do I do this? Thank you for your help!

    1. Anna says:

      Kathy,
      Can you send me a picture of the ridges on the leaves? Email me at [email protected].

      About the yellow leaves, yellowing leaves can indicate overwatering. To check for overwatering, look at the roots that are growing down in the potting mix. This is easily done if the orchid is growing in a clear plastic pot – otherwise, it can be tricky. If you can’t easily see the roots, water less frequently. Then when the orchid has finished blooming you can look at the roots.

      Also, over time the oldest leaves, the ones on the bottom, do fade and wither.

      Best,
      Anna

  31. Nicole says:

    Hi thank you so much for the great information. I’m going to try a humdifer as I have been trying to save some orchids that I bought cheap that need some extra care and loving. Unfortunately the roots where bit wpst than i thought and the leaves say they need more water. So fingers crossed the humdifer works. Just one question even tho it has few roots left and wiltered leaves one orchid has decided to put what little energy it has on growing a new flower stem off the previous one. Should i cut this or the whole stem So it can use the energy for root growth? Thanks

    1. Anna says:

      Nicole,
      What an excellent orchid caretaker you are! I am glad that some of the orchid’s roots were still healthy. As you are the best one to gauge the health of the orchid, you’ll have to make the call. If you think the orchid is on its last leg, you can trim off the flower spike, but if the orchid seems to be recovering, let the flower spike grow.
      I would probably let the flower spike grow…
      Best,
      Anna

  32. Claire says:

    I was given a orchid in bloom about four years ago and it didn’t bloom again until now. I researched a bit and found a better place with higher humidity and repotted it. I was delighted to see new roots then new leaves and now a healthy looking stem with lots of flower buds. Sadly though the leaves have recently gone really wrinkled and limp. I’m wondering if I need to water it again but when I lift the pot out there is a small centimeter of wet looking bark at the base but the rest is bone dry. I don’t think the roots will be down as far as the wet bark as when I repotted it they were only about half way into the pot. Can you suggest what I should try. I’d hate to loose it after trying so hard to get it to rebloom.

    1. Anna says:

      Claire,
      This is what has worked for me. First, make sure that after watering that the water can drain completely. Then, a section of wool rock (use gloves) and poke a bit down into the potting mix. When you water, make sure the wool rock gets completely saturated. This will add a bit of extra moisture to the fir bark potting mix, without retaining too much water.

      Wool Rock

      The wool rock comes in little cube sections. I just break off one section and tear it into about 3 pieces. Then using a chopstick I poke it down into the potting media.

      Here’s another option: instead of wool rock, just substitute it for a bit of sphagnum moss.

      Both wool rock and sphagnum moss retain water and will provide a bit of extra moisture for orchids potted in fir bark, without saturating the potting mix. Phalaenopsis orchids like their roots to be “evenly moist” – not soggy.

      Best,
      Anna

  33. Pooja Harish says:

    my orchid leaf has turned limp, i live in netherlands where temperature is always low (0-14C) , i had kept it in my living area with the window open inside the house temperature is (20-25C) and i water it weekly once. It was a gift for me and im really worried about it dying. Can you please let me know what i can do to make it healthy.

    1. Anna says:

      Pooja,
      Your indoor temperature 20-25 C is great for growing most orchids. Do you know what type of orchid you have?

      Most times, limp leaves mean that the orchid is getting too much water. The best thing to do is to check out the orchid’s roots. If the roots are limp and mushy you are over-watering. If they are hard and brittle, they need more water. Full, plump leaves with green or even maroon tips are healthy. If your orchid is over-watered, reduce the frequency between watering and increase watering if the roots seem dry.

      Best,
      Anna

  34. Mary says:

    I enjoyed your informative article and the answered questions.
    I recently lost an orchid that was from the grocery store. Those in distress or finished blooming are marked down and I look for the best and buy those. The one I lost was standing in water. The pot filled with bark was in a decorative pot.
    My others are doing great sitting at my east facing kitchen window. Both bloomed three consecutive times this past year. Winter has been cold and I heat with a gravity fed pellet stove. They may have been getting too cold part of the time this winter. Both have put out multiple flower spikes but the buds never developed beyond being fat bumps. Some are vibrant green mixed with some that have dried up and turned brown. One has also made two beautiful babies on top of and older flower spike. When those had 5 good roots about 4″ long I cut them off and potted them. One is green and beautiful while the other one turned brown and doesn’t appear to have survived being potted. The older orchids have had those flower spikes for 4 months. They are still green with many living buds but just sitting there looking odd. Usually a flower spike forms, buds, then blooms in fairly rapid succession. These formed while other spikes were in bloom. They made buds on the spikes but they never progressed much beyond being bumps on the stems. They are thick, dark green with some tiny buds drying up and turning brown. Any suggestion? Why did they Bloom 3 times with the usual long lasting flowers then produce these thick odd stems. I thought blooming once a year was the norm but both have remains in almost constant stages of blooming for over a year.

    1. Anna says:

      Mary,
      It was wonderful to hear from you. When buds appear to be developing normally and then suddenly abort it is called bud blast and is due to an abrupt environmental change, such as fluctuations in temperature and watering. Bud blast can even be the result of poor air quality. The buds are the most fragile part of the plant. It is a heartbreak when the wither and die on us before opening. To learn more about bud blast and how to prevent it, click on the link below:

      HOW TO PREVENT BUD BLAST

      It is not uncommon for Phals to bloom for over a year. It can be kind of fun to see how long they will bloom and produce flowers. Though over time the stems and grow to be quite gangly. I find that tends to look best to trim down the flower stalk an inch or two above the base of the plant once the initial flowers have bloomed. This gives the orchid a chance to get its strength back and power up to grow a new flower stalk. When a new flower stalk grows, the flowers will be larger and more abundant than if a flower stalk is left to grow and grow over a long period of time.

      About the “thick, odd stems” can you send me a picture? Email me at [email protected]

      Have a lovely day,
      Anna

  35. Audrey Jestin says:

    Hi, great article! I know absolutely nothing about orchids and was given one in bloom. It shot out another Stem of blooms that lasted a full year! The first bloom stem has done nothing more. At the end of the second bloom stem, now done blooming, is a set of leaves… What do I do with them? How do I attached a pic?

    1. Anna says:

      Audrey,
      Fun! What you have is called a keiki – which means baby in Hawaiian. A keiki is an offset of the mother orchid. Once the roots have grown several inches you can remove it from the mother plant and pot it up.

      Here is a post with more information about keikis:

      ABOUT KEIKIS

      All my best!
      Anna

  36. Sreejush Chitteth says:

    Hi Anna,
    I hava 4 phalaenopsis of that 2 of them are with limp leaves and my potting medium is kinda a mixture of moss, coco chips and charcoal. I live in somewhat a tropical climate with good humidity. I have been checking my medium before watering, and waters only when it feels dry. Still the leaves haven’t turned stiff. Btw, they are potted in a 6’’ pot. Do phalaenopsis need smaller pots? it came with a pot of 4’’ and potted in sphagnum moss from the store.

    1. Anna says:

      Sreejush,
      The best way to find out why your leaves are limp is to look at the roots. If they are limp and squishy, they are overwatered. If the roots are green, they are wet, but not overwatered. If they are brown and stiff and brittle, they need more water. After examining your roots, you’ll know if you need to water more or less. If you are overwatering, consider using a more well-draining potting mix like fir bark. Your semi-tropical climate and high humidity levels mean that your orchids will get a lot of water from the air and that is a good thing.

      Bottom line: investigate your orchids’ roots and see what they tell you to do 🙂
      All my best,
      Anna

  37. Brianda C Salinas says:

    Hi Anna,
    I have a phalaenopsis orchid. Her leaves have gone limp and her steam has dried up. The leaves are limp but not leathery. I have checked her roots and they look healthy. I recently re-potted her in Miracle-Gro Orchid Potting mix to see if her leaves would stop being so limp. I have her near a south-facing window inside my room. I don’t know if it’s normal because she lost all her blooms and its part of the cycle or if I should be doing something different.

    1. Anna says:

      Brianda,
      The fact that the leaves are in good shape is a really good sign. Perhaps the south-facing window is too warm. Phals like warm temperatures (70-80F / 21-27C) for most of the year with a few weeks of intermediate temperatures (55-60F / 13-16C). Hanging a sheer curtain would help keep the window from getting too hot. Also, a fan pointed away from the orchid would help keep the air moving, and distribute the warmer air near the window.
      Thanks for your thoughtful question,
      Anna

  38. Kristin says:

    Hi Annna-
    Even after reading this I’m having a hard time figuring out if my orchids limp leaves are due to over or under watering (or perhaps cool temperature over the winter or too much sunlight?). Would you be willing to look at a couple pictures and help me diagnose if I send them to you? Sorry still new to this 🙂

    1. Anna says:

      Kristin,
      Sure, I’d love to take a look at your orchid. Be sure to include pictures of the roots. The roots tell the story.
      Email me at [email protected]
      Best,
      Anna

  39. J Wall says:

    Hello Anna, on my Orchid only the bottom two leaves are curling downward and
    a little limp. They are a dark green and the rest of the leaves are all very green
    and standing up. And there is a nice flower stalk growing. Is it normal for the
    bottom leaves to go downward or does the plant have a problem. I am very new
    at trying to raise orchids.
    Thank you

    1. Anna says:

      J,
      Great question! Over time the bottom, older leaves will fade and die. Drooping leaves could also be an indication that at one time in the past the orchid water not watered properly, either too much or too little water, and so the leaves drooped. Once the leaves have drooped they will never fully stand up the way they once did. The good news is that since the new leaves are standing up, firm and healthy, the orchid is now being properly watered.
      Congratulations on your flower spike! That’s so exciting!
      Have a great day,
      Anna

  40. Valerie says:

    Hello Anna – I purchased a Phal at the store, and at some point the support stake for the plant’s spike was set through the leaf. The leaf is yellowing with some transparent brown-ish spots on the leaf. I knew I would need to do some rehab for this plant. Should I remove the leaf now or wait? The plant is currently in bloom.
    Thank you!

    1. Anna says:

      Valerie,
      Congratulations on your orchid purchase 🙂 If your orchid has several leaves, removing one leaf won’t hurt your orchid. Just be sure that you use a pair of sterilized scissors. To do that, you can swab down the scissors with rubbing alcohol. You can also dab cinnamon on the cut site as an extra precaution against infection entering the plant where the leaf was removed.
      Enjoy your orchid,
      Anna

  41. Jess says:

    I’m a first time Orchid owner and I have a pest control problem just don’t know how bad and I don’t have anything in my home to uses towards the problem except for cinnamon in with my spices..Also have lil white bumps under my leaves..Two of my leaves are kinda limp and there’s one in the pot that’s got a brown tip and some white stuff on top of it…These issues are really starting to bother me and making me kinda worried..I can’t repot it till Thursday when I have some money..I just honestly need some helpful tips and advice on what to do so my beautiful Orchids don’t die on me

    1. Anna says:

      Jess,
      If you have rubbing alcohol, you can treat these pests. It sounds like your orchids have scale. These are vicious little bugs and, in all honesty, they can be hard to get rid of. Soak a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol and wipe all the white bumps that are under the leaves. If the Q-tip isn’t working, you can use an old toothbrush to scrub the white bumps. Scale like to hide anywhere and everywhere, so be diligent. Check every few days so see if any more scale appear. Be aware that the alcohol may turn the leaves yellow. But, if you don’t treat the scale, they will totally take over your orchid. I am not sure what is going on with the brown leaf with white stuff on top, you could trim that leaf away with some sterilized scissors. (To sterilize wipe down with rubbing alcohol.) Apply cinnamon at where the leaf was cut away.
      Wishing you and your orchids all the best!
      Anna

  42. Donna says:

    Hi Anna,
    Wonder if you could advise me. Not sure what type of orchids I have but the leaves and roots are dried out. I hear lots of different things about how to keep them healthy but never seems to work for mine. They’re in my bathroom window sill in clear pots so they’re not lacking sunlight and my window is frosted so they are protected from direct light. The problem I have is watering. I either under water or over water. I haven’t quiet got the balance right and then I’m not sure if I’m giving them the right nutrient. The water where I live is very harsh, so would I give the tap water, rain water or distilled water? How often? And should I add anything to it as some have suggested salt or orchid feed? Sorry for the long message but I really don’t want to throw these lovely plants away 😕

    1. Anna says:

      Donna,
      If you are worried about your orchids drying out too quickly, the first thing to consider is the potting medium. Fir bark is the most popular potting medium and it is one that I use (though not the only one). I have found that if I add a bit of wool rock my orchids get a bit of extra moisture. I live in a dry climate, so this method works great for my orchids. For people that live in areas with high humidity, the wool rock would keep their orchids too wet. For me, fir bark (fast-draining) and a bit of wool rock (retains moisture) create a nice balance. Also, be sure that your pots have plenty of drainage holes.

      If you are growing Phalaenopsis orchids, keep an eye on the root color. Silvery-green= healthy, but dry. Bright green=healthy, but wet. Brown = dry. Black = dead from overwatering. Root tips should be bright green or even reddish, but wait until the rest of the root turns silvery-green before watering again.

      About water, if you mean harsh, that you have very hard water, it should be fine. That just means you have a lot of minerals in your water. If by harsh you mean that you have a lot of chlorine in your water, you can let the water sit out overnight before using. Don’t use distilled water, but rainwater is also good.
      Thanks for your questions,
      Anna

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