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6 Easy Ways to Tell If an Orchid Is Alive or Dead

6 Easy Ways to Tell If an Orchid Is Alive or Dead

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People love orchids for the beauty they bring to your life and home. But orchids tend to be fussy about where they live and the conditions they live in.

This peculiar behavior sometimes leaves orchid owners confused about what is happening. But this article will provide some help to many of your questions related to orchids in a dormant or troubled state.

It’s a common question that orchid lovers ask: is my orchid hibernating or dead? Orchids go dormant between blooming periods to replenish nutrients lost during blooming. Think of it as resting for the next bloom spike.

During this phase, their blooms fall off and only their bare stalks remain, leading many owners to believe that their plants may have died. But in many cases, this is not the case and they are only dormant.

Orchid Roots

However, several problems can cause leaves to fall off your plant just before it dies. And you don’t want to mistake that as a time of dormancy.

Read the following article to know some of the common reasons why plants get sick, die, and when and how you can revive your orchid.

Some key warning signs let you know when it is time to take action and, in many cases, to prevent your plant from dying.

So use this guide as a helpful Q&A for common questions, an action plan when your orchid is in trouble, and a useful tool for diagnosis.

How to Tell If Your Orchid Is Alive or Dead

1 – Look at the Roots and Crown

Inspecting Roots of an Orchid

If the crown connecting the leaves and roots is brown and mushy, the orchid is more than likely dead. A healthy orchid has roots that are green or white and firm to the touch. The crown will be as well.

Root rot is a problem for many orchid owners. They overwatered their plants out of zeal for the new, beautiful addition to their home or garden. Remove dead roots when you re-pot.

To prevent root rot, water only when the soil is dry. If the root rot has progressed to the crown, then it has more than likely spread throughout all of your orchid’s roots.

Is it too late to revive a plant with brown, mushy roots? Yes, the plant was most likely overwatered and died as a result of root rot. Consider this a lesson learned.

Please note: your plant can be only partially in a root rot condition. Cut off the dead part of the roots and you may be able to salvage the entire plant.

This pruning should become a regular part of checking your orchid to confirm that it is healthy.

2. – Look for Yellow Leaves

Orchid with Yellow Leaves

If only the leaves at the bottom of the plant are turning yellow, you should not worry. The plant is discarding the older leaves and producing new leaves.

However, if leaves turn yellow all over the plant at the same time, this is a sign that your plant is in distress.

Is it too late to revive a plant with lots of yellow leaves? No, you can help your orchid get more light and nutrients. It will more than likely flourish.

However, remember that orchids do best in indirect sunlight. Some problems are caused by placing orchids in too much sun.

3 Look for Wrinkled Leaves

Wrinkled leaves could be a sign of a humidity problem or that your plant is dehydrated. Orchids are tropical and thrive when the humidity is 40% to 75% and temperatures are warm.

Plants tend to be overwatered easily but some owners may avoid that condition and go too far in the other direction, withholding needed water.

Is it too late to revive a plant with wrinkled leaves? No, adjust humidity with a humidifier if necessary and water following the process mentioned below in the second section of this article.

4 – Look for Skipped Blooming

Orchids show their blooms only if you set up the environment to their liking. Sometimes this means that an orchid skips a blooming season because the conditions were not to its liking. With unseasonably warm temperatures, this may become more common.

Can I revive an orchid that has skipped a blooming season? Yes, if you check all the adjustments noted so far in this article, that should help set the stage for it to bloom next season.

Continue your healthy water, light, and nutrient protocol.

5 – Look for Leaves Falling Off

As mentioned in the section about yellow leaves, orchids do shed leaves and replace them. This is that something you can observe and discern a natural pattern throughout the annual cycle of your orchid.

There are also varieties of orchids that shed their leaves when they go dormant and revive in the spring.

Again, if all of the leaves turn yellow and then start to fall off, your plant is in trouble. Take quick action to remedy the situation based on other action steps presented in the article.

Can I revive an orchid whose leaves have turned yellow and fallen off? No, your plant is more than likely dead at that point.

Check its roots as well to be sure that your plant is indeed dead. It is crucial to take action when you first notice that your orchid is in distress.

6 – Look for Dark Spots and Bleaching on the Leaves

Brown Spots on Orchid Leaves

If your plant has dark spots or bleaching on the leaves, it is in serious trouble. There is likely a problem such as fungal disease, pest infestations, or exposure to too much sun.

If you are having trouble with pests, you can apply rubbing alcohol to the impacted areas. Follow up with a product such as neem oil to prevent a recurrence.

Can I revive an orchid whose leaves have dark spots or bleaching? Yes, but it will need to be nurtured carefully.

Move your plant to a less sunny location, spray with an appropriate pest control solution, and prune any roots that have died.

You might also start watering your plant with ice cubes instead of water to help control how the rate of water reaches your plant’s soil.

7 – Look for Changes in the Plant’s Natural Cycle

In summary, there are some changes to the natural life cycle that are okay. For example, your plant may skip a year of dormancy if the seasons don’t change as they naturally do.

Or your plant may lie dormant a week longer one year than the year before. However, when something changes that impacts the look of the plant’s leaves or stems in one of the ways discussed above, it is time to take action.

The Best Ways to Revive Your Orchid

Watering an Orchid

Orchids are unusual in that they do survive in some of the world’s harshest conditions: deserts, beaches, and swamps. A balance of water, light, and humidity is what makes an orchid thrive.

When you see that your orchid has turned brown or has edges that crinkle, stems that refuse to bloom, or leaves that drop, you can intervene and change its course.

  1. Water: Water the orchid with lukewarm water. Fill the pot to the top. You will want time to allow the water to drain through. Try this daily for three days. Then continue watering weekly or when the pot is light when lifted.
  2. Sunlight: Move your plant where indirect sunlight is available. Keep daytime temps around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and never colder than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, keep temperatures above 50 degrees.
  3. Pruning: Remove spikes if flowers have not grown within eight weeks. Cut carefully from the base.
  4. Nutrients: Place the plant under a faucet and water. Dilute orchid food with 50 percent water or follow the directions on the package and saturate the roots.
  5. Repotting: Repot your orchid if these steps do not work. When roots are damaged, you can use wire as a replacement. Cut the bad roots off and then wind the wire around the plant’s base into the soil. Place the plant back into the container.

Tips for Healthier Orchids

  1. Sunlight: Do not let your orchid sit in direct sunlight. Don’t cut a stem that is at all green. It gets nutrients and moisture back up the spike. Overfeeding can destroy an orchid’s roots.
  2. Fertilizer: Regular fertilizing helps your plant remain strong and healthy. Be sure to use an approved orchid fertilizer. Fertilize regularly with a product designed for orchids. Typically, these are 20-20-20 formulas (equal parts potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus) that provide the vital nutrients for your plant.
  3. Location: Orchids tend to bloom seasonally. Place your orchid near a window in colder seasons and it may be the boost your orchid needs to start growing a flower spike.

Good luck with your orchids! May they bring you and your family years of enjoyment and beauty that will enrich your home and life.

Fun Fact: Plants help stabilize our atmosphere. They produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.

Oxygen is essential for all living beings. It also secures the ozone layer that helps protect Earth’s life from damaging UV radiation. Plants help reduce the greenhouse effect and global warming.

Before you go: Now is the perfect time to start tracking your gardening progress, and I created a garden journal to do exactly that. Click the image below to see it in action and to get your own copy.

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