Cultivating Orchids & Crafting Terrariums

Wilting Orchid Flowers:
6 Reasons Why and How to Fix Them

Wilting orchid flowers always make a new orchid grower a bit nervous. How do you now when wilted orchid flowers are normal or not? Enthusiastic and excited, you purchased an orchid, moved it from the greenhouse into your home, and placed it by the windowsill—just like the instructions said. The extravagant flowers were full, luscious, and eye-catching. The next morning, you wake up to wilted and drooping flowers.
orchid flower wilting
."2008 Orchid House 2" by anoldent is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Orchid flowers will wilt because of 6 reasons:

temperature change,
insects and pests,
stress from moving to a new environment,
not enough humidity,
and the end of a normal life cycle.

1. End of Natural Life Cycle

Orchid blooms aren’t eternal. Even though they have the fame of lasting forever, they eventually die. The most common orchid, Phalaenopsis orchids (moth orchids), can flower up to three months without wilting. Dendrobiums and Oncidiums stay in bloom about a month. Cattleyas last about two weeks, if that.

Below is a simple chart of the most common orchids and how long the stay in bloom listed in weeks. Note that the times listed are under the right conditions and indoors. In nature, these times can be prolonged.
1.6 weeks
8-10 weeks
4 weeks
4-8 weeks
4 weeks
6 weeks
6-8 weeks
12 weeks
3 - 4 days
6-8 weeks
A graph like the one above is useful, but when you purchase a stunning, exotic orchid in bloom, you've no idea how long it's been flowering. It could be that you are purchasing a plant that is in its late cycle of blooming, and only has a few days remaining.

Don’t worry about the flowers wilting if this is an orchid you’ve just bought.

Like any new relationship, there are times of adjustment. Moving is always hard (and I’ve moved more than my share…check out my heart-wrenching memoir here) and especially so on an orchid. They like to be in one place for life, attached to a tree.

2. Environment Change Cause Flowers to Wilt

Another problem in buying orchids in bloom is that they are more susceptible to environment changes at this stage. They hate to be repotted, change climates, humidity, lighting, etc.

Even changing them from where you had them growing to another room can make a blooming orchid wilt. Some varieties and individual plants are more resistant, but most will not like the adaptation.

Keep this in mind when you take the orchid from the greenhouse, which has optimal humidity, lighting, watering, fertilization, and everything else you could imagine and suddenly placing the orchid in your home office (like I do.)
The orchid will react to this transport and handling phase by wilting. It can also cause bud blast. If you want to know more about bud blast, this article has some really interesting information and statistics.
orchid humidifier
"Orchid" by Nikonian Novice is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Environment change can also mean a change in potting medium. NEVER repot a flowering orchid. It has used its energy to produce a gorgeous flower and it doesn’t have enough to make it through a rough, new change. The additional stress of changing potting mediums is even worse.

If you absolutely have to change pots, then keep the same medium. Once your orchid has lost all it’s flowers, then you can safely repot and change it’s medium. New roots are growing during this time as well, so you have an advantage.

3. Temperature Change Causes Wilting Orchid Blossoms

Temperature changes happen for two reasons.

The first is when you purchase your orchid online in winter and have it mailed to you. Ok, that’s extreme. But even if you buy it from a greenhouse and transport it in your car, this can cause a temperature shock. From your car to the inside of your house, the orchid will suffer, and the flowers can wilt.

The second scenario is when your orchid is in bloom and you wish to display it on the living room table or coffee table. This is lovely, but verify for heat vents nearby. Hot, dry heat spurting out in uneven waves from the floor is an orchid’s nightmare.

The opposite could also happen—cold drafts. If you place your orchid by the window or a sill and decide to open the window, cool, chilly air could suddenly shock and orchid.

If your orchid was doing fine, and after you moved it the flowers wilted, temperature change is the most probable reason.

Reasons For Wilting Orchid Flowers

  • Normal Life Cycle

  • Stress from Environment

  • Temperature Change

  • Not Enough Humidity

  • Underwatering

  • Pests & Insects

4. Flowers Wilt Because of Humidity Change

Besides temperature, moving the orchid to another location could cause a drop in humidity. When you cultivate your orchid alongside various other household plants, even other orchids, the overall humidity in that spot is always higher. If your orchid now sits by itself, it will need to be misted more often.

Remember: humidity is not the same as watering. Humidity is the overall concentration of water droplets in the air, while watering is how much the roots absorb. Keep your orchid in at least 40% humidity—and I say at “least,” because most orchids want much more than that.

Indoors it’s hard to reach more than 50% because the paint, wallpaper and drywall will start to chip off or mold. I aim at 45% in my home office, but my orchids are not high-humidity orchids. Anything above 45%, my computer and camera equipment complain.
parts of the orchid
"[Central America] Guarianthe × laelioides 'Brechts' CCM/AOS (Lem.) Van den Berg, Phytotaxa 239: 67 (2015)" by sunoochi is licensed under CC BY 2.0
You can keep a small humidifier by your orchid and turn it on a few times a day if you want to isolate it form the rest of your orchid collection.

It’s great to have them on display when flowering, but they don’t do well if the same conditions they were in before aren’t met now.
If you don’t have a humidifier, a good place to keep your orchid is in the kitchen. I don’t recommend the bathroom for two reasons: (1) not enough light, and (2) the humidity fluctuates greatly and only for short periods of time. The temperatures also raise and fall too much to keep the orchid happy.

If you have just purchased your orchid and brought it home and only now, after a few days, the flowers are wilting, check your humidity. You can read about what instruments you need and recommended humidifiers in this article, which is a product review.

I wrote that article after researching over one thousand reviews, and elaborating a list of the humidifiers, humidistats, hygrometers and other humidity related equipment.

5. Humidity is not the Same as Watering

If your humidity is correct for the type of orchid you have, then it might be that your orchid is thirsty. In this case, the leaves will have started to wilt some, too. They will have deep veins in them, with streaking lines. They’ll also lose their bright, shiny luster.

Flowers require more water from the plant, especially in the budding stage. Once the flowers dry and fall off, you can water less.

When orchid flowers wilt, this is the first sign that they need more water. They wilt because even if pollinated, they can’t produce enough energy from the minerals and nutrients to keep the new seed healthy.

If the entire cause/reason of the flower was to attract pollinators and from there, produce seeds, it’s a failed mission—no use to carry it to term. The orchid gives up, wilting its flowers to focus on maintain humidity and energy to survive itself.

If you are watering your orchid to the exact specifications of it’s liking, and your potting medium is draining more than fine, too fine, then it might be that your potting medium is to coarse.

This means that water is draining out too fast, not giving the roots the time to soak up the water before it all drains away. Only stop watering after the roots have turned green and you are certain they have had enough.

6. Pests and Insects will Wilt Orchid Flowers

Pests and insects munching on your orchid is the hardest to cure (compared to the other 5 reasons orchids wilt.) With the right information, and accessibility to fungicides, bactericides, and other remedies, you can fight off these pests.

Do your research with pictures and proper identification of what pests are attacking your plant. Observe the bottom of the leaves, crown, and potting medium for white dots, black gooey areas, and anything that is not normal.

Even though root rot could be a possible cause of flower dropping and wilting, it’s not a major cause. That’s why I didn’t include it in my list of 6 reasons. If you are overwatering and not letting the roots dry out before watering again, or if the orchid sits in a puddle of water on its humidity tray, then you have all the ingredients for root rot.

I wish you the best in finding out what caused the flower to wilt and drop. With these 6 reasons, you’re well on your way. Leave a comment in the section below if this article has helped you. If you have any questions, ideas, or disagree with anything here, please say that, too. We only learn when we share information.

Happy Cultivating!
Signature Amanda Matthews
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Amanda June Matthews at Orchideria
Hi, there! I'm Amanda Matthews.

I write all the tutorials on Orchideria so unfortunately, I can't blame anyone else for all the spelling mistakes.   :)

By profession, I'm a theologian, author, and seminary professor, yet I  spend my free time enjoying nature hikes, building terrariums, and cultivating orchids. I also love to mountain bike on trails, dance, and play with my dog, Max.

When I'm not working on the next chapter of my book or online course, I'm exploring a new campsite to venture out into nature. Pitching a tent for the weekend with my two children while I fire up a barbecue is the best way to live.

Click here to go to my Author Page to check out my heart-wrenching memoir.

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