Orchids are some of the most stunning flowers, having captured the hearts of plant enthusiasts the world over.
These traditional garden plants are now seeing a surge in indoor gardening, expanding their range enormously.
However, sometimes an orchid will start wilting, and the reasons may not be obvious.
This can be especially concerning if another orchid nearby isn’t suffering the same symptoms.
Thankfully, it’s not difficult to identify the cause of wilting and bring an orchid plant back before severe damage occurs.
How to Revive a Wilting Orchid
Several factors can cause your orchid to wilt, but it’s pretty easy to check the mystery simply by your care methods.
In most cases, the source of wilting is an oversight in care that can be identified and solved quickly.
This is one factor that seems obvious but can still catch you by surprise.
Orchids are a family (Orchidaceae), not a single genus.
For example, flowers of the Stanhopea genus will begin wilting after only 3 to 4 days.
Meanwhile, the genus Cymbidium (commonly nicknamed “boat orchids”) has flowers that can last 8 to 10 weeks.
Knowing the genus your orchid (or orchid cultivar) belongs to can make it a lot easier to rule out the option that the blooms are simply past their prime.
Humidity is the significant invisible factor that you’re likely to forget about unless you have a device that can read the local humidity in a room.
Outdoors, you don’t have control over humidity levels but can keep abreast of this factor through the weather reports.
Unless you’re using a device that can read humidity (such as some phones or phone docks), it can be challenging to understand the current humidity levels.
Indoor orchid humidity ranges from around 25 to 45% percent, with the kitchen and bathroom being naturally higher.
Unfortunately, orchids don’t like humidity below 45% percent, and most prefer 65% percent or higher.
Low humidity will cause the plant to consume more water, and the leaves will usually wilt if the levels aren’t improved.
You can augment your orchid’s humidity through three methods.
The cheapest and most common method is to group it with other plants.
Plants use 97% percent or more of the water they drink, similar to sweating, called transpiration.
Transpiration helps maintain higher humidity around the plant. Having multiple plants close together allows them to pool their resources and impact the moisture around the plant cluster.
The second cheapest method is a pebble tray.
Place a tray filled with aquarium stones or small pebbles under a potted orchid.
If your container includes a base, this can also be used to hold the pebbles.
By adding water to this pebble tray, you’re creating a natural humidifier that won’t affect the moisture levels inside the container itself.
The third method is to invest in a humidifier.
This final method is the most expensive but can also be the most effective.
Many modern humidifiers can allow you to set the desired humidity level and also monitor the current humidity.
These are perhaps the best choice for those who want a more controlled environment and higher energy efficiency.
Another benefit of investing in a humidifier is that you can get some pretty small ones these days to affect a tiny area or large floor models that can affect a large room.
Orchids that have begun wilting due to low humidity will usually bounce back within a couple of days of addressing the problem.
Soil quality can have many effects on your plant, but one you might not expect is that it can cause a plant to dehydrate while sitting in a puddle.
Soil that has become compacted or isn’t properly amended with an aggregate such as perlite or coarse sand will be unable to drain correctly.
Compacted soil can put undue pressure on the roots, preventing them from adequately expanding and competing with each other as though the plant was root-bound.
This results in the plant being unable to efficiently absorb water and nutrients, which – in turn – can cause the plant to begin wilting as if it isn’t getting enough water.
This issue is thankfully easy to prevent.
Encourage earthworm activity in your garden and introduce worms when you suspect there isn’t enough present.
Ants and other ground insects can also aid in aerating the soil.
Adding an aggregate to the soil before planting is perhaps the most effective means of preventing this issue, however,
Make sure you report them every 2 to 3 years for potted plants, even if they aren’t rootbound.
When you repot, do so early in the spring before the plant has begun blooming or soon after the blooming period has ended to reduce transplant shock.
Always provide a fresh potting medium, amended with some perlite or another aggregate to ensure the soil won’t compact over time.
Plants are more sensitive to temperature changes than humans.
While individual orchid species and genera each have their personal preference, orchids generally should be kept in a temperature range of 55° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit.
It can be wilting when the temperature gets hotter or colder than this.
You can provide some relief for a garden orchid by giving it a canopy that filters sunlight on hot days or insulating the ground with some mulch or a similar cover.
Either move them to a spot within their temperature range or adjust the thermostat for potted plants.
Plants generally aren’t adapted to move from one place to another, so they will almost always suffer shock when transplanted or repotted.
This reaction is similar to introducing your cat to a strange environment, and the plant will recover once it’s had a little time to adjust.
In the meantime, expect a bit of wilting.
You can reduce the effects and duration of transplant shock by only transplanting or repotting in the spring before blooming or soon after flowering has ended.
Never uproot a plant during the winter or while it’s actively blooming, as this can make the stress far more severe and likely ruin any flowers on the plant.
Always use a fresh potting medium and slightly dampen the medium before rooting your orchid and again right after.
Finally, it’s usually best to avoid a round or two of fertilizer after transplanting so the plant has more time to settle in.
Finally, improper watering is one of the biggest causes of wilting in orchids.
Not enough water is a more prominent cause, but did you know too much water can also cause the plant to wilt?
The plant might droop from excess water weight, but more importantly, overwatering can lead to root rot, which will prevent the plant from absorbing water properly.
Stick your finger into the soil and water if it feels dry 1” inch down.
Pour the water slowly and evenly, working your way around the plant without getting the leaves wet.
Stop watering when moisture begins to seep from the drainage holes or the soil surface can no longer absorb water as fast as you’re pouring.