How To Save A Dehydrated Orchid?

How To Save A Dehydrated Orchid

Your orchids can become dehydrated if they are getting less water than they need. Some orchids have more water stores than others, but even they will become dehydrated after long periods of neglect. Eventually, the plant may wither away due to the lack of water.

The signs of a dehydrated orchid include pale, yellowing leaves, droopy foliage, grayish-white roots, wrinkled roots, or the absence of roots.

In this article, we will delve further into the signs to look out for if you suspect your orchids are underwatered, as well as how to save a dehydrated orchid.

What are the signs of a dehydrated orchid?

The signs of a dehydrated orchid are generally most notable on the plant’s leaves. The leaves become wrinkly and droopy because they have lost their firmness due to the lack of moisture.

When you see a wrinkled leaf, do not assume the worst just yet. If the wrinkled and droopy leaves are near the base of the plant and there are only one or two of them, that is normal and the plant is probably just shedding its older leaves.

You need to worry though if all of the leaves on the plant seem to simultaneously become wrinkled and droopy. This is a red flag and is most probably due to dehydration.

If you look at the roots of a dehydrated orchid, they are dry and look dead.

There may be cases where the roots look dry and brittle, but the leaves are firm and look healthy. This can happen when the plant is adjusting to a new environment. Orchids can shed their old roots in this case and be completely fine. They will simply grow new ones.

Just to be sure, however, if the roots are starting to look dry you should ask yourself whether you have been diligent in watering your orchid.

Unfortunately, leaves that have wrinkled from dehydration will no longer be able to recover and it is better to just cut them off if you are concerned about the aesthetic of your orchid. As long as you water the plant correctly and it is able to recover, new, smooth leaves will grow out.

What are the causes of dehydration in orchids?

Temperature

Naturally, if the weather is warm, the rate of evaporation will also increase, and the water in your orchid will evaporate faster.

When the seasons change, the temperature will also change and you will have to adjust your watering techniques to compensate. During the hottest days of summer, make sure you keep a close eye on your orchids so that they do not become dehydrated.

If you keep the orchids indoors, make sure you keep them away from the heating vents in your home because the warm drafts can also damage them.

Humidity

Orchids are native to tropical rainforests where the humidity is high, and they absorb a lot of the moisture they need from the air. They are not able to thrive in dry, arid conditions for long periods of time.

Summers can be quite dry, so make sure you keep the humidity around your plants high to keep them happy.

You can help your plants by placing a pebble tray filled with water under the plant’s pot, or you can place the orchids close to each other so that they can create a microclimate and increase the humidity around themselves. Alternatively, you can just buy a humidifier to conveniently increase the humidity in the room.

Too much sunlight

Another reason your orchid may become dehydrated is if you are exposing it to too much sunlight. The hot sunlight can quickly dry out the plant.

In their natural habitat, orchids get filtered or dappled light because of the canopy of the trees around them in the rainforests. Try to simulate this same experience for your orchids in your home by placing them under the shade of a large tree or by using a shade net. Avoid keeping the plants in deep shade, however,  because they do still need constant light to thrive and flower properly.

Fertilizing problems

Overfeeding and bad quality fertilizer can also contribute to your orchid drying out. When a plant is given too much fertilizer, the mineral salts can accumulate in the growing medium and cause toxicity to the plant.

You can remedy this by flushing out the buildup of mineral salts every couple of months to save your plant from root burn or toxicity.

How to save a dehydrated orchid

To save your dehydrated orchid, you need to water it immediately.

The first method is to soak the plant by placing it in a sink filled with water. Leave it to stand in the water for 20 to 30 minutes, which gives the plant time to soak up enough water.

After 20 to 30 minutes, remove the pot from the water and let any excess water runoff. Place the pot back in its spot and keep an eye on the potting medium. As soon as the soil is dry, it is time to water it again.

Another method is to take the orchid out of the pot and remove all of the potting medium from around the roots. If there are any dead roots, remove them. Make sure the tools you use to trim the roots are sterilized so that the plant does not get infected by any pathogens.

Place the remaining good roots in a container of water so the plant can rehydrate. Keep the plant standing in the water for a few weeks. Bring the water level to about halfway up the roots and add more water when the level drops from that line. Make sure the water does not reach the stem of the plant because this can cause the stem to rot and the plant to die.

Change the water in the container if it starts to get cloudy or has begun to smell.

When you can see that the plant has become stronger and retained its vigor, you can return it to its own pot with a well-draining potting mix.

Conclusion

Your orchid will become dehydrated if you do not give it the water it needs at the correct intervals. Its leaves will turn pale and yellow, they will wrinkle and droop, and the plant’s roots will turn grayish-white.

Dehydration in orchids can be due to temperature changes, changes in humidity, too much sunlight or too much fertilizer.

Save your dehydrated orchid by placing the plant’s pot in a basin or sink filled with water. Leave it there for 20 to 30 minutes, then let the excess water drain out and wait for the plant to recover.

You can also remove the plant from its growing medium and place it in a container of water that covers the roots up to halfway. Refill the water when it gets below this halfway line. Keep this up for a few weeks and your orchid should return to normal.

Image: istockphoto.com / ali muhammad usman