In an orchid’s natural life cycle, the flowers will fall off the stems after a certain time, the duration of which will depend on the type of orchid you are growing and environmental factors. However, there are instances when orchid flowers fall off sooner than they are supposed to.
If the flowers are falling off your orchid prematurely, the most common reasons are insufficient light, poor watering techniques, pests and diseases, temperature shock, or low humidity.
In this article, we will discuss the possible reasons your orchid flowers are falling off and how to remedy the situation, if needed.
Orchid life cycle
Before we get into why your orchid flowers are falling off, let us first discuss how an orchid produces flowers in the first place.
There are over 25,000 species of orchids around the world. Each species has its own way of propagating, with an assortment of pollinators ranging from insects to small mammals. These plants have become quite popular because their flowers are beautiful and last a relatively long time.
The orchid plant starts with a seed. These seeds come from mature plants that have been pollinated successfully, and it can take up to several years for some orchids to become fully grown.
When the seed is planted, it will germinate and begin to grow. The seed should be provided with light, moisture, and warmth. If the germination is successful, the seed should sprout with no problem. Depending on the species, this can take anywhere between two to six months.
In the wild, orchids do not germinate without the help of fungi. The fungi will penetrate the cell walls of the seed, and the seed will then receive nutrients from the fungi and use these to grow.
If you do not have the time to wait for the seed to germinate, you can always just buy flasked orchid seedlings and skip the germination process altogether.
The orchid will fully mature in the next three to five years. It starts by growing a leaf so that it can absorb light and photosynthesize. Over time, the roots, stalk and more leaves will develop.
Once the plant is stable and mature, it can produce buds. These buds will bloom, and soon the orchid is ready to reproduce. An orchid flower contains both female and male reproductive organs.
Because orchids are so beautiful, their colors and shapes attract not only humans but also pollinate animals and insects. The flowers mimic nectar-holding flowers to trick birds and insects into reaching into their petals, effectively spreading their pollen to nearby orchids.
After pollination, the petals will close and the flower will focus on developing the seed pod. Depending on the species, this can take from a week to a year. When the pod has fully developed, the flower will drop to the ground and then the reproduction process will start again.
Why are the flowers on my orchid falling off?
Not enough light
If you have recently brought an orchid home from a nursery where it was kept under ideal conditions, you may notice the flowers starting to fall after a few days of its relocation.
The most likely reason for this is that the plant is not getting enough light. An orchid needs bright, indirect light to thrive, and its flowers will fall off if it gets too little light.
In order to remedy this, place the plant near an east- or west-facing window, but make sure the light is not direct. If you need to diffuse the light coming in from the window, use a sheer curtain.
Poor watering techniques
Both underwatering and overwatering can result in the premature dropping of your orchid’s flowers.
If you are underwatering it, the roots will become brittle, dry and gray. The flowers will soon fall off due to dehydration.
If you are overwatering your orchid, it can lead to root rot. This will also cause a general decline in your plant’s health and the flowers will fall off.
In order to avoid these problems, make sure you are watering your orchid correctly. You will know the right time to water it by touching the top of the potting medium. If it feels dry, you need to water the plant. If it still feels quite damp, wait one or two days and check it again.
Use pots that have drainage holes at the bottom so that if you accidentally overwater the orchid, the excess water will simply flow out of the holes at the bottom.
Pests and diseases
Fungal diseases can also cause an orchid’s flowers to fall off. The most common pests that attack orchids are caterpillars, slugs, snails, thrips and whiteflies. These insects will damage the flowers and they will eventually fall off.
You can treat the plant with fungicidal spray to stop the symptoms.
Temperature shock can also cause the orchid’s flowers to drop off. Drastic changes in temperature cause bud blast, which is when the flowers fall off.
Keep the temperature around your orchid between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the placement of your plant in the house and make sure there are no warm or cold vents blowing drafts in the direction of the plant.
Orchids are tropical plants and they like a humid environment. The humidity inside most houses is usually lower than an orchid needs. This is even more apparent during the winter when the air is driest. The dry air causes the flowers to fall off, so you may need to artificially increase the humidity around the plant.
You can do this by using a pebble tray. Simply place pebbles on a tray, pour some water over them, and stand the plant’s pot on top of the pebbles. You can also place your plants close to one another to create a microclimate or, if your budget allows, you can purchase a humidifier to increase the humidity.
The flowers are falling off your orchid because there is an environmental factor that is causing the plant stress.
This stress may be caused by insufficient light, poor watering techniques, pests and diseases, temperature shock or low humidity.
To prevent the flowers on your orchid from falling off, you need to try, as much as possible, to simulate the living conditions of the orchid in its natural habitat.
As long as your orchid is not stressed and is content under your care, it is unlikely that its flowers will fall off.
Image: istockphoto.com / Jamadagni Pariti