Orchids are perennial plants that may be terrestrial or epiphytic, depending on the variety. These popular flowering plants have roughly 25,000 species and are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Whether you choose a low-maintenance variety or one that is trickier to grow, either way, you may encounter drooping leaves on your orchid at some point in its life. There are various reasons an orchid’s leaves might droop, so let us get to know some of them, as well as how to fix this problem.
Orchid leaves drooping: What are the reasons?
Overwatering is the biggest cause of damage and death in orchids. The problem starts at root level, where the roots are suffocated and therefore unable to absorb oxygen and essential nutrients, causing the leaves to become limp and wrinkled instead of being firm and plump.
Signs that your orchids are overwatered:
- The leaves are flaccid and lose their turgidity.
- The leaves develop wrinkles and lose their glossy appearance.
- The leaves may curve sideways or droop lengthways.
- The leaves turn yellow.
- The roots are rotting and turning brown.
- The roots have an unpleasant smell.
If your orchids have limp, withered, and drooping leaves, it could also mean that they are dehydrated due to underwatering. Orchids are tropical plants, and to grow healthily they need soil moisture as well as warmth.
Signs that your plants are underwatered:
- There are dry patches or edges on the leaves.
- The leaves turn brown, usually in vein-like formations or patches.
- The leaves turn yellow, starting at the tips. This is because the plant is withdrawing water and energy from the ends of the leaves.
3. Excessive heat
Orchids prefer warm temperatures, but they have a limit, and temperatures beyond this will cause their leaves to become wilted and droopy.
4. Cold temperatures
Orchids thrive in warm temperatures, and when it gets too cold their leaves will start to droop. The plants could even die if exposed to cold weather for extended periods.
5. The wrong growing medium
Your orchid’s leaves could be drooping because it is in the wrong growing medium or potting soil. It could be too acidic; it could also be too old and depleted of nutrients, in which case it will need to be changed for a fresh medium.
6. Root, crown and leaf rot
Fungal infections like root and crown root could cause serious damage to your plants, and one of the signs is limp and droopy leaves. These signs are the same as for overwatering because overwatering exacerbates root rot, so you should always monitor the watering frequency for your plants.
Another reason your orchid’s leaves could droop and wilt is a sudden change in temperature. Exposing the plants to rapidly changing temperatures could stress them out. Move them away from air conditioners, heating vents and other sources of hot and cold temperatures.
Ethylene gas could also cause wilting and drooping leaves. Some fruits give off ethylene gas as they ripen, such as bananas, melons and apples, as well as vegetables like potatoes, so keep your orchids away from these foods.
Pests and diseases could also cause leaves to wilt and become droopy. Aphids emit a liquid that causes sooty mold to develop on the plants. If the plants become diseased, the roots may smell rotten and the stems and leaves may turn brown, black, and droopy.
Eradicate pests by spraying them with water, alcohol solution or insecticidal soap. If the plants are diseased, cut off the unhealthy parts with a sterilized knife and dust the cut tissue with fungicide powder. Replant the orchids in fresh potting mix, using new containers.
How to revive an orchid with drooping leaves
If the plant is underwatered
To revive your orchid, do the following:
- First method: Take the plant, without its pot, to the sink and soak all of the potting medium with tepid water for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Be sure to soak the aerial roots and dislodge any water that is stuck between the leaves to avoid rot.
- Second method: Place your potted orchids inside another container or bucket with no drainage holes. Add water until it reaches the rim of the pot. Soak the plants for at least 15 to 30 minutes, after which you can discard the excess water.
If the plants are overwatered
If the root system has rotted, you need to trim off the rotten roots before repotting the plant. Use a new, sterile pot and fresh potting medium. This will ensure that no fungi or bacteria can spread from the old pot and medium; it will also provide fresh nutrients to help the plant recover faster. Make sure you do not use a pot that is too big for your plant, as this can retain unnecessary water and could contribute to overwatering.
Orchids are popular flowering plants and are relatively drought-resistant. Regardless of whether your chosen orchid species is low-maintenance or difficult to grow, you may encounter drooping leaves at some stage while growing them. This could be due to over-or underwatering, extremes of temperature or changes in temperature, or pests and diseases. To revive the plant, you will need to identify the cause of the drooping so you can address the problem correctly.
Image: istockphoto.com / Solstizia