Orchids are popular houseplants because of their beautiful, dainty flowers. They are non-woody perennials that thrive in bright, indirect light, and are native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world. In this article, we will get to know more about why orchids might lose all their leaves, and how you can revive them if this happens.
Orchid lost all leaves: What are the causes?
1. Improper watering and feeding techniques
Underwatering your orchids could result in leaf loss. Some tell-tale signs that your plants need more water may include yellowing and dropping of leaves. The plants also become wilted from dehydration, and the flower buds will fall off without opening. To save dehydrated orchids, let the pot stand in water for enough time to allow all the potting medium to be soaked, and then allow the excess water to drip out. Alternatively, you can soak the bare roots directly in water for at least 30 minutes.
Orchids that are not properly nourished could also lose their leaves. In this case, orchid-specific, granular fertilizers will be a big help in reviving the plants. Water the orchids and feed them with diluted fertilizer, because if it is too concentrated it could damage the roots.
2. Inappropriate growing conditions
Certain environmental conditions could be inadequate for the healthy growth of your orchids, and could cause them to lose their leaves. Factors that could contribute to this include humidity, temperature and sunlight. Extremes in any of these factors could result in yellowing and loss of leaves. To fix this, the ideal is to provide a controlled environment such as a greenhouse. If you do not have access to this kind of environment, research the ideal conditions for your specific variety of orchid and simulate them as best you can in your home.
Fungal and bacterial diseases could invade your orchids and cause a loss of leaves. They might first cause spots on the leaves which will progress to rot, and if left untreated, the leaves will die. You will need to correctly diagnose the disease in order to revive your plants.
If your plant is invaded by pests and the infestation becomes severe, it may well lose its leaves. Pests like spider mites feed on plant tissue, which significantly weakens the plants. To eradicate the pests, treat the plant with an alcohol solution or neem oil applied to the leaves on a cotton wool ball.
How to revive orchids that have lost their leaves?
First, assess the affected plants.
Evaluate the affected plants before attempting to revive them. The physical symptoms displayed by the plant should be able to help you identify the problem so that you can address it appropriately. This will save time and effort in the long run, and will give you a better idea of whether there is still a chance of saving the plants.
Check the stems and roots. The stems should be green; this means that they are still receiving water and nutrients from the roots. Brittle branches that have turned yellow may no longer be able to support leaf growth.
The roots should also be checked since they are responsible for the plants’ growth. Brown or black, soft roots are an indication of root rot, which can affect your plants’ chances of survival. If there are too many damaged roots it may be hard to revive the plants.
Next, repot the plants.
Orchids that have lost their leaves need to be repotted. A new, healthy potting mix will help the plants to grow new leaves. Some plant owners use clear plastic pots so that the roots have more access to sunlight, lack of which is a factor in limiting growth. The roots provide the plant with energy to produce new leaves.
Repotting also means replacing the old medium or potting mix. Opt for sphagnum moss to encourage new leaves, but be sure not to pack the roots too tightly in the medium to allow for adequate aeration.
Finally, fertilize the plants.
Use a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content that matches the potassium ratio to stimulate the growth of new leaves. There is no guarantee, however, that the steps discussed above will revive your plants. It takes a lot of attention and patience, as well as constant monitoring, to revive the plants successfully, and even then, so may be too far gone to save.
Orchids are popular flowering plants grown in homes the world over for their attractive blooms. Many species are easy to care for and drought-resistant; nevertheless, inadequate growing conditions could cause them to lose their leaves. Contributing factors could include improper watering or fertilizing techniques, incorrect growing conditions, diseases or pests. To revive an orchid that is losing its leaves, you will need to diagnose the cause of the problem so that you can address it appropriately. Whatever the cause, it is likely that you will need to repot it in fresh medium to support its recovery.
Image: istockphoto.com / Nora Tarvus