No matter how well you care for your orchid, its natural life cycle dictates that its flowers will eventually wilt and die. That is not to say, of course, that there are not other, more worrying reasons for an orchid to lose its flowers.
There are several problems your orchid may experience that could lead to the loss of its flowers. In this case, you will need to address the root of the problem to prevent the abnormal or premature loss of blooms in your orchid.
In this article, we discuss the circumstances that lead to flower loss in orchids, whether a normal or abnormal occurrence.
When does an orchid lose its flowers?
Normal life cycle
The orchid’s natural life cycle will see the growth of new leaves in the summer and fall. This is followed by a bloom spike in the late fall and winter, and then the flowers will bloom in the spring. The blooms can last from several days up to several months, depending on the type of orchid you are growing.
If the time between blooming and wilting follows the typical lifespan of the species you are growing, then there is no need for you to worry.
Cut the flower spike back to half an inch above the first node past the last bloom, and continue caring for your plant as normal.
If the buds on your orchid fall off before flowering, the plant may be suffering from bud blast. Before the buds fall off, you will notice that they become dry and brittle.
Bud blast is the premature dropping of the buds from your orchid and is usually brought about by drastic changes in living conditions. A change in temperature around the plant or a drop in humidity can cause bud blast.
Bloom blast is pretty much the same occurrence, except the flowers fall off prematurely after they have already bloomed. This is also caused by sudden changes in the orchid’s living conditions.
What do you do when an orchid loses its flowers?
If the flower loss is due to the plant’s normal life cycle, wherein the blooms last some months until they are spent and fall off, check the flower spike to see whether it might still be productive.
If the spike is still green, that usually means it can produce more flowers in the future.
You can either leave the spike as is, or you can cut it back as low as between the bottom two nodes. This helps initiate the growth of buds and sets new flowers in as quickly as two to three months later.
The ability to bloom again from the same spike is dependent upon the type of orchid you are growing. There are varieties that will not bloom again from the same spike, so these are the ones in which you can cut back all the way to the base after all the flowers have fallen off.
You can remove the spike using a razor blade or pruning shears. Make sure you sterilize the blade or the shears by dipping them in a cup of rubbing alcohol for at least 30 seconds. Open and close the shears a couple of times to make sure all the nooks and crannies of the blades have been exposed to the rubbing alcohol. The reason for this sterilization is to kill any germs on the tools before cutting into the orchid spike.
After cutting off the spike, apply a fungicide directly on the cut surfaces, avoiding the roots. This is to protect the exposed areas from opportunistic fungi.
If you do not feel comfortable using synthetic chemical fungicides, you can also use an organic alternative such as ground cinnamon. Make sure the cut surfaces are completely covered with cinnamon.
When can I repot my orchid?
You may think when the roots of the orchid are tightly fitting in the pot that you need to repot it immediately. This is not always the case.
Orchids actually like their roots to be quite snug in their pot, but if the roots are starting to spill over the sides and top of the pot, that means the pot is much too small and needs to be replaced.
Wait until all of the flowers on the plant have fallen off and the plant is done blooming before you remove its roots from the old pot.
Choose a new, slightly larger pot and use a bark-based potting mix specially designed for orchids, rather than normal potting soil. Potting soil is too dense and compact, while orchids prefer a growing medium that allows more air circulation and water drainage.
The fleshy roots of an orchid are quite delicate, so make sure you handle them with care when you are removing the plant from its old pot.
Lay the crown of the orchid on top of the bark and then pack potting mix lightly around the roots.
How do I water and fertilize my orchid after it has lost its flowers?
Once your orchid has stopped flowering, it will go through a period of rest, or dormancy, before going back to actively producing flowers.
Some orchids have pseudobulbs, which are fleshy stems that store nutrients and water for the plant to consume. These varieties will not need as much water during their rest period as those that do not have pseudobulbs. They are prone to overwatering, and therefore also prone to root rot. Root rot happens when the roots are constantly wet or soaking in a soggy potting mix; if they cannot dry out between waterings, they will die. The dead roots will begin to rot and the rot will spread into the rest of the plant.
Orchid varieties that do not have pseudobulbs should also only be watered when the potting mix is dry to the touch. If the potting mix is still a bit damp, wait one or two days and check it again.
Significantly reduce the frequency of fertilizing the orchid, no matter what kind, until new leaves appear on the plant. When new leaves emerge, fertilize the orchid at full strength to encourage development during the growth period.
Orchids lose their flowers after blooming has run its course, and this is part of the plant’s natural life cycle. It is completely normal and should not be a cause for concern. As long as the wilting and dropping of the flowers coincide with the typical lifespan of the orchid, this is completely fine.
Unfortunately, the flowers can also fall off prematurely if the plant is experiencing bud or bloom blasts. This happens due to sudden changes in environmental factors such as the temperature or humidity around the plant.
Image: istockphoto.com / Maryviolet