Orchid Problems, Types of Orchids

2 Common Cymbidium Problems and How to Tackle Them


How to solve cymbidium problemsCymbidium orchids are very much the most popular choice by many people around the world but involve the same level of commitment that all orchids demand. Most people fail in maintaining them because of the misconception that they are easy to care for, forgetting the fact is that they remain very delicate. It is important therefore that you are informed on the proper care tips and the common problems that may hinder proper growth so as to preserve their beauty and health.

A pretty common problem is cymbidium orchid leaves falling off after turning brown or yellow. It is similarly easy to deal with. The understanding that cymbidium orchids have a single blooming season every year is important for determining the appropriate flowering pattern of the plant. Normal growth will result in healthy plant organs such as waxy petals and strong leaves. When the leaves start to turn yellow, the most common indication is that they are lacking some vital elements and in most cases will end up falling off. There are two possible cases that can affect a cymbidium’s growth, and they pertain to the environment or diseases.

The environment of the orchid is usually defined by the grower and is the easiest to work on so that the plant is restored to its healthy state. Cymbidium orchids mostly do well in plenty of sunlight and this is a requirement that can be hard to maintain in office or home settings. It is important also to realize that just like other orchids cymbidiums are sensitive to the excess light and will therefore turn color in both extreme and below average light environments.

Other than light, the temperature conditions of the plants need to be kept at optimum levels such that the air does not lose its moisture holding capacity. Low temperatures can therefore be the main cause for leaves turning colors due to the reduced level of humidity.

If you feel that you have sustained a fulfilling environment for your orchid but it still experiences leaf browning, then you may have to consider treating it for infections. One of the most detrimental viral diseases that affect cymbidium orchids is Bar Mottle, which results in yellowing of their leaves. It is characterized by a distinguished yellowing pattern such that leaves turn yellow in streaks as the virus spreads.

The virus more often affects the petals and results in their fall or stunting of growth, which is never a good sign for the plant. The only way to deal with this disease is to eliminate the plant or amputate the affected part, so long as the virus does not get a means to spread.

When watering the plant, it is important to realize that it is a natural epiphyte and will therefore need proper aeration and draining. The best environment therefore will have to be wood chip material or perlite which allows for effective drainage. It is also important to ensure that it is watered at least once every week to keep its water content at a suitable average.

These are all good places to start when you have leaves browning or falling off of your cymbidium. Try adjusting one thing at a time until you find the thing that makes a difference. We wish you good luck and happy growing!

Have you had problems with your cymbidium orchids? Were you able to fix them? Please share your story with us by leaving a comment below.

For more information about growing cymbidiums, here are 10 essentials to better help you.

Your Comments

50 Comments so far

  1. Theresa says:

    I have a 20+ year old cymbidium which is growing in a pot, that I take ouside in the spring and bring inside before the first freeze.
    This year, in the fall, I got 4 stems of buds on the plant, and they seemed fine through December.
    Then, just before blooming, one by one the flowers browned and the stems also.
    I cut the first one off hoping to ease the stress on the plant, but now the 3 remaining stems are just about dead.
    I am so discouraged because this was the most significant yield so far.
    I water once per week.
    Any thoughts for the future and should I remove the rest of the stems soon?
    Many Thanks;

    • Mary Ann says:

      Hi Theresa,

      Thanks for your question. It sounds like you had a good blooming season! πŸ™‚ Don’t panic. The season has now ended. Basically, you want to cut the flower spike at the base and throw it away, but don’t do anything else to the plant itself. I would say as long as your roots are looking healthy, just keep on doing what you’re doing and wait for the next blooming season. πŸ™‚

      – Mary Ann

  2. Hugh says:

    2nd &3rd blooms turned yellow. I took them off. First bloom was normal and next seems to be developing normally. What’s going on. Cymb. White is plant. Please respond & much thanks, Hugh

    • Mary Ann says:

      It sounds like whatever was going on for those 2nd and 3rd blooms was resolved. Did you change anything you were doing? Have you seen our Cymbidium Pocket Guide? It has helped a lot of people deal with issues like these! πŸ™‚ – Mary Ann

  3. Jennifer says:

    Hi, I live in Southern California and have a cymbidium growing under lath on my patio with a western exposure. It has had a problem with chewing insects in the past and I was advised to treat it with a systemic insecticide/fungicide, which I did about 6 weeks ago. My problems are: the plant is losing leaves; has not developed any flower spikes (I usually fertilize weekly/weakly) and it usually sets between 3 and 6 spikes every year and blooms around this time; but the biggest problem is that it appears to have completely stopped growing. None of the new growth has budged in weeks. Any suggestions? Will repotting help?

    Thanks, Jennifer

  4. Aubrey says:


    Firstly i want to thank you, for all the information you sharing with us.
    Im pritty new to the loving orchid clan. Starting off, when i got an orchid from my late mother in-law. What a beauty, this orchid is. We call her “Sophie”, after my mother in-law. Every year, she gives us 21 blooms, and how everybody, just admirer her. Must send you a picture, then you can tell me what sophie’s real name is. I know its a symbidium, but thats all.
    The only worry i have of her is, shes got black mottle spots on her leaves.
    1. Should i be worried?
    2. Is it some sort of virus?
    Please, how can i treat her?
    Ive also repot her her, 3 times, in the last 3 years. She got 4 off-springs also, of which, one is a twin. They not flowering yet. Hopefully in the near future, the will follow in their mothers foot steps, of giving me also 21 flowers on one stem.

    Please send your e-mail, so that i can send you a picture of our joy. Then you can also see the black spots im talking about.


    • Mary Ann says:

      Thank you. It sounds like Sophie is beautiful. It sounds like it could be a fungal infection. You should do a Google search and see if that matches what your Sophie is doing. Here is an article on fungal treatments. Thanks – Mary Ann

  5. Louise Keller says:

    I have cymbidium’s on my patio. One of them bloom the other has never had any blooms on them, what do you think causes this?
    I also have problems with spiders on them both. What can I use to get rid of them. Can anyone help me?

    • Mary Ann says:

      Perhaps one of the plants needs a small tweak in the amount of light it is getting? Or the amount of fertilizer? Sometimes one plant is just a little pickier than another one. (Much like people!) Here are some helpful solutions for pests on your orchids. We’ve also just released a guide for cymbidium orchids that can help you. Thanks! – Mary Ann

      • margherita says:

        please let me know what to do about the tips of the leavesof my cimbidiam are tturning brown thanks MARGHERITA

        • Mary Ann says:

          Hi – many times with brown tips, it can be a build up of salt. Please read this article about the proper care. And look at this article under watering requirements. If you have hard water or more salt in your water, then the tips can turn brown. I hope this is helpful! – Mary Ann

  6. Liz says:

    I have a Cymbidium in a pot that I bought at the supermarket. All the flowers died and that is ok, except all the leaves died too. I have cut back on watering (I was watering once per week). I fertilize with orchid fertilizer once every couple of weeks. I do see some green shoots coming up from a couple of the bulbs….but I am worried. Can you help?
    Thank you!

  7. Sherree says:

    I purchased a large cymbidium orchid from our grocery store and it was beautiful. After the flowers all died off, I repotted it because it was growing out of the pot. The leaves have been turning yellow/brown and fall off. I have noticed that the root crown/bulbs are also turning a brown gray and looking like they’re dying. Is this normal? And is there any way I can revive it?

    • Mary Ann says:

      Cymbidiums go into shock easily with repotting. Please see this article to make sure you are meeting all of their care requirements. If you notice anything different that you are not doing, try changing that to help your plant cope with the repotting change. Cymbidium care – Mary Ann

  8. Stephen Snell says:

    My problem is aborted new growth. I have six potted cymbidium plants in my home on the Biscay coast of northern Spain. Each receives good diffused light. I water every two to three weeks, depending upon the humidity (which is generally quite high in this neighborhood – during the summer it can be as high as 50-60%). To determine if watering is necessary, I stick my finger into the potting mix to test for moisture. When I do water, I pour it AROUND the plant itself — not upon the plant or its bulbs — allowing the water to permeate the mix and completely drain. During the spring and summer, I add off-the-shelf orchid food every other watering, reducing it during the winter to every third watering. But I’m losing new growth! In fact, this summer I’ve lost almost all new growth on all six plants. The new growth may get as high as five inches, then kaput. It seems the new growth is dying at its bottom from water-rot, even though I am trying to be careful to avoid pooling water on any new growth by watering AROUND the plant and not upon it. Perhaps I’ve not been careful enough, or maybe the high humidity is the culpirt? Any suggestions? Having lost almost all new growth for this spring and summer, I’m hoping the plants survive the winter and will show growth in the spring. Any suggestions would be deeply appreciated. Thanks for your patience.

    • Mary Ann says:

      Hi Stephen, I’m sorry to hear you are having trouble. It does sound like your orchids have some kind of infection. Check out this article and see if this is the culprit. Then follow the directions. πŸ™‚ I hope this works! – Mary Ann

  9. David says:

    I recently purchased a cymbidium bicolor from an online source, it’s still young, so I figured If I wanted to get creative i’d better do it soon. I kind of wanted to grow it closer to the way it would grow in nature, so I tried my hand at making an orchid tree, I used the cymbidium bicolor, a phalaenopsis, and a cattleya. Everything went ok at first, I misted them once maybe twice a day to keep their moss moist, then I noticed that a couple of the leave on the cymbidium started to go kind of limp, so I thought it wasn’t getting enough water, then the phalaenopsis started doing the same thing, so I thought maybe growing them this way isn’t the way to go, even though the research I did on these orchids said they were epiphytes who loved their humidity. Since I live in the desert, I thought misting them was the way to go. SO, anyways their conditioned seemed to worsen so I figured they may be terrestrial so I potted them and placed them in a terrarium for orchids that I made, the phalaenopsis seems to be doing better, but I had to cut the leaves at the top of the cymbidium off, and it still seems to be shriveling up, What should I do for it?
    BTW: the cattleya, whom I purchased as an orphaned Orchid, so I’m not sure what it really is, or how it prefers to grow, loves the tree, and appears to have grown a few millimeters in the weeks since it’s been there, in case you were wondering…

  10. Elizabeth says:

    For the first time after 2 years mine bloom only one stem serviced but buds turning yello before opens please comment tks

  11. Caroline Pyne says:

    My cymbidium was purchased in bloom at Xmas, and lives indoors, no direct sunlight, but lots of light, and I water it once a week, tho no soaking. In the last few weeks, after fertilizing, the leaves have started to turn yellow, one by one. Is this a natural occurance, or have I screwed up somehow? The person who I bought the plant from had promised instructions, but never followed through…Help me, Obi Wan-Kenobi….

    • Mary Ann says:

      Are the yellowing leaves old or new? If they are old, it’s no big deal. If they are new, then you probably have a problem. It could just be too much light or an infection. If the new leaves are having a problem, I encourage you to look up orchid diseases and compare your leaves to those of infected orchids to try to figure out what the problem is. Hopefully it’s just too much light. πŸ™‚ Good luck! – Mary Ann

  12. Lis says:

    Hi I have a cymbidium orchid for the third year. When I bought it it had two lovely flower stems. Last year only one stem, but this year again two stems. What my problem is that I had to let my neighbor look after it for some days and it ended up loosing several buds. Is it best to leave it in the same place always, or in a cooler room over winter.
    Thank you so much for your wonderful articles.
    Cheers Lis

    • Mary Ann says:

      Hi Lis – if your orchid is happy where it is, it’s best not to move it. Moving them too much can send them into shock. If you notice a problem (too much light, not enough light, etc etc), then you might have to move it. But if there are no problems, don’t fix what isn’t broken. πŸ™‚ Thanks! – Mary Ann

  13. christine says:

    The leaves of my plants have become very long. Can I cut the leaves to a shorter length?

  14. Vanessa says:

    I won a beautiful orchid at the Christmas party two weeks ago. It was in a small pot I replanted it in a larger on and water it just once its sitting under my lamp because the instructions said it need bright light. I live in Maryland well yesterday all of the leaves were limp and broken off from the stem. I am sad and wondering if the whole plant will die and what can I do to save it?

    • Mary Ann says:

      It sounds like it needs sunlight. Did you read the above article? Those are good places to start – sunlight and temperature. You might need to get a growing lamp. I’m not sure what kind of lamp you are using, but you need a growing lamp. And make sure the plant isn’t too dried out. If it’s dry, then it needs water. Good luck! – Mary Ann

  15. Leyla says:


    I got a cymbidium on December for the first time. When I got the cymbidium it had 6 stems full of flowers. I put it new to my other orchids at home which they bloom amazingly. Within 8-10 days the flowers started to fall off and then 1-3 leaves per day was lost. I have changed it’s place, trim the dead stems to relieve the stress it stopped for a while and started to have new leaves but after 2 weeks the new leaves started to fall off as well as the older ones. The older ones get brownish and dry, new ones are bright green and mushy when they fall. I’m watering it once a week and feeding orchid fertiliser once a month.

    • Mary Ann says:

      Have you tried looking at orchid diseases and seeing if any of those are affecting your orchid? It might be a good idea to do a search for orchid diseases with images so that you can compare your orchid to see if that’s what is going on. If you are able to identify a disease, then you can take steps to treat it. Also check to make sure you aren’t overwatering it. If the medium is still wet after a week, check it the next day before you water again. – MAB

  16. Janet says:

    Hi there

    I mounted my orchids, they are outdoors (carport). I mounted them on a hardwood tree stump i bought from a local nursery. I am living in Polokwane, limpopo(SA) my collection includes Dendrobium nobile, Cattley, Cymbidium, Miltonia and Phalaenopsis.

    I am a newby when it comes to orchids and would love if someone could help me out a bit. There does not seem to be enough light and i am thinking of adding artificial light. Hubby said that i should go with fluorescent, would that be enough and what type of fluorescent should i get?

    I recently had to cut away the crown leaves because of fungus caused by rainfall during the night, i have mounted them upside down since as a little bit of rain is still able to get to them. Would I lose my plants as i had to cut out the new crown leaves (5 leaves in total, 3 different plants, max of 2 leaves were removed from each plant) sterilized the blade and also sealed the cuts with cinnamon afterwards.

    The crown leaves that I removed was from the Phalaenopsis orchids, and it’s them I mounted upside down.

    I water every day, except when it rains, and also have a misting system up. Did not feed the orchids in the last 4 weeks due to root damage. When could i feed them again? Is there something i am missing in taking care of them or that i could add to my care routine?

    In need of advice
    Thank you

    • Mary Ann says:

      With root damage, you want to not use fertilizer. But when you see new root tips again, then you can start fertilizing again. Just start very weakly at first. Use a fraction of what they recommend – probably 25% of what they recommend. Then stick with that for a little while until you see more growth. And keep to every other week as well. Good luck with this! Let us know how it’s going! – Mary Ann

  17. Garth says:

    Hi! I’ve had my Cymbidium for almost 2 years now. I got it for free after doing some repotting of orchids at an internship at my colleges greenhouse. During the first 6 months it did great but I moved at the only place I had to put it was in a window that didn’t receive the best light. It started to develop some browning on the tips on the leaves but none have completely died. Since then I’m now in a new place with much better lighting but those leaves haven’t improved much but it is slowly growing new leaves. Btw this is not a mature Cymbidium. I think it’s only a few years old. Should I trim the leaves off and repot the orchid? Any tips would be greatly appreciated πŸ™‚

    • Mary Ann says:

      Those leaves are not going to improve, but new leaf growth is a good sign. You can remove those leaves with a sterile instrument and seal the ends with cinnamon to prevent disease. If it seems to be growing or developing new growth, don’t repot. You don’t want to disrupt it while it’s growing. If it seems to be at the end of its growth cycle, then you can repot. Does this make sense? I wish you the best! – Mary Ann

  18. Charlie says:

    Hi Mary Ann,

    I’ve loved reading all your tips to everyone here! I live in sunny Florida and received a lovely Cymbidium as an Xmas gift this last year. I’ve had it in my sunroom ever since with nice indirect light and water lightly twice a week. I noticed last week that it looked like spider mites had set up shop, so I took it outside in order to hose it down but received a phone call and went back inside. I managed to be distracted until early evening, and when I remembered I left my Cym. outside I went out to finally spray it; the intensity of the sun had bleached all the leaves on one side of the plant! Have I signed its death warrant?! The affected leaves are turning brown and falling off…

    Any advice on how to save my orchid’s life would be GREATLY appreciated!

    Also, any thoughts on whether it would be advantageous for me to transition this plant outside under a big leafy trellis during the summer? I’ve heard Cym’s are largely kept outdoors due to higher need for light.


    • Mary Ann says:

      Hi Charlie – I’m sorry this happened! It takes a long time for a plant to recover from sun/heat damage. This article has treatment information, and I think it will be helpful to you. While you are helping the plant to recover, you might want to keep it in a pretty controlled environment because like the article says, pests tend to attack weaker plants. But yes, normally you could do that and have good results. If you are able to keep a good eye on it under the trellis, you could probably go ahead and do that. But you can’t forget about it because it is vulnerable right now. – Mary Ann

  19. Edony says:

    I have a plant that had flowers on it when I got it about 2 years ago. It was a beautiful plant and when the flowers finished, I cut the stems and just let the plant go normally. I did have it inside the house while it had flowers. Since then, I put it outside and it grew beautifully but no flowers. Lots of new shoots all green and good. I brought it inside for about a month and it seemed not to do very well so outside again with it. Now it has yellow and browning leaves and falling off. I wonder if bringing it inside upset it some. I live in Florida and it has be extra hot this past summer. I water it only when it’s quite dry and it sits next to my other orchids that flower like mad. It is not in direct sun but does get some morning sun as I don’t want it to burn. We also have lots of rain and high humidity. I thought all that was optimum for growing cymbidium flowers, but no. What do I need to do now?

    • Mary Ann says:

      Hi Edony – Honestly it sounds like you are doing everything you can do. I wonder if this particular plant was either a. bothered by the move and just hasn’t recovered b. is extra picky c. perhaps has a disease or a pest that the others do not have. I would suggest thoroughly inspecting it to make sure. And move it away from the others just in case. I’m sorry, but it really does sound like you are doing a good job. Look thoroughly and do a search for cymbidium diseases to see if that could be what’s going on. If it is that, I hope it’s something easily treatable! – Mary Ann

  20. Ida Yeager says:

    We have a small collection of cymbidiums in our greenhouses. We are having a problem with rot. The leaves turn yellow and the bulb rots. It seems to spread to other plants. How can we prevent it and stop the current problem? Thank you

    • Mary Ann says:

      Hi Ida – I’m sorry to hear that! You want to make sure you aren’t overwatering and that your orchids have enough drainage and air flow. As for treatment, watch this video. Thanks and good luck! – Mary Ann

  21. Ireta Fisher says:

    Hi, My Cymbidium Skippy is dripping sticky stuff from flower buds only. |I tried a little isopropyl alcohol = no help. I have looked with a magnifying glass, but see no critters

    One of my orcids Phal. had scale which I am treating.

    An Aronia had mealy bugs, but that has been outside since the spring. I sprayed with something and it seems healthy now. can you help with Cymbidium? Thank You.

    • Mary Ann says:

      Hi Ireta,

      Thanks for your comment. Since there are no critters, it sounds like that’s just normal. They’ll excrete a sugary substance, and it is evidence of a happy plant. πŸ™‚ Insects do like it, so just pay attention to make sure your plant isn’t getting attacked by anything. Good luck! – Mary Ann

  22. Shar says:

    Hi Mary Ann,

    I inherited an orchid plant from my mother in law recently. We live on the East Coast of Australia. I’m not sure how old the plant is, but it’s leaves are quite long. More than half of the leaves are drooping in half (not sure if it’s to do with their length), and it has had black spots on around half its leave since before we got it. I’ve noticed even one of the new leaves has some black spots in it. Some of them are quite black. I’m unsure about what is causing this and if there is something I need to do. I’m giving it a light watering every 4-5 days. It sits out in our balcony, gets plenty of natural light and around 3-4 hours of sunlight in the afternoon. I’m wondering if it may have some kind of disease, or if there is anything else I could do.


  23. Vickie says:

    My cymbidiums grows ok. But then everytime it started to bloom..the flower turns yellow then fall off until every flowers fall off without blooming.how can I deal with its..thanks

  24. Joanne says:

    I purchased 3 Cymbidiums at the end of their bloom cycle this fall. I have adequate light and they are all producing new growth. I noticed today that one has deformed or wrinkled leaves. Can you give me any ideas as to why?? The plant otherwise seems healthy. Thanks!

    • Mary Ann says:

      It sounds like this particular plant is dehydrated. You probably need to water this one a little more than the others. πŸ™‚ – Mary Ann

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