Caring for Orchids – 5 Warning Signs Your Orchids Are in Trouble

Orchid Care Warning SignsOne of the many reasons growers become so fond of orchids is that caring for orchids can be quite a rewarding (and demanding) job.

While it’s easy to learn the basics, successfully rearing perfect orchids takes a long time to master. The plants themselves demand patience, sometimes requiring several years of careful tending before they will blossom.

That’s why orchid growers need to always be on the lookout for signs of trouble in their plants. If you know what to look for, you might be able to stop the problem before it takes out your precious plant. But if not, all your efforts will have been in vain. With that in mind, here are five important warning signs that your orchids are in trouble:

WARNING SIGN #1: Spotty Flowers – The flowers are definitely the most delicate part of your plant. That’s why they’ll often be the first to let on when there’s a problem. If you notice dark spots on your flowers, this could be a sign of a fungal or viral infection about to take over your plant. Punctures in the delicate petals of your blossoms mean that you’ve got an insect problem.

WARNING SIGN #2: Discolored Leaves – While the leaves of the orchid tend to show signs of trouble less readily than flowers, they’re also much easier to monitor because they’re continuously present during all life cycles of your plant. If you spot discoloration on your leaves when caring for orchids, then some sort of sickness is present. White scaly spots on your leaves are particularly worrisome, as this is a sign of a viral infection (notoriously hard to treat).

WARNING SIGN #3: Shoddy Roots – You’ll be repotting your orchid from time to time anyway so that it can get the proper aeration it needs to grow. When you do, always be sure to take a few moments to examine your plant’s exposed root system.

The roots should look thick and healthy. If they’re discolored or brittle, or moist and malformed, you’ve probably got a case of root rot, which is either caused by overwatering or letting the plant’s mixture turn stagnant.

WARNING SIGN #4: Rapid Wilting – As mentioned above, the flowers are the most highly prized part of the orchid. While all aspects of growing an orchid can be enjoyable, it is the colorful blooms that you look forward to the most.

If your flowers tend to wilt too soon after they bloom, then you’ve got good reason to be disappointed. Not only have you worked hard for lackluster results, you’ve likely got a problem with your root system as well, and the buds aren’t getting enough nutrients. This is a good time to re-evaluate how you’re caring for your orchids.

WARNING SIGN #5: Crawly Things – Pests are a problem for any type of plant and orchids are no exception when caring for orchids. Scale insects like to take up residence on the leaves of orchid plants, and can be hard to spot, so take care to carefully inspect every time you water.

Mealybugs and aphids are a bit easier to notice because of their nasty habit of chewing holes through leaves and flowers. Using an approved insecticide such as malathion is recommended by the majority of growers, and organic alternatives also exist for those who value “green” gardening.

It’s always a shame when something prevents your orchid from blooming into the best it can be. Take steps to get the most out of your plants by following these important tips on caring for orchids.

To learn even orchid care tips, download my totally FREE 5-Day Orchid Insider training course by going here: Orchid Care Secrets.

Your Comments

28 Comments so far

  1. Pacey says:

    This list is fantastic because I have had so much trouble with orchids in the past, and this list of warning signs is just what I needed to figure out what is wrong with my plant. Cheers.

  2. Pat Hennly says:

    What if the owner of the orchid is a warning sign? 😉 I really have loved my orchids and after learning how to raise them they are so simple to handle and most importantly beautiful.

  3. B. Hariharan says:

    Your tips are very usefull. Also request to suggest some sort of remedy for the problems as some brand of pesticide is not availabel in all countries.

  4. susan says:

    Please help! I buy orchids on the clearance table at Lowe’s and Wal-mart! I hate to see anything die due to lack of care, or, interest! I now own 6 healthy (non-flowering orchids, ranging from 6 months to @ a full year w/out flowers! I propagate plants for friends and some for sale! Thousands of websites and i have not produced a flower on these orchids!!! (my hubby says i should leave them alone) Help? are the too far gone by the time they reach clearance table? I use orchid boost, orchid bloom booster as well as a bit of Superthive at required times indicated on package. What am i doing wrong???? I live in TX and they are outside under filtered sun during the day. Yes, i recently put them outside because they may now, possibly bloom with chillier (70-80) nights. They recieve @ 4 watts of Led red light for @ 6 hrs every night. Any ideas????

    • Mary Ann says:

      It sounds like you are doing everything you can. You are correct about the chillier temperatures to help get them to bloom. I think that might be the thing that kicks them over the edge. I’ve never purchased a plant from the clearance table, but I commend you for trying to save them. It is possible they just won’t bloom, but if they are healthy, keep at it!

    • Lisha says:

      I too bought some off a discount rack at my store. They looked kinda beat up.. And you could tell they hadn’t had sun light in a while. I’ve never raised any plant before. LOL. So this is so foreign to me. This is day two. And we took them out of their pots (because they’re in a plastic holder) to let some of the water out. The containers can fit in the palm of my hand. Im at a loss to what to do now. They’re in indirect sunlight but still by the window. Our house is kept at the right temperature (65-71 F) Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • cora says:

      I would suggest to leave your orchids in a place where it gets enough sunlight. If you see your orchids leaves looking very green in color that means they need more sunlight. Also fertilize your orchids once a week with osmocote or any orchids fertilizer. Water it twice a week during hot weather and once a week when it is wet season.

  5. Jean says:

    A blessed day to you Ms Mary Ann! So far I have no major problem to my orchirds they are healthy n blooming. I alternately watering them water comes from d rice water n sometimes I use fertilizer to them a small amount of beer n a white egg mix to water n I spray. I always look for my orchids for ants n small insects . Im happy caring for my orchids. Thanks for sharing your tips it will help me to grow my orchids. God Bless!

  6. Linda says:

    I am new to orchids. I have 3 mini phalanopsis. I also purchaced mine from a grocery store and Home Depot. After about 3 mos. of my care I just took the last yellow wilted leaf off of one plant. I assume that one has perrished. Presently the other 2 have a tiny black insect flying around them. I just used a systemic pesticide around them. I hope it doesn’t kill them.
    I used orchid potting mix and have clay pots with holes around the botton. Thay always seem dry so I give them a little water. They are located in a west window. They both have had long lasting blooms. How do i get rid of this little flying pest?

  7. Raz Zack says:

    Well Mary Ann:
    here is a spraying mixture that is nither poisonous to people nor toxic to the plants (Biorationa pesticde).It is easy to prepare and use and is very effective in controling aphids, mites, scale insects, mealybugs and thrips.
    Mix 1 table spoon of cooking oil with 1 table spoon of dish washing detergent. Add the mixture to 1 gallon water. Cover spray the plants once a week.
    p.s. I use a hand sprayer ( such as an empty window cleaning sprayer).

    • Mary Ann says:

      Cool! Thanks for that tip. 🙂 Always good to hear what’s working for people, especially when it’s non-toxic! – Mary Ann

  8. Karen says:

    I am enjoying your tips. I do not own a kindle, can I take advantage of your downloads?


    Hello Mary Ann.
    I do not want to take a lot of your precious time.
    Just one question.
    I have 3 of my Phalaenopsis with some purple, redish colours.
    Could you please tell me what is it?
    Thank you very much.
    Kind regards.
    Helder Oliveira from Portugal

    • Mary Ann says:

      Where are these colors located? How big are they? What do they look like? I’m sorry but I just need more information to answer. Perhaps this article might be of more help? Red-purple phalaenopsis Thanks! – Mary Ann

  10. Lynn says:

    Can anyone recommend what to do if the leaves on the orchid seem to be dry and crinkly and dehydrated even though they are getting water, I think scale and meilie bug does contribute to this problem I would desperately love to save 2 of our orchids that have this condition, I feed them with nitrosol and worm wee to no avail think it is time to get something to kill off whatever is troubling them

  11. Burgandie says:

    Hey, your list is very helpful but I have a question. I bought an orchid earlier this year (back in the spring) and it stayed in bloom until late august early september. The bloom spikes died and so I cut them off as recommended to me. There is a reason for this little back story. After I cut the dead bloom spines off, my orchid really came to life and the leaves are perkier than ever, I have a really big new leaf and a new spike that popped up recently is growing wonderfully. But the state of the roots are slightly confusing me. It looks like they might be starting to show signs of root rot. They look (and feel) thick and healthy for most part, but recently there’s been some discoloration and a few spots seem a little weak. Is it root rot? If I were to repot my orchid and cut off the affected roots, would all of the “excitement” have a negative impact on my little baby bloom spike?

    • Mary Ann says:

      I think repotting now might be a good idea actually since the blooms are gone, especially if you feel like the roots might be in trouble. It sounds like repotting is what you need to do. It’s your decision ultimately, and I wish you the best! Please let us know what happens. Thanks! – Mary Ann

  12. Stella Gutièrrez says:

    Thanks for your advices. Im starting whith orchids and any topic is wellcomed.

    This one was really useful.


  13. Frances says:

    Hello, I have just recently bought 8 orchids currently not blooming, but growing new leaves. The leaves on 2 are splitting down the middle as they grow. Is this normal? I am new at caring for orchids. Any help is appreciated. Thanks

  14. Teri says:

    What is a good source to help me identify what kind of orchids I have. I inherited a bunch but dont know what they are. I have pictures of them if you want to see them. Thank you for your help.

Share your view

Post a comment

Access Your FREE Report!

Enter your email address below for instant access to our free "5 Biggest Orchid Care Mistakes" report...

Primary Email:
First Name:

**Please double-check your email for accuracy to ensure you receive the special report.**

Privacy Assured: Your information will not be sold or disclosed to any unauthorized third parties. I respect your privacy and hate junk email just like you!