I am a new member of the local orchid society and I recently purchased two Cattleya plants that were ‘in bud’. I took them home and anxiously waited for the buds to open but they shriveled up. What could be the problem? Joyce J
‘Bud Drop’ is the term used to describe the highly dreaded situation in which orchid buds turn yellow, shrivel up, and fall off instead of opening colorful petals. Very often, the plant has been preparing for almost a year for the big moment (blooming), and has successfully grown new leaves and roots along the way. While hobbyists get some satisfaction out of seeing new greenery, the real reward occurs when the flowers finally open.
The two most likely causes for ‘bud drop’ involve a lack of water – either in the air (relative humidity) or on the roots.
Orchids are from the rainforest and require at least 50% humidity.
There are easy techniques to increase water vapor – placing plants on inexpensive humidity trays or adding a small humidifier. (Misting is not recommended since the water droplets are too large and can lead to bacterial problems).
Orchid roots need a regular watering so as to not get bone dry. A twice a week drenching is usually adequate. A dry orchid will feel threatened and quickly abandon it’s buds since the flowering process drains the plant of valuable energy.
The fact that both Cattleyas exhibited the same symptoms rules out the possibility of defective plants. The problem lies in the growing environment which, fortunately, can be corrected in time for next year’s
I received a Phalaenopsis orchid for Mother’s Day and, just yesterday, it still had 5 beautiful flowers. This morning, however, I noticed that 3 of the 4 big leaves had fallen off during the night. Is this normal? Jennifer B
Orchids are the ultimate survivors. They are tough plants that have evolved over millions of years. They are not about to let one Mother’s Day blooming wipe out their very existence.
Except in this case…….
For all their great attributes (flowers last 3 months, plants easy to grow, etc), Phalaenopsis do have a ‘fatal flaw’. These popular orchids are susceptible to ‘crown rot’ in which most or all of the leaves turn mushy and literally fall off. Death is likely. Technically speaking, ‘crown rot’ is a bacterial condition caused by water sitting in the axels or center (crown) of the plant over night. Additional factors such as cool temperatures and stagnant air compound the problem.
Watering late in the day is the culprit. The leaves may not completely dry out by nightfall and the bacteria multiply. Therefore, it is always recommended that Phalaenopsis watering be done in the morning on sunny days so there is no possibility of ‘crown rot’.
There is a 20% chance that the plant in question will survive. The first step is to cut off the flowers. Next, remove any rotten leaves with a sterilized razor blade. Now, continue to care for the plant as before but use less water and stick to the morning watering rule. In some cases, a new plantlet will emerge from the base of the old crown.
I acquired several orchids that were about to be thrown out. I didn’t expect them to live but they did and now I love them. One plant is a Dendrobium that has lost all the leaves from the old canes but has new growth. Do I cut off the old canes? Shirley B
Orchids being thrown out? I can’t image such a thing! You are to be commended for your conservation efforts to ‘save the orchids’.
Dendrobiums that have lost their leaves still have the ability to not only bloom but also grow new canes. Keep the old canes on the plant since they store food and water for future use.
Flower spikes can emerge from any cane (new or old) at any time. A mature plant can have many flower spikes (I recently had one with 18) each one loaded with buds and flowers. Dendrobiums will always attempt to grow a new cane each year. Before long, the plant will be nothing but lush leaves and the old unsightly leafless canes will eventually die away. Continue your conservation efforts!
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