Droopy Moth Orchid Leaves: How To Revive Your Plant

Moth orchids are beautiful plants, but they are a fast learning curve. They have quite different requirements to other plants, and you won’t really understand this until you try to grow one!

If you don’t understand why your orchid plant is unhappy, you may soon find yourself throwing the poor thing in the trash if problems persist for too long. 

The good news is that learning to recognize the signs of an unhealthy orchid and what they mean is the hardest part of orchid care.

Most orchid problems are easy to fix, especially if you catch them early. The earlier you spot any issues, the easier it is to make sure your plant recovers.

This is why understanding the problem is important, so you can fix the growing conditions before your plant suffers.

One of the most common problems with moth orchids (or Phalaenopsis orchids) is that the leaves can wrinkle.

There are quote few reasons why this can happen, so let’s take a look at each of them, and what you can do to make sure your plant thrives.

Why Do Orchid Leaves Droop?

The only reason why an orchid’s leaves droop or shrivel is because the amount of water you’re giving the plant is wrong. 

It’s that simple, and that difficult to diagnose, as it can mean the orchid has been bone-dry for too long, but it can also mean that the plant has been sitting in too much water, too.

Let’s take a look at how you tell. 

You’re Underwatering Your Orchid And It’s Dehydrated

Orchids have not adapted to dry conditions, so if they are too dry for too long, this can cause problems in that the leaves will wrinkle.

This is one of the first signs that you are underwatering your orchid, and if left to its own devices, the lower leaves may drop from the plant, and eventually the stem will droop, too. 

You’re Watering Too Often And It’s Too Wet

On the opposite end of the watering scale, keep your orchid’s potting mix soggy for too long, and the plant’s roots will start to deteriorate, drowning because there’s not enough air for them.

When the rot sets in, it can no longer extract moisture from the pot either, which means it eventually gets very thirsty, too. 

How Do You Tell The Difference?

It’s often tricky to diagnose a problem when two opposite extremes cause the same issue in a plant.

Luckily, with orchids, it’s a little easier to figure out. You might already know now that you’ve read the above, but if not, here’s how to tell.

Take a look at the pot. If it is a clear pot (and many sellers, especially commercial ones, plant orchids in clear pots so that they can see what’s going on), you should be able to tell from the state of the roots inside the pot.

If the roots look silvery, wrinkled, and dry, this means that your orchid is desperate for a drink.

Or, if they look brown and squishy, no longer having a solid and firm form, the potting mix hasn’t had a chance to dry out since the last time you watered, and the orchid has got wet ‘feet’.

When the roots have gone brown and mushy, they have started to rot.

If you haven’t got your orchid in a clear plastic pot, you can take it out of the pot gently to inspect the roots that way. You’ll soon be able to see.

How To Revive A Drooping Orchid

Don’t despair! If your orchid leaves are drooping, there are things you can do to fix it, as long as you catch the problem early enough. 

How To Water An Orchid The Right Way

If the potting mix has been too dry for too long, it’s time to water your orchid, and also increase how often you do it.

It’s worth noting that the way you water an orchid is different from watering normal plants. It’s not a case of simply tilting your watering can (or bottle) into the pot.

No, these beauties are a little more fussy than that.

There are two ways you can water an orchid:

You can put your orchid straight into a container with no holes – whether that’s a bucket, a plant pot without a hole, or something else entirely. 

Fill it with water until the rim of the orchid’s pot is submerged, and leave your plant to have a drink for about 15 minutes or so.

If it’s really dry, leave it for half an hour, or even overnight if you need to. Allow all the water to drain out of the pot.

The second method is taking your plant to the sink or the tub, and using tepid water, give the potting mix a good soak. At the same time, give any aerial roots a drink too. 

Don’t allow water to pool between the leaves or in the stem, as this can cause rot. 

You’ll soon see an improvement in the leaves.

How To Save An Overwatered Orchid

If you’ve overwatered your orchid, you’ll be glad to know that it doesn’t spell instant death for the plant, but you do need to do something about it, and quickly. 

You’ll need to remove the orchid from its potting mix, and take a good look at the roots. Cut off any roots that may already be rotting, and these will look brown and mushy instead of firm to the touch.

It’s a good idea to pot it in a smaller container if it was in a larger pot to begin with, with fresh potting mix. Keep it on the drier side for a while so that the roots can recover.

How Orchids Get Too Dry

There are quite a few reasons why orchids can get too dry, so let’s take a look.

The most obvious reason is that you’re simply waiting too long in between waterings, or you’re not using enough water. 

Or, you may have tried that awful viral ‘hack’ where you water your orchid with an ice cube. Please don’t do this! 

Your orchid might also be dry because you’ve recently changed the potting mix, but you didn’t pre-soak the bark.

Or, when you replaced the mix, you put too many large bits of bark in there, meaning there are too many gaps in the pot.

It could also be that your orchid’s bark has rotted away, and most of the pot is now orchid roots, meaning that there isn’t enough moisture in the pot.

How Orchids End Up Being Too Wet

One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to overwatering orchids is to leave them in water for too long, such as several days or even weeks. 

Moth orchids are epiphytes, so they have adapted to conditions where the water drains freely from the roots, so it makes sense that they can’t stand the opposite. (It’s worth noting that you can grow orchids in only water, as long as there are no particles of soil present in the water.)

If you’re growing your orchid in moss, it’s worth noting that this can take longer to dry out, so make sure you always check the moss before you water the plant.

Things To Consider When Trying To Revive A Droopy Orchid

Should You Chop Wrinkled Leaves?

Wrinkled leaves should not be removed from an orchid unless they have gone completely yellow. 

If they are still green, they are still providing the plant with goodness, and it’s important to leave them on as moth orchids grow two leaves a year at the most.

Can Shriveled Leaves Recover?

If they haven’t been wrinkly for long, and the leaves are still a beautiful green, yes, they can recover.

This is as long as you water your orchid properly, but it will take time to see the leaves recover, so be patient.

Final Thoughts

Orchids can be tricky plants to learn, but one of the biggest things to master is getting the watering schedule and the amount of water right. 

Largely, an orchid can cope with nearly anything else you throw at it, so they aren’t as difficult as you might assume.

However, it’s worth trying to replicate their natural growing conditions as closely as possible, as this will result in healthier and stronger growth, and it will also mean your orchids will be more resilient to pests and disease.

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