Do you feel like you need to join an orchid killers club? Well, if you do, you are far from alone! Orchids are quite possibly one of the most misunderstood plants.
When we get them, they have their full glory! So many beautiful blooms! We start loving them... Okay, maybe over-loving them. And, then, inevitably, the flowers begin to wilt, and the leaves go flat and wrinkly! Oh no. We did it again. Or did we?
It's a little known fact (to the orchid killers club, anyway) that orchids go dormant. Actually, the flowers on your plant only last 1-3 months. So, chances are, once you get acquainted with your orchid, the blooms are bound to fall off (no matter what you do!). Natural dormancy lasts 6-9 months out of the year.
However, waking a dormant orchid isn't an automatic process. So, if you're looking over at your orchid that hasn't bloomed for the last two years, don't give up. (Actually, we applaud your patience!) You probably just need to give your plant baby some extra TLC to wake it up.
But, the all-important question: how do you tell if your orchid has kicked the bucket or if it's dormant?
Did I Kill My Orchid? (Again)
When you're trying to decide if you're orchid is alive or dead, you have to make an investigation. Let your leaves be your guide.
If you have one of our mini orchids, you are dealing with a phalaenopsis orchid. While you might not be into scientific lingo, it is still an essential piece for your investigation. Why? Because some orchid species naturally lose their leaves. But, not yours! "Phal" orchids do not lose their leaves when they're dormant.
One word of caution: if you see the leaves on your mini "Phal" have lost their brilliance, don't fret. (Or go for the trash can!) Signs of dormancy can include flattened leaves and lessened luster. Wrinkly leaves can also be a sign of underwatering.
But, if your leaves actually fall off, that's when you have an ominous problem. They are an integral part of your plant's system. Without leaves, your orchid will lack the energy to crawl out of dormancy. (Or survive.)
Is My Orchid Dormant?
So, your leaves are still attached. They might be a little floppy, flat, and blah, but at least they're still on there!
However, your "Phal" plant has likely lost (or is losing) its blossoms. This is a normal part of orchid dormancy. Again, flowers last only a few short months. So, eventually, you will see them wilt and drop one-by-one. Tip: pluck off your dead blooms to conserve plant energy and keep the other blossoms going longer!
Once the last of your blooms fall off, your flower spikes are the next to go. It's important to remember to cut the spikes off as soon as they start yellowing. If you skip this step and the spikes begin to rot, they can pose a threat to your orchid's crown. The crown is arguably the heart of your "Phal" orchid; it's where the leaves and the spikes connect. It is challenging (maybe impossible) to recover from crown rot, which should motivate you to go ahead and cut off your yellowing spikes!
How to Wake Up My Orchid from Dormancy
In nature, orchids bloom in the spring-summer months and rest once the weather becomes colder. However, nowadays, you can purchase a healthy, blooming orchid any month of the year. Nurseries have mastered the art of providing the orchids with perfect conditions so that they get to you in their full glory. But, this can cause some confusion for your plant (and you too).
For example, maybe you purchase your plant in November. It's simply beautiful! But, eventually, it goes through this natural process after blooming. The question is, though: will it bloom again next November? The upcoming spring? Or next spring? Much can depend on you! You can do a lot to induce dormancy in your orchid, which will make it easier to wake it up in the future. So, what are the steps?
How to Induce Dormancy
Orchids go dormant when the weather gets cooler. This doesn't mean you have to wear scarves and wool socks inside; no, even just a few degrees lower can make a big difference!
Winter also means shorter days, which translates into less light. (Yes, artificial light counts too!) Keep your plant's room lit only 12-14 hours a day, instead of 14-16 hours. Maybe you can move your orchid into an office or another place you don't spend evening hours in.
Your "Phal" orchid is also used to less water during its dormant months. When the conditions are right, change your watering habits, and allow your plant to dry out more-so between waterings.
You may be thinking, 'I want to wake my orchid up! Why are you telling me how to lull it to sleep?' This is why: Maintaining the same conditions for your orchid year-round is one of the #1 reasons why it's not reblooming. Your orchid needs a good night's sleep before it's ready to wake up again.
How to Care for a Dormant Orchid
In our minds, no flowers = no success. But, a dormant orchid is actually making progress. This is their time to grow leaves and roots. So, how do you take care of your sleeping plant, preparing it for springtime gratification?
These are your orchid's growing months! Continue to fertilize with a balanced fertilizer (20-20-20) at half-strength. This means that your orchid will be bigger and better after it comes out of dormancy.
This is the perfect time to repot your plant. When you remove it from the soil, give it a check-up. If any roots are grey and crispy, go ahead and cut them off. You want your orchid to put its energy into new growth, not trying to sustain half-dead roots. This also gives you the chance to inspect the crown of your plant! Make sure it's hard to the touch and green!
Temperature, Light, and Water: Continue the routine that induced your orchid into dormancy. (Listed above.)
The Reblooming Process
After 6-9 months, you should start to notice a new spike developing on your mini plant. Oh, happy day! This means that your orchid is rested up and ready to start blooming again.
Once you notice this growing spike, put your orchid back in its original conditions: a little bit warmer, brighter location, with a weekly watering regimen.
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