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Why Are My Orchid’s Flowers Turning Brown?

There’s nothing more graceful and elegant than a blooming Orchid! Their buds provide a captivating pop of color that lifts our spirit (especially if you have a Winter bloomer!). Your spirit might start to sink, though, when your Orchid’s fantastic flowers turn brown. What happened?

Why are my Orchid flowers turning brown?

Flower Life Expectancy

Ready for a sad fact of life? Orchid flowers don’t last forever (but we sure wish they would!). Orchids will keep their blooms for 6-10 weeks. After that, the flowers will brown and shrivel, eventually dropping off.

Are you wondering why your newly purchased Orchid is losing its flowers? Chances are, your plant had stems full of open blooms when you bought it. Those blooms have been open for… well, who knows how long! So your Orchid’s flowers could be turning brown because they’ve already reached their maximum life expectancy.

About Blooming Frequency

Are you wondering when your Orchid will flower again? Usually, Orchid’s won’t immediately bust out new buds. Instead, they enter into dormancy which lasts at least 6-9 months. So, realistically, you can expect your plant to bloom once a year (especially if you’re an Orchid parent newbie).

Interesting Orchid tip: Purchase your Orchid in the month you’d like to see blooms again! For instance, a plant purchased with flowers in December is likely to bloom again next December. It’s an excellent way to chase away the mid-winter blues!

Tips for Picking the Perfect Orchid at the Store

When you are choosing a new Orchid, select a plant that has several unopened buds. Why? That means you’ll be able to enjoy the entire 6-10 weeks of blossoming at home.

Premature Orchid Flower Browning & Loss

So what if your Orchid drops its flowers before the end of their 6-10 week life expectancy? This can happen for many reasons. The most common? Your plant has experienced some sort of shock and makes the executive decision to abort flowers in the interest of staying alive. After all, flowers aren’t necessary for its survival. (Very practical, don’t you think?)

What are some different types of “shock” that can trigger this reaction?

  • Bringing your Orchid home: The short story: premature flower loss might just happen with newly purchased Orchids. You aren’t doing anything wrong! If you buy your plant from a retail or grocery store, it already experienced plenty of shock. It went from a luxurious greenhouse into shipment, got unpackaged, and has lived on a store shelf (sometimes with little to no light and unpredictable watering). Now you bring it home to more changes, with different temperature, humidity, and light. Phew!

  • Repotting: All plants can experience transplant shock, and Orchids are no exception. In fact, repotting is so traumatic to Orchids that they are likely to abort any current buds and not flower again for (another) solid year.

  • Underwatering: It takes a lot of energy to create and maintain flowers. Orchids are not drought-tolerant. Low levels of moisture will shock the plant, and it will take protective measures.

  • The wrong environment: Lack of light, low humidity, and adverse temperature can all shock your Orchid and cause its flowers to brown and drop. What are ideal conditions? Bright indirect light, high humidity, and temperatures around 65-80.

  • A psych-out. In nature, your Orchid’s flowers fall off immediately after pollination. If your plant breathes in ethylene gas, it feels like it’s been pollinated, so it aborts its flowers. You may be thinking: “There’s no ethylene gas in my house!” Well, think again. This gas is produced by ripening fruits and veggies and burning candles. Solution? Keep your Orchid 10 feet away from all of the above.

Orchids with Browning Flower Buds

You’ve been patient. You’ve cared for your Orchid like a pro. And it has unopened flower buds! Oh goodie! But they turn brown and fall off. What happened?

Premature bud loss is called “Bud Blast.” What causes it? Young buds are the most sensitive part of your Orchid. Lack of moisture, root issues, adverse temperatures, and even handling with dirty hands can all cause your flower buds to brown and drop.

Brown Spots on Orchid Flowers

So your Orchid buds successfully open into flowers, but they’re covered in brown spots! Disappointing, to say the least. These spots are a sign of a fungal disease called Botrytis. What contributes to this disease? In a word: environment. Botrytis is most likely to affect Orchids kept in cool, damp conditions with poor air circulation.

  • How cool? Anywhere from the mid-60s to low-70s.

  • How damp? Humidity around 92%. Granted, that amount of humidity is (hopefully) impossible in your house. Dampness can also result from water remaining on plant tissues (leaves and flowers) for extended periods before evaporating. Possible culprits: Overhead watering or misting.

Sadly, once your Orchid flowers have brown Botrytis spots, there’s no magic “undo button.” Your best bet is to remove the affected blossoms, throwing them into the trash. Make sure to check surrounding plants, as Botrytis can also affect other species, such as African Violets and Begonias (just to name two).

Preventing Botrytis

This fungal disease starts on dead plant matter, festers in the right conditions (listed above), and then spreads through pores. How can you stop it before it starts?

  • Step 1: Get rid of “dead plant matter” ASAP. Yes, this includes your Orchid’s flowers that naturally brown and fall off. Fast fact: Botrytis can “overwinter” on last year’s dead blossoms if they’re not cleaned up.

  • Step 2: Keep foliage and flowers dry. Moist plant surfaces spread fungal disease. Don’t overhead water your Orchid or mist it. For a (healthy) humidity boost, place your plant near a humidifier.

  • Step 3: Maintain warm temperatures. During the day, your Orchid requires temps between 65-80. And at night? 60-70.

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