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Withered and yellow leaves on orchids: Why do they droop and what can you do about it?

Shriveled, limp leaves on orchids are often signs of care errors. To prevent the plant from drying out, you need to act quickly. We explain what you can do about wilted and yellow leaves on orchids and how to prevent them from drooping.

Withered and yellow leaves in orchids: Possible causes

The possible reasons for limp leaves in orchids are very diverse. The most common cause is a watering error. Both lack of watering and overwatering can have a negative effect. In the case of lack of watering, the leaves often turn yellow, become brittle and fall off. When overwatering, the leaves feel soft, turn brown and also fall off.

Calcareous water is to blame for wilted and yellow leaves

withered and yellow leaves in orchids care

We’ve already addressed the effect of improper watering on orchids in our article on limp leaves in orchids. If the orchid leaves look wilted and yellowish, the first thing you should do is check the soil and the aerial roots. If the aerial roots are dry, then you have not watered the orchid enough or the humidity in the room is too low. If the substrate is moist, then you have watered the orchid too much and the roots are most likely wilted.

Too little water: in most cases, the combination between yellow and wilted leaves is a sure sign that you have not watered the exotic enough . An immersion bath can still save the situation if you have not watered it for a maximum of two to three weeks. However, if the orchid was left without water for a longer period of time, an immersion bath will not help. In this case, you should repot it, cutting off all brown roots.

Repot orchids with wilted leaves

Water often, but little: If the orchid gets water often, but not the necessary amount, then this can have the opposite of the desired effect. The substrate is moist, but the roots can not soak and wither. The whole plant may die in this case.

Water with too much lime: Another possible cause of wilted leaves in orchids is the lime content in the leting water. Water the orchid only with decalcified water. It tolerates rainwater even better.

Why are the orchid leaves limp after repotting?

The orchid was doing quite well a week ago. However, this week, after repotting, its leaves are starting to wilt. What could be the cause?

Planted too deep: Most likely, you planted the orchid too deep. The watering water gets on the recently sprouted orchid and the new leaves rot. The plant looks funny: at the bottom the leaves are yellow and soft, at the top they look quite healthy.

The leaves are crippled and limp: how to save the orchid?

Save orchids with yellow leaves cut off aerial roots


If the orchid develops withered and yellow leaves, and the stems crack as they grow, then quick action is needed. After all, the culprit is usually thrips, pests that infest houseplants almost exceptionally.

Here’s how to combat thrips: isolate the affected orchid. Place the pot in a sealable freezer bag to protect the substrate and roots. Then shower the orchid with soapy water.

Thrips infest orchids when the humidity in the room is above 60% and temperatures are above 20 degrees Celsius. To prevent a second infestation, regularly ventilate the winter quarters to lower the room temperature and humidity.

What to do when the orchids droop their leaves

When orchids droop their leaves, it’s a sure sign of stress. First check:

  • Whether all or only certain leaves are drooping. If all the leaves are drooping, then it could be due to a watering mistake and the roots could be rotting. If only the lower leaves are drooping, then you should repot the orchid, not placing it too deep in the substrate.
  • Whether the substrate is moist or dry. Moist substrate combined with brown roots could indicate a watering mistake. To save the plant, you need to repot it and let it dry for about a week. Then submerge it in water. In the case of dry substrate, immerse the orchid in water.
  • the leaves are infested with thrips. If the orchids are infested with pests, then you should treat them immediately and isolate the sick plant from the other houseplants.
  • the humidity in the room is above 60%. Too high humidity can promote waterlogging . So try to ventilate the room several times a day. Do not just open a tilting window, but really shock ventilate.
  • the room temperature is above 20 degrees Celsius. The room temperature itself is not a symptom of a disease. It can only have a negative effect on the orchid in combination with other symptoms. Even then, you should never put the delicate exotic in an unheated room, because it will freeze there.