Skip to Content

6 Mistakes That Cause Orchids to Not Grow (And How To Revive It)

Orchids are known for their stunning blooms and unique root system, setting them apart from many other flowering plants. They’re notably tough and adapt well to repotting.

However, issues like rotten or dry roots, pests, exposure to direct sunlight, and compacted soil can hinder their growth. To give your orchid a fresh start, repot it in a mix that allows good drainage. Water it once a week during the warmer months and cut back to once a month when it’s cooler. Place it somewhere bright, but away from direct sunlight.

Let’s dive into how you can identify the specific problems your orchid might face, based on certain symptoms, to get it thriving again.

1. Too much water

orchid not growing

Orchid not growing due to overwatering.

Orchids typically require very little water, thanks to their unique roots that absorb moisture directly from the air. Overwatering can lead to waterlogged roots, which may start to rot, negatively impacting the plant’s overall health and potentially leading to stunted growth or even death.

If you notice the roots turning brown and mushy or mold forming on the soil’s surface, it’s time to take action.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Water the orchid thoroughly once a week during spring and summer.
  2. In the cooler months, from autumn to winter, reduce watering to once a month.
  3. If the roots are brown and mushy, remove the plant from its pot and cut away the damaged roots.
  4. Make sure to let the water drain completely after watering; orchids should never be left sitting in water.

2. Dehydration

orchid not growing

Orchid not growing because of underwatering.

Like many plants, orchids use their leaves to transform sunlight into energy. Without enough water, the leaves can’t properly fuel the plant, leading to reduced growth.

While the symptoms of not getting enough water may seem similar to those of overwatering, there are specific signs that an orchid is thirsty. Given orchids’ preference for humid environments and their ability to absorb moisture from the air, they have some unique watering needs.

Here’s what to do:

  1. During spring and summer, thoroughly soak the soil once a week.
  2. In the cooler months of autumn and winter, soak the soil once a month.
  3. Mist the orchid lightly with water to add humidity.
  4. Ensure all excess water drains from the bottom of the pot to prevent waterlogging.
  5. Place a tray with water and pebbles beneath the pot to create a humid microclimate around the plant.

3. Sunburn

orchid not growing

Sunburn

Orchids thrive in humid environments and can suffer in direct sunlight, which may be too intense and cause them to dry out. They do best in bright conditions with plenty of indirect, diffuse sunlight, which won’t harm them or hinder their growth.

This kind of light also provides UV rays, reflected from the surroundings, which orchids use to convert into energy for growth.

If you notice signs like drooping leaves or roots that appear crispy and dry, it’s time to adjust their exposure to sunlight.

Here’s what to do:

  1. For indoor orchids, find a spot that’s bright but not exposed to direct sunlight.
  2. Outdoor orchids should be replanted in a location that offers light shade, avoiding direct sunlight completely.
  3. If you have orchids in outdoor pots, move them to a shaded area where they’re protected from direct sun.

4. Lack of Light

If your orchids are placed in an area of your home that doesn’t receive enough light, they may struggle due to insufficient lighting. This often results in sparse flowering and bud development.

You might notice a slower growth rate and a reduced number of flowers. Additionally, new leaves may be smaller than those previously produced.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Ensure your orchid receives at least 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight daily.
  2. If natural light is inadequate, consider supplementing with artificial light.

5. Soil

Orchids flourish in loose, well-aerated soil, ideally containing bark chunks for openness and excellent drainage. They tend to struggle in dense, compacted soil, which retains too much moisture, as well as in overly sandy soil that lacks the nutrients they need to thrive.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Repot your orchids using a mix designed specifically for them.
  2. Choose a pot that’s a bit larger than the previous one and ensure it has adequate drainage holes.

6. Pests

How to Revive a Dying Orchid

Mealybugs

When orchids aren’t growing well or show signs of stunted growth, it might indicate a pest problem. Besides hindering growth, pests can lead to drooping stems and leaves, as well as leaves becoming soft and eventually dying.

Scale insects are a common culprit. They find their way to the orchid, attach themselves, and continue to grow in size. Fortunately, these pests are quite visible and manageable.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Use isopropyl alcohol to dab directly onto the insects.
  2. Apply horticultural oil to spray the bugs.
  3. If feasible, cut off and dispose of any leaves that have white cocoons on them.