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How to Kill an Orchid in 7 easy steps

April 15, 2019 4 min read

dying orchidPhoto by Tom Swinnen from Pexels

Caring for an Orchid is pretty easy provided you don’t kill them first!

Confession: I used to be an orchid angel of death. I would splurge on a vibrant healthy flowering orchid at the grocery store only to bring them home to their doom. I would earnestly try to my best to keep them alive but within 6 weeks they would be D-E-A-D and only good for the compost pile. It became so bad that I began avoiding purchasing them because I felt terrible about killing them but I really missed their beautiful flowers in my life. Finally on January 1st 2014 I decided enough was enough. I loved orchids and I wanted them in my life and I was confident that if other people could enjoy them without killing them then I could too. I made a New Years resolution that day that I would figure out how to keep an orchid alive AND make it rebloom and that year I stopped killing orchids and started enjoying them even more. Over the years my orchid collection has expanded and my mortality rate has ceased to almost zero.

Looking back now it’s easy to see all the way I killed off my earlier orchids.

How to Kill an Orchid

  1. Water them infrequently and in small amounts.

Orchids are tropical plants. They love water! In the wild they experience regular gushing tropical thunderstorms. They are built to suck up water with their spongy gray-green roots and enjoy a solid 30 second drenching or 15 minute soak at least once a week. An ice cube or two or a trickle of water once in a blue moon isn’t going to work

  1. Let them sit in water

While orchids love water they can drown if they are forced to sit submerged in it for days. A happy orchid has plenty of air flow and drainage. An orchid sitting in water will start to rot and smell sour.

  1. Leave them out in the cold

I once killed an orchid by leaving it in my car in the winter while I ran an errand in a store. I was in the store for less than 30 minutes. The plant seemed fine when I brought it home, but the extreme cold temperature caused the flowers to fade and drop within the week and the plant turned black and died shortly after.                                                                                                                                      orchid out in cold                                                Image by Elen Lackner from Pixabay

  1. Let them bake in the sun

While orchids are intolerant of freezing temperature another way to kill them is to put them on a south facing window without shade or protection. The direct sun can burn their leaves and if enough leaves burn the orchid will die. Even moving an orchid from a shadier location to a bright location without giving them a chance to acclimate can cause burns. For sun loving orchids or orchids that winter inside but live outside during the summer take the time to acclimate them to their new location by putting them there (or nearby) for only an hour at a time and slowly increase the time every day.

  1. Over fertilize them

Orchids really embrace fertilizer and will respond with growth and blooms with the proper application of fertilizer. However, too much of a good thing can kill an orchid. Make sure to purchase proper orchid fertilizer which tends to be gentler and weaker than regular flowering fertilizer. Follow directions and dilute as needed. Signs your orchid is suffering from fertilizer burn includes brown or black tips on roots and the tips of the leaves. Stop fertilizing immediately and rinse the orchid in plenty of water to wash off remaining fertilizer.

  1. Practice poor hygiene

Several orchid pests and disease such as black rot and mealy bugs can spread by not properly cleaning tools when watering and repotting orchids. Prevent the spread of pests and disease by sterilizing tools and pots in between uses and quickly separate infected plants from the rest of the collection and begin treatment.

  1. Plant them in dirt

Most orchids found for sale today are terrestrial orchids that grow up in trees with their roots dangling in the breeze. These orchids should not be planted in regular dirt. Soil is too fine and will compact easily and hold onto water for a long time waterlogging orchid roots and suffocating and eventually rotting the orchid. Tropical and terrestrial orchids needs special potting medium such as sphagnum moss, or fir bark for good airflow.                                                                                         killing an orchid                                                                      Photo by Satria Wira Bagaskara from Pexels

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