Why are My Orchid Flowers Dropping Early?!
Solving the bud blast problem
Cared for properly, Phalaenopsis orchid flowers can bloom for many weeks to months for a long viewing period. A normal blooming period for Phalaenopsis involves growing a flower spike with many buds, ripening and opening the buds one by one and then eventually dropping the flowers one by one starting with the oldest flower. If you notice many of the flowers and buds appear to wilt at once this is a symptom of bud blast. Read on to learn reasons behind bud blast and how to prevent it.
The big reason bud blast happens: STRESS!
Developing flower buds is an incredibly expensive project for orchids. The orchid spends all year growing and storing energy just to spend it on creating a tall plant stalk with many, many flowers. If the plant fears for its own survival at any point in this process it is likely to abort the buds and cut its losses so it can spend its energy on staying alive instead of attempting to reproduce. The best way to prevent bud blast is to keep the orchid healthy and properly maintained throughout the blooming cycle so the orchid doesn’t decide to close up shop early!
Sudden Temperature Change:
While Phalaenopsis do very well in the home environment they are vulnerable to sudden environmental changes such as steep temperature changes or humidity levels. If you purchase a flowering orchid in winter or the heat of summer be careful to protect the plant on the way to and from your home with an extra paper bag and don’t leave your plant in the car while you run more errands. Even a short amount of time in a hot car or wintry conditions could be enough to stress the plant into aborting its flowers.
When you bring your plant home and put it out for display, avoid placing it where it will receive heavy drafts such as from opening an oven or a heating/cooling vent. Even an open window on a breezy spring day can create enough of a draft to stress the orchid.
During bud, development orchids need plenty of bright but indirect light to adequately develop their buds. Once they begin to flower, light is much less important and orchids can be displayed in many locations away from windows that aren’t ideal during the rest of the growing period. A flowering orchid really shouldn’t be placed in a very bright location because they high light levels can speed up (and therefore shorten) the blooming cycle.
Over or Underwatering
Most of my bud blast experience comes from not watering my orchids adequately when they are flowering. If orchids feel like they are undergoing a drought they will drop buds to preserve resources and the remaining water for the plant so it’s really important to continue watering them throughout the blooming period. That said, often times orchids are removed from their sunny location to be placed on display in a lower light environment so they may not be drying out as quickly as before. Care should be taken to prevent them from sitting in water or waterlogging the roots.
The act of repotting can be stressful to plants and should be avoided while the orchid is in bloom. The perfect time to repot an orchid is immediately after the blooming cycle has ended since the plant is ready to settle into a new growing cycle and with the previous blooming cycle having ended so recently you won’t worry about repotting possibly disrupting the next blooming cycle.
Certain orchid pests such as mealybugs, aphids and thrips can cause bud blast by sucking the juices from the plant and weakening the overall plant vigor. Pests are a serious issue and depending on the type can be controlled with neem oil, rubbing alcohol or other pest management products.