How to Revive Your Dying Orchid

Last Updated on August 16, 2022 by Stephanie

The reason orchids die is due to overwatering slow draining soils, and the absence of oxygen around the roots. Orchids need the top of the soil to dry out between the watering. When the soil is constantly damp, orchids suffer from root rot, with leaves turning yellow before dying back.

Orchids are epiphytes, which require more oxygen in their roots than most plants, and also direct, bright light with a temperature of 55degF (12degC) and 75degF (23degC) and relatively humid and far from wind and are only watered once the top inch of medium for potting is dry, however, the rest of the medium shouldnt be completely dry.

Orchids are often killed because theyre planted into a pot that holds excessive moisture, which causes the roots to decay and the leaves to become yellow and then die back.

Orchids should be placed with pine bark, or specially-formulated orchid potting mixes, and not than moss or regular pot soil.

In order to revive dying orchids it is essential to establish the ideal conditions for them by mimicking certain conditions found in their natural environment, and also by cutting off dying roots.

Continue reading to find out the reason for your orchid dying and the best way to bring it back…

Orchid Leaves and Stems Wilting, Turning Yellow (Overwatering)

  • Symptoms. The stems and leaves or the orchids wilting in appearance, then turning yellow, then dying. Roots may appear yellow, black or brown and have a soft texture, an unpleasant smell. They eventually become grey and paper.
  • Causes. Root rot or stem rot, is caused by excessive watering or overwatering, or potting soil that is too retaining moisture or is not compact enough to grow orchids (orchids require an aerated soil). Temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12degC) can cause orchids to become yellow.

The majority of orchid species are either epiphytes (which means they are specifically adapted to being able to grow on trees, and their roots absorb water in the air around them, rather than absorbing water from the soil) or they are cultivated on a loose and gravelly aggregates on the ground , with rapid drainage, meaning that their roots arent sitting in stagnant water or in damp soil.

To avoid your orchid becoming yellow, drooping and dying, and to ensure that you can cultivate orchids with success it is essential to replicate the conditions that they have in their natural habitat with a focus on good drainage, proper watering and bright, indirect lighting levels.

orchid with black background

The reason orchids change color is due to the over-watering and slow drainage of soils. The orchids need the soil to dry out between watering sessions. If the soil is always humid, the orchids stems and leaves turn yellow, then droop and the orchid will die back.

The yellow orchid leaves suggest that the roots arent in a position to move water or nutrients to the orchid because of the rot of the roots or excessive soil moisture has deprived oxygen that is required to allow the roots to breathe to allow the roots to perform their functions.

The roots of orchids that have been overwatered can appear brown, yellow or black, and can are mushy in texture and frequently a smell. The roots eventually die because of root rot, and appear thin, gray and thin. This contrasts with healthy orchid roots that are light gray or green and feel firm.

Generally orchids need to be watered every 7 days or so during the spring and summer months and every 10-14 days during Winter and Fall to ensure that they are watered enough, but to prevent root rot.

(Read the article below to find out the best time you should water your orchids at various seasons and in various climates).

To prevent yellow leaves on orchids, it is essential to plant orchids in proper potting medium made of pine bark because normal potting soil or peat moss can hold too many moisture levels for orchids to withstand and does not have the aerated porous structure that allows oxygen to reach the orchids roots, allowing them to breathe and function normally.

Even when you dont water often, the orchid stems and leaves can change color when they are planted in the potting soil which retains excessive moisture or the size of the particles in the soil is not enough that causes a deficiency of oxygen in the soil around the roots.

It is important to note that orchids must be repotted using a new potting medium each 2 to 3 years.

This is due to orchids needing plenty of oxygen surrounding the roots to ensure efficient respiration of the roots.

When you notice that the potting medium begins to degrade (into the compost-like consistency) over the course of 2 to 3 years, the size of the pores and the amount of air surrounding the roots shrinks, which results in the roots becoming suffocated and the orchid becomes yellow, then dies.

Orchids may also change color if placed in pots that do not have drainage holes in the base , or due to the presence of trays and saucers beneath the pots, causing water to collect at in the base of the container, which causes a constant damp pitting mix on the root, increasing the chance for root rot as well as other fungal diseases which causes the orchids leaves to change color to yellow.

A good drainage system is essential for orchids to thrive, so ensure that you place them into pots that have holes at the base to let water drain easily after irrigation.

(Read my article on selecting the most suitable pots to grow orchids for additional tips).

It is important to note that even if orchids sport yellow leaves and some of the roots seem to be decaying however, they can recover in the event that there are certain roots that appear to be well-maintained…

Crown Rot Causing Yellow Leaves and Stems

It is also important to note that its best practice to water orchids at soil at the level of the soil (or in the form of a basin) and avoid watering directly on the stems and leaves

Orchid leaves may form an elongated funnel that allows water to collect on the top of the flower (rather than drain to the ground) which could cause the crown to rot because of stagnant water.

The rot in the crown can cause the stem and leaves of the orchid to yellow, and then eventually change to black or brown and cause that orchids to die back.

How to revive orchids with Yellow, Wilting Leaves, and Stems that are irrigated

  • First, you must cut back the frequency of watering the orchid, and then allow the soil to dry out. In general, orchids need to be watered every seven days, but it is best to wait until the top inch or two of the medium to appear dry prior to watering it again. This can be different depending on your location, the type of potting medium used and the dimensions that the container. (Read my blog post on the importance of watering your orchids for more information).
  • Make sure that your orchid has placed in a potting mix specially designed to grow orchids. The pine bark-based mix performs best because of its aerated structure as well as good drainage that mimics the soil conditions that are typical of the orchids natural habitat. If your orchid is cultivated in potting soil that is not standard or moss, it will retain excessive moisture around the root of your orchid, which hinders the orchids ability to absorb nutrients and water that causes the leaves to change color and cause the plant to die So, repot your orchid in a specially-formulated orchid potting mix made of pine bark (rather than moss) to avoid root decay.
  • Examine the roots for any signs of illness. Healthy orchid roots typically appear light gray to green dependent on the amount of time they were watered and usually feel soft and plump. If the roots of your orchid are soft, black or brown frequently with a foul smell, then it could be a sign of disease or stress due to a deficiency of oxygen in the roots. You should reduce the roots that are unhealthy.
  • Snip back any diseased or unhealthy roots in healthy development. Utilize a sterilized pair of pruning scissors or pruners and trim those roots that appear brown or black because these roots cannot longer carry nutrients or water and could cause your orchid to shrink further if theyre not eliminated. Clean off the cutting edges of the pruning tools using alcohol or disinfectants in between each cut to avoid, potentially spreading fungal pathogens onto otherwise healthy tissue. Cut the roots that are diseased back to their healthy growth, and all back to the base , if needed.
  • If there are healthy, live, green (or lighter grey) roots left, then the orchid could be rejuvenated. The snipping of damaged or decayed roots may appear quite drastic, but orchids are more resilient than their reputation suggests in terms of reviving and regrowing.
  • If the stems are yellow, cut them back to a healthy growth, even if that involves trimming the plant back down to the bottom of the orchid. This can help to stop spreading disease, and when the stem is yellow, it is no longer functional. Cutting back can help encourage the development of new stems.
  • Yellow leaves usually die back, but dont remove any yellow leaves when theyre still connected. By removing the leaves, you could harm the orchid, but they are likely to become brown and disappear in the end, before new leaves appear.
  • Replant your orchid in a suitable potting mediums like the pine bark, or even a specially-formulated orchid mix. The potting mediums made of pine bark are the ideal aerated form that promotes the respiration of roots and an adequate drainage to allow your orchid to repopulate. Dont use an old potting medium since it could be a host for pathogens of fungal diseases that cause illness.
  • The orchid should be given a good bath after repotting to reduce shock from transplantation. Keep the orchid in a place that is bright and indirect sunlight and preferably in cold (not freezing) temperatures for about a period of about a week. The orchid may experience trauma following the removal of roots, so it is essential to limit any strain to the minimal. Direct sunlight and high temperatures can increase the orchids need for water during a time when the amount of roots that absorb water has decreased to save the plant.
  • Maintain the orchid within the temperature range of 55degF (12degC) at night , and the maximum temperature during the daytime that is 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23degC), in indirect light and in water until you notice that the upper inch the medium for potting is dry (typically about every 7 or so days) with an adequate soak.
  • Mist the leaves with water each two or three days in order to ensure an environment that is humid and replicates the humid conditions found in the orchids natural habitat. This can also help reduce the transpiration (water loss) from the leaves , which is essential for the revival of the orchid while it is developing new roots.

If there are healthy green (or lighter gray) roots that feel solid and full, there is an opportunity that the orchid could be saved.

Orchids are unique in that they can also photosynthesis (usually only the job of leaves for the majority of plants) this is the way that an orchid is able to generate energy and grow even when the leaves are dying and yellow.

Plastic pots that are clear (rather than decorative pots) will increase the chance of your orchid being revived, because it allows light to penetrate the roots to allow photosynthesis even without healthy, functioning leaves.

The length of time required to regenerate varies based on how much the orchid was affected and the number of roots removed however, provided you create the proper conditions for the orchid, you will eventually notice new leaves beginning to emerge at the base of the plant, and new roots appearing in the coming weeks.

Check out this YouTube video to get a visual guide if youre unsure of something:

Orchid Leaves Yellow or Brown Because of Sunburn

  • Symptoms. The leaves of orchids turn brown or yellow with a scorched look. Flowers and leaves can be sloughed off by stress.
  • Causes. Orchids need filtered light or bright, indirect light. They can also burn in intense sunlight.

In their natural habitat, most orchids are epiphytes (which means they are able to grow upon other plants) therefore they naturally adapted to grow in shade, away from the suns full rays, however, they can still be found in bright sunlight.

Thus, orchid leaves can be vulnerable to the effects of direct sunlight. Therefore, it is recommended to place orchids in a space with direct, bright sunlight or perhaps filtered sunlight, not the full sun to mimic the conditions in their natural habitat.

When the orchid sits exposed to too much sunlight the leaves may burn and change color from yellow to brown according to the intensity of sunburn.

A lot of intense light could cause drying out of the orchid too rapidly both from the leaves and the potting medium , and can cause the signs of drought stress.

The leaves often change color, then die and then fall off. Unfortunately, individual sun-burned leaves are usually not saved, but orchids can be revived by putting on new leaves.

Orchids Dying From Drought (Drooping Leaves)

  • Symptoms. Roots appear to be shriveled, white, and then die back. The leaves droop downwards, lose their form and feel loose rather than hard. The leaves can change color and turn yellow, and flowers may fall off due to stress from drought. The stem of orchids can be brown, and then fade again.
  • Causes. Insufficiently watering orchids or watering too light excessive heat, high humidity, and too much sunlight.

Orchids are typically at greater at risk of drowning than overwatering because they prefer well-drained and porous mediums for potting.

But orchids may still be affected by drought stress if they arent watered frequently enough, or if they are watered insufficiently or if they live in a hot environment with low humidity , which drains moisture from the leaves and dry the potting medium too fast so that the roots cannot absorb water.

Typically, orchids need to be watered well at least once each seven to 14 days (depending on the climate) to ensure that water drains from the drainage holes at the base, ensuring that the roots are nourished with water.

When the orchid has been not watered enough it is only the upper inch or two of medium gets wet, and the roots are unable to get the water they need.

The first indication of an orchid suffering from drought is when the leaves begin to drop. When there is severe stress from drought, the leaves may change color and the roots shrink and become thin, white and papery, then die back.

If some of the roots get shriveled, and die, the orchid is unable to move water and nutrients throughout the plant in a proper manner, which causes the leaves to turn yellow , and the flowers and leaves can fall off.

If some roots remain alive, the orchid will recover from drought if you follow the correct watering methods and make sure your orchid is between 55degF (12degC) and 75degF (23degC) and away from the full sun to lessen stress while the orchid recovers.

How to Revive Orchids With Sun Burnt Yellow Leaves

  • Put your orchid in a place that is bright and indirect to lessen strain on your plant as well as avoid further damage. Orchids adapt to shade conditions in the canopy, so it is essential to mimic the conditions you find when placing your orchids.
  • Leave any leaves that are severely damaged to dry out and fall off on themselves. The sun-burned leaves will eventually dry out and die back , but taking them off too soon can cause damage to the plant.
  • It is recommended to repot your orchid in an unglazed plastic pot. Orchids are common in the world of plants because their roots can be used for photosynthesizing and supplying energy to the plant. They do not have a primary purpose, but placing them in pots that are clear so that roots can get sunlight is crucial to help the orchid to revive and grow new leaves.
  • The orchid will eventually begin to develop new leaves (which tend to be tiny) and with proper treatment (watering properly and making sure orchids are within the right temperatures) the orchid will begin to recover.

It may take a while for orchids to recover after their leaves have burned because leaves tend to fall off (which decreases the ability of the orchid to generate the energy) It takes time to allow the orchid to develop new leaves. But with a bit of patience, orchids will eventually repopulate and bloom again.

How to Revive a Drooping Orchid

  • Put the orchid into a bowl of water for about 10 minutes making sure that the roots are completely submerged. While orchids dont require frequent watering like other house plants, they do best when their medium for potting has a sufficient soak after each round of watering. The act of placing a drought-stricken orchid in a water basin will allow the much-needed water to reach the roots and ensures that the potters medium is evenly moist. Remove the orchid from the water within 10 mins, and let the excess water flow freely out of drain holes.
  • Make sure to provide the orchids potting medium an adequate soak. While its not required to put your orchid in the basin each when you water it however, it is essential to water your orchids thoroughly and let the water flow out from the bottom in the container. This will ensure that your potting media remains evenly moist, and that the orchids roots are able to absorb the water they need to replenish the water reserves that are stored within the orchids root (so that they appear plump instead of shrinking).
  • Increase the frequency of watering your orchid (if required). They require less watering than most house plants however, the potting medium shouldnt be completely dry between sessions in watering. The typical orchids are regularly watered in Summer and Spring, and every 14 days during Winter and Fall, however this can vary based on weather and climate.
  • To determine when to water your orchid depending on the climate in which you live, you can feel the potting medium using your fingers to feel for the amount of moisture. The top inch of medium is to allow to air dry out between watering sessions to ensure that the orchid is getting enough water needs and to prevent root decay. If the top of the inch is damp, then wait for at least a day. If the top inch is dry, its the ideal moment to give your orchid a good soak. an ample soak.
  • Mist and roots, the roots of orchid leaves frequently. Mist the roots and leaves of the orchid to minimize transpiration (water loss) from the leaves when they are stressed by drought. The houses are typically less humid than the orchids natural environment, therefore misting or using humidifiers is the best way to stop the leaves from falling. Spray the roots and leaves every day to create a moist micro-climate that can help to revive the orchid that is drooping.
  • Make sure orchids are placed in a location that receives direct light that is bright and clear instead of full sunlight. While youre looking to revive your stressed orchid, keep it out of from direct sunlight or filtering it as it can cause roots and leaves drying out too fast. The majority of orchid species live in the forest, and therefore prefer not to be in direct sunlight, which could burn the leaves.
  • Maintain orchids in temperatures between 55degF and 80degF since high temperatures can cause drought stress. The cooler temperatures provide the ideal conditions for orchids to recover without stress due to dry conditions.

It is also beneficial to remove dead, green, white roots since the roots dont repopulate and cutting them back may help to encourage the growth of healthy roots. When the roots (or flowers spikes) become brown cut them back to their base using the help of scissors or pruners to encourage the growth of new plants.

By consistently watering, misting leaves to increase humidity, and putting the orchid in indirect, bright sunlight at the correct temperatures, your orchid will begin showing signs recovery in the coming weeks, and eventually bloom again.

Too Much Fertilizer can Burn Orchid Roots

  • Symptoms. The leaves become floppy and the orchid has fewer or none at all, and the roots may change color, either black or brown. Sometimes, the leaves change color to yellow.
  • Causes. The typical fertilizer for houseplants is too powerful for orchids. Do not apply fertilizer too frequently or in a high amount. The accumulation of salts from fertilizer may prevent orchids roots from drinking water, which makes the leaves yellow.

Orchids can grow with their roots exposed to other trees or in soil that is loose which is why they dont require a lot of fertilizer.

But some feeds are essential for healthy growth and help flower, but it is crucial to make use of fertilizers that are specifically designed for orchids.

An orchid fertilizer that has been specifically designed includes all the nutrients that the orchid needs at the proper concentration to promote healthy growth and encourage flowering.

A lot of fertilizer can cause the leaves of orchids to become floppy and do not show flowers. The roots may also get burned and cause the roots to cease to work properly, and the orchid to die back.

How to Revivify an Orchid with burned Roots

  • First, reduce the use of fertilizers and then place the orchids in an area to rinse the orchids roots under the tap for about 10 minutes. The thorough watering will help dissolving some salts that may accumulate in the soil following the use of excessive fertilizer. The water should drain through the drainage holes, and then allow that top layer of the soil to dry.
  • After youve dissolved the salts in excess under the tap, and that the upper inch the medium for potting is dry, remove the orchid from its pots and examine the roots. The roots of the orchid are likely to be lighter gray, and they should feel solid and plump when they are healthy.
  • When the root appears to be brown or black, you may cut them back towards the base of the plant, as the roots are unable to perform their function.
  • Repot your orchid, ideally to a new potting medium made of pine bark or other special orchid mix (avoid Sphagnum moss as it retains excessive moisture) because a new potters mix can reduce the effects of fertilizers that are too high.
  • The leaves that are turning yellow will likely to change color. Theyll eventually change to brown, then die and drop off the plant. Dont attempt to remove the leaves with force, as it could damage the orchid.
  • Make sure you take good treatment of the orchid, and it will begin to show signs of rebirth in the coming months, with new leaves appearing as well as new root growth replacing the damaged ones.

I would like to emphasize that it is important to use a specifically designed orchid fertilizer (available at garden centers and on Amazon) for providing orchids with food.

Orchids natural conditions for growth are quite unique (they prefer to be a part of trees and usually get nutrients from rainwater or water vapor surrounding them) and their roots are too delicate to fertilizers that are commonly used.

Special orchid fertilizers that is applied with the right frequency and in the appropriate amount should encourage healthy blooming and encourage flowering. Therefore, always adhere to the manufacturers instructions.

Orchid Flowers and Flower Buds Falling Off

  • Symptoms. Flowers or orchids disappearing suddenly.
  • Causes. The orchid can be stressed because of a variety of factors, like a difference in humidity or temperature. Insufficient light or sunlight can cause the buds to fall. Stress due to dehydration or excessive watering.

If the flowers of orchids or flower buds are falling off, it is typically an indication that the conditions where the orchid grows is different from the environment to which orchids have adapted.

The flowers of orchids fall off abruptly when there is a large difference in humidity or temperature. Temperatures below the 55degF (12degC) or above 75degF (23degC) create stress, and is the most common reason that causes flowers and buds to drop off your orchid.

Orchids like a humid climate, so when there is an change in humidity, the orchid may drop its flowers because of stress. The fluctuation in humidity could be caused by heating in the indoor or air conditioning, as well as draughts.

The inability to water orchids light can cause flowers and buds to fall in order to save resources.

Orchids are extremely sensitive to excessive watering, which could result in a variety of symptoms, including the buds and flowers dropping and the leaves dying.

How to Revivify Orchids by letting flowers drop off

  • After the flower or buds have gone away, theres nothing you can do except to address the stress which caused the flower to fall off in the first place.
  • Make sure your orchid lives placed in an environment that is that is between (12degC) between 75degF and 55degF (23degC). Orchids are incredibly sensitive to temperature fluctuations even within their ideal temperature range, so it is important to maintain the temperatures relatively constant. Make sure your orchid is away from drafts coming from open windows, away from direct flow of air conditioning , and away from radiators and sources of heat sources.
  • The air inside houses is typically less humid than the orchids natural environment. Increase the amount of humidity through misting your foliage to produce a humid microclimate which replicates the conditions of the orchids natural habitat. Spray your orchids every two days if you reside in an area with low humidity. Arranging orchids in bathrooms and kitchens is also a good idea since they are the areas with the highest humidity in homes.
  • Light that is indirect and bright can encourage flowering, so make sure to place your orchid somewhere in your home in a bright area but not directly in the sun. If the orchid is located in a room that is dark it will not have enough energy to create flowers in the same way.
  • Orchids need to be watered less frequently than most house plants however they should not be allowed to completely dry. The top of the container should be left to dry between periods of watering. This ensures that the orchid is adequately watered and prevents the risk of excessive watering, such as root decay.
  • Apply a specific orchid fertilizer according to the manufacturers instructions to make sure that the orchid is receiving all the nutrients in the correct concentration to encourage flowering. Dont apply regular fertilizer for your houseplants as it could cause the orchid to die.

If the conditions are right, orchids will keep their flower buds and flowers and then bloom again, typically in the Fall of Spring or Winter.

(Read my article on what is the reason my orchid flower buds and flowers disappearing).

Orchid Dying After Repotting

If your orchid is dying following repotted, it could be due to: the result of:

  • Transplant shock. The process of transplanting orchids can be stressful especially when their roots are damaged or they move from one place to another due to a difference in temperature, light or airflow. Make sure your orchid is within the proper temperature range Between 55degF (12degC) and 75degF (23degC) in direct light that is bright (rather than too mush shade or in full sunshine) and protect your orchids from air currents and draughts following repotting.
  • Transplanting orchids into an potting medium that retains moisture. Orchids require aerated mediums for potting and thrive with pine bark, or specially-formulated orchid mix. Sphagnum moss can hold too excessive moisture for orchids to endure and the orchid will die in the roots (yellow leaves with a the appearance of wilting, and roots that turn dark brown or black with an emollient texture). The typical potting soil holds excessive moisture and is an unnatural structure that doesnt provide enough oxygen to the roots to allow orchids to thrive.
  • Overwatering. Orchids are extremely susceptible to being overwatered. Make sure to wait until that top inch the medium to dry before re-watering.
  • Pots with no drain holes on the bottom, and the use of saucers and trays. If you are repotting your orchid, make sure it is placed in a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom that allow the excess water to drain after watering. Decorated containers, saucers and trays may cause water to collect on the orchids roots, causing root decay. Be sure to empty the out saucers, pots, and trays after watering your orchids to avoid water getting into root of orchids, leading to root decay.

Key Takeaways:

  • The reason orchids die is due to root rot caused by overwatering or soils that hold excessive water. Orchids need the top inch of soil to dry out between watering sessions. The excess watering can cause the orchids stems and leaves to weaken become yellow, and the roots to die due to root decay.
  • Orchid leaves become yellow and then wilt when planted in moss or regular pots because they hold excessive moisture, which can cause root decay. Orchids must be planted in pine bark in order to mimic their natural soil conditions, which include adequate drainage and air circulation around the roots to avoid the yellowing of leaves and root rot that may develop.
  • The reason that orchid leaves drop is due to dehydration caused by the water as well as low levels of humidity. Water orchids that get a good soak every seven days as well as misting their foliage once every two days to create a moist micro-climate that can mimic the natural growth conditions. It also revives the leaf drop in orchids.
  • A lot of fertilizer can cause burns to delicate orchid roots, causing root die back and the leaves of orchids to become floppy and yellow and stop flowering. Orchids are not tolerant of regular fertilizers for houseplants and need special fertilizers specifically designed for orchids.
  • The reason the leaves of orchids turn yellow are due to root rot caused by sunburn, overwatering excessive fertilizer use or even cold temperatures. Orchids are prone to excessive watering and excessive fertilization, which can kill the roots and cause the leaves to turn yellow. The leaves of orchids turn yellow and burn when they are in full sunlight.
  • The reason orchids drop off is due to stress caused by cold or hot temperatures, dehydration, excessive watering and low levels of humidity. Orchids need a steady indoor temperature between 55degF and 75degF in indirect, bright light and some humidity to avoid the flowers and buds from falling off.
  • To revive dying orchids make sure that the conditions are similar to the orchids natural habitat with indirect lighting, steady temperatures, and cut off the dying roots and then repot the orchid in the potting medium of pine bark. Only water orchids once you are sure that the upper inch medium for potting is dry.


Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)