Why Are My Orchid Flowers Falling Off?

Orchids are among the most elegant and attractive flower species out there. In fact, despite their exquisite yet delicate look, they’re surprisingly easy to care for! Orchids also bloom beautiful flowers and can last for several years. So why are my orchid flowers falling off?

Orchid flowers usually fall off as the plant goes into a dormancy period, which is generally a few weeks after it blooms. Additionally, fluctuations and unsuitable conditions when it comes to watering, temperature, humidity, contamination, and other factors can cause the flowers to fall off.

If you want to find out more about those reasons and what to do about them, this guide will cover everything you need to know. So without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. Natural Life Cycle

If your orchid flowers are falling off, you shouldn’t panic, as it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve done anything wrong. In fact, orchid flowers dying and wilting is actually a part of the plant’s natural life cycle.

Dead withered orchid flowers isolated on white background

Although there are anywhere around 28,000 species of orchids out there, only a few of them are commonly used as houseplants (around 20).

While the blooming season of orchid flowers may vary depending on the plant’s species, the majority of houseplant orchids, such as Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis), Catasetum, and Cattleya, will bloom once per year under regular conditions. 

Orchids can flower any time of the year. But in most cases, the plant will usually grow buds in winter for them to bloom during early spring to mid summer.

When that happens, the flowers will continue to bloom for a few weeks, which can extend from 6 to 10 weeks, depending on various aspects. These include the orchid species and the growing conditions, and the quality of the plant’s genetics.

After that time, the orchid flowers will usually wilt and fall off the plant, which is a natural part of the plant’s life cycle.

Following the blooming stage, the plant will go into a dormancy or hibernation stage, in which it looks lifeless with no growth or buds. Don’t worry, the plant is simply regaining its energy for another blooming season.

Technically, there isn’t much you need to do at that time, but here are some tips for optimal plant care:

  • Avoid overwatering during that time, as the plant needs very little water
  • Cut off the flower stem above the flowering nodes to encourage a brighter bloom, as they won’t regrow from the same stem again.
  • Prune back the stem to the plant base once all flowers fall off and die

2. Inadequate Watering

A lot of orchid new owners are excited about their new plant that they end up watering them too much.

The problem here is that orchids are somewhat sensitive to excessive watering, which can bring a lot of issues that end up causing more harm than good.

Ideally, you need to water your orchid flower only when the top 1 inch of the soil is fairly dry, which is usually once every week during the regular blooming season. 

The moisture evaporates slower in winter, so you may extend the watering frequency to every 10 days in colder months.

When the roots of the plant are overwhelmed with water, they become unable to absorb oxygen from the soil. This leads to suffocation that kills the flower bud and causes the flowers to eventually fall 

If you’re watering more than once a week, you’ll notice that the leaves of the orchid are slightly plump, despite being a little too bright or even yellow. In that case, you should tune down your watering frequency immediately.

On the other hand, while orchid flowers are somewhat tolerant to drought, severe dehydration of the soil can also be a problem for the plant and will eventually cause the flowers to fall off prematurely.

When the plant is getting very little water, it goes into a conservation mode, in which the plants cut off nutrients and water supply to its flowers in order to prevent the depletion of its water reserves.

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3. Poor Soil Quality

While potting your orchid flower, make sure that you’re using the right mix because the soil is responsible for critical aspects like nutrition, water supply, and aeration.

By messing up the soil quality, you’ll eventually disrupt some or all of these conditions, leading to various symptoms like drooping or dying flowers.

The best potting medium for orchids are pine-based acidic ones because they’re well drained, so they’ll prevent the retention of water that ends up causing root rot and similar problems.

Additionally, pine bark and moss will create air channels in the soil, which helps in providing more oxygen to the roots. 

With that said, the optimal conditions for orchids may vary from one species to another, so make sure that you research your species specifically.

4. Inadequate or Sudden Change in Temperature

Orchid species are mostly native to tropical and subtropical regions, so they usually prefer a relatively warm temperature, ranging from 65 to 86 °F (19 to 30°C).

Since temperatures in tropical regions are generally stable for months, orchids aren’t naturally prepared to tolerate sudden fluctuations in temperature easily.

If you live in an area where temperatures change quickly throughout the day or between the day and the night, it’s quite likely for the flowers to start falling off.

To avoid this effect, make sure that you place your orchid plant away from cold drafts, heat vents, Air conditioners, etc. 

You can also buy a room thermometer to monitor the temperature indoors and keep the plant within a healthy range.

Room thermometer with Celsius scale

5. Low Humidity Level

Speaking of room thermometers, some of them also come with a built-in hygrometer that helps you keep track of the humidity level in the room.

This can be a great bonus because humidity level is another reason why your orchid flowers may start falling off.

As previously established, many orchid flowers are originally native to tropical regions that are characterized by high humidity, so they usually thrive in humidity levels between 40% and 70%.

In winter, humidity levels may fall below 40%, which causes the flowers to die or fall off. You can solve this problem by using a humidifier.

6. Too Little or Too Much Light

Orchids typically thrive in the presence of bright light, especially indirect light coming from a southern or an eastern window. If you only have northern or western windows, you can use shades in order to reduce the intensity of the light.

Avoid leaving the plant under direct sunlight exposure because it can scorch the flowers as well as the leaves.

A healthy orchid that is receiving a proper amount of light per day will display bright green leaves rather than dull or dark green.

Keep in mind that orchid flowers that are exposed to sunlight more often will have their soil drying up much quicker. 

For that reason, remember to always test the level of moisture of the soil and make sure that it’s not too dry or too damp.

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7. Infestations and Diseases

Another reason why orchid flowers may fall off too early is due to infections or pest infestations, as there are several critters that could target your beloved plant.

For starters, one of the most common pests that may cause the flowers to fall off is thrips. These tiny parasitic insects will pierce the plant’s stem to feed on its sap, which causes the leaves to become yellow and shriveled as well as the flowers to fall off.

Other pests that can also attack orchids and cause the flowers to fall off include whiteflies, caterpillars, snails, and slugs.

In addition to infestations, orchids can also suffer from fungal infections that cause the flowers to fall off, such as blight fungi (Botrytis cinerea) in addition to plant canker causing fungi (Anthracnose).

Remember to always check the plant for signs of infection, as you can easily get rid of them in the early stages using proper insecticide or fungicide.

8. Air Contamination

Another reason that many people overlook when it comes to orchid care is air contamination. At the end of the day, orchids are living organisms that will react to the air quality in your house.

For that reason, they can be sensitive to contamination by excessive chemical vapors in the air, which can be caused by perfumes, cigarette smoke, aerosols, air fresheners, fabric softeners, artificial detergents and cleaners, etc.

9. Transferring to a New Environment

Orchid replanting

Lastly, transferring any plant to a new environment can cause a shock at first that lasts for a few days. If the orchid has already bloomed before transferring, the flowers may end up falling off.

In that case, don’t worry, as this is just a natural reaction to sudden changes in the environment, which often happen while transferring. Ideally, the plant should get back to its normal growth patterns within a few weeks

Wrap Up: Why Are My Orchid Flowers Falling Off?

Orchid plants are surprisingly tolerant to harsh growing conditions, all the while looking remarkably attractive and gorgeous. However, they can fall off due to several reasons, including natural ones.

The initial and most common reason for the flowers to fall off is their natural dormancy cycle. If that’s the case, you shouldn’t worry, as they come back the next year. 

You also need to keep the growing conditions within specific ranges for optimal bloom health, as the flowers will fall off prematurely if the conditions are too far off.