Q. Why are my Phalaenopsis orchid's leaves so dry looking?
There are several possible causes of dry leaves in Phalaenopsis (moth orchid).
First of all, how is your watering technique? It is best to water in the morning, never at night, as plants take up water during the day. Watering at night can cause root rot. Water thoroughly, using tepid or room-temperature water and pouring a lot all the way through the potting mixture. Thorough watering will encourage deep roots. You may have to take it to a sink when doing this watering. Misting isn’t totally important for the moth orchid.
Although your orchid will bloom in a northern window (maybe), east, west, and south are so much better--especially eastern exposure right on the window sill. But if you only have a north-facing location, place it on the sill.
Make sure that the orchid is not moving around in its pot. It must be secure, so you may have to add more potting mixture to hold it in place. Support it with a bamboo stake with a clip on a flowering stem. A wire clip across the pot also helps to secure it.
Once the flowers have faded, cut with a sterile tool all the way down and remove.
If your orchid is more than 2½ years old, it’s time to replace the potting mixture. If you add all new potting mixture (bark mix, no real soil in there), you will have to take it to the sink and flow water around in it several times (3-4 minutes) to get the new mix to absorb moisture at the get-go, since it’s new and dry. Usually it is best to feel the mixture about 4 days after the initial watering (stick your finger through the drainage hole) to see if it is dry or still damp. If it is damp, don’t water yet. If dry, it's time to water all the way through to wet the entire mix again for a few moments.
Once your orchid leaves look hydrated and air roots come out of the pot, it should be healthy. If nothing happens, the roots have dried up or rotted, and so your plant is not going to grow.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service