Why is my orchid dying, and how to revive it?

Why is my orchid dying, and how to revive it?

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First of all, don’t rush to the conclusion that your orchid is actually dying if it’s looking a bit poorly, or the leaves and flowers are dropping off, or there’s no new growth or blooms in sight. This guide helps you become a detective to identify the problems behind the orchid’s difficulties and perhaps put them right. Of course, sometimes you just have to throw the plant away and start over again for the most serious issues, but usually, you can fully revive most orchids.

The problems can be pests and diseases (bugs etc.), environmental (growing conditions), and even the care you’re taking of the plant yourself (e.g. watering schedule). The last section of my guide deals with specific problems (such as leaves turning yellow) your plant may have.

Pests and diseases

Orchid with disease fungi effecting leaves

Let’s start with pests and diseases. This is where your detective-self needs to go and grab a magnifying lens. Take a close look at the leaves, stems, flowers and roots of your orchid plant. You’re looking for:

  • Tiny brown, black, green or white specks around 1mm to 6mm or even too tiny to really see easily. These could be sap-sucking insects such as scale insects, or other bugs.
  • Little sack-like balls covered with white webbing – insect eggs.
  • Shiny, clear and sticky substance, particularly on the leaves. This is honeydew, excreted by a variety of bugs that suck the sap from your plant.
  • White or black mould-like substance on the leaves, including the underside. The black powder may look like soot. These are fungal diseases that move onto your plant, especially on to the honeydew substance.
  • Splotches of different colours on the leaves or flowers – perhaps yellow, white or silver. This is where the insects have had a feast.
  • Black or brown squishy roots – diseased with root rot.
Scale insects on orchids
Scale insects on orchids

If you notice any of these on your plant, head immediately over to the Orchid pests and diseases article. The information there describes the pests and diseases that you commonly find on orchids and gives details about what to do about them.

Environmental conditions

Positioning orchid to give it the best growing environment
Positioning orchid to give it the best growing environment including plenty of indirect sunlight

If you’ve ruled out pests and diseases, then consider the environmental conditions in which your orchid plant is growing. Your orchid may be dying because it’s not in a location that reminds it of the tropical rainforest its species originally came from.

These are the environmental elements to be aware of:

  • Special soil
  • Temperature
  • Light
  • Humidity

Read How to grow and care for your orchid to find out what the best conditions for your orchid are. And then, take a close look around your orchid’s location to see if any of these elements are a bit off and could be the problem why your orchid is dying.

Care and maintenance

If your orchid has no bugs or diseases and it’s in a good location, chances are that it’s what you’re doing to it that’s causing the orchid to look like it’s dying. And that’s probably how you’re watering it. Over-watering the plant is the number one cause of orchids’ dying.

Here are the two care tasks that can make an orchid look like its dying:


This includes over-watering, under-watering and lack of humidity. This is such an important subject that I’ve devoted an entire article to it. Please read How and when to water your orchid.


A regular houseplant fertiliser is too strong for your orchid plant and can burn it by building up too many minerals in the potting soil. Use a fertiliser developed specifically for orchids and apply it every third or fourth watering only.

Specific problems

Maybe you have just one major problem that looks like it’s killing your plant. I’ve written a few articles that deal with the most common problems below.

Please check out:

Why are my orchid leaves turning brown?

Why are my orchid leaves turning yellow?

How to treat brown spots on orchid leaves?

Why is my orchid wilting?

Why is my orchid dropping blooms?

Why is my orchid stem turning brown?

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