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Orchids For Dummies: How To Tell If You’re Overwatering Or Underwatering Orchids

Making sure your orchid gets the right amount of water means walking the fine line between enough and too much. Falling on either side of that line can cause significant health damage for your orchid. Overwatering and underwatering orchids show many of the same symptoms because the effect of both practices is the same — damaged or destroyed root systems, which result in a dehydrated orchid.

Reading Orchid’s Roots

The appearance of your orchid’s roots can reveal what kind of care your orchid needs when it first arrives in your home as well as what might be wrong if your orchid starts to experience health problems.

Roots have healthy green color means that your orchid is sufficiently watered and does not need any more water at this time.
Roots have greyish-white color means that the orchid is not receiving enough water. Use our three ice cube watering method to ensure your orchid gets the right amount of water.
Roots are brown and mushy looking your orchid might be in danger of developing root rot. If you suspect your orchid might have root rot, stop watering immediately.

Overwatering and Underwatering orchids show many of the same symptoms because the effect of both practices is the same — damaged or destroyed root systems, which result in a dehydrated orchid.

Signs of Dehydration

  • Pleated leaves on orchids like miltonias
  • Excessively shriveled pseudobulbs (thickened, swollen stems) of some orchids, like cattleyas
  • Droopy, soft, and puckered leaves on cattleyas
  • Yellow and wilted bottom leaves on phalaenopsis
  • Bud blast (in which the buds fall off instead of opening) on all orchids

Overwatering or Underwatering may cause root rot to your orchid. Here are the signs of root rot:

  • Loss of buds for no apparent reason: If your buds are dropping and you can’t figure out why, root rot might be the cause.
  • Soft, withered leaves: Healthy orchid leaves are strong and hold their shape. If your leaves are floppy, your plant might be developing root rot.
  • Black, squishy orchid roots: This is the biggest indicator of root rot. Take action immediately!
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