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Orchid Won’t Bloom?

How to Get Orchids to Bloom and Rebloom

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With the exception of certain orchids like the ludisia, gardeners don’t generally grow orchids for their foliage. It’s frustrating to stare at an orchid everyday like a watched pot waiting to boil, longing for flowers that never appear. It’s even more frustrating to watch an orchid develop buds that shrivel and drop without ever opening. Here are eight reasons your orchid won’t bloom, and what to do about them.

1. Not Enough Light

Photo © Maja Dumat, flickr.com
Inadequate light is the number one reason orchids refuse to bloom or rebloom. Dendrobium, cattleya, and cymbidium orchids are three popular varieties that like bright conditions. If your orchid never leaves the dim confines of the house or office, you may need a grow light to achieve flowers.

2. Too Much Light

If you’ve placed your orchid in full sun, you may notice severe symptoms like sunburned leaves, but even an overabundance of artificial light can suppress blooming. In addition to cooler evening temperatures, the shortening days of autumn can signal an orchid to form buds. If you’re keeping your orchid in a room where the lights stay on 24 hours a day, your orchid misses this important natural cue. If you’re using artificial lights, use a timer to simulate the cycle of natural daylight and darkness.

3. Temperature

You might be aware of your orchid’s preference for warm temperatures, as a tropical plant. Orchids also need to experience a temperature differential to trigger blooming. If possible, expose your orchids to nighttime temperatures 10 degrees cooler than the daytime temperatures for two weeks at the initiation of the orchid’s blooming season.

4. Fertilizer

While it’s true that orchids aren’t heavy feeders, an orchid living in a sterile inorganic potting mix may need a nutrient boost to put on its best performance. The best fertilizer type for orchids is a urea-free fertilizer, which provides nitrogen even in the absence of the microorganism activity common in rich garden soils.

5. Season

While many of our favorite garden flowers bloom in the summer, many orchids bloom in the fall, followed by winter and spring bloomers. Buying a plant in bloom isn’t necessarily a sign of when the plant should bloom, as growers can induce bloom in the greenhouse by altering light and temperature. Identify your orchid, and then you can learn about its natural blooming cycle.

6. Repotting

Repotting is a tricky business for orchid growers. When your orchid media begins to break down, the roots can suffocate from lack of sufficient ventilation. However, some orchids resent having their root zone disturbed, and will refuse to bloom for six months to a year after repotting. Still other orchids prefer to be root bound and will bloom only when it seems they are on the verge of being strangled by their pots.

7. Overwatering

If you’re giving your orchid too much water, failure to bloom may be a precursor to quick decline and plant death. Orchids about to bloom that receive too much water may shed their buds. Most orchids need to dry out between watering, and you should never allow your orchids to have wet feet. Tailor your watering schedule to your plant’s potting medium, pot size, and environment. If the roots are turning brown, you’re watering too much. Wrinkled leaves can be a sign of too little or too much water.

8. Not Enough Water

Some orchid growers err on the side of desiccation in their well-intentioned efforts to avoid overwatering the plants. Remember, orchids hail from humid jungles, and are subject to regular gentle rain showers. If your orchid becomes too dry, the leaves will draw water from developing buds in an attempt at self-preservation. How sad it is to see your long awaited orchid buds yellow, shrivel and drop one by one as the plant draws moisture back into the roots and leaves. If your busy schedule has you forgetting to water often, use a humidity tray to create a friendlier orchid growing environment.
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