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Why Are My Orchid Leaves Curling: 6 Reasons Must Know

When caring for orchids, even experienced growers can encounter the problem of orchid leaves bending. From light source, water supply to temperature or humidity are all factors that cause this problem.

In this article, we will delve into the 6 main reasons you need to understand why orchid leaves curl and provide solutions to fix each cause.

Problem TypesProblem DescriptionsHow To Prevent
LightingLight exposure can cause curling, elongated, weak growth, or scorching of orchid leaves.Adjust the light intensity or relocate orchids to suitable lighting conditions, as most thrive in bright, indirect light.
WateringExcessive watering can cause root rot and curl in orchids, while inconsistent moisture is crucial for their growth and health.Water orchids when the potting mix is dry, ensuring it retains moisture but isn’t waterlogged.
Potting mixA loose or unstable potting mix can result in the orchid not receiving proper support, leading to curled leaves.Use a stable orchid potting mix for good drainage and repot orchids when the mix breaks down.
TemperatureExtreme temperature fluctuations or exposure to cold drafts can stress orchids, causing leaf curling.Maintain a stable temperature for your orchid species, avoiding sudden changes and drafts.
HumidityOrchids prefer higher humidity levels. Low humidity can cause the leaves to lose moisture, resulting in curling.Increase orchid humidity using trays, misting, humidifiers, or by grouping them together.
DiseasesDiseases such as fungal infections can affect orchid leaves, leading to curling.Avoid orchid overcrowding for proper air circulation. Isolate and treat promptly with fungicides if disease is suspected.

What Causes Orchid Leaves To Curl? 

It’s important to understand the reasons why your orchid’s leaves are curling. We provide you with six main causes: plants towards light sources, inappropriate water, temperature fluctuations, low humidity, your potted mix is unstable and diseases.

Source of light 

Orchids’ ability to adapt to light is very flexible. They can position themselves to find the optimal light source, to help them grow best. I tried to plant my orchid under a certain light direction, and my orchid leaves just twisted and bent in that direction. Therefore, if your orchid only receives light from one direction and for a long period, it will cause the leaves to curl and there is also a risk of skewed growth.

For balance, you should avoid moving or repositioning your plant now and then. Because your plant needs time to adapt, constant changes will cause stress to the plant, and slow down flowering.

Orchid leaves curl up following the light source

Overwatering

Most orchids will grow well and tolerate drought conditions better when planted in soggy soil. If the soil is too wet, the orchid roots have no air to breathe, become waterlogged, and stress the entire plant, causing the leaves to round and droop. You can check by observing the roots. If they look mushy, that’s a sign your plant is in a flooded state.

To solve this problem, you should not water for a week. I also encountered algae growing on the soil when it was too wet, and I replaced it with moss and removed the top layer of soil, but it still wasn’t very effective, my leaves orchids are still curling. So, I used another method, cut off the dead roots and planted them in new soil, and then the orchid grew healthier.

Not enough water

When orchids lack water, their leaves will lose water, and water pressure in the leaves will decrease, leading to them showing signs of weakness. However, after being watered again, the leaf cells will expand very quickly and cause the leaf to change its original shape and curl. In some cases, this can even lead to splitting leaves.

If you want to know whether your plant can get enough water, put your finger into the ground about a knuckle or use a wooden stick or chopstick to know if the soil is moist enough.

To hydrate the roots, you can mix Epsom salt in a gallon of water and soak the roots for 3 hours. In addition, you should schedule regular watering for your plants to prevent the substrate from being completely dehydrated.

The potted mix is unstable 

If your orchid is potted and it’s unstable, it may be the cause of drooping leaves. Because, when the plant roots are not firmly attached to the soil, they will wobble and constantly move to find a favorable position they can grow better. Moreover, Orchid leaves will curl and twist to another position to avoid tilting. This is normal and a natural response so they can survive on their own. 

To help them grow stably, You need to check and repot for them.  You should choose a pot with good drainage and a size suitable for your orchid. I usually use ceramic or clay pots with several holes to support air circulation. Besides, I also have a tip like using clamps or orchid planting stakes to stabilize the plant to help it stand firmly.

Check and repot orchids to help them grow stably.

Temperature

If orchids are grown under high direct heat (80°F or higher) for long periods, the plant will lose moisture and become dehydrated. So, their leaves start to look wrinkled and may curl up to minimize further water loss. 

Also, note that peak hours, such as 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., make plants most susceptible to dehydration because temperatures during this time will be high. Thus, you should avoid placing the plant near windows or outdoors.

To help the plant cool down, lightly mist the leaves. In addition, you should move the plant to another location, away from direct heat sources such as heaters and sunny windows.

Low humidity

In general, orchids are suitable for growing in environments with humidity from 50% to 70% so they grow well. However, depending on certain orchids, they may prefer more or less humidity.

I often grow plants like Phalaenopsis Orchids and have found these species prefer moderate humidity levels between 40% and 50%. Meanwhile, plants like Paphiopedilum Orchids will grow well when the environment has a higher humidity of about 60% to 80%.

Besides, if your houseplant does not have enough humidity (less than 30%), your orchid will dry out and lose water, leading to the leaves starting to curl inward or downward. 

To provide more humidity for the plant, I often take a tray and put some water and gravel in it, and then place the orchid pot on it, helping to add moisture to the orchid. Additionally, you can also spray a light mist on the leaves but do not water too much because it can cause the leaves to rot.

Diseases

For the above problems, the leaves are still hard and green. However, if the leaves of your orchid have the problem of changing color and becoming yellow, the entire plant will droop. In this situation, the cause may be that the orchid is infected with a fungus, called xylem, which penetrates through the roots and dries out the vascular system, leading to the plant not receiving the water and nutrients we provide. This can revive orchid.

At this time, you should buy a fungicide that is safe for your orchids and remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on rate and frequency of use.

How to Prevent Orchid Leaves from Curling

Here are some tips on how to prevent orchid leaves from curling to help your plants grow better: 

  • Depending on the species of plants you grow, build a separate watering schedule for your plants. For example, when I usually plant Phalaenopsis Orchids, I will water 7-10 days a week Or Vanda Orchids, I will water 3-4 days a week.
  • Always maintain humidity between 50-70% for most types of orchids. You can buy a humidifier, especially for dry winters.
  • Rotate your plant every week to ensure it gets even light exposure, avoiding leaves curling toward one side of the light source.
  • Use a small fan to help circulate air and prevent fungal and bacterial diseases.

Conclusion 

Understanding why orchid leaves curl helps you take better care of your orchid. Factors such as light, water, temperature, and pot stability play an important role in the growth of orchids. By carefully scheduling a reasonable watering schedule, maintaining appropriate humidity, and rotating the plant weekly for even exposure to light, it helps reduce the risk of leaf curling and helps the orchid bloom and grow healthily.

FAQs

  1. Is it a good idea to cut off my orchid's wilted leaves?

    Normally, you should not cut orchid leaves because it can lead to infection. However, if your plant is sick with a fungal or bacterial infection, removing damaged leaves may help resolve the problem.

  2. Why are my orchids creating new leaves but no flowers?

    Most orchids need enough light to bloom. So, if your plant is not flowering, you should reconsider the amount of light you give it. If the plant does not receive enough light, its leaves will change color and wilt.

  3. How often do orchids flower each year?

    Most orchids will grow and flower once a year. If they grow healthy, they may produce more flowers. Orchids will usually last from about 6 to 10 weeks. If you want your orchids to bloom during a certain season, choose plants that bloom during that time.

Kelly Lawrence

Kelly Lawrence

Kelly Lawrence is the CEO of Swipe Garden. Over 10 years in the writing and passion for gardening, she brings a wealth of expertise and creativity to the world of gardening. Kelly Lawrence has cultivated a community of plant lovers, making gardening accessible and enjoyable for all.