How to revive an orchid with rotted roots (13 steps)


Orchids are one of the prettiest flowers globally, with very diverse and striking colors that are very popular for beautifying the garden and decoration. Though many have said that the plants are a bit difficult to take care of and foster because they often dry up and die, what really is needed is a little insight and information about their needs.

A well-known technique has shown that it is possible to revive an orchid with rotted roots, transplantation. Unfortunately, orchids are resistant; therefore, the only way to end them is if there has been an excess of humidity that ends up suffocating them and rotting the roots.

Reasons why orchid roots rot

Orchids are beautiful, elegant, and while they may appear fragile in appearance, they are actually adamant and easy to grow. Its complexity lies in the care of the orchids, which are mainly based on irrigation.

“Just as I wonder
whether it’s going to die,
the orchid blossoms
and I can’t explain why it
moves my heart, why such pleasure
comes from one small bud
on a long spindly stem, one
blood red gold flower
opening at mid-summer,
tiny, perfect in its hour.”

Sam Hamill

Excess water can be deadly, but fortunately, it is reversible if you act on time. Also, you will have to use orchid compost when the plant requires it. Even on some occasions, you will have to transplant an orchid when it is very damaged; otherwise, it could die.

Doing orchid transplants to help with orchid rotten roots

Orchid transplants are carried out basically for two reasons: the plant has been growing and already overflows the support widely or because if it is not done, the substrates will degrade, compact, and prevent good drainage and excess moisture. It ends up suffocating and rotting its roots.

Phalaenopsis is a good example of this since the only way to end orchids is to have excess water; if not, it will live badly, and it will not bloom, but it will continue to endure.

When these types of plants are abandoned for years, the roots are completely damaged. However, following these steps, it is possible to achieve sanitation.

Steps to cure rotten orchid roots

1. The first thing you should do is use clean and sharp tools to remove the plant from the pot or planter if we suspect that it may be due to soil flooding. If this is the reason, we will notice an unpleasant smell and watery and black roots. You should note that the roots can be susceptible to high humidity, so you must be very careful.

2. Under the tap or with a hose, we remove the soil next to the roots until they are so clean that we can see the damaged parts.

3. Remove flower stalks if you have them, whether they are new or old, as they use up a lot of energy for the plant, and you need to focus on recovering and surviving. Do the pruning with properly sharpened and disinfected scissors, as you should always do with any plant.

4. Also, with sharp scissors, we remove all the roots that are suspiciously soft and dark. In general, roots or parts that are in poor condition appear blackened or brown.

5. Leave the roots green or white. Do not be afraid; cut off all damaged roots and leave only those that are difficult to touch; you have to keep some of the healthy to maintain damaged roots, which are just a source of disease

6. In the roots of greater diameter, we apply a fungicidal healing and a protector against fungi.

7. Prepare a new pot or disinfect the old one thoroughly, replacing the substrate with a new and suitable one: it must be loose and offer excellent drainage. Here we tell you how to make an orchid substrate

8. When replanting, do not force the roots to enter the pot, as it is unnecessary: the orchid can survive without problems with its aerial roots. Add some sphagnum to the surface of the substrate.

9. Lightly mist the plant with a little leaf revitalizer, focusing on the underside of the leaves.

10. Do not allow water to collect under the pots in dishes or covers. A little after watering, do not forget to empty these containers.

11. We apply to the root neck and lower part of the plant some Fungicide to combat certain fungi that could attack damaged tissues.

12. Place the pot in a bright area without direct sunlight, and don’t water the plant for 24 to 48 hours.

13. We will observe the plant trying to calm the environment during the following days without drafts or sudden temperature changes.

We would also like to talk about the symptoms of rotten roots in orchids that one can look out for with all these steps.

Symptoms that your orchids have rotten roots

All plant lovers’ goal is to keep each plant beautiful and healthy, especially if it is a beauty like orchids. However, excess water is detrimental to its roots, weakening them to the point of rotting if not detected in time. But how can we know that something is wrong? What are the symptoms of excess water?

• They usually start to show a yellowish color.

• Growth becomes almost zero.

• The ground tends to turn green.

• Fungi begin to appear.

• When you remove the plant from the pot, you may notice that the roots begin to turn dark brown and even black.

With all this talk on excess watering, we really need to look into just how to water these beautiful plants to help them foster and grow.

How to water an orchid

Orchids are not plants as such, neither because of their origin nor because of their flowering. Therefore, they are not watered like any other plant, nor are the care of orchids the same. So, to optimally care for an orchid, you should forget about placing a plate of water under the pot or watering it from above.

Otherwise, what you will be doing contributes to the rotting of its roots, which rarely has a solution but is easy to identify as they turn brown.

The ideal method to water orchids is immersion, but take care that the water does not get to wet the plant’s center, where the leaves sprout.

After having the roots submerged for about 15 minutes, let the excess water drain off and put the plant back where it was. Finally, if you live in a very humid climate, space the waterings and do it carefully not to damage the roots, and it is also important that you make some holes in the pot. This will prevent condensation from being created inside by releasing excess moisture to keep the roots safe.

Additional care of orchids to stop them from having rotted roots

To truly understand orchid care, one must read about its origin and the conditions where they flourish. Orchid plants are of tropical origin and epiphytic character (it lives in the branches and trunks of trees), it is used to particular tropical conditions:

High humidity, high temperatures, and many hours of light but not direct sunlight -in its natural environment, it is filtered by the upper leaves trees and alternates between heavy rains and dry roots.

1) Check the moisture around your orchid plants and roots

Always check if your orchid’s roots come in contact with the ground, especially if they are moist or have been through heavy rains. As for those growing these flowers in the tropics, orchids can also absorb ambient moisture, which is something to consider.

We will be further discussing below some ways to make these plants thrive, maybe turn it into an indoor plant and take care of it till it flourishes and feels at home. The tips are:

2) Check the amount of light that is directed to your orchid plant and roots

Due to lack of sunlight. Orchid leaves turn darker and turn yellow, and fall off during extreme cases. Now, this does not mean that you have to put this plant in direct sunlight! Going overboard, too, will result in it dehydrating.

One way to help orchids thrive beautifully is to place them in an area where there is filtered sunlight (may it be filtered through your curtains and whatnot).

What is always important is that this sunlight must not be directly focused on the plant.

Another mistake regarding orchid growing is putting them and their roots specifically into containers that block out the sun. In their natural habitats, orchid roots scatter over the tree bark.

Them growing on trees made them cope into also photosynthesizing thru their roots, that is why if you do put them into containers, make sure that it allows light to pass through and is transparent.

3) Temperature is an important thing to control and consider for orchid plants and roots

Different temeperature changes also bring about differences in the plant:

  • The general temperature of orchids should fall within the range of 15 to 30 degrees Celsius.
  • Throughout the course of the day and into the night, there should be a temperature change of at least 10 degrees Celcius if you want the orchids to flower.
  • For orchids to develop inflorescence, which is the clustering and growth of the flowers, you might want to look into placing them into cooler areas at the temp of 15 degrees Celcius during Autumn or Spring for about 3 weeks, after which you can place them back to their final position.

4) Check the Ventilation around your orchid plants and roots

Orchids will not be able to stand strong winds or air currents, and while they cannot cope with the extremities, they must be placed in areas that are well ventilated. Should you not place them in those areas, it can lead to fungus and diseases in orchids.

5) Consider using fertilizer for your orchid plants and roots

One must fertilize orchids periodically. Fertilizers rich in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are best to be used with these plants.

Each of them has a different function, so depending on the stage of development our orchid is in, it will need more of one than the other. This is a fundamental concept that will decide to purchase the fertilizer for any plant easier, so be careful.

Fertilizer is important for all plants, especially orchids, and I wrote an article on how you can make FREE organic Fertilizer at home and the complete makeup of it. You can read that here.

FAQ’s on orchids

Conclusion on how to revive orchids with rotted roots

With these tips, you can revive an orchid with rotted roots, in addition to being able to enjoy your plant for much longer. Caring for your orchids can be quite a satisfying job, and we assure you that the result will be worth it, as your flowers will be more beautiful than ever.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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