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Why are My Orchid Leaves Splitting?

Seemingly out of nowhere you may come across a split leaf on your orchid. What happened? Why did your orchid’s leaf split? And should you be concerned?

Orchid leaves splitting can signal a problem, but it can also happen because of no obvious reasons.

It’s understandable that you’re worried, so I compiled an overview of the possible reasons behind orchid leaves suddenly splitting and what you can do about it.

Reasons Why Orchid Leaves Split

If you notice vertical or horizontal splits on your orchid, something may be wrong with the environment they’re kept in or the care they are — or aren’t! — receiving.

Vertical splits are more common, they’re also more confusing than horizontal ones, which are most likely the result of some sort of trauma to the plant (e.g. it was dropped or roughhoused).

There are a couple of reasons why the leaves on your orchid split. Chief among these reasons are the following:

– Inconsistent Watering

Inconsistent watering seems to be one of the causes of split leaves in Phalaenopsis orchids. When orchids are watered, the leaves swell. Deprived of water, the leaves wrinkle.

This tension caused by inconsistent watering will cause the leaf to split along the vein that runs down the middle of the leaf.

– Air Too Dry

Orchids thrive in a humid environment. Deprived of humidity, Phalaenopsis orchid leaves will often split vertically. The strength of the leaves can be affected by lack of humidity.

If the air in your home is too dry, consider artificially elevating humidity levels, either by using a humidifier, a pebble tray with water, or by relocating your orchid to a more humid room (e.g. kitchen).

– Excess Sun Exposure

Orchids will thrive in indirect light, but struggle in direct sunlight. If your orchid is exposed to too much direct light, its leaves can dry out and split in the middle. This can often happen when orchids are moved outside during summer.

– Trauma

Pets, curious kids, roughhousing, or a dropped plant can amount to trauma that might be responsible for the split leaves on your orchids.

Split leaves can be caused by any of the above, however, sometimes they just happen without the intervention of any of these reasons.

Should You Cut Off Split Orchid Leaves?

Since they’re unappealing, split orchid leaves can be cut off. Just make sure you use a sterilized blade when cutting them off to prevent passing on any fungal, bacterial or viral disease.

Cut the leaf at the base. Razor blades are excellent for cutting off split orchid leaves or other diseased leaves.

These sharp blades are designed for precision cutting, which you will need if you want to prevent further damage to your orchids.

If you’re not bothered by the split orchid leaves and they seem to have sealed over, you can leave them on, but people often remove them either for aesthetic reasons or for fear of potential diseases.

Can Split Orchid Leaves Cause Diseases?

Any open wound on your orchid can be a vector for disease, so split leaves can also be open to damage by fungal or bacterial overgrowth. Pests can also take advantage of this weakness in your plant.

If the leaf doesn’t seal itself, you can make sure to seal over any fresh wounds on your orchid by using a plant fungicide. But you can also cut off the damaged leaves for better peace of mind.

To prevent more leaves from splitting, try to pinpoint the cause of split leaves in your orchid. Start with assessing humidity levels and watering, two of the most common reasons for split leaves in houseplants.

Can You Fix Split Orchid Leaf?

Once an orchid leaf splits down the middle, there’s no way of putting it back together. If the split is horizontal, it won’t grow back or continue to grow where it has split.

If the wound heals over and your orchid is otherwise doing well, you can leave the split leaf on the plant. But you can also remove it if you think it’s an eyesore.

A split leaf will not revert back to its normal state and there’s no way to fix it. What you can fix, however, is preventing further damage to the leaves.

Keeping in mind all the potential things that might be causing your orchid’s leaves to split, try to narrow down the problem your orchid is most likely to be facing.

Make changes to the environment of your orchid, so you can prevent other leaves from splitting.

Sometimes, however, no matter how well you try, your orchid might still end up with a split leaf.

How Should Healthy Orchid Leaves Look?

Healthy orchids have light to medium dark green leaves, depending on the variety. Some changes in an orchid’s environment will reflect in the color and health status of the leaves.

Sometimes, leaves will take on extreme coloration such as a bleached yellow when the plant is exposed to direct sunlight for too long. With time, these leaves can turn brown and become dry.

Another thing I’ve noticed on orchids that seem to be getting too much light in the form of direct light, is a reddish hue on the leaves.

As long as it stays that way and doesn’t evolve into more drastic colors, your orchid is probably fine, although I’d still not keep my orchid in direct light.

When the leaves of your orchid turn into a deep dark green color, they signal a lack of enough light, so if you notice this in your orchid, move it to a location where it can get more light.

Orchids deprived of humidity will usually have their leaves turn wrinkly, so that’s another thing to watch out for.

Wrapping Up

So, there you go — your orchid’s leaves will often split if the plant is on a hectic watering schedule, if there’s not enough humidity, if it’s left out on the sun or if it undergoes some sort of trauma.

Unfortunately, split orchid leaves cannot be repaired, so you either leave the leaves on or remove them carefully to avoid causing further damage or diseases.

Updated: November 6, 2020

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