I’m often surprised to hear that orchid owners toss out their plant after it’s finished blooming. This got me thinking that there must be some confusion about the lifespan of an orchid plant.
Some orchid varieties like the Phalaenopsis will produce blooms that will last 2-3 months. But just because the blooms fall off, it doesn’t mean the plant is dead.
On the contrary, the plant enters into a “resting phase” to gather energy for the next blooming cycle. Supposedly, this resting period is what makes orchid owners confused about the lifespan of the plant.
So, how long do orchids live?
In my experience, it depends on the care it receives. If it’s well taken care of, you can expect the orchid to live for decades. If neglected, that lifespan can be cut rather short.
Can Orchid Plants Live Forever?
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that orchids live forever, but one thing is certain — they do stick around for a long time if they receive proper care or if environmental factors favor their development.
It’s not unheard of that some orchids have been around for nearly a century, so assuming they receive specialized care, you can reasonably expect an orchid plant to live for multiple decades.
As an orchid plant advances in age, it does become weaker and more prone to diseases. Its resilience will falter, it will produce smaller and fewer blooms, eventually succumbing to some disease or other.
There are many factors that will determine the lifespan of an orchid, and most of these will have to do with how well you take care of your plant.
Tips for Making Your Orchid Live Longer
The tips I discuss here focus on creating the best possible environment for your orchid plant and preventing disease. They also highlight the importance of giving your orchid a good start in life.
– Find a good location for your orchid plant
Orchids need bright, indirect light, warm temperature, humidity, and consistency. Your need to find a place in your home that checks off all these requirements.
Temperature should be consistent to avoid thermal shock. A dry environment will not do for this tropical plant, so find a location that offers more humidity. And make sure your orchid is not exposed to cold drafts or direct sunlight.
– Choose a quality potting medium
Potting media designed for orchids contain ingredients that will provide aeration and good drainage.
These potting mixes will usually contain pine bark, coconut husk chips, sphagnum moss, perlite, charcoal and other ingredients that help aerate the roots and provide just enough moisture and nutrients.
Soil that’s prone to compaction will strangulate the roots of the orchid, eventually leading to problems that will shorten the lifespan of your plant.
– Understand your orchid’s watering requirements
Watering is one of the areas where mistakes can cost the life of your orchid. Overwatering is especially dangerous as it can promote root rot.
Only water your orchid when the top of the soil feels dry. Water deeply and allow for excess water to trickle out of the pot. Don’t go long periods without watering your orchid. It will dry out.
– Prevent & treat diseases
Orchids can be attacked by pests, fungal diseases and viruses. Whenever you cut away flower spikes or clean the roots of your orchids, make sure you use tools that have been previously sterilized.
If your orchid shows signs of disease or it’s attacked by pests, use appropriate remedies (e.g. pesticides or antifungals) to treat your orchid.
– Promote healthy growth with fertilizer
Depending whether your orchid is in the growing period or blooming period, you should use a fertilizer that’s designed for orchids and specifically for different cycles of their growth.
Reduce fertilizing during the resting period and resume a normal fertilizing routine during the blooming period.
Don’t over fertilize; it’s better to use a weaker solution than to cause mineral build-up in the soil or cause fertilizer burn.
– Repot your orchid regularly
As your orchid matures, it needs repotting every 2-3 years. If the roots are too crowded in the pot or tightly tangled, the plant needs to be moved to a bigger pot.
Take this time to clean the roots and refresh the potting mix. Schedule repotting to the end of the blooming period.
How Long do Orchids Live Without Watering?
Orchids can go without water for weeks on end. I’d say that an otherwise healthy orchid in a relatively humid environment can go without water for 4-5 weeks.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t show signs of stress or that their blooms won’t wilt or leaves won’t brown. So, if you skip watering for a couple of weeks, it won’t kill your orchid, but it will stress it out.
Can Orchids Live in Water?
Yes, it is possible to grow orchids in water in hydroponic settings. This growing method relies on a rotation system, where the orchid is kept in water for approx. 2 days, then roots are aerated for approx. 5 days. In essence, this allows the roots to breathe very much like in its natural habitat.
Can You Revive a Dying Orchid?
Depending on what has caused your orchid to be on the cusp of death, you may be able to revive it. A dehydrated orchid can be revived by returning to a normal watering schedule and creating a favorable environment.
An orchid dying because of pests or diseases can be revived by offering it proper treatment. If your orchid is dying because of inadequate light, temperature or lack of humidity, changing these factors can help revive your orchid.
Whenever your orchid is doing poorly, you need to find the underlying cause and treat the problem. Orchids are relatively resilient plants, so even when they seem to be running out of steam, you may be able to bring them back.
Orchids can live for a very long time if their environment and your plant care routine are irreproachable.
That said, diseases, pests, overwatering, poor soil, and fluctuating temperatures can all shorten the lifespan of your orchid eventually.
Orchids don’t require constant attention, but you do need to ensure their needs are being met, if not all the time, then at least most of the time.