How Long Can Orchids Survive Without Watering?
While orchids don’t fare well if they’re overwatered, they do have a bit of tolerance to being underwatered.
But just how long can your orchids go without water? And how do you keep them hydrated when you’re on vacation?
I will help you tackle the complexities of orchid hydration even when you need to travel for vacation or work.
How to Keep Orchids Alive During Long Vacation?
We all have different ideas about what constitutes a long vacation.
But let’s assume you need to travel either because of work or vacation and let’s assume you won’t be around to water your orchid for over 2 weeks but less than a month.
Generally, orchids can safely go without water for 2-3 weeks or even more in certain conditions.
I’ve heard of orchids not receiving water for as much as 7 weeks and bouncing back to normal once they were put back on their regular watering schedule.
So, in what conditions can you leave your orchids without water for a longer period, let’s say somewhere between 2-4 weeks?
Here are some factors to consider:
– Potting Medium
Some orchid potting media can hold humidity for longer than other potting media. Bark is not as good for humidity retention as moss is, for example.
So assess the composition of your orchid potting medium to decide whether you need to take further precautions about your orchid’s hydration.
– Humidity Levels
An orchid grown in a naturally more humid environment can go without water longer than a plant that’s kept in a dry environment.
You can increase humidity levels around a plant by filling a tray with pebbles and pouring water over them so they’re almost submerged in water.
Place the orchid pot on the pebbles, so that when water evaporates it increases humidity levels around the plant.
Keeping an orchid guarded from the rays of the sun can lower the rate of evaporation.
Most orchids don’t like direct light anyway, but you can slightly decrease the light to reduce evaporation.
Orchids require less watering during the colder months, so if you’re leaving them unattended during this time, chances are they can go much longer without water than in the warmer seasons.
– General Health of the Plant
An otherwise healthy plant will fare better with handling a little stress than an already stressed out or diseased plant.
Therefore, to increase the chances of survival of your orchid, do the following:
- Water them the day before you leave
- Increase humidity, decrease light if needed
- Decrease temperature if needed
- Set up a DIY self-watering system using strings and a glass of water (you can use strings from a new mop, but any thick string that absorbs water will do fine). Make sure the glass is a bit taller than the pot. Put one end of the string in the glass of water, the other end in the pot. Make sure to fix the strings into place both in the pot and in the glass. The wicking system should act as a slow and gentle way to keep your orchid hydrated while you’re away.
You really only need a self-watering system if it’s summer and the air is too dry, or if your orchid is in bloom.
Otherwise your orchid will probably be just fine without watering even if you leave for a couple of weeks.
Should You Fertilize Your Orchids Before Leaving?
If it’s otherwise not the time to fertilize your orchid because you’ve fertilized it a couple of days before, don’t fertilize again just to make up for the times you won’t be home to fertilize it.
If it’s time to fertilize it according to schedule, you can do so, but use a very weak solution.
You don’t want to cause root burn or mineral build-up in the potting medium.
Will Orchid Flowers Fall Off Without Watering?
While orchid blooms can fall off for a variety of reasons with overwatering and temperature shock being the leading reasons, lack of enough watering can also cause blooms to prematurely fall off.
So, if you must leave an orchid in bloom unattended, make sure to heed my advice on how to increase humidity around your orchid and how to set up a cheap and quick self-watering system.
Can You Save and Revive a Dehydrated Orchid?
Let’s say you went on a trip and it took you longer than expected. Like maybe a week longer.
When you return, your orchid’s soil is all dry and its leaves are wrinkled. Clearly your orchid has been struggling without water. But can it be saved?
Indeed, your orchid is dehydrated but it’s not dead. An orchid that shows signs of dehydration can still be revived.
Simply return to a normal watering schedule and maintain optimal environmental conditions and your orchid will bounce back to its former self.
You can also mist the orchid every other day to further increase humidity and help the orchid bounce back to its former self.
Orchids will recover much easier from dehydration caused by lack of watering than overhydration, which is often fatal to them.
Can You Leave Your Orchids in Water?
While orchids can be grown in hydroponic systems, these are not equal to simply leaving your orchids in water.
Orchid hydroponic systems actually work based on a rotational system of watering followed by aeration, much like orchids are “watered” in nature.
This is not at all like leaving your orchids in water. Therefore, unless you have a hydroponic system ready to go, I don’t recommend that you leave orchids in a pool of water.
For what it’s worth, orchids are succulents and as succulents, they can withstand a bit of neglect in the watering department.
But they’re also tropical plants, meaning they thrive in humid environments, so leaving them without water will cause stress.
Blooms might fall off, leaves might wrinkle, roots may become dry, but it’s not likely that your orchid will die.
In fact, a healthy orchid in a relatively humid environment can survive without water for 4-5 weeks.