Orchids are a charming set of plants to grow and have in your home. The flowers are radiant and very vibrant, and at a glance, they lift the ambiance and mood of any room you choose to place them.
The orchid plants are one of the two largest groups of flowering plants found on earth, with more than 1000 species to choose from. Some orchids bloom crimson red, others pink, others yellow, others blue, purple, so on and so forth.
The beauty of having orchids as part of your home interior decor or outside garden is that they are known to survive almost all climates. Because they have been found in semi-deserts, tropical forests, the tundra, and some have been spotted growing along the shorelines of oceans and lakesides.
These exotic wonders are quite a spectacle to behold, but the joy could quickly fade to despair if you notice something amiss about your orchid. Either the blooms falling off prematurely or even more worrying, wrinkling leaves. It becomes quite perplexing mostly when you have been following the regimen in the caring of the plant. And in this piece, we will look into why the leaves of your orchid might be wilting and wrinkling.
But first, let us look into the general care of orchids to make sure the leaves stay perky and healthy.
General care tips for orchids to ensure healthy leaf growth
Before you even get to the tips themselves, you first have to understand the orchid plant. What you will realize is that most orchids are not like the typically homegrown potted or garden-grown plants. They are, however, epiphytes, also known as air plants, and some are terrestrial. What this means is that the epiphytic orchids grow on unconventional sites such as trees, rocks, and surfaces above the ground. These types have their roots exposed to the surrounding air, where they collect all their nutritional needs. The terrestrial ones, on the other hand, prosper when grown in soil.
With that understanding, let’s get to the care tips these crops require.
Choosing the growth spots
First of all, when you decide to grow an orchid that is an air plant, you first have to consider the location to place it. They do love a warm and relatively humid site that is far from the scorching sun. Otherwise, the sun might burn the leaves’ surface, which may cause the wrinkling of your orchid leaves. The location you chose must also have all the necessary grasping texture that the plant’s roots can hold on to. That way, the leaves will not overbear the plant and cause the plant to fall over.
For the terrestrial kinds, you need to grow them in a soil mix that has all the necessary nutrients in the right balance.
The watering schedule
The epiphytic orchids do not need watering as their roots in the air take in all they need for healthy growth. Terrestrial grown orchids, on the other hand, do require watering at least once a week.
Sometimes, when there is an overgrowth in the leaves, you will need to cut down some blades. You may also be forced to cut down leaves that have been infested with pests or infected by a disease.
Owing to the fact that the orchid family is very extensive, there is no set quantity of fertilizer to use. And for that reason, you have to look into the specific type that you have and do ample research to get the right quantity.
Likely causes of orchid leaf wrinkling and how to fix them
Leaves of almost all plant life, notwithstanding orchids, must be upright, have a rich uniform colored hue, have a smooth blade with no cuts, bruises, or burns. When all is well, a plant in this condition is able to produce food for itself through photosynthesis. But if something is awry, it may result in the drooping of the leaves. And below are some of the likely causes.
Too much light and/or heat
Orchids do not particularly enjoy the direct sunlight. Especially if the beams are too bright and too hot. First of all, when the light is too intense, the chlorophyll in the leaves of the orchid may be bleached, and this, in turn, inhibits photosynthesis. For that reason, the affected leaf lacks food and consequently becomes droopy, turns white, and falls off.
The hot sun is almost inevitably accompanied by intense heat as well, which can also be a reason for your orchid leaves wilting. When the surface of the blade is exposed to too much heat, the leaf cells undergo several changes. These changes are physiological, morphological, biological that eventually reduce photosynthesis. In this case, the leaves droop because the pace as which the orchid leaves dispel moisture into the air in a process known as transpiration exceeds the ability of the plant to supply enough water to the blade. And this results in the leaf wrinkling to prevent the plant from losing more water through its stomata.
When it comes to an orchid that is exposed to too much light, the first thing to do is to move the plant in a shaded area. And if the orchid is planted on a permanent location, it is advisable to erect a shade over the garden. If the damage were minimal, the orchid would grow back to health in no time. But in severe cases where some of the leaves were severely scorched, cut them off using a sterile sharp blade to allow the growth of new foliage.
Too little light
On the other side of the coin, too little light exposure can also be the reason why your orchid’s leaves are wrinkling. By receiving reduced amounts of light, the leaves undergo stress and result in wrinkling, drooping, and eventually turning yellow and dying. If the problem is not solved, struggling to survive, the orchid’s new growth will be marked by smaller leaf blades.
The remedy for an orchid that is receiving too little sunlight is an easy one. The most useful thing to do is to move the crop to a location that gets enough indirect sunlight.
Overwatering which may be as a result of watering the orchid plant way too often, by using the wrong soil mix or when the pot lacks breathability facilitated by drainage holes. And as the maxim goes too much of something is poisonous, the orchid tries its best to try to expel the water through its stomata. During that process, all the cells in the leaves become filled with water. With nowhere to go, the water keeps filling the cells, and eventually, the walls give in to the pressure and burst. With the leaf structure shuttered, the leaf droops and wrinkles. In addition to the creases, the leaves appear transparent and are squashy to touch.
The rectifying of this problem has two main categories, prevention, and curing. On the prevention part, you are advised to follow a watering schedule at least once a week. And watering the orchid only when the soil feels dry.
On the curing part, you will need to check the planting medium as well as the container. If the soil mix is not well aerated and fast-draining, you need to change it. And if the planting vessel lacks drainage holes to facilitate the flowing out of excess water, you may either drill holes or replace the container.
Soon after replanting the orchid in a new soil mix in a breathable container with drainage holes, be sure to water the crop properly not to repeat the mistake.
When the orchid is not receiving enough water, the leaves wither as a result. Orchids in their natural habitat do enjoy their fair share of a humid environment. And when this is not provided to them, the leaves become dehydrated and wrinkle, especially the leaves at the bottom.
The first step to take is to water the plant immediately and keep monitoring how the leaves are faring on. If underwatering were the only issue causing the blades to wrinkle, the leaves would firm up after a few days.
Low humidity levels
This is particularly the cause of wrinkled leaves of orchids grown indoors where the humidity levels are particularly low. What happens during low humid conditions is that the rate of transpiration, which is the loss of the water by the plant, is increased exponentially. And if the orchid plant’s water supply cannot withstand the loss, the leaves wrinkle due to the stress caused.
To sort out low humidity issues indoors is rather straightforward, but you have to stick to the routine afterward. If you chose to move the plant to a more humid area of your household well and good. But if you insist on keeping the orchid in the same spot, you use a humidifier to increase the humidity levels to more than 40%.
Another smart way to increase humidity around your orchid plant is to place a polythene bag around it. This duplicates the greenhouse effect on a smaller scale. And if the plant is not severely damaged, the leaves plump up in no time.
Orchids, just like all other flora, do need their fair share of nutrients to grow their leaves and even get to bloom healthily. And on top of the list of the nutrients they need is Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. And of the three, nitrogen is responsible for the green and the leafy growth of the plants. Phosphorous is for flowering, and potassium is for the overall health of the orchid. And from that, we can deduce that when your orchid is deficient in nitrogen specifically, the leaves will eventually become wrinkled.
Lack of Potassium, Zinc, Boron, and Molybdenum also results in the wrinkling and curling of young leaves of orchids.
Nutrients deficiency is rather hard to ascertain, but if you have sorted all other issues and your orchid’s leaves are still wrinkled up, then it might be the problem. And the only way to sort it is to administer the required nutrients in the proportions needed. Caution, however, must be taken to avoid over-fertilizing. And most importantly, you must space out the fertilizing sessions for more than a season or so, to allow the fertilizer to seep in slowly.
The two main disease menaces that may result in leaves of an orchid creasing are crown and root rot. These two diseases can be caused by either a bacterial or fungal infection that may be detrimental to the orchid if no action is taken to rectify the problem. The conditions do not cause direct damage to the leaves, but since they affect the roots, water, and nutrients, do not reach the leaves as they are meant to. This, in turn, results in the leaves becoming water-deficient and wrinkles up in the long run.
The diseases are brought about when your potting mix is exposed to too much moisture. So much so, the remedy lies in sorting out the watering issue. Crown rot occurs at the stem section that is in contact with the soil. At this location, when water lingers around the stem, it becomes a likely site for fungal or bacterial infections to thrive. And that can be avoided by cutting back on the watering.
For root rot, you refrain watering your orchid immediately and change the soil mix immediately. You must also cease from misting your orchid, which may bring about decay as well.
Orchids are beautiful plants to keep both indoors and outdoors. However, they might not get to bloom if their leaves are not doing so well. So much so, if you notice your orchid leaves wrinkling up, find out what is wrong from the list above and fix it before it gets worse. Remember, for the proper care of orchids; prevention is better than cure.