If your orchid stops blooming it is known as a period of dormancy, and you may hear orchids in this state referred to as ‘dormant orchids’, but is this a bad thing?
If your orchid is dormant don’t worry, it is completely normal. Orchids go dormant in different ways – including true dormancy – and it is a natural response to save energy and allocate resources during colder periods.
What is Dormancy?
Many plants go through periods of dormancy. During the winter months, they focus on survival. Their growth slows significantly. Some plants will die back and have no visible life at all above the ground. Others will simply stop blooming and growing.
Blooming and growing take a great amount of energy from a plant. It’s natural for them to stop these functions during winter when it’s tougher to survive. They are battling cold temperatures, less light, and less moisture in many areas.
Of course, an indoor plant doesn’t have these same problems. At least, not to the same extent. However, many will still have a dormant period, even indoors.
Why Houseplants Go Dormant
Your houseplant isn’t going to be exposed to freezing temperatures, so why do they go dormant? House plants are triggered by several factors that also affect outdoor plants.
One of these is light conditions. The winter days are shorter, and plants receive less light. This occurs regardless of whether the plant is indoors or outdoors.
Since they need light for photosynthesis, the plant knows it can’t produce as much energy in the winter, because of the reduced light.
Humidity is another factor. The humidity drops significantly in winter. In your home, your heating system will also decrease the humidity levels. This is another trigger for plants to go dormant.
Dormancy In Orchids
Some orchids go through a true dormancy period. These orchids will wilt, and can even lose their leaves during the dormant period.
Others do not go through true dormancy, but will still have a rest period. These types of orchids will look alive and well, but will not bloom during this period.
Orchids that truly go dormant include dendrobium orchids, cymbidium orchids, Catasetums, Clowesias, Habenaria, and their hybrids. They will wilt, lose their leaves, and even have shriveled stems during their dormant period.
Many orchid owners have made the mistake of thinking their orchid was dead and throwing out it when it was simply dormant.
Non-Dormant Types Of Orchids
Phalaenopsis orchids don’t go dormant. They will still have beautiful leaves and grow but at a slower rate. They do stop flowering during this period.
Caring For Dormant Orchids
You’ll need to care for your orchids differently during dormancy because their needs have changed significantly.
Truly dormant orchids do not require fertilizer during their dormant period. They also require much less water. A misting once every 5 to 10 days is all that is needed until your orchid revives.
If the soil becomes very dry, water your orchid. However, they have much less demand for water during dormancy. If you add too much water, you risk root rot.
Orchids that don’t experience true dormancy will have slightly reduced needs. These orchids will still require fertilizer. Give them a balanced fertilizer at half strength every 2 to 4 weeks. Avoid watering on the weeks that you fertilize.
They will need water on a fairly regular schedule. You can water these orchids once every 7 to 10 days.
How To Water Orchids
Many sources suggest watering orchids with ice cubes. Why would you water a tropical plant with ice? The cold temperatures can actually harm your orchid’s roots.
They should be kept in temperatures above 53 degrees at all times, and they should be watered with lukewarm or room temperature water. Never cold, and certainly not ice cold.
One way to water your orchid is the sink method. Simply place the orchid in the sink, and allow the water to run into the growing medium. Do this for a few minutes.
You can also use the water for the plant’s aerial roots and to clean the leaves. Just be sure to remove the water from the crown afterwards. You can do this by blowing it away or turning the plant upside down for a moment.
Another way to water an orchid is the soak method. Use a bowl or larger flowerpot full of water. Place your orchid inside it, and allow it to soak up the water.
This is great if your orchid is very dry, but it can also be used for regular watering. Leave it for at least 15-30 minutes. If your orchid is severely dehydrated, it can be left overnight.
Once you’ve completed either method, be sure the potting medium is allowed to drain. The pot your orchid is in should have drain holes. If you place the pot on a saucer or inside a larger pot, be sure to remove the collected water once your orchid is finished draining.
You may be wondering how to encourage your orchid to bloom after its dormant period. The good news is the process is fairly simple. All your orchid needs is a few cues.
The waning light of winter tells your orchid it’s time to go into dormancy. During spring, light duration and intensity begin to increase. Placing your orchid in an east-facing window is all you really need to do. The plant will then receive more light at the right time.
You can also use artificial light. You’ll need to reduce light during the winter and begin increasing it during the spring, as natural light increases.
Temperature changes also let your orchid know it’s time to bloom again. Different orchids will need different temps to trigger blooming. Generally speaking, they need temperatures between 70-85 degrees during the day.
Placing your orchid near a window will provide a little extra warmth. You can also place your orchid outside on warm days to allow it to heat up.
Final Thoughts on Orchid Dormancy
Be patient with your orchid. Remember, this is a natural process. During dormancy or rest, your orchid is actually preparing to bloom again. Allow it to go through dormancy, and don’t rush the process.
Continue caring for it as needed until spring. Then, increase the temperature and light to trigger new blooms.