Common Reasons Why an Orchid Won't Bloom and How to Fix Them

illustration of tips to get orchids to bloom

The Spruce/Hugo Lin.

With the exception of certain orchids like the ludisia, gardeners don’t generally grow orchids for their foliage. It’s frustrating to stare at an orchid every day like a watched pot waiting to boil, longing for flowers that never appear. It’s even more frustrating to watch an orchid develop buds that shrivel and drop without ever opening. Many issues that keep your orchids from blooming, however, can be addressed with minor adjustments.

  • 01 of 08

    Not Getting Enough Light

    White Phalaenopsis orchid stem with flowers

    Peter Orr Photography/Getty Images

    Inadequate light is the number one reason orchids refuse to bloom or rebloom. Dendrobium, cattleya, and cymbidium orchids are three popular varieties that like bright conditions. If your orchid never leaves the dim confines of the house or office, you may need a grow light to achieve flowers.

  • 02 of 08

    Getting Too Much Light

    Orchid on a window sill

    Kelly Know/Stocksy United 

    If you’ve placed your orchid in full sun, you may notice severe symptoms like sunburned leaves, but even an overabundance of artificial light can suppress blooming. In addition to cooler evening temperatures, the shortening days of autumn can signal an orchid to form buds. If you’re keeping your orchid in a room where the lights stay on 24 hours a day, your orchid misses this important natural cue. If you’re using artificial lights, use a timer to simulate the cycle of natural daylight and darkness.

  • 03 of 08

    Varying Temperature

    Orchids outside

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    You might be aware of your orchid’s preference for warm temperatures, as a tropical plant. Orchids also need to experience a temperature differential to trigger blooming. If possible, expose your orchids to nighttime temperatures 10 degrees cooler than the daytime temperatures for two weeks at the initiation of the orchid’s blooming season.

  • 04 of 08

    Need Proper Nutrition/Fertilizer

    Orchid care

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    While it’s true that orchids aren’t heavy feeders, an orchid living in a sterile inorganic potting mix may need a nutrient boost to put on its best performance. The best fertilizer type for orchids is a urea-free fertilizer, which provides nitrogen even in the absence of the microorganism activity common in rich garden soils.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Roots Need Attention/Repotting

    Repotting orchids

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    Repotting is a tricky business for orchid growers. When your orchid media begins to break down, the roots can suffocate from lack of sufficient ventilation. However, some orchids resent having their root zone disturbed, and will refuse to bloom for six months to a year after repotting. Still, other orchids prefer to be root bound and will bloom only when it seems they are on the verge of being strangled by their pots.

    To determine whether your orchid needs to be repotted, evaluate the root system, not the foliage. Even good chunky orchid media breaks down over time, which can deny life-giving air circulation to plant roots. If the roots look brown or the planting material resembles garden soil in its density, it's time to repot. If more than one or two roots are creeping over the edge of the pot, it may be time to repot, or even to divide the orchid plant to maintain blooming vigor. 

  • 06 of 08


    Watering orchid

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    If you’re giving your orchid too much water, failure to bloom may be a precursor to quick decline and plant death. Orchids about to bloom that receive too much water may shed their buds. Most orchids need to dry out between watering, and you should never allow your orchids to have wet feet. Orchids growing in the right kind of pot with specialized orchid growing medium will rarely suffer from overwatering. Tailor your watering schedule to your plant’s potting medium, pot size, and environment. If the roots are turning brown, you’re watering too much. Wrinkled leaves can be a sign of too little or too much water.

  • 07 of 08


    Dying orchid

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    Some orchid growers err on the side of desiccation in their well-intentioned efforts to avoid overwatering the plants. Remember, orchids hail from humid jungles, and are subject to regular gentle rain showers. If your orchid becomes too dry, the leaves will draw water from developing buds in an attempt at self-preservation. How sad it is to see your long awaited orchid buds yellow, shrivel, and drop one by one as the plant draws moisture back into the roots and leaves. If your busy schedule has you forgetting to water often, use a humidity tray to create a friendlier orchid growing environment.

  • 08 of 08

    Know When Your Orchid Variety Blooms

    Cymbidium orchid

     Maria Mosolova/Getty Images

    While many of our favorite garden flowers bloom in the summer, many orchids bloom in the fall, followed by winter and spring bloomers. Buying an orchid plant in bloom isn’t necessarily a sign of when the plant should bloom, as growers can induce bloom in the greenhouse by altering light and temperature. Identify your orchid, and then you can learn about its natural blooming cycle.

    Vanda orchids bloom two to three times a year, with each bloom cycle lasting up to six weeks. In contrast, the popular cattleya and cymbidium orchids only bloom once a year, but their ease of care make them popular choices for novice growers. 

With these techniques (and a little patience), hopefully your orchid plant can bloom once again.

Fun Fact

Many orchids will rebloom several times per year and can live for decades—the oldest plant on record thrived for more than 100 years.