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Orchids require good care from their owners, but even with the best care, diseases can occur. The plant expert explains how you can recognize them quickly, which special characteristics indicate them and how you can get them under control again.

Any plant can get sick, including orchids. Some people mean too well with the care or do not pay enough attention to it, in other cases viruses, bacteria or fungal infections cause illnesses. If you don't react quickly or treat it incorrectly, you risk the noble flower dying off. Here you can find out how diseases can manifest themselves and receive helpful tips for treatment.

disease symptoms

Only those who interpret disease symptoms as these can act accordingly to protect the plant from what is usually certain death. If one or more of the traits outlined below stand out, this is the moment to delve into orchid diseases and possible treatments in detail.

These are clear signs:

  • falling leaves (occasionally one or two is normal)
  • Flowers fall off unwilted
  • Flowers do not develop
  • rot
  • sudden spots on the plant leaves
  • spots on the petals
  • accordion growth
  • mold in the floor area
  • no or only a few flowers
  • Stems with decreasing stability - buds droop

First measure

As soon as you notice any of the symptoms mentioned, you should immediately move your orchid away from other plants. If the disease is one that can spread to nearby plants, isolate it to prevent further damage. So if you are not quite sure which disease your orchid has, this first measure is always recommended as the first measure.

isolate diseased orchids from other plants


Among the most common diseases are those that are the result of care errors. Above all, excessive watering or waterlogging usually causes orchids to become ill quickly. Fungal infections, a bacterial attack or a virus can also be the cause of an illness that occurs. Pests often trigger similar symptoms. Extensive details can be found in the separate guide "Pests on orchids from A-Z with pictures - help and tips".

disease patterns

falling leaves

As with any other plant, it is also normal for the orchid to lose a leaf or two every now and then or for one or the other leaf to turn yellow. However, if an unnatural number of leaves suddenly fall off over a longer period of time or in quick succession, or if leaf discoloration extends continuously over a long period of time, there could be another reason behind this that must be investigated.

fungal infection:

One reason for excessive leaf shedding may be a fungal infection. This may have been transmitted via cutting tools or neighboring plants, for example. Sometimes orchids are bought with a fungus infestation and, especially with inferior substrates, there is no guarantee that they are free of fungi.

Orchid with fungal infection on the leaf

Mainly because the orchid needs a warm, humid microclimate, this offers optimal conditions for a fungal infection at open injuries/intersections Leaves die off/fall off and ultimately the orchid plant dies.


As part of the first measure, the plant should be immediately removed from other plants and kept at a safe distance from them until full recovery. Since fungi can cause extreme damage and, above all, quickly put the health of your orchid in a life-threatening situation, it is advisable to treat them with a fungicide.

This is available in every well-stocked garden and flower shop and is specially designed for the treatment of fungal infections. Your best bet is to use a broad spectrum fungicide as it is nearly impossible to identify what type of fungus you are dealing with. Saprol from Celaflor, for example, is such a broad spectrum fungicide that can be bought for roses and vegetable plants and is also effective for ornamental plants such as orchids.

lack of light

Natural leaf shedding or yellowing is not uncommon, especially from fall through spring when the days are getting darker. But if this becomes noticeably high, you should react, because then no or sufficient photosynthesis takes place, through which the metabolism is kept active. Without this, the supply transport in the meridians goes down evenly, the leaves usually turn yellow at first and then fall off.

Orchid with yellowing leaves


Life-saving treatment is only available if you intervene and act before the orchidaceae become too weak. Just place them in a bright and, ideally, very sunny spot. Direct sunlight, especially hot midday sun, should be avoided. Alternatively, if the weather doesn't cooperate, you can use a plant lamp with artificial light and shine it on the plant for a few hours a day. If you act early, the chances of a quick recovery are good.

soil compaction:

An essential criterion when keeping and caring for orchids is the soil/substrate quality. Inferior-quality substrates and potting soil usually have a low level of purity and, due to improper storage, often contain moss or algae. These are primarily responsible for the soil/substrate compacting.

high-quality orchid substrate

This means that air and water permeability is becoming increasingly restricted. As a result, less oxygen gets into the roots and thus into the interior of the plant and into the leaves. The result is a fall. You can recognize soil compaction by the fact that when the soil is lifted there are no air gaps and the soil is no longer loose but is layered with solid soil particles.


Once a substrate has been compacted, digging through or otherwise loosening up a potted plant like the Orchidaceae does not help. The only way you have to keep them from dying is to immediately repot them in fresh substrate. This should definitely be very water-permeable and particularly loose. Portions of perlite favor this.

Put the orchid in fresh substrate

flower spots

As a rule, the flower spots are brownish structures of various shapes and sizes. In the case of the orchid, this usually indicates a fungal attack, whereby the so-called botrytis has usually settled on the plant. It belongs to the genus of sac fungi and is not normally harmful to the orchid, as it is usually only active in the leaf area and causes purely visual damage.


As with all fungal infections, it is advisable to use a fungicide to combat flower spots caused by a fungal attack. When treating, keep in mind that orchids can develop resistance to fungicides over time. In this case, the antifungal agents should be used with caution and ideally only used if the fungus should also spread beyond the leaves.

Botrytis infection on a plant stem

blossom waste

Various causes can be responsible for the premature dropping of flowers, but usually these are the consequences resulting from an unfavorable location. The flowers usually fall before opening or shortly afterwards.

Blossom droppings on an orchid


If a location that is too warm is chosen, the Orchidaceae often reacts by shedding flowers. Especially during the winter time, when she prefers it a little cooler, she falls ill in most cases, especially when she is surrounded by warm, dry heating air. When all the flowers have fallen, the leaves will follow. Since they do not tolerate being moved well, reducing the heat would be the better solution. However, since this is usually not possible, especially in the living room, a change of location is often unavoidable.

Tip: If you choose a cooler location from the start, you not only prevent the flowers from dropping, you also extend the flowering period.


The orchid prefers cool ambient temperatures, but it does not tolerate cold drafts. If the flowers fall off prematurely, this can be due to drafts, even if this is only caused by opening the door for a short time. It is best to take this into account from the outset when choosing a location.

Light conditions:

If the Orchidaceae is too dark, it can with a leaf drop. but also react with the loss of the petals. It is therefore to be made brighter as soon as the problem is identified. However, direct sunlight should be avoided, whether in summer or winter.

Orchids need the right light conditions

Change of place:

In many cases, a drop in flowers is the result of a change of location. Already after the purchase, it can flower when it moves from the retailer's location to the home windowsill. As a rule, the orchid plant regenerates itself. But it can happen that the first flowering season ends with the loss of flowers due to a change of location and it only unfolds its full beauty in the following flowering period.

leaf spot

If you see spots on the leaves, this can be due to an infestation by pests, fungi, viruses, invading bacteria or direct sunlight. The spots appear in brown or black. Usually the affected area is slightly sunken and feels dry. In the case of direct sunlight, it is a matter of burns, while the other causes have resulted in death due to a lack of supply in the spot region.

brown spots on orchid leaves

fungal infection:

Excessive moisture/humidity in combination with low air movement and poor lighting conditions often leads to a fungal infection. You should start treatment quickly as the spots on the leaves will spread/enlarge. To do this, proceed as follows.

  • Cut off the affected leaves with a hygienically clean cutting tool
  • Always dispose of cut leaves in the household waste, never in the compost
  • Lowering the humidity
  • air more often for more air movement (avoid draughts)
  • Apply broad spectrum fungicide


It is essential to avoid further direct sunlight to prevent a large-scale fire, which can damage the plant immensely. The already existing burned areas do not increase in size, but they also do not recover and remain permanent.

Sunburn on orchid leaf

Bacterial infestation:

If the disease is bacterial, you will recognize it by sharply defined spots surrounded by moist, mucous tissue. They continuously increase in size, lead to yellowing of the leaves and ultimately to leaf drop. Orchids are particularly susceptible to bacterial attack in winter. Act as shown below.

  • immediately isolate the orchid to avoid infecting other plants
  • Thoroughly disinfect the cachepot and culture pot
  • Cut off diseased leaf areas generously
  • Wait for the plant to recover
  • If the leaf spots continue to spread, only disposal will help

viral infection:

Viral infection is evident from streak, arrow, or ring-shaped leaf spots and occurs only rarely. A virus is usually transmitted by parasites or insects. So far, there is no promising treatment. It only remains to dispose of the Orchidaceae in household waste.

Leaf infection on an orchid


Over-watering and over-moisture can show up as leaf spot due to rot. Mold formation in the soil area also indicates (beginning/existing) rot. Since this creates optimal conditions for a bacterial infestation, which can spread rapidly, it is important to react quickly.

Orchid pot with substrate


  • drain standing water
  • Keep the flower warm at 21 to 23 degrees Celsius
  • Cut off rotten, softened plant parts and sprinkle charcoal powder on the cuts
  • in case of severe rot repot into fresh substrate
  • pay attention to plenty of light and fresh air, but little humidity
  • only water again when the substrate has dried
  • Water only in the morning to allow evaporation during the day
  • orchids can no longer be saved if there is severe onion or root rot

accordion growth

An accordion or also called crease growth is clearly visible. The leaves show creases resembling an accordion. These usually arise when irregular watering leads to prolonged interruptions in growth or when the ambient temperature is too cool/warm. In some cases, the wrinkling is only a blemish and does not represent a disease. In any case, check your watering behavior and ensure an optimal ambient temperature, which should be lower in winter.

non-flowering of orchids

Missing bloom

If your Orchidaceae is thriving but flowering is a long time coming, there may be various reasons. In many cases, the plant reacts by not flowering if it has not been allowed to rest during the winter months. Numerous types of orchids must have these, otherwise they will suffer from a loss of strength and no buds will form or they will not develop further until they flower.

TIP: If, for whatever reason, the orchid cannot be offered hibernation at cool temperatures, the administration of a plant stimulant specifically for this flower species, such as Neudorff's Orchid Elixir, will help. It gives strength and promotes flower development.

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