Why are orchid roots dry shriveled?

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Orchids are easy to grow as flowering plants. As a grower, it is heartbreaking if you see slight damage in the plant. Orchid roots shriveling and dry are a common problem, and it is a severe problem that you should be concerned about.

When the plant is exposed to environmental stress, its roots begin to die. The majority of orchids are epiphytes that develop many aerial roots to absorb environmental nutrients and moisture. Initially, you can see the orchid aerial roots dry and shriveled.

If you know the correct method of caring for orchids, you can grow these flowering plants successfully. In this post, I’ll explain Why are orchid roots dry shriveled? How to save a dehydrated orchid?

Orchid roots dry shriveled
orchid roots wilting

Why are my orchid roots shriveling and dry?

The reason for the orchid roots wrinkle and dry is not receiving enough moisture. This can cause either underwatering or a lack of moisture in the air (low relative humidity), or exposure to bright sun. When the orchid dehydrates more extended period, orchid roots turn brown and dry. Especially you can see aerial roots tips dry out.

There is the less relative humidity in indoor places, as in such areas, there is less moisture in the atmosphere. These plants have excellent aerial roots to absorb moisture from the air, and at low relative humidity, these aerial roots are prone to drying out quickly.

Furthermore, if the orchid plant is exposed to bright sunlight for some time, the orchid roots wither and shrivel. Orchids, often placed on windowsills or outdoors, are susceptible to this condition.

As the ambient temperature rises, the water content of the orchid soil evaporates rapidly, especially in the surface soil layer near the base (stem). This water waste also dry orchids’ roots quickly.

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Different types of orchids grow roots in different places. For example, the new roots of Phalaenopsis orchids grow close to the base of the plant, while the fresh roots of Cattleya orchids grow on the new stems.

Orchid roots wilting

How do you fix shriveled orchid roots?

There are several possible ways to save dry orchid roots. Although the dry roots do not grow back, we can get new roots from the orchid base.


Thoroughly water.

The first thing you need to do is water the orchid well. The best method is to soak and dry. Soak the plant in a container of clean water or rainwater for a few minutes, then remove it from the water and allow it to dry.

This soaking dry system provides enough water for the plant to drink, making it easier for the container mixture to absorb water well. However, make sure that you do not overwater; it makes orchid root rot.

You can read my orchid watering guide for more in-depth information.


Move to a shade and cool area.

Once you have watered enough, place the orchid in a cool, moist area. If your plant is placed on a windowsill exposed to direct sunlight, the orchid roots will brown and be prone to drying out. Especially roots that expose to air.

Also, do not leave it near the air conditioner or fan for more than 3 hours. These devices blow dry air, causing the roots of orchids to dry out and die.

If the dehydrated orchid can be placed in one of the following humidity trays, it will provide adequate moisture to the plant. Pour enough water into a large flat bowl, then add a grid layer and cover with thick polythene or cloth. Alternatively, you can find a humidifier with a network at local stores or Amazon.

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Repot orchid potting soil.

Orchid plants need enough moisture to thrive. If you notice orchid top roots dry, the best solution is to apply a layer of moisture to retain material at the top of the soil. Sphagnum moss is excellent moisture to maintain the material. Some of the orchid varieties like cattleya orchids do not like sphagnum too much.

If your area air is drier, you can add a layer of sphagnum moss on top of the orchid soil. This simple method keeps the new roots and roots moist all the time.


Raise humidity.

Very low humidity levels are another possible reason for orchid roots dry shriveled. Raising humidity is another essential step to provide enough moisture to orchids. Most of the orchids are thrive in humidity levels are between 40-70%. With their aerial roots, orchids absorb water droplets in the air.

In these plants native environment grows on top of the larger trees, and in such a less environment, they take water from their aerial roots. You can use a humidity tray or humidifier to increase the ambient humidity level. This is an excellent method that can be used in hot summer to improve the air moisture level.



What do dead orchid roots look like?

Dead orchid roots are brown, withered, and soggy. These dead orchids’ roots do not grow back, but with proper care, we can regrow roots from the base of the plant.

First, we need to remove the dry parts altogether. Then you have to find the cause of the death of orchid roots. It can be either dehydration of the plant, excessive watering, or excessive moisture.

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Healthy orchid roots
Healthy orchid roots.


What color should my orchid roots be?

The healthy orchid’s roots have two colors: the root’s base is white, and the edge is light-green, like the above image. When the water touches the roots, change the end of the roots to bright green.


Can you revive an orchid with dead roots?

Dead orchid roots cannot revive, but you can regrow orchid roots with proper care. Thoroughly water the plant and increase the humidity around the plant. Move the plant to a partial shade area where there is no direct sun. Once you provide these favorable growing conditions, orchids regrow roots from the base or stem.


How do I know if my orchid is dehydrated?

Early symptoms of dehydrated orchids show their root system. Orchid roots tips wrinkle and change the tips to brown and dry out. Then orchid leaves shrink and wrinkle. Finally, leaves dry out, and plants can die.


Should I cut off dry orchid roots?

Yes, it is a good practice to cut off dry orchid roots when you are repotting. If the aerial roots are dry you can remove them without repotting. These dried roots do not regrow. Once you remove them thoroughly water to prevent the remaining orchid roots dry.

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