Winter Dormancy

Many orchid beginners are afraid of winter dormancy. Withholding water seems like a risky proposition, a surefire way to kill a plant. But don’t worry — dormancy actually mimics normal seasonal changes for orchids in the wild. Humidity and light levels stay high, but rains become infrequent. Many orchids take advantage of these dry spells to bloom, so that heavy rains don’t damage their flowers. Orchids with pseudobulbs, like the Oncidium, Cattleya, and Dendrobium in the pictures below, won’t bloom without a dormancy break. Reduce their water to once or twice a month, waiting until their pseudobulbs start to shrivel. Cut back on fertilizer also. Always keep humidity levels high.

OncidiumCattleya hybridDendrobium species

Popular varieties like the Masdevallia, Moth Orchid, and lady slipper pictured below don’t have pseudobulbs. However, with winter’s weak sun and short daylight hours, they don’t need as much water either.  Cut back slightly on their watering frequency, but don’t let them dry too much. Increase watering to normal levels when temps warm in the spring. And don’t be scared of winter dormancy.

MasdevalliaPhal hybridLady slipper

Explore posts in the same categories: Dormancy, Fertilizing, Growing, Photos, Watering

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5 Comments on “Winter Dormancy”

  1. Sandra Says:

    Love Mother Nature. Thank you for a lovely, informative article.

  2. Betty Huling Says:

    We had no idea we need to reduce water in winter. That explains why our dendrobiums never bloom! I’m impressed by the details that you’ve on this blog. Thanks for sharing superb information.

  3. Orchids Says:

    I love nature , love orchids and like you photo of Paphiopedilum. it’s very cool!

  4. Barb Bures Says:

    My phal still had a very green flower spike, so I ignored it. Imagine my surprise when leaves started growing from one of the nodes! After attending a seminar for new orchid owners, I asked the 15-year grower and she said she had never heard of this. Any feedback? There are 3 leaves, about 2-3 inches in length. Her only suggestion was “wait and see”

  5. Marc Says:

    Hi Barb. You have a keiki, or baby orchid. You can find more info about caring for it here. Keikis are common on many Phal hybrids. You can wait until it grows roots, detach it, and pot it separately to make a new plant. However, it will drain energy from its mother plant while it’s still attached, and lessen its ability to bloom.