How Do I Revive My Orchid Leaves Turning Brown?

Orchids are already pretty hard to take care of. Even those with the best green thumbs tend to struggle. They are pretty finicky, and their signs of something wrong are all pretty similar. Take brown leaves, for example, it isn’t a sign that just one or two things went wrong, but six problems that could be causing your Orchid trouble. 

To revive your Orchid once the leaves turn brown, stick to a consistent watering schedule using filtered water, remove any rotting leaves or roots, provide humidity over 50%, provide indirect sunlight, and use a fertilizer with phosphorus and magnesium.

However, doing the wrong fix can actually make the plant worse and make them even more unhealthy. This is why it is important to carefully examine your plant and learn the signs of certain problems so you can make a quick and correct prognosis before implementing any changes. 

Why Is My Orchid Plant Turning Brown?

There are many reasons an Orchid plant can turn brown. Orchids are pretty finicky plants and are quick to stop growing, turn brown, or just die off. 

Too Little or Too Much Water

If your plant is getting too little or too much water, the leaves will start off turning yellow. They may also begin to grow leathery or wrinkled. Eventually, the leaves will start to turn brown and fall off. The roots will also change, either turning shriveled and brittle or swollen and mushy. 

Once you determine which one is the problem, you will have to cut off any damaged roots, and adjust your watering accordingly. 

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial Brown Spot is common on Orchids. This is usually obvious because the leaves will not fully turn brown, but just develop some brown spots. They are usually small and circular dots or like paint splatters. 

This bacterial infection is often caused by misting too much with too little air flow to dry the leaves. To prevent this issue, you will need to reduce your misting frequency and promote airflow by using a gentle fan.

Too Much Salt

If your Orchids are getting too much sodium then you may notice that the leaves are also turning brown. This salt build-up often comes from the minerals in the water. The pH of your water may also be too high or you may be fertilizing too much. Most Orchids prefer to have pH levels around 4.5 to 5.5. 

Too much sodium will usually show itself on your plant by turning the tips of the leaves brown first. Then, the rest of the leaf will start to turn a bright yellow and the leaf will die shortly after. 

Too Little Fertilizer

Too little fertilizer is the opposite end of the scale. Usually, if your plant is showing signs of not enough fertilizer it is because of a lack of phosphorus and magnesium. 

The signs for too little fertilizer are similar to too much. It often kills the plant slower, but that can be hard to determine if you’ve never seen either issue previously. 

However, there are subtle differences to help you out. Phosphorus tends to leave reddish-brown colors on the leaves, instead of just a plain brown. Magnesium tends to leave a rusty brown spot on the veins of your leaves because the plant can’t produce enough oxygen. 

Not Enough Humidity

Orchids that don’t have enough humidity tend to have leaves that turn brown and crumbly. The aerial roots may die off as well. 

Orchids need a lot of humidity. Even in their natural environment, the humidity never goes below 50%. Most people think that putting Orchids in their bathroom is the best idea, but it can be dark and have irregular heat. 

You can place a humidifier near them instead, or use a pebble tray to increase the humidity in the surrounding area. 


Sunburn usually appears as large spots on leaves that are closest to the sun. It won’t be all leaves, but just the ones getting the most direct sun. Those protected by other leaves or pastoral shade may not get the spots. Sometimes the leaves will look pale yellow or white to start, and then turn brown or black over time. 

To fix this, and prevent further sunburn, you simply have to move your plant to a different space. 

Why Are My Orchid Leaves Turning Brown and Wrinkled?

Orchids can have leaves that are wrinkled and brown when overwatered or underwatered. They will usually start off having a thick, leathery texture that slowly turns wrinkled as they lose more and more water.

Why Do My Orchid Leaves Look Burnt?

If your Orchid leaves look burnt, it is likely because they are. If your Orchids get too much sunlight, the leaves will start to turn yellow and brown, and eventually will take on a burnt tone. This is because, like people, Orchids can get sunburned. 

Sometimes, sunburn can be caused directly by the sun, but more often it is due to a mix of too much sun and high temperatures. Orchids left outside too long are the most likely to get sunburnt. Even Orchids that can handle high light levels don’t do well in full light throughout the day. 

Unlike people, however, they can’t slowly shed off the sunburn for a new layer underneath. Once an Orchid has a burned leaf, it stays burnt until it dies and falls off. You can speed up the process and make it look better by trimming off the damaged leaves. 

You may also have to watch the leaf for rot. Sometimes, the leaf will start to grow soft and squishy, especially around the area that was burned. Most of the time, the leaf will be fine, but if it does start to show signs of rot, it will need to be trimmed right away or the rot will spread to the rest of the plant. 

What Does a Dying Orchid Look Like?

Dying orchid
Besides brown leaves, there are other clear signs that an Orchid is dying. In addition to turning brown, the leaves will start to fall off. They may start off as yellow before turning brown or become wrinkled and fall off. 

The plant will also stop growing. You will notice that no new foliage is replacing the leaves that fell off. You may also notice that there are no new roots or flowers either. Additionally, the stems will be brittle and will start to die as well. They will easily snap and have no growth on them. 

Is My Orchid Dehydrated or Overwatered?

It can be hard to tell the difference just from looking at the leaves whether the Orchid is getting too much or too little water. 

The roots can give it away, though. If your leaves are underwatered, the roots will also be wrinkled. They may be more brittle than normal as well. Overwatered roots usually show signs of root rot, and will be soft to the touch, brittle and bloated, or soggy. 

The reason it looks the same on the leaves is that in both situations, there is little to no water getting to the leaves. No matter how much you water your Orchid, if your roots are damaged, they can’t transfer water up to the rest of the plant. 

Depending on how much damage is done, it may not be too late to save them. The damaged roots will need to be removed and possibly antifungal applied to prevent the transfer of root rot. 

Should I Remove Brown Leaves From My Orchid?

As long as the leaves are simply brown, you don’t have to remove them. Some people prefer to do so that the plant looks healthier and better growth can take its place. Sometimes, the plants can get sick from the damaged leaves. 

Additionally, wrinkled and dying leaves take energy away from the healthy part of the plants. With Orchids, which are already a little temperamental, this can end up killing the plants or reducing growth even further. 

Occasionally, the leaves can grow rot if they are damaged, such as when they are infected. Rot, disease, or pests show signs like purple lesions, soft brown spots, or wrinkled leaves. 


Orchids have to be handled with care, even when treating them. Even with problems that seem to be solved, you have to continue checking on your plant to make sure that they don’t get infected with bacteria or fungi. 

To revive your Orchid once the leaves turn brown, stick to a consistent watering schedule using filtered water, remove any rotting leaves or roots, provide humidity over 50%, provide indirect sunlight, and use a fertilizer with phosphorus and magnesium.

It can be hard to tell when something is wrong with your Orchid, but learning to recognize the signs is important to making sure your plant gets treated in time and can continue to thrive.