Bud blast in my orchids

Every once in a while, we come across orchid buds that dry up and drop. This is referred to as bud blast.  Read on to know how I made a few changes to overcome this issue.

Bud blast is every orchid hobbyist’s  worst nightmare. It can make you very anxious and disappointed, especially after the hard work you have put in to care for your orchid, and of course, not to forget the long wait for its blooms.

Blooms are much awaited, so bud blast can be very disappointing

I recently had issues with bud blasts in my orchids.

Now, here is what is important. Bud blasts can be caused by many different reasons such as inadequate fertilising, sudden temperature shifts, drop in humidity levels, transport stress, inadequate watering, and many others. However,  sudden change in temperature, exposure to warm dry breeze and dehydration are the most commonly observed reasons causing bud blast.

I discovered recently that orchids having bud spikes suffer in fluctuating environments  and therefore need stable conditions to successfully bloom.

The Renanthara monachica buds began drying up and shriveling just before blooming

Two of my orchids suffered bud blasts due to sudden dry and warm climatic fluxes that dried up the root system far too quickly. The first one is the Renanthara monachica, which was bare-rooted. It generally blooms during the warmer months and is pretty resistant to very bright light and warm temperatures. The second one is the Rodriguezia venusta. It came mounted on a small piece of teak wood and has a good root system. It needs bright indirect light and warm temperatures to spike. I have observed that both these orchids are sensitive to their roots drying out even for a short while. They react to this shock by drying up buds and spikes.

I live in Mumbai, which has a tropical climate

Let me give you a brief idea of the climatic conditions of my area. Mumbai has a tropical climate. Humidity levels and temperatures are very conducive for growing orchids. But  during October and November, day time temperatures begin to rise and humidity levels begin to drop. This dry heat, coupled with warm breeze, leads to bud blasts in orchids. A similar phenomenon takes place in March and April, when temperatures begin rising along with a dip in humidity levels. So there is a high incidence of bud blast during these months. 

You can watch my YouTube video on this subject if you prefer a more graphic discussion.

My recent video on bud blast in my orchids

To give you a better perspective, I want to give you an idea of the conditions I provide in my grow area.

I grow my orchids on the  windowsills of my third floor apartment. Since my apartment is west facing, most of my windows get strong direct afternoon light, which is not suitable for orchids. However, I have made some makeshift arrangements using a white shade cloth to shield my orchids from direct sunlight and heat during the afternoons. This arrangement works great for me. I tuck the shade cloth up after 4 pm, when it is relatively cooler. And I follow this throughout the year. My orchids continue to grow well in these conditions. 

Now, coming back to my affected orchids,  I purchased them in October 2022. They were healthy. The Renanthara monachica came with a tiny spike. All was well and the buds developed to blooming size. I was excited and eagerly awaited for the buds to open. Unfortunately, just before blooming, the buds turned a deep orange and shrivelled up one after the other. This could have been triggered due to dehydration as I went on a holiday for about five days. So I put it down to stress and dehydration. The bud blasts continued with only one or two blooms opening. I was very disappointed, but thought that it could be due to stress caused by a change in the environment coupled with lack of hydration when I was away. The orchid, however, continued to grow normally.

In March, I was excited to notice a bud spike again. I was filled with the anticipation of a good bloom season this time. Unfortunately the mature buds began blasting just before opening. I kept shifting the orchid to cooler places, misted it several times during the day, but the buds continued to blast. I lost a total of 9 buds, one after the other.

I was desperately trying to find the cause. It did point out to inadequate nutrition, but I brushed aside the thought since all my other orchids looked healthy, with a lot of vigour. At this juncture, I learnt from Danny, aka Miss Orchid Girl’s YouTube videos that the Renanthara monachica does not like it if its roots dry up. A shout out to Danny for providing me with this tip. It did come as  a surprise since I was under the impression that Vandas grow better when kept bare-rooted. I learnt that this one, unlike other Vandas, prefers perpetual humid conditions around its root system.

Moisture around the root system is crucial during the bloom period

The obvious explanation to this phenomenon is that the orchid’s nutritional requirements increase during the bloom cycle. A dehydrated orchid is often malnourished and lacking in energy for blooming. The orchid cannot cope with such nutritional deficiencies during this crucial period and therefore decides to abort or eliminate the buds in order to conserve energy for its survival.

Having understood the cause, I immediately used small grade cork bark chips along with a handful of coconut husk chips to pot the bare-rooted orchid. I layered  the bottom of the pot with a few coconut chips, which are moisture retentive and spread some cork chips on top of it for providing aeration. I repeated the layers again and placed the basket in the pot. I added more cork chips until the root system was fully covered. I watered the orchid and allowed the excess water to drain off. With a silent prayer I placed the orchid in its place.

The next morning, to my surprise, the bud had not blasted, instead the orchid had a beautiful bloom. I was excited over my, let’s say,  overnight success? But I wanted to test it further. After two days, a second bloom opened and I was thrilled over my success. Since then, the remaining buds have opened normally.

I am happy about my success and wanted to share this experience and learning with you. An obvious takeaway from this experience is to maintain adequate humidity levels around the root system to provide the plant with a continuous supply of nutrients, thereby preventing bud blast.

So we need to be extra-cautious and keep a lookout for these unexpected situations, especially if the roots get completely dried up even for a short while, as in the case of my affected bare-rooted and mounted orchids. We need to react at the earliest to arrest it at the early stages.

My phalenopsis orchids bloomed unaffected despite the sudden rise in temperature

Of course, not all orchids are sensitive to these fluctuations. My phalaenopsis orchids were also in spike, but continued to develop and bloom unaffected by the dry and warm temperatures. Maybe, because their roots are sitting in a moisture retentive medium. So maintaining adequate moisture around the root system is important for successfully blooming your orchid. This is especially important in the case of bare-rooted and mounted orchids, which are more prone to drying up quickly.

Bud blast in the Rodriguezia venusta

But I wasn’t so lucky with my other orchid, the Rodrigezia venusta. I did not get the chance to salvage the damage. So I can, at best,  put it down to a good learning experience. The orchid seemed to be growing just fine. It had some coconut husk around the roots, which was sufficient to give it a good wet-dry cycle. I left it undisturbed, and in February, it developed two spikes. But both spikes turned yellow and shrivelled up due to the warm dry breeze. I shifted it to a cooler place, but the damage was already done.  So I will just have to wait until the orchid blooms next year. It has now gone into vegetative growth. I am planning to mount it on  cork bark and will provide it with some extra moss during its bloom cycle to maintain sufficient moisture levels around the roots.

Orchids are resilient – give them the right care, and they will thrive

Time and again, we will face such challenges. Overcoming these issues will lead to a better understanding of how we can care for our orchids. Hope you found this post helpful. To know more about summer care for orchids, you can read my post on  Care tips for orchids during the warm summer months.

Do leave behind a comment if you are facing any issues with your orchids. I will see if I can help you resolve them.

If you like the content, do subscribe to my blog for regular updates on orchid care.

Until my next, happy growing!

2 thoughts on “Bud blast in my orchids

    • Anupama Patil

      Thank you, Chirosree. It’s the journey that I love. There are lots of ups and and downs. But I love challenges and problem solving. And when I get rewarded with blooms, it is so worth it. Thank you for the good wishes.

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