Flimsy, Floppy, Thin Phalaenopsis Leaves – What Gives? When a limp leaf isn't caused by dehydration...

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It all started like this, “Help! My Phalaenopsis has a droopy and thin leaf! I know it’s not dehydrated (I don’t see wrinkles on the leaves or the roots) and the plant looks good otherwise. What could be wrong?! Why does my Phal have flimsy, floppy, weak and thin leaves?”

Is the floppy leaf a new leaf?

Good! Take a breath and…Relax! It’s no big deal, just a part of the growing process.

If it’s not a new leaf, read this post on symptoms of a sad Phalaenopsis and make sure your orchid isn’t dehydrated and suffering from desiccation.

Getting to the Root of the floppy-leaf problem

This happened to me at the beginning of fall 2017. There was a cold spell at the end of September and my house temps dropped to about 17 degrees Celsius at night. Coincidentally, at the same time, I had 3 new leaves (on different phals in the same area) reaching the end of their growth cycle. They were all bending or starting to limp back on themselves and they weren’t being lifted strong like the rest of the other leaves.

This “limp leaf” is generally a bad sign–and can be an indicator the plant is dehydrated. The leaves were also very thin. If I put my finger and thumb on the top and bottom of the leaf, it was half as thick as the rest of the leaves from the same plant.

I thought I’d finally lost the battle of “why using hard tap water for watering orchids is bad” and my plants had succumb to some sort of hard-water issue. Thankfully, it turns out it had nothing to do with the water quality and I learned that it’s very normal for newly-forming leaves to be kind of wimpy-limp before they finally mature and fill out. You don’t generally notice it on new leaves that just emerging because they don’t need to support their weight. But toward the end of the extension the weight of the leaf can start to pull the plant down with gravity.

So what did I do about the flimsy leaves?

I don’t like ugly cracks in my leaves, and I’ve seen people who have them in the same area as the buckling that could be seen on my leaves, so I propped the leaves up with a chunk of Styrofoam by stuffing it under the weak leaf, and wedging it up using a strong leaf. This ensured the leaf wasn’t doubling back on itself creating a stress point in the middle. After about 3 weeks the leaves filled out,  firmed up and are supporting their own weight. *phewf* I did notice that this phenomena was more pronounced after watering, which I assume is because the leaves were heavier when hydrated with water.

Want to know more tips on growing phalaneopsis? Check out my detailed post on caring for Phalaenopsis here.