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I have an orchid that had budded and flowered but the flowers are so heavy that the flower weighed down the stem and broke it.

In the wild why does this not happen?

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If any leaf or stem-like part of a plant is breaking that's a sign of low potassium. Orchids in the wild probably have more potassium.

I've done a lot of personal experimentation with plants and potassium, but not with orchids specifically. Potassium makes them tougher fast. With lots of potassium, they even stand upright longer (but not necessarily forever). However, just because it topples over doesn't mean it should break. If they've already toppled over, potassium won't make them get back up (but it'll make them stronger, still).

If the plant is more hard/brittle than tender/soft, it probably has a decent amount of calcium, but not enough potassium. Potassium makes plants tougher (and helps them absorb water). Calcium makes them harder, and works with nitrogen to help them grow more. However, note that not all kinds of plants like the same amounts of nutrients (and I don't know what orchids like; there are also a lot of species of orchids, and I imagine they don't all have the same preferences).

Excess nitrogen can compete with potassium. So, if you have too much nitrogen, that might result in a weak plant.

While potassium doesn't seem to influence the strength of the actual blooms a terrible lot, it should influence the strength of the stalk that they grow on (as well as the leaves and branches). If you have a plant with bracts instead of flowers (like poinsettias), then potassium will toughen up the bracts (because bracts are leaves, even if they can look like flower petals). I'm not sure if any orchids grow colorful bracts, though.

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  • Thanks, that is interesting information. May 11 at 12:12
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Likely it does happen, sometimes.

Possibly the normal natural habitat has lots of twigs or vines around that act to support the stem, but possibly it's just a risk the flower takes and some broken stems trade off well enough with "big flowers mean more reproductive success" (if they do, for that Orchid) and so it continues to survive.

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