Orchid Problems – Mistakes in Caring for Orchids

Mistakes in Caring for Orchids

Orchids are really quite tough and resilient but they are not immune to attack by insects, fungi, viruses or bacteria. In addition, mistakes in care may make them sick and unsightly. Optimal care is always the best preventive measure.


Taking preventive measures

The best way to ensure the good health of your orchids is to learn about the requirements of each particular species and make sure that you make good hygiene your normal practice.

  • If you have to turn up the heating, make sure that you also increase humidity. This will prevent attack by insects.
  • Remove all decaying, dried up or yellow leaves.
  • Always replace compost that shows a layer of white fungus.
  • Place affected plants in quarantine immediately so that they will not infect others.
  • All knives and other cutting tools should be disinfected with pure alcohol.
  • Cut surfaces of plants, or injuries, should be disinfected with charcoal powder.
  • Plant containers that are to be reused should be scrubbed in a hot soapy solution and rinsed thoroughly in clear water afterwards.


orchid problems Methods of control

  • Chemical: sprays or watering with insecticides and fungicides.
  • Mechanical: removing infested or diseased parts of plants and collecting pests by hand.
  • Biological: employing natural predators like predatory mites and other useful insects.
  • Alternatives: use herbal infusions, plastic bags or natural plant protection sprays which are now being used with considerable success in professional nurseries.


My tip:

The manufacturers’ instructions should be strictly followed when using any plant protection agents. Orchids will react sensitively to high dosages. When using plant sprays, do so from a sufficient distance so that the plants do not suffer from “cold burns” caused by the propellant. Plant sprays without a propellant or with a harmless propellant are more environmentally friendly.


Mistakes in care

Problems nearly always arise because of mistakes in care:


Crippled growth; cessation of growth

Symptoms: bad smell, algal growth, decaying roots.

Cause: a position that is too dark; more rarely lack of nutrients.

Remedy: repot the plant, cut off decayed roots, disinfect the plant or repot it in fresh compost.



Symptoms: at first yellowish-white, later brownish, spots on the uppersides of leaves.

Causes: Plants too close to the windowpane; too sunny a position for orchids that do not like too much sunlight; not enough shade; spraying the plant in sunlight.

Remedy: protect the plants from too much sunlight.


Heat shock

Symptoms: irregularly formed, but clearly defined, yellowish, depressed spots on the upper- and undersides of leaves. The spots later turn brown and dry out.

Causes: collapse of leaf tissue due to too much heat in the case of a damaged root system or a position that is too dry.

Remedy: stand the plant in a cooler, moister but slightly shadier position.


Brown leaf spots; dying leaves

Cause: incorrect care

Remedy: remove dead leaves and dust the points where they were attached with antiseptic charcoal powder.


Concertina growth

Symptoms: the leaves do not unfold properly.

Causes: damaged roots because of “wet feet” (waterlogging). This often occurs when growing orchids in hydroculture.

Remedy: cut off damaged roots, disinfect with charcoal powder and transfer to fresh compost.


Dry, brown leaf tips

Causes: air too dry; too high a concentration of salts in the compost through overfertilizing or using water that contains too much lime; waterlogging.

Remedy: increase humidity and rinse the compost under running water. Stop fertilizing for the time being. Repot the plant in the spring.


Light green or marbled leaves

Cause: magnesium or iron deficiency. Often occurs in Cymbidium, Zygopetalum and Paphiopedilum.

Remedy: a magnesium preparation, or add a combination of iron and magnesium to the water (ask at your local garden centre).


Red buds, falling buds, limp buds

Causes: lack of light; short-term low temperatures; not enough nutrients; roots in a bad state; often typical for certain species. Usually occurs in early to mid-winter. Often in Phalaenopsis in hydroculture if humus is left on roots when converting to hydroculture. Air containing ethylene created by close proximity to fruit.

Remedy: treat the roots of plants in hydroculture. Otherwise stand the sick plant under a plant lamp for healing purposes.


Reluctance to flower

Causes: not taking account of the proper rest phases of the plant; in some species a lack of sufficient night-time drop in temperature; a position that is too warm; fertilizers containing too much nitrogen. This often occurs in Paphiopedilum species which require cool temperatures to trigger flowering.

Remedy: study the plant’s growth cycle. The following year, care for the plant so that the proper flowering time is observed.


09. December 2010 by admin
Categories: House Plants, Orchids, Orchids, Plants | Tags: , | Comments Off on Orchid Problems – Mistakes in Caring for Orchids


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