Root rot is a disease that Phalaenopsis orchids succumb to when they have been subjected to too much water.Sometimes orchids are purchased that are already suffering from root rot, but the signs of the disease are subtle. Because root rot is the most common disease with orchids, it is important for orchid owners to know the signs so that the disease can be stopped quickly.
What are the signs of root rot?
- Buds that drop from a Phalaenopsis orchid for no apparent reason.
- Listless or floppy leaves.
- The lack of blooms after purchasing an orchid.
- Phalaenopsis orchid leaves should feel strong and tough. If they feel withered or soft, you should suspect root rot.
- Exposed roots that are withered or brittle instead of plump and active.
- Phalaenopsis orchids that are planted in normal potting soil are more susceptible to root rot.
- Black, squishy roots are an absolute sign of root rot for the Phalaenopsis orchid.
- If the orchid is in the wrong potting media, then repotting it using proper orchid material is crucial.
- Never let orchids sit in water.
- When watering a Phalaenopsis orchid, let the water drain entirely through the orchid container. The amount of water used is not the problem, but watering too frequently will cause root rot.
Just Add Ice has the perfect solution for watering Phalaenopsis orchids. All you need is three ice cubes for your orchid once a week for proper watering. We offer a free desktop watering calendar that can be personalized for your watering schedule, as well as free text and email reminders, so that you will never forget to water your Phalaenopsis orchid.
Despite their delicate appearance, Phalaenopsis orchids are actually fairly resistant to pest infestations. That being said, it is still important to inspect your Phalaenopsis orchid on a regular basis to check for any problems so they can be nipped in the bud…so to speak!
Phalaenopsis orchids are not only loved by humans, they are also loved by sap feeding insects, spider mites, and some pests that like to chew on orchids. While not usually found inside of a home, slugs, snails, caterpillars, and grasshoppers find orchids to be a tasty treat.
Cockroaches love orchids, too…
Indoor orchids may fall prey to an insect that most people would not associate with the delicate looking plant. Cockroaches will damage orchids significantly by eating flowers, roots, and any new growths of the orchid. The only way to keep cockroaches from eating orchids is to eliminate cockroaches from the home altogether. Pesticides used to eliminate cockroaches should never be used on an orchid, as they are toxic and would cause damage or death to the orchid. Instead, it is recommended that cockroach baiting stations and natural pest control measures be taken by hiring a pest control professional.
Phalaenopsis orchids must be delicious, because mice have been known to attack the long necked beauties as well. Orchid growers have been shocked to find their lovely orchids mowed to the ground by the sharp teeth of the house mouse. Even the typical house cat has been known to nibble on orchids. While it’s never a good idea for your cat to chew on orchids, Phalaenopsis orchids are non-toxic to both cats and dogs.
Some people may think that Phalaenopsis orchids are fussy plants that require constant attention, but avid fans of orchids tend to disagree. With a little love and attention, Phalaenopsis orchids will reward its owner with beautiful flowers and the knowledge of a special type of plant.
A question often arises as to when it is an appropriate time to repot an orchid. Different types of orchids have specific repotting requirements depending on the type of orchid they are.
What do I do when my orchid has outgrown its current pot?
Examine the size of the root mass and remember that orchids like to live in slightly tight quarters. If their root mass is in too large of a pot, the energy of the plant will be focused on root growth and not on flowering. Best practice is to choose a new container that is one inch larger in diameter if the orchid has outgrown its current pot.
What material should be used when repotting a Phalaenopsis orchid?
Common materials that are used include sphagnum moss, fir bark, coconut husk and tree fern fibers. Repotting can include a mixture of two or three of these types of materials.
How often should a Phalaenopsis orchid be repotted?
It is best to repot every 12 to 24 months.
Does it matter what type of pot that a Phalaenopsis orchid is potted in?
No. Phalaenopsis orchids can easily exist in plastic or clay pots. Be mindful of the difference in watering that is required for your orchid if you change from a plastic pot to a clay pot. All pots must have drainage holes; roots that continuously touch water will rot and die which will eventually kill the plant as well.
When much time and effort has gone into saving a Phalaenopsis orchid that is suffering from disease or infestation, it can be difficult to know when it is time to admit defeat rather than potentially infecting your other or even future plants within your home or business. If you keep the pot or don’t clean your gardening tools properly after working with a diseased Phalaenopsis orchid, it is likely that the disease will spread to other plants. So, how do we make the decision to give up on one or more orchids that are sick with little to no chance of survival?
Points to Consider
One option is to ask a trusted friend. Even a botanically unknowledgeable person can spot a truly ugly plant that has little hope. If you have fellow Phalaenopsis orchid enthusiasts as friends, turn to them for their insight about how the plant(s) look. You can also consult our Orchid Care section for helpful tips and information.
Any plants that are rootless, unfortunately, should be thrown away as they have no hope of survival. A healthy orchid has white, fleshy, and firm or green plump roots, while an overwatered one has brown and mushy roots. If you find that your orchid has bad roots, snip them off with a sterilized cutting tool and then repot it. On the other hand, if the part of the orchid that connects the leaves and the roots is mushy, it is time to toss the plant.
Clean Your Orchid Tools
In the meantime, clean and disinfect all of your supplies. By disinfecting your gardening tools, you will lessen the chance of the disease or pest spreading to a new plant.
The longer you stare at a dying orchid, the more depressed you’ll feel. Look at the positive side: if you can let go of sad cases, you can make room for new and beautiful orchids!
Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is perhaps a surprising item for an orchid enthusiast to have on hand. And yes, you’re right, it isn’t good for your plant, exactly...except if you’re having a problem with scale or mealy bugs.
Identify and Treat Scale Quickly
Scale and mealy bugs come from the same big insect family as aphids. They can all be detrimental to the healthy Phalaenopsis orchid, but scale especially can spread quickly through a greenhouse or home environment, so it is very important to identify and treat it quickly and thoroughly.
You won’t want to soak your plant in isopropyl alcohol, since it would dehydrate it, but if you use a cotton swab or dilute it in a spray to directly treat the pests, it will help you get rid of pests that threaten the health of your Phalaenopsis orchid.
It may require more time and attention to pinpoint your target, but it is effective and safe for use indoors. You will want to make sure you reach every area that might be affected. Being thorough early on will help you not only save your plant, but keep you from having to do repeated treatments.
For difficult cases, you may need to try it in combination with insecticidal soap, horticultural oil or chemicals to defeat these pests.
Also, be sure to clean off any garden tools that you may have used on infected plants with the rubbing alcohol. Otherwise, you may merely be spreading them around instead of eradicating the threat. Hopefully, with some care, you won’t have to sacrifice even one plant to save your collection.
Photo Credit: Reprinted from the NOVEMBER 2001 issue of Orchids -- The Bulletin of the American Orchid Society. Copyright American Orchid Society
Another key to Phalaenopsis orchid plant health and pest control, along with insecticidal soap, is horticultural oil. These (generally non-petroleum) oils work much like insecticidal soap does: the fatty, waxy buildup blocks the ability of insects to breathe. The benefit to using them is that they are natural, easy to use, and cause little problems with the plant itself—particularly since horticultural oils are not poisonous to plants—or those nearby, as well as being safe for children and pets. Even friendly insects are safe in many cases!
What to Look For in Horticultural Oils
For your Phalaenopsis orchid, you will want to find a fine (or light) horticultural oil to help you get rid of orchid enemies like spider mites, scale, thrips, mealy bugs or aphids. Too heavy an oil, or impure oils mixed with sulfur or a strong insecticide may cause damage. You also won’t want to use oils for plants that are stressed by drought or high heat.
Neem oil is often used by botanists. It comes from the Margosa tree found mostly in India, where it has been used as an insect repellent and for pest control for centuries. Non-toxic to humans, animals and beneficial insects, it is a good choice for indoor plants. Mix with water and spray from a bottle, reapplying with a fresh batch every few days. Your mixture will break down after about eight hours, so you don’t want to mix too large a batch at once.
Another natural oil is Orange Oil. It smells nice and fresh, and if you can’t find it on its own to mix into your own winning combination. It is sold commercially as Orange Guard.
If you’re interested in learning more about ways to protect your orchid, check out some of our other related blog posts.
Insecticidal soap is an important item in the arsenal of every Phalaenopsis orchid grower. You can buy it pre-mixed, but you can also save money and control the ingredients by making it yourself at home. Either way, it is an effective eradicator of many invasive orchid pests, including aphids, mealy bugs, thrips, scale and spider mites.
The Basics Behind Insecticidal Soap
The basic ingredient is soap. If you want to be organic, try one with all natural ingredients and without any detergents that would break up grease or antibacterial solutions. The natural fats are essential in coating the orchid pests and either smothering them—or breaking down their shells—without damaging your plant, or nearby pets or children.
Additional Solutions to Rid Orchid Pests
Other ingredients can include vegetable oil, which help the solution stay longer without evaporating, or a strong herb or spice, like mint or pepper has proven efficient in killing these pesky insects.
You will want to wash the solution off of your orchid after a few hours. If your problem is aphids or mealy bugs on your flowers, try it with warm water. If the pests are on your orchid’s roots, you can soak the roots in a diluted solution for a few hours, then rinse and repot in new soil.
In difficult cases, like with thrips or scale, you may have to do this several times. Try not to get too frustrated. Approach it with a scientific sense of inquiry, and you may end up with your own special blend of insecticidal soap that keeps your orchids pest free indefinitely!
Phalaenopsis orchids are beautiful plants that provide amazing blooms with minimal effort. The exotic-looking plants can be found in many countries and are dotted on coffee tables from coast to coast throughout the United States. The Phalaenopsis orchid will burst with months of delightful flowers usually in the fall and spring. There are some rules to adhere to however when it comes to tending to a Phalaenopsis orchid. One of the common problems that people run into with the Phalaenopsis orchid is yellowing leaves on the plant.
Here are some reasons why the leaves on a Phalaenopsis orchid will yellow:
- As with other plants, yellowing leaves could be caused because they are old. It is natural for old leaves to yellow and fall off at a gradual pace. Orchid owners can tell if leaves are older by checking to see if new roots are emerging from the stem where the leaves once occurred. Those roots will eventually form a mass of roots that will be visible.
- Leaves that yellow from the top of the plant however are an indication that there is a problem with the plant that will need to be addressed. Yellowing leaves that remain firm and plump are most likely receiving too much light, which will eventually diminish the color of the leaves on a Phalaenopsis orchid. Orchids are finicky about the amount of light that they receive. Direct light will cause sunburn and dryness so it is important to find a suitable place for your orchid where it receives plenty of sunshine without the threat of being overheated. Indirect light in a home or office will suit a Phalaenopsis orchid well.
- When leaves on a Phalaenopsis orchid become lifeless and wrinkled the orchid is most likely dehydrated. Watering has never been easier when you sign up for our free orchid care watering reminders. With Just Add Ice Orchids, adding three ice cubes to your orchid plants once a week is your simple watering solution.
You will find many more great tips on taking care of Phalaenopsis orchids when you check out some of our other blog posts.
We discussed the initial shock of discovering your orchid plant has lost its blooms in our previous post, but today we continue to explain how cutting back your spike can actually help the reblooming process of your Phalaenopsis orchid.
Cutting the Spike of Your Orchid
Experts believe that cutting the Phalaenopsis orchid spike off at the base (if your spike is brown) will allow the plant to conserve its energy as it prepares itself for regrowth and blooming. Having the Phalaenopsis orchid spike emerge from the base once again will result in blooms that appears sooner, and the blooms will also be smaller because it will take the plant more energy for the spike to branch.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when thinking of cutting a green Phalaenopsis orchid spike:
Nodes occur in various locations along a spike. Some nodes have the potential to create a new branch at some of the node locations. If a spike is going to be cut, it should be done directly one inch above the node.
When Phalaenopsis orchids have been blooming for a long period of time, the bloom spikes often become long and unruly looking. A good time to cut spikes is in the later part of spring so that the Phalaenopsis orchid has the entire summer to regain its strength, grow more leaves, and experience root regrowth.
Because of the constant air temperature that exists within our homes, the Phalaenopsis orchid may forget when it is time for the blooming to once again begin. To help these beauties along in their plight, orchid plants require a little exposure to the cool evening temperatures, which will help to kick-start the spikes into growing once again.
Many people have heard that orchids are difficult to handle so they often steer clear of owning their own orchid plant, despite their love and appreciation for the beautiful looking flowers. Phalaenopsis orchids, however, are considered to be the easiest type of orchid to grow within a home environment. Many owners of Phalaenopsis orchids are surprised to find that mature Phalaenopsis orchid plants are in bloom for a good part of the year.
The Loss of Orchid Blooms
In the late part of spring or early summer, the blooms on the Phalaenopsis orchid plant will begin to fall. To those who are new to orchid ownership, they may think that the Phalaenopsis orchid is dying due to plant illness, or perhaps even dehydration. The dropping of the blossoms however are only beginning the plants yearly growth cycle. During this time, the Phalaenopsis orchid plant will focus on growing new leaves and roots before it is time to once again begin the blooming cycle.
A new Phalaenopsis orchid owner often wonders if or when they should cut back their plants spikes once the plant has lost its blooms. On some plants, the spike will turn brown all of the way down to the base of the plant. On other plants, the spike will turn brown only partially down the spike of the plant.
Check back to learn more information about how cutting spikes affect the growth of a Phalaenopsis orchid.