As orchids have increased in popularity, so too has their availability at traditional nurseries, home improvement stores and grocery stores. So with more choices available, how do you know that you are selecting a healthy plant?
Whether you are just looking for an arrangement that will last longer than traditional cut flowers, or you plan to nurture the plant for years of enjoyment, it’s important to take a few extra minutes to pick the right plant.
What to Look For When Selecting Your Orchid
Buds and Flowers
Pots and Potting mix
Orchids provide the perfect environment for pests to live and thrive. Warm, humid air; plump, soft leaves; tender buds and blossoms; and plenty of crevices to hide under leaves and in potting media. If you aren't careful, a small bug infestation can quickly grow into a big and costly problem. Below are some photos and descriptions to help you identify what may be harming your plants as well some suggestions on how to get rid of pesky pests.
Scale are piercing, sucking insects that are difficult to control as the reproducing females are covered by a protective shell that also protects the pest's eggs. Scale is often resistant to many pesticides due to their hard outer shell.
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that are generally pear-shaped and green or black in color. They reproduce rapidly and are most often seen on flower buds/spikes and new growth. They produce a sticky substance referred to as honeydew which can encourage the growth of a black fungus (sooty mold). If the leaves of your plants exhibit sooty mold, it's likely that you have an aphid infestation.
Sometimes confused with scale, mealybugs are a soft-bodied insect that are readily identified at the mature stage as white to greyish-white and cotton-like. They are often found in the same areas as scale and can do substantial damage if not dealt with immediately.
Removal of Scale, Aphids and Mealybugs: Use a small toothbrush or cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol (known as isopropyl alcohol) to remove the pests. Do not use other forms of alcohol as they may damage your plants. Be sure to get into the crevices of the leaves as bugs tend to hide there. This treatment is a tedious process and must be repeated often. However, if you catch and treat the infestation early, it will save your plants.
These are very small, elongated insects that are most prevalent on flowers and buds. Often times, their presence is not recognized until the damage from their feeding is obvious. These bugs suck the juice right out of your plants which can cause the deformation of buds, flowers, and new growth. You may also notice browning around the edges of your flowers.
To get rid of thrips, you will need to use a pesticide. Your plants should be inspected weekly, and the pesticide should be reapplied until the infestation has disappeared completely.
Mites are microscopic arthropods that are related to ticks. They attack the undersides of leaves. Their presence is often unnoticed until it's too late. They leave behind silvery, pitted, unsightly leaves.
It is important to note that mites are not insects. Most insecticides are not effective at killing mites. You must purchase a pesticide that is specifically labeled as a miticide for use against this pest. For small infestations in the home, wiping the infested areas with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol can also be effective.
Grasshoppers, especially Lubbers, can do significant damage to orchids in a very short period of time. Lubbers are usually 1” to 3” long and can vary in color from yellow to black depending on the species and stage of growth.
These are best controlled immediately by hand or pruners.
Orchids Deserve Treats, Too
Although the growing season is winding down as we head into fall, that doesn’t mean you should stop feeding your orchids. Routine, year-round feeding promotes healthy growth, bigger blooms and happier plants.
So how should you “treat” your orchids? There are several ways to go about feeding your plants and selecting one method over another really depends on how much time you have to spend with your orchids.
The weakly, weekly method is probably the most common method for gardeners who have multiple plants and time to fertilize. This approach is typically performed with a water soluble or liquid plant food whereby you reduce the concentration of the fertilizer by diluting it with additional water. With our Better-Gro® Orchid Plus plant food, we recommend one teaspoon per gallon of water when feeding with the weakly, weekly method.
First and Third Friday Feedings
Other growers prefer the less time-consuming method for providing plant food by picking a particular day to fertilize. One way to remember this may be to always feed on the first and third Friday of the month. Place a reminder on your calendar and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing your plant food. When usingBetter-Gro® Orchid Plus®, twice monthly, we recommend mixing a half of a tablespoon of plant food per gallon of water.
If you are always on the go and have limited time, don’t worry. You don’t have to deprive your plants. We suggest a continuous release formula like our Better-Gro® Houseplant, Bromeliad & Orchid Food because it that will feed your plants with one application for up to 12 months. Specially-formulated pellets release nutrients over time, so you don’t have to worry about over- or under-feeding your plants.
Extra Treat for You and Your Plants
If you really want to treat your plants and treat yourself to bigger, better blooms, try including Better-Gro® Orchid Better-Bloom® into your feeding routine. This plant food formula includes a high content phosphorous that serves as a powerful blooming agent. Your plants will produce more blooms, deeper colors and larger blossoms. We recommend giving your plants Better-Bloom every fourth watering.
Don’t forget your orchids this Halloween. They like “treats” too! Boo-Yah!
Happy Blooming and Happy Halloween from Better-Gro!