A few months back, we talked about orchid leaves turning purple which can commonly occur during the winter. Now that we are in the final weeks of summer with plenty of heat still lingering, let’s talk about yellow leaves.
There are a number of reasons why orchid leaves turn yellow, some of which should cause concern while others are just part of your plant’s natural life cycle.
If you have recently repotted an otherwise healthy plant, yellowing leaves may be a sign of stress. It is completely natural for a repotted orchid to shed leaves. The first stage of this shedding process will be the yellowing of select leaves. There is nothing to worry about if the rest of the plant looks strong.
Too Much Sun
If you grow your orchid outside, summer is the time when you need to take extra care to ensure that your plants aren’t getting burned. If the pseudobulbs and roots of your plant look healthy, but the you notice yellowing leaves, it’s likely that your orchids are simply getting too much sun. “Sunburn” will start on the highest point of the leaf. Leaves will turn from a nice healthy looking green to a lime-ish green then to yellow. If nothing is done to protect your plant, you will eventually find unsightly, round, papery spots that will permanently scar your plant.
Too Little Water or Too Much Water
If your leaves are beginning to turn yellow and are also floppy, wrinkled and/or leathery it is likely that your plant needs more water. Water your plant thoroughly and allow the water to completely drain.
On the flipside, overwatering can cause your plant to yellow. If your leaves look droopy, sickly and even slimy, you may be watering too much. Overwatering can kill a plant literally from the roots up. The roots of an overwatered plant will turn black and begin to rot before your leaves alert you that there is a problem. If you think you have overwatered your orchid, place your plant in a well ventilated location to allow more air flow to stave off bacterial or fungal infections. Wait until the potting media has dried out, then begin watering your plant again with less frequency than before.
Natural Life Cycle
If the lowest leaves of your otherwise healthy looking Phalaenopsis plant begin to yellow, don’t worry and do nothing. Your orchid is just going through a normal growth cycle to shed older leaves. We recommend that you avoid the temptation to cut the yellow leaf. Doing so could introduce fungus through the open cut wound. Your plant will seal the cut area if you allow the leaf to naturally die and fall off.
Bacteria, Fungus and Viruses
Yellow leaves can often be a sign of a bacterial, fungal or viral infection. Check the underside of your leaves as well as your roots for signs of infection and treat with a Bactercide, Fungicide, or Virucide. Use as directed by the manufacturer.
The key to happy, healthy orchids is to listen to your plants. We hope next time you spot a yellow leaf, you will have a better idea of what your orchid is trying to tell you.
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We love ferns but don't let them get mixed up with your orchids. Ferns are orchid foes not friends!
This may sound counterintuitive in that ferns and orchids are both epiphytes. So, by definition, they derive their nutrition from air, rain and their surroundings. Neither harm their host plant, but when grown side-by-side, ferns and orchids can act like young siblings fighting for attention. If you want your orchids to thrive, it’s best to remove the foe before it can do any damage.
These simple steps will help ensure that your collection remains an orchid collection rather than a fern collection.
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We’re often asked: (1) How do I know when to repot my orchid and (2) What is the best time to repot my orchid. Whether you are a first-time orchid owner or a long-time collector, follow these simple suggestions for repotting success.
In addition to structural damage, hurricanes can do a doozy on your landscape --- especially your orchids. We’ve assembled a few quick tips to help avoid further damage after a hurricane.
Too Much / Too Little Sunlight
If a storm causes you to lose trees and branches that previously provided filtered light for your orchids, be sure to relocate your orchids to a shadier spot as soon as possible to avoid orchid sunburn.
If you took your orchids indoors before the storm, make sure they are still receiving plenty of filtered sunlight. Often times, growers will move their orchids into a garage or bathroom to keep them protected but end up leaving them "in the dark" for too long while tending to other post-storm tasks.
If your orchids were exposed to saltwater associated with storm surge, it’s really important to flush your pots with fresh water. Saltwater can be very damaging to orchids. Salt, in a concentrated form, is a type of herbicide. The sooner you can clear the saltwater from your plants, the better your chances of saving them.
Too Much / Too Little Water
If your area received a lot of rain, check your outdoor pots to look to see if they are draining properly to avoid root rot. Drain holes may be clogged with debris and plant saucers may need to be drained. These efforts will also help to reduce breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
If you relocated your orchids indoors before the storm, don't forget to keep them hydrated. The air in your home is less humid than outdoors. Try misting them often until you can move your plants outdoors again.
Hurricane stress isn’t just for humans, orchids can experience it, too. Watch for signs of fungus and bacteria. When a plant is weakened from changes in the environment, they are more susceptible. Treat at the first sign of fungus or bacteria and keep your sick orchids isolated from your healthy ones.
Understanding the natural growing habitats of orchids helps us to understand where they should be happiest in our home. In nature, most orchids grow in tropical climates with lots of humidity, ventilation, and filtered light. Here are a few tips for growing orchids indoors and outdoors.
Finding the Perfect Indoor Spot
Find a window that provides good filtered light throughout the entire day. In nature, most orchids grow in trees or within the landscape under trees and get filtered light from daylight until dark. Make sure the light your orchid receives is filtered with a sheer or screen. Don’t place a plant in a window with direct light as glass can actually intensify the light and cause burn.
Orchids do well in bathrooms as they provide plenty of humidity. However, not all bathrooms have a window which is needed to ensure proper lighting. If you don't have a sunny window, grow lights are an alternative option.
Also remember that humidity levels are important when growing indoors. Your air conditioner and heater are designed to remove humidity from the air. So you will need to provide additional humidity by misting your plants daily. Another alternative is to create a water reservoir with pebbles and a shallow dish filled with water to the top of the pebbles. By setting your orchids on top of the pebbles, your plants won't sit directly in the water - but humid air will rise around the plant to provide the humidity your plants need.
Outdoors with a view
Back porches, lanais or pool areas provide a great growing environment for your orchids. Just remember to place your orchid where it won’t receive direct sunlight. Be sure to check the light levels throughout the day as shadows and light patterns may change from the morning to the afternoon.
Typically, an outdoor environment provides natural humidity, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on the weather. During certain times of the year, the humidity can be very low and you may need to mist your plants. Also pay close attention to the type of orchids that you are growing. For example, vandas often require daily waterings.
Another benefit to outdoor growing is natural ventilation. However, during certain times of the year, the wind may be stagnant. Most plant diseases and insects thrive in hot, stagnant areas. A simple box fan can provide the circulation needed to keep diseases and insects at bay.
While the information above offers good rules of thumb (a green thumb!), keep in mind that different types of orchids have different requirements. To learn how to care for specific orchid varieties, visit our common orchid varieties page for more details.
Summer is a time when fungal infections can quickly spread through your orchids. Fungi thrive in warm, humid conditions which coincidentally are the same conditions that most orchids need to survive. So, whether you are a greenhouse grower or your orchids are grown outside, you need to be vigilant about watching for the first signs of an infection. If left untreated, a fungus can kill your plants. But don’t worry, follow these instructions below to help detect, treat and prevent to bring your plants back to good health.
Let’s talk about the most common types of fungi that may impact your orchids:
Botrytis causes small brown spots on your flowers, ruining an otherwise beautiful flower. As the fungus spreads, you will notice more spots that are larger in size.
Use a fungicide such as Physan 20, Daconil, Thiphanate Methyl according to the product directions. For a less toxic option, you may also use Hydrogen Peroxide in a spray bottle. You should know that spraying a fungicide will help control the fungal problem, but may also spot a flower or brown the edges.
Improve the air circulation around your plants and remove dead plant materials (expired blooms, old pseudobulbs and dead leaves). Avoid watering flowers, and water early in the morning to allow plenty of time for excess water to be absorbed or evaporated. Also, monitor night temperatures and avoid dips below 60 degrees when possible.
We hope you never find evidence of these fungal infections among your orchids. However, know that if you do catch it early, you can save your plant before it is too late.
Remember to keep a clean growing environment, remove dead plant debris, allow for proper air circulation and water plants early in the morning. These simple suggestions will help keep the fungi away.
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No, we aren’t keiki-ing or kidding! Nature really can provide two for the price of one. A keiki is an offshoot that forms on a mother plant. The word keiki is derived from the Hawaiian word for baby. So if you are lucky, from time to time, your orchid plants may produce a baby that can grow into a full-sized, flowering orchid. A keiki is just one way that orchids propagate and most commonly occur with dendrobiums, phalaenopsis and epidendrums. This particular type of propagation produces a new plant that will have the same characteristics as the parent plant. So flower color, size and fragrance will be identical.
Where Do Keikis Grow?
Dendrobium and epidendrum keikis typically develop along the cane. You will notice roots sprouting from the side or tip of the cane, and a new independent cane will form from these roots. On a phalaenopsis, keikis sprout from nodes along a healthy, green flower spike.
What Do You Do with Keikis?
If you want to replicate the mother plant, allow the keiki to grow until the new plant develops a healthy root system and produces a new cane or multiple leaves. Be patient though, this growth process will take between six months to a year. If you prematurely remove the keiki, it will die.
Removing a Keiki
Simply use a sterilized cutting tool to remove the keiki taking care not to damage the new roots or the mother plant. Spray or swab the cut location with fungicide to protect the keiki and the mother plant from developing a fungus. If you don’t have fungicide readily available, sprinkle cinnamon from your spice cabinet on the wound. Cinnamon is a natural fungicide.
For step-by-step instructions, refer to this American Orchid Society: Removing a Keiki Video.
Caring for Your Keiki
Plant the baby orchid in fresh potting medium. Stabilize the young plant with a stake and clip. Mist as needed and over time, your plant will grow into an adult-sized orchid.
For tips on potting your baby orchid, view this American Orchid Society: Potting a Keiki Video.
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There are several factors that lead to poor orchid growth. Correctly identifying the source of the problem is key to understanding how to treat it and avoid it in the future. In this post, we’ll discuss the most common issues that arise from improper watering and feeding levels.
Overwatering and Underwatering
Not too much and not too little - but just the right amount of water will make your orchids very happy. But how do you know how much is just right?
Over-watering is the most common problem associated with poorly performing orchids. Symptoms can look very similar to those of under-watered plants because it often rots the roots and therefore prevents them from taking up adequate amounts of water.
The first thing to do is to examine the roots of the plant. If the roots are rotted (soft, black and soggy) then chances are the plant is being over-watered. If the potting media is fresh and the pot size is not too large, then you will need to cut back on the frequency of your watering. Also, because the rot is often associated with a bacteria or fungus, you may need to drench the plant or pot with a good fungicide or bactericide.
Under-watered plants often exhibit limp or withered leaves and withered stems or bulbs. This happens because the plant is not getting enough water to keep the leaves, bulbs, or stems turgid.
If the pot is not too small for the plant and the roots are in good health (white and firm), then this is easily remedied by watering the plant more frequently. Remember that Cattleyas and Dendrobiums like to dry between waterings. Once the potting media dries out, you should water the orchid promptly. Do not let the orchid stay dry for a prolonged period.
Also, realize that larger pots tend to stay wet longer than smaller pots. One trick to learn is to lift the pot up when it is ready to be watered and note the weight of the pot. Now, water your plant thoroughly and let it drain for 5 minutes, then lift the pot up and again note the weight. The difference in pot weight is noticeable and, over time, this can be a quick and easy way to tell when your plant requires watering.
Phalaenopsis orchids are beautiful and prolific. If left alone, each spike produces five to 10 blooms at a time, and each flower can last up to three months. With a little care, however, you can coax even more flowers out of a Phal. Here’s how you can enjoy almost never-ending blooms on a Phalaenopsis.
Check Your Phalaenopsis After Blooming
Before trying to entice a Phalaenopsis spike to produce more blooms, you need to check the plant and the spike’s health. First, only healthy, green spikes should be coaxed into flowering a second time. If there is any yellowing on the spike, it’s drying out and will eventually die. It should be cut back to the base, even if just the tip is yellowing, to let the plant focus on developing its root system and growing leaves. The orchid should flower the following season, within 12 months, and its flowers will likely be larger because the roots and leaves will be more developed.
Second, only spikes that don’t have any more buds on them should be trimmed. Occasionally, a spike will cease growing and flower, only to grow again and produce more buds. If there are more buds on the tip of the spike, leave it alone until they finished flowering.
Cutting Back a Phalaenopsis Spike
As long as a spike is healthy and has no more flowers, you can try to coax more flowers out of it by trimming it back. Instead of cutting it all the way back to the leaves, leave two nodes on the spike. Cut it about ½ inch above the second of the two nodes. (Nodes are the little bumps on the stem.)
Most of the time, if the plant is healthy, and conditions are right, one of the two nodes will produce a side shoot. This side shoot will begin flowering within eight to 12 weeks. Although these flowers may not be quite as large as the initial group of blooms, they will still be beautiful and last for a long time.
In some cases, the node will form a keiki, which is a little plant. Keikis must remain attached to the mother plant for two years, at which point they will begin to develop roots and can be planted on their own. During these two years, however, a keiki will send up spikes of its own, which will produce flowers.
Timing Your Trimmings
As long as a Phalaenopsis is healthy, you should be able to continue cutting its spike back to produce more side shoots and additional flowers. If a Phal has more than one spike, timing your trimmings can produce virtually never-ending blooms, because flowers can last for up to three months, and side shoots will produce blooms within two to three months.
Keep in mind that when you keep flowering on the same spike, it will slow down the plant’s growth. It takes a lot of energy and nutrients for an orchid to grow a spike and flower. Just like people need a nap after exerting a lot of energy, your orchid will need a rest period after flowering to stay healthy. So, be sure to strike a balance between continual growth and rest periods.
Watering and Feeding Your Phalaenopsis
Between blooms, you should continue to water and feed your Phalaenopsis as normal. Its soil should be kept moist, although not soggy, and it should be fed twice a month with an orchid-specific fertilizer. If you’re trying to coax more blooms out of your Phal, alternating feedings between Orchid Plus® Plant Food and Orchid Better Bloom Plant Food will help maintain a healthy plant and produce beautiful blooms.
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It's likely that you have stopped to admire a Vanda at your local garden center or even seen them growing in a greenhouse or your neighborhood. These eye-catching orchids certainly attract attention. Less common than Phalaenopsis and Cattleya orchids, Vandas require slightly different care than other orchid varieties, but they are well worth the effort!
Vandas are showy, long-lasting, frequent bloomers. They are very rewarding to grow and often times fragrant. Prized for their intense colors, they are commonly available in hot pink, orange, red and purple. The Vanda genus also includes a species with vibrant blue flowers called Vanda coerulea or the Blue Orchid (shown right). Unlike many other orchids that bloom just once a year, healthy Vandas can bloom throughout the year.
Leaves and Types
Vandas are different from Cattleyas and Oncidiums in that they don’t have pseudobulbs. Water is retained in the plants' leaves which is why they need to be watered more frequently.
Vandas come in three types and are easily distinguishable by looking at the plant's leaves.
Their natural habitat ranges from India and the Himalayas to China, the Philippines and New Guinea. A few species are found in the Western Pacific Islands and Queensland, Australia.
Most species in the Vanda genus are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants without harming the host plant. By clinging to trees, Vandas have access to more sunlight versus growing on the forest floor, while still being shielded from direct sunlight by the tree canopy. In addition to growing in trees, some Vandas are lithophytic which means the grow on rocks, and some are terrestrial (grow on the ground).
Vandas come in many sizes. Some are tiny and can fit in the palm of your hand whereas others can grow up to 6 feet tall.
Individual flowers range in size from less than an inch to four inches. They grow in clusters with up to 15 flowers per stem. Vandas are easily recognizable from other orchids due to their long, rambling roots that enable the plant to cling to trees. Often times, you will find Vanda roots growing two to four feet below the plant. Vandas are unique in that they do not grow in traditional orchid plant media like fir bark and charcoal.
Caring for Vandas
If you are interested in learning more about the ideal conditions for growing Vandas, please visit our Vanda Care Instructions on the Better-Gro website. There you will find recommendations for temperature, light, watering, feeding and humidity.
We hope you will consider bringing home your own Vanda in the future. Please send us your photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #BetterGroBlooms.
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You’ve heard of the winter blues but what is making your orchids turn purple? “The purple coloration you see on the underside and sometimes topside of orchid leaves is a winter phenomenon,” says Robert Palmer, head grower at Better-Gro. “But don’t worry, this is completely natural. Many orchids that are grown outdoors either in pots or on trees go through this annual cycle.”
Just as autumn leaves turn red, orange and purple in the fall, some orchids go through a similar change although they don’t shed their leaves. Purple leaves occur for several reasons.
As you may remember from school, chlorophyll is what allows a plant to absorb light and produce energy. Purple leaves are a natural sign that your orchids have cut back on producing chlorophyll during a time of winter dormancy. Essentially, the orchid is saving energy for the spring time. In contrast, orchids that are dark green in winter are likely continuing to expend energy producing excess chlorophyll. What’s wrong with healthy dark green leaves? Nothing, however, it’s likely that your plant is focusing on its leaves rather than reserving energy to produce spring blossoms.
Purple leaves can be an indication that your plant is receiving too much light. This light exposure is common with orchids grown outdoors due to reduced winter tree canopies. As long as your orchid is not getting burned, the excess light and purple leaves are not harmful.
Orchids that were exposed to winter cold spells will exhibit purple leaves if they are magnesium deficient.
How Can You Reduce the Purple Coloration?
Although purple leaves are not harmful, you can give your orchids a leg up on spring and boost the flower-initiation process with Epsom salts. Simply mix 1 gallon of water with ½ to 1 Tablespoon of Epsom salts. Generously spray your plants once a month. This inexpensive treatment can be applied year-round and will help reduce purple leaves.
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These plants have the same needs as their larger counterparts: humidity, light, and warm temperatures.
Water: Because of the smaller pot size, often times they will require less water than a traditional phal. We suggest that you water once weekly, making sure the pot drains entirely through the drainage holes. If you keep the plant indoors, you may need to lightly mist your mini to add humidity. Or, you can place the orchid pot in a container of water and pebbles making sure the pot is sitting on top of the rocks and not directly in the water.
Temperature: Your orchid will enjoy the same temperatures that you do in your home. Keep your plant in a location that ranges between 65 and 80° F.
Light: Place your mini in a bright location but avoid direct sunlight which may burn the leaves. Typically, southern or eastern facing windows are best.
Plant Food: Use a water soluble, balanced plant food designed for orchids. Follow the care instructions on the label.
Like their larger-sized cousins, mini phals will often bloom two to three times a year. We hope you enjoyed this mini tutorial. 😍
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It is such a joy to bring home a new orchid. They brighten up your home and garden, and some varieties stay in bloom for up to three months. Whether you have just a few plants or an extensive collection, here are several steps you should take when bringing home a new orchid from the garden center, grocery store or local orchid show.
Check the Moisture Level of the Potting Media
Stores do their best to properly care for plants, but under or over watering does occur. If the plant feels heavy from water and the potting media is cool to the touch, wait a few days before watering to allow the excess moisture to be absorbed. If the potting media is dry and/or the leaves look limp, give the plant a good watering, but make sure the water flows through and exits the pot.
Look for Bugs
Your new orchid may have left the greenhouse free from bugs, but once exposed to other plants in the store, some critters may decide to move to a new host plant. In addition to inspecting the plant in the store, it is a good idea to do an additional check at home. Some bugs are almost impossible to see with the naked eye, so a simple light rinse of the leaves with water will likely wash away the bugs. If you do happen to notice a small spot of scale or mealy bugs, you can eliminate these pests by wiping the leaves with a cotton ball soaked in 70% isopropyl alcohol.
If you have a collection of orchids, it’s best to keep your new orchid in a different location for at least a week. This separation will allow you to look for bugs, fungus or bacteria on the new plant before exposing your existing healthy plants to potential issues.
Remove Netting and Plastic Wraps
Growers will often use netting to prevent the potting media from spilling out. Be sure to remove the net or tape once you have brought your plant home to avoid new growth from getting trapped and damaged.
Additionally, if your plant has a thin colorful plastic or foil wrap surrounding the pot, it is best to remove these wraps. Orchids are epiphytic and their roots need air flow. These wraps limit that flow and trap water which could cause the plant to rot. If you want to use a decorative pot while your plant is in bloom, simply place the orchid's plastic or terracotta pot inside your preferred pot, making sure the water can drain.
Repot After the Blooms Have Dropped
Sphagnum moss is used by many growers to keep plants from drying out during shipping and while in the store. After your orchid has finished blooming, we recommend repotting your orchid in fresh potting mix. If you repot while your orchid is in bloom, the blossoms may prematurely drop.
We hope these simple suggestions will help you the next time you bring home your next orchid.
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If buying plant food has you saying IDK (short for I Don’t Know) about NPK, don’t worry! You don’t need to be a chemist, biologist or professional grower. We’ve got the answers to help you select the right plant food.
So, What is NPK?
NPK is an abbreviation for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). Remember the abbreviations on the Periodic Table from high school chemistry class? These nutrients when applied at the right time in the correct amount can help you grow healthier, happier plants.
Behind the Numbers
Not all fertilizers say “NPK” on the packaging, but you will consistently find three numbers that correspond to the percentage of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium content in the fertilizer. For example, you may see 10-10-10 on the packaging label which indicates the plant food contains 10% of each of these primary nutrients.