FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT ORCHIDS
Since publishing my page I have answered many questions that people have asked. I am finding that a lot of the questions are the same ones over and over. With this in mind I decided to add this new F.A.Q. page. If you have a question about orchids please check here first to see if someone else has already asked the same question. This is a new section, and if your question is not here or you have one that you feel should be, please send your question to me at linda@orchidlady.com I answer all letters.

I am also on the look-out for Orchid TIPS. Do you have a neat trick? Do you want to share your idea? Send it to me and I will pass it on (with appropriate credit to you, of course).
- INDEX -
General Questions about orchids
Q: Where can I buy orchids?
Q: Where can I buy orchid supplies?
Q: What are good orchids for the beginner?
Q: Are there any orchids native to where I live?
Q: Where can I see a picture of an orchid I am interested in?
Q: Where can I buy books on orchids and which ones should I buy?
Q: Can I grow orchids from seed?
Q: Can I make my own starter mix for growing orchid seeds?
Q: I have some leaves growing on my Phalaenopsis flower spike. What should I do?
Q: What happens if I leave the keikis on the flower spike?
Q: Where did you buy your greenhouse?
Q: I am looking for information about an "Orchid Case."
Q: Is it true that cinnamon works very well to treat fungal/bacterial infections in orchids?
Q: Are orchid plants or their blooms poisonous?
Q: The flowers on my flower spike has fallen off. Do I now need to cut the stem?
Q: All orchids fragrant?
Q: How often should I fertilize my orchid?
Q: What does the numbers on my fertilizer mean?
Q: How often should I water?
Q: James Nguyen asked, "What is this white stuff in my orchid bark?"
Q: Dealing with Black Rot and Root Rot
Q: How do I sterilize my equipment?
Q: How do I remove spots on the leaves of my plants?
Q: Are there really "Orchid Trees?"
Q: Why won't my orchid bloom?
Q: Why did the buds fall off my Phalaenopsis?
Q: Why are the leaves on my orchid turning brown and falling off?
Q: Why are my orchids roots growing all over and not staying in the pot?
Q: I just bought an orchid bulb what kind is it?
Q: I have some pretty pots with no drain holes, can I plant my orchids in them?
Q: What is a flower sheath?
Q: The sheaths on my Cattleyas have dried and did not produce blooms.
Should I remove them?

Q: How can I keep the names from fading or washing off my tags I use to identify my orchids?

Questions about humidity, air movement and lights
Q: What is a humidity tray and how can I make one?
Q: How can I keep algae from growing in my humidity trays?
Q: Where is a good place with humidity to grow my orchid?
Q: Can we use a table top fountain for humidity?
Q: Should I mist my orchid?
Q: Should I place a fan near my orchid?
Q: Should I use an air conditioner in the room I grow my orchids?
Q: Can I smoke around my orchids?
Q: How much light should I give my orchid?
Q: What does full sun, partial sun, partial shade, filtered sun, and dense shade mean?
Q: Can I grow orchids under lights?

Questions about BUGS
ACK! ANTS! How to deal with those buggers.
ACK! SLUGS and SNAILS What do I do with these buggers?!
How can I tell if my plant has bugs?
What are Scale insects?
What are Mealy bugs?
What are Thrips?
What are Springtails?
What are Fungus Gnats?
What are Aphids?
What are spider mites?
What are the white flies?
Where can I find inexpensive book about Orchid pests?
How can I control and get rid of insects.
What is Neem Oil?

General Questions about orchids
Q: Where can I buy orchids?
A: There are many orchid growers and nurseries around the world. The first place I would look would be on my Preferred Vendor page. Just let them know that Linda, The Orchid Lady sent you over and they will be glad to help you. You can also check your phone book for nurseries or growers in your area. If there is an Orchid Society or Association in your area, they can be of great help. Then of course, there is the WEB. You can start by going to Orchids on WWW, The Gardening Launch Pad, or the The American Orchid Society (A.O.S.). My links page lists several other good resources. You may also try doing a search using the major databases; Yahoo, WebCrawler, Alta Vista, and others.

Q: Where can I buy orchid supplies?
A: Many nurseries and orchid growers handle supplies. I would check locally with them (if they have what you need--many times they won't) to see what they will charge. Then I would check the WWW. My Preferred Vendor page includes several companies that provide supplies of all types-- many items are found nowhere else!

Q: What are good orchids for the beginner?
A: The Phalaenopsis species are very good if you have a low light situation. If you have very high or bright light (but NOT direct sunlight), you may consider growing Cattleyas. These are the two easiest to grow. For more information on growing these and other species check-out my Orchid Dictionary and my monthly articles for more information.

Q: Are there any orchids native to where I live?
A: Orchids grow all over the world. Here in North America (USA and Canada), many species are native to many states amd provinces. Here is the link to a list of North American native orchids

Q: Where can I see a picture of an orchid I am interested in?
A: In my Encyclopedia there are lots of pictures of many genera and species. Many have full pictures along with the thumbnail photo. Searching the Internet is also a fast and easy way to find your orchid. Google search engine is one of the best to find orchid information.

Q: Where can I buy books on orchids and which ones should I buy?
A: On my Book Page I have a listing of all the orchid-related books I have purchased. They are arranged from beginners to experts. Most large book stores, orchid suppliers and the The American Orchid Society (A.O.S.) have lists of books about orchids. The A.O.S. has the most complete book list you can find.

Q: Can I grow orchids from seed?
A: Well, yes, but it isn't as simple as just planting a hand full of seeds in the garden or a flower box in the spring. The process is long (about 3 years) and requires special equipment and knowledge about the process. In fact, it's a miracle that orchids are able to propagate in the wild!
I have written a very easy to follow article, Growing Orchids From Seed, about how to raise orchids from seed and a second article, Bottle Babies, about continuing the growing process after you remove them from the flask.


Q: Can I make my own starter mix for growing orchid seeds?
A: Yes you can, although I think you would be better off purchasing the mix in a ready-made powder form from many of the orchid suppliers.

If you are a die-hard, and insist on doing things the hard way, here here is a simple recipe that the Hawaiian orchid growers discovered years ago. With this recipe you should be able to grow most orchid seeds.

Mix two teaspoons of concentrated, soluble plant fertilizer in a quart of water in which you have dissolved 5 to 7 level teaspoons of sugar and about 12 teaspoons of agar, which can be obtained through your local pharmacist. Adjust your PH to about 5.0 to 5.2 with a drop of hydrochloric acid, available from hydroponics dealers.

FOR REPLATING, which involves moving the seedlings to another flask so they can grow bigger, add half a ripe banana, mashed ,to a mixture with only 8 level teaspoons of agar instead of 12. You must also adjust your PH.

Q: I have some leaves growing on my Phalaenopsis flower spike. What should I do?
A: Phalaenopsis will sometimes produce keikis (off shoots) on the flower spikes. If you let them grow they will produce roots. When the roots are about two inches long, cut the spike near the keiki and plant your new plant in fine bark or other suitable media for seedlings. This is the fastest way to get a new plant from a Phalaenopsis (Photos).

Q: What happens if I leave the keikis on the flower spike?
A: Some keikis will continue to grow and some will even bloom. I have one blooming right now that I chose not to remove yet from the flower spike. Keep an eye on your keiki and as long as the roots are healthy and the leaves are firm you can leave them on the flower spike. Remember when you water or mist to always make sure the roots recieves some moisture. (Photo).

Q: Where did you buy your greenhouse?
A: I bought my greenhouse from Turner Greenhouses. It is shipped unassembled. I have been very happy with it and it was easy to assemble. I bought my heater and swamp-cooler from them also. They have a very nice catalog that you can request. You can call 1-800-672-4770 or write them at:
Turner Greenhouses
P.O. Box 1260
Highway 117 South
Goldsboro, N.C 27533
(No, I don't get a cut for generating business for them :-)

Q: I am looking for information about an "Orchid Case."
A: An Orchid Case, a.k.a. Wardian Case is an enclosed glass box. The Wardian case allows you to provide a controlled environment in which to grow orchids and other plants kind of like a mini greenhouse. You can easily control the humidity, light, air movement, and temperature within the case. Wardian cases can be large and elaborate ($$$) or as small and simple as an old aquarium.
You can also build one yourself. A special Thanks to Ray Loszewski for providing me with the following details on how he built his large Wardian case and to Brian A. O'Brien for sharing the plans for his Wardian version, use, and experience. For those that want to just buy a case (and accessories), visit Orchidarium, Inc.

Q: Is it true that cinnamon works very well to treat fungal/bacterial infections in orchids?
A: Yes, for many years growers have used cinnamon for spot treatments of fungal and bacterial infections on their orchids. The plants should be damp so the cinnamon will adhere to it. The cinnamon should be dusted on NOT poured on. Plants can die as a result of too much. It works well as an antibiotic for orchid wounds also. There have been reports of it being used as an insecticide as well.

Carla O'Brienn wrote with another good tip for root rot:

"I read about using cinnamon but that didn't work. Then I tried Hydrogen Peroxide (yes peroxide). I felt that the plant was dead already what did I have to lose. I took the plant out of the bark, cut all the dead roots out and soaked the plant in Peroxide. I re-potted in new bark and weeks later my plant was coming back. A year later my plant is bloomed. So don't write off an orchid until you have exhausted all methods."

Q: Are orchid plants or their blooms poisonous?
A: The American Medical Association Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants does not list any Orchidaceae as being poisonous. A few orchids are known to cause allergic skin reactions much like poison ivy. One in particular is Cypripedium reginae.
In Hawaii orchid blooms are used as a garnish for food and drinks. Many Asian recipes also have orchid blooms as an ingredient.
A word of caution, IF you have sprayed your orchids with an insecticide, the residue could still be on the plant therefore making it poisonous. With all this said, it appears they are not poisonous, but there could be JUST ONE.

Q: The flowers on my flower spike has fallen off.
Do I now need to cut the stem?

A: Each genera of orchids are different. Phalaenopsis bloom spikes may be cut back to just above the node (the nodes are the little bumps on the spike) closest to the tip of the flower spike. This will encourage spiking and may produce more blooms.
Before prunning, you will want to make sure the tip of the flower spike is dead. If your plant has been in bloom for a long time it is a good idea to cut off the spike and let the plant rest (Photos).

After Cattleyas bloom, cut off both the flower spike and the old sheath. DO NOT cut off the leaf. When repotting, you can also cut off the old pseudobulbs that have lost their leaves.

Oncidium bloom spikes should not be cut off until they are dry. They will rest, then spike out and re-bloom.

Dendrobiums are a funny orchid. After blooming, cut off the flower spike. Dens tend to drop all their leaves and leave nothing but the cane. Do not cut the canes as long as they are firm and are not dead. This is where your next flower spikes will come from.

You should check each genera you are growing for their individual needs.

Q: All orchids fragrant?
A: Many genera are very fragrant. The most common grown is the Cattleya. The Brassia's are also very fragrant. Phalaenopsis are usually not fragrant although some of the newer hybrids do have a slight scent. Go to my dictionary and it may tell you if the genera you are asking about is fragrant.

Q: How often should I fertilize my orchid?
A: Some growers fertilize every watering, some every other watering. I have always believed in fertilizing with 1/2 the recommended strength every other watering, which in my case, turned out to be twice a month since I water once a week. This insures that the salt deposits are rinsed from the pots. Depending on what the orchid is planted in, I use a fertilizer that is 30-10-10 for orchids planted in bark (bark tends to rob the nitrogen from the plant so I use a higher nitrogen fertilizer). For orchids planted in moss, lava rock, or mounted on wood, I use a 20-20-20 formula.
NOTE:
Since posting this I have changed to a more balanced fertilizer such as 7-9-5 rather than the 30-10-10. Through the years it was believed that bark robbed the nitrogen from the orchids. There has been many recent studies preformed and it has been proven that this is not the case. If you use a good balanced fertilizer, you will see the difference in the growth and size of your blooms.
For more indepth information, read my Fertilization article.

Q: What does the numbers on my fertilizer mean?
A: The nutrients that are found in the fertilizer. They are always listed in the order below.
(N) Nitrogen- vital for green leafy growth
(P) Phosphorus- works with Potassium by contributing to overall vigor
(K) Potassium- important for green leafy growth and overall vigor
When you see 30-10-10 this means you have 30% Nitrogen (N), 10% Phosphorus (P), and 10% Potassium (K). High nitrogen fertilizer is needed for orchids grown in bark, since bark tends to rob the plant of nitrogen.
For more indepth information, read my Fertilization article.

Q: How often should I water?
A: This question is the hardest question of all to answer. Over watering kills more orchids than anything else. I water Watering once a week could be too often, or not enough for your orchids (I know, what kind of help is this?).

Orchids planted in lava rock or bark are hard to tell when they are dry because the medium does not retain much of the water. You will notice that when you water, it seems the water flows out of the bottom of the pot as fast as you add it to the top.
Because of this, watering by "feel", lifting the pot to see if it is heavy or light, is a difficult method to use by beginners. For more indepth information about watering, read my Under and Over Watering article.

Here is a tip submitted to me by Edward Weber about how he determines if his orchids need watering:

"I have a useful tip which, unfortunately, I can't take the credit for. I got it from a woman who gave a talk on phals a while back at my favorite orchid nursery and it really works. What I do is take those little bamboo skewers for shish kabobs and break them so that they are a little longer than my plant's pot is deep. I then carefully work it down into the pot pointed end first so as to avoid damaging the roots. In this way, when a plant looks like it might need water, I simply remove the skewer and see what it looks like down where the roots are! If the skewer is damp then the plant doesn't need water! It really works. Many times it has stopped me from watering a plant that was not in need of water."

Q: James Nguyen asked, "What is this white stuff in my orchid bark?"
A:You probably have the fungus Ptychogaster, commonly known as snow mold. This fungus forms and inhabits the potting media when the media starts to decay. The fungus can also be found on tree fern poles and around mounted orchids. The best remedy to this fungus problem is to replace the old media. If you see the fungus in newly repotted plants that you used bark as the media, you could have been over watering which accelerated the decay of the bark. In addition to media replacement, I have also used fungicides (Physan or RD20 works very well, read the instructions before using!) to help stop the fungus growth. When replacing the media, make sure the roots are clean so you do not transfer the fungus to your new media. If nothing is done to remove this fungus, it will eventually interfere with your orchid absorbing water.

Black Rot and Root Rot
Black rot fungi, Pythium ultimum and Phytophthora cactorum, will kill an orchid very quickly. Root rot is the fungus Rhizoctonia. Although root rot will not kill an orchid as fast as black rot, it will kill the plant if not dealt with.

Q: What should I look for?
A: If you see any part of the orchid that turns black and watery (mushy and soft--yuck!) your orchid most likely has black rot. The infection also causes black lesions on the roots or stems. Leaf lesions on larger plants are soft and may be one-sided on the leaf (PHOTO).
The fungus can infect all areas of the plant. If the infection starts on, or reaches the rhizome or spreads to the crown, and the plant is not treated immediately, it will die! Seedlings are usually attacked at the base of the young plant and can be identified by watery lesions.
Root rot infects the roots eventually killing them. If not treated, the fungus can move to the rhizome. Infected tissue looks more brown than black. Watch for shriveled pseudobulbs and leaves. The plant may look wilted. You may also notice smaller and stunted growth. You plant will also become very wobbly in the pot. Check and see if the roots are firm and white, if they are black and mushy then you have root rot.

Q: How can I prevent it?
A: Black rot likes high moisture, like over watering causes. A word of caution, you can very easily spread the fungus by splashing water from an infected plant on to another plant. Always use sterile pots,and media. Never water orchids in a sink or tub using the same water over and over for many plants. Be sure and keep water out of the crown of your plants. Root rot is caused primarily by over watering and decaying media.

Q: ACK! I got it, now what?

If the black rot is isolated to one or two pseudobulbs or leaves, remove them by cutting with a sterilized tool. Spray the area with Physan or drench the plant with Truban or Terrazole which are protectant fungicides. You can also use systemic fungicides like Aliette or Subdue for fungus control.
To treat for root rot, you should re-pot your plant in new media (never re-use old media!) and trim off all the infected roots and tissue. Drench with Captan, Ferban, Physan or Tersan. Repeat in about a week.

- - CAUTION - -
Please follow the manufactures guidelines on all fungicides and
Use sterile equipment when working with orchids!


Q: You say I should sterilize my equipment. How do I do that?
A: The easiest way I've found for sterilizing pots (ALL pots, even new ones!) is to soak them in a 10% bleach 90% hot water solution. Add a squirt or two of liquid bio-degradable dish soap. Soak the pots at least 15 minutes (Used pots should be washed and cleaned of all old potting material, vegetation, and dirt prior to soaking). To sterilize my cutting equipment, I have found that a small portable propane torch is ideal. I hold the blade of my scissors or shears over the flame. You can also soak your tools in a bleach solution, but I have found this takes longer.

Q: Do I put the potting media in this soak too?
A: NO! You should be using NEW media that would already be sterilized by the manufacturer--this is why you should never re-use old (contaminated and degraded) media. Also, NEVER mix old and new bark together.
Soak your NEW bark in water for a couple hours. Add a little bio-degradeable dish soap to the water to help the wetting of the bark. Doing so helps the bark start to retain the water. Once you have the orchid re-potted, do not water it for at least two weeks. After that, water weekly.

Q: How do I remove spots on the leaves of my plants?
Lance Harringtion wrote "I have hard water spots on my orchids leaves, can you tell me how to remove them without hurting the plant. I have tried vinegar and water."

A: Here is a list of possible ways to remove the hard water spots. Thanks to all the members of OLD for their contributions on this subject.
  1. Empty some pineapple juice or milk into a bowl. Dip a sponge into the juice and gently wash the leaves. Rinse off the residue. This makes the leaves clean and shiny. It also lasts a long time. This will not hurt the leaves the way general "leaf shine" type products may do. I personally would never use these products on my orchids!

  2. I have found that mayonnaise will give a brilliant shine to the leaf as well as remove the calcium deposit.

  3. Use 1/3 teaspoon of citric acid and Epsom salt per gallon of water. The citric acid is primarily to reduce the pH. Epsom is not toxic and I read that you can use much more for an occasional salt-removing treatment.
Nadine Davis wrote with this tip on cleaning calcium deposits off your orchid leaves. Use tea to wash the leaves. She says it works very well.

Q: Are there really "Orchid Trees?"
A: A lady in California wrote and asked me if I could tell her what kind of "Orchid Tree" she had growing in her yard. I was totally stumped by this question for months. Finally, I ran across the answer. The tree not really an "orchid," but the blooms do look so much like orchids that the tree has been nicknamed the "Orchid Tree" or "Butterfly Tree" The true name is "Bauhinia" after the twin Swiss botanists, Jean and Gaspard Bauhin. This tree can grow up to 25' tall and can be found in southern Florida and California. It has heart-shaped leaves and produces orchid-like pink to purple flowers up to 6" in diameter.
Another plant referred to as a "Orchid Tree" is Michelia. There are several varieties, including Michelia Champaca "alba".

Q: Why won't my orchid bloom?
A: This is an easy question to answer. Either your plant is too young, it isn't happy, it's too "fat," or it doesn't know it's "time" for it to bloom. Unlike your garden flowers that go from a tiny seed to a mature blooming plant in the course of the spring and summer, many orchids like Cattleyas can take as long as 5 years to reach blooming age! Typically, most new orchid owners purchased their orchid in bloom from a local nursery so the plant is obviously old enough to bloom. The question most people are actually asking me is "Why won't my orchid RE-bloom?" Since age is not an issue, this takes us to solving the other possible problems. Typically, if your orchid does not receive enough light, it will not be happy, and therefore, will not bloom or re-bloom as the case may be. A Cattleya, for example, will not bloom if it receives only the light from a North-facing window (unless you live in Australia, South Africa, or New Zealand! ) and will burn if it is left in window where it will receive full afternoon Sun. You need to give your orchid the light "it" needs or it will not bloom for you. Check the culture for the Genus/species of your orchid to learn what amount of light it needs to make it happy. As a rule of thumb, most common orchids such as Cattleyas, Phalaenopsis etc. require bright filtered or indirect light for most of the day. If age and light are not problems, your orchid may be too "fat." If your orchid is producing lots of lush green growth but no blooms, you may be over fertilizing. Try cutting back on the fertilizer for a couple of months or change to a special "bloom" formula fertilizer. Lastly, your orchid just may need the environmental cue that tells it that it is time to bloom. The cue many orchids need is a "cool down period" of about two weeks to initiate their inflorescence (kick the orchid into blooming mode). The cool down cycle is at least a 10 degree drop between day and night temperatures. In an artificial environment, the cool down cycle can be initiated any time of the year.
Darkness can also play a big role in the production of flower spikes on many orchids. For example, initiating flowering in many Phalaenopsis species and Phal hybrids requires a cycle of total darkness much like Christmas cacti. To ensure a cycle of total darkness, cover your Phals with a black, light proof cloth daily from about 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. untill the development of the flower spike begins. Once the plant begins to spike, you can stop covering the plant the development of the inflorescence will continue under normal lighting conditions.

Q: Why did the buds fall off my Phalaenopsis?
A: This is known as "bud drop," and is a very common occurrence not only to Phalaenopsis but many other orchid Genus/species as well. The main causes of bud drop is temperature fluctuation - rapid changes in the temperature around the orchid (like opening and closing a door when it is a lot colder or hotter outside than inside). The other possible reason is pollution. Smoking around your orchid is the #1 cause of pollution in a house. Ethylene and sulfur dioxide from smog, and fumes from pilot lights on stoves or heaters, are other sources of pollution.

Q: Why are the leaves on my orchid turning brown and falling off?
A: Believe it or not, for many orchids this is a natural process! The old leaves naturally turn yellow and fall off as new leaves are produced. If your new leaves start to turn yellow, the first thing to check is the amount of light your orchid is receiving (review the culture sheet for the Genus/species of your orchid). If light is not a problem, then check to see if you orchid is being subjected to low temperatures. There are also orchids that will lose all of their leaves naturally like the Dendrobium nobiles. The nobiles will appear to be a "dead stick." Make sure you are using a good orchid fertilizer and in the correct amounts.

Q: Why are my orchids roots growing all over and not staying in the pot?
A: Many orchids are epiphytes that use their roots to cling to rocks and trees. No matter what you do, you will not be able to keep all of the roots in a pot. Orchids love to send roots out looking for things to attach to. This is their way of life. Don't fight it!

Q: I just bought an orchid bulb what kind is it?
A: Many stores have two orchids that they will sell with their spring bulbs, Bletia and Habernias. Some stores will also sell Ancidanthera "Peacock Orchid" bulbs. In reality, this is not a true orchid. Ancidanthera (actually Cladiolus callianthus) is native to Ethiopia and closely related to gladioluses. Check out my article, Orchids In Your Garden for other common orchids.

Q: I have some pretty pots with no drain holes, can I plant my orchids in them?
A: No! Orchid roots need air and drainage. If water is allowed to collect around the roots like in a pot with no drain holes, the roots will rot. The best pots to plant orchids in are the ones with slats up the sides of the pots. This type of pot allows good air movement around the roots and allow good drainage.

Q: What is a flower sheath?
A: A sheath is the tubular base of the leaf surrounding the flower spike. Cattleyas and many other orchids form a protective covering for the flowers as they develop. The flowers grow inside the sheath protected from hungry insects until they are big enough to break open the covering and emerge ready to open to full bloom. [photo]
NOTE: Some orchids that generally produce a sheath may not always follow the rules. Gene Surger found this out the hard way. He writes:
"I wrote a few weeks back about a Catt with an "odd" spike - turns out it was another flower. This Catt has always given me two at a time and the large buds have come right from the leaves - no sheath. This was a long (8") stem that came out right beside another flower. Probably not that uncommon, I has just never seen it before."

Q: The sheaths on my Cattleyas have dried and did not produce blooms. Should I remove them?
A: Dry sheaths on Cattleyas are not uncommon. Don't be in a big hurry to remove the old dry sheath. A year from now it could produce buds! Depending on the type of Cattleya you have "Dry sheaths" might be normal. C. mossiae and its hybrids, and C. skinneri usually always have dry sheaths. I leave the dry sheaths alone on most species and wait to see what develops. When hybrid cattleya sheaths begin to yellow, cut open at the top and let the air in. Do not remove them, it can take over a year sometimes for the buds to develop. Many spring blooming Cattleyas develops buds within the dry sheaths on last yearıs growth. Spring blooming Cattleyas need more water in the spring but hold back fertilizer until they begin their new growths. They appreciate a 2 or 3 week drying period after they finish blooming. Water, but less frequently............ AND BE patient :>

Q: Q: How can I keep the names from fading or washing off my tags I use to identify my orchids?
A: You would think the obvious solution to this problem would be to simply use a waterproof marker... but over time these too can -- and most likely will -- fade into an unreadable blur. I suggest using pressure-sensitive tape. The embossed text remains legible even if the color of the tape itself becomes lost. aN Even better solution is to use thin aluminium foil. Aluminum foil sheets, typically .006" x 6" x 6", soft foil can be embossed or printed for permanent use. Most nurseries will carry the labels or the foil. Ask your local hardware store for a tool strong enough not only for plastic tapes but can emboss thin metal foils a well.

Questions about humidity, air movement and lights
Q: What is a humidity tray and how can I make one?
A: Humidity trays are any kind of a container that has gravel and water in them. You can use shallow bowls, kitty litter pans, plant saucers, cake pans, etc. Fill your container about half full with pea gravel or colored aquarium gravel (looks nice and comes in all colors). Fill your container with treated water (see the following question for treatment) just to the top of the gravel. As the gravel dries the moisture is released into the air creating humidity. DON'T let your plant sit on the gravel, because it will absorb the water and the roots will rot. You can place a baker rack over your container or use type of screen that will keep the pot off the gravel.

Q: How can I keep algae from growing in my humidity trays?
A: GREEN algae growing around orchids is MOST WELCOME, while the SLIMY, BLUE GREEN ALGAE SPELL DISASTER. The latter thrive in places badly overfertilized with nitrogen and can survive even in anaerobic (airless) environments lethal for orchids. You can add one tablespoon of liquid bleach per cup of water. Don't splash this on your plants, they don't like it... I have also used fungicides like RD-20 or Physan. You can get these from any supplier that sells orchid supplies.
TIP: Keep your trays clean. You should empty them and wash the gravel at least once a month.

Q: Where is a good place with humidity to grow my orchid?
A: The ideal place is a green house, but bathrooms, kitchens, pool or spa areas, and washrooms are all acceptable locations. Anywhere there is hot used water, moisture is released into the air and the surrounding area has a higher humidity. If you can't grow them in these areas (lack of light, for instance) then use humidity trays.

Q: Can we use a table top fountain for humidity?
A: Colette Pierce sent in this great tip for increasing humidity in her home. She uses a table top fountain to increase the humidity in her home. They are easily found these days, and are generally inexpensive. Thanks to Colette for the tip!

Q: Should I mist my orchid?
A: Misting really does not do much for adding humidity to the air, unless you can mist every fifteen minutes. The problem with hand misting is most people tend to BATH the orchid in a stream of water. If you mist, you want to spray a fine mist of water in the air above the plant, not right on it. Too much water on the plant could give a place for rot to form.

Q: Should I place a fan near my orchid?
A: A fan placed near your plants is very beneficial, it keeps the air from going stagnant and also helps the water evaporate from your humidity trays. DON'T blow cold air on your orchids because they do not like cold drafts.

Q: Should I use an air conditioner in the room I grow my orchids?
A: Swamp-cooler type air conditioners are real good to keep the inside temperature down in some hot geographical areas and they also help put humidity in the air. Refrigeration type units tend to dry the air much like your furnace.

Q: Can I smoke around my orchids?
A: Smoking is very harmful to orchids (and to you--take the hint the orchid is trying to tell you). You can also give your orchids a virus called Tobacco Mosaic from the tobacco on your hands. As a rule, you should NEVER smoke around your orchids and always wash your hands before handling them if you smoke.

Q: How much light should I give my orchid?
A: This of course depends on what type you are growing. Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum like low light. Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, and Oncidiums like higher light. Be careful placing your plants too close to a window with bright sun. The glass will actually magnify the light and burn their leaves. Also, in the winter time, (depending where you live, of course) the glass could get very cold and actually freeze your orchid.
For more indepth information about lighting, read my lighting article.

Q: What does full sun, partial sun, partial shade, filtered sun, and dense shade mean?
A: Full Sun: Direct sunlight that's unobstructed for six to eight hours a day.
Partial Sun: About four hours of direct sun a day or lightly shaded sunlight all day.
Partial Shade: About two hours or less of sunlight a day.
Filtered Sun or Broken Shade: No direct sun, but some filtered light.
Dense Shade: No direct sun at all.
For more indepth information about lighting, read my lighting article.

Q: Can I grow orchids under lights?
A: Many types of orchids grow very well under lights. Be sure you buy a good quality "grow light" and place the light above your plants (The distance between the light and your orchid will depend on the type and wattage of the light. Read the supplied manufacturer's directions). You will want to use it at least twelve hours a day. Some orchids need the shorter days of winter to initiate their blooms. Check the lighting requirements for each type of orchid you have. A very informative article titled " Basement Orchid Culture Under Lights" written by John Burleson, a new orchid grower. You can read how and why he grows orchids in his basement and see photos of his lighting setup. I would like to Thank the Catoctin Orchid Society and Dick Brubaker for permission to use the article. Another Orchid grower raises orchids in his basement using this setup.
An advanced system using HID lights can be found at Ken's Orchid Web. A site that sells grow lights and other equipment is Indoor Garden Supplies. Tell them the Orchid Lady sent you. :-)

Questions about BUGS
Q: How can I tell if my plant has bugs?
A: Frequently, symptoms are more obvious than the insects them-selves. Your plant may show discoloration, wilting, pitted leaves, cobwebs, oozing sticky liquid, sooty mold on the leaves, and ants. Yes, ants frequently visit plants to eat the sweet liquid excreted by some insects (the ants themselves--except for some leaf-cutter species, do no harm to your orchids). If your plant does not look healthy the first thing to do is look for a bug.

ACK! ANTS!
Q: Hi this is Debbie from Northern CA. I have a question for you about "ANTS!" I get them very badly in mine, and I don't know what to do.
A: Ants normally do not directly do any harm to your orchids. In fact, the pseudobulbs of Schomburgkia and Catasetum orchids are the natural habitat for ants that use these orchids for their homes.

The problem with ants is that they feed on the honey dew produced from other pests such as soft scale insects, mealy bugs, and aphids, which do do harm to the orchid as well as spread viruses and diseases. The ants tend to drive away the natural enemies of these pests, which allows the pests to quickly multiply.

Your plant should be examined thoroughly for soft scale insects, mealy bugs, aphids, and other pests. Your plant needs to be treated for these problems as well as dealing with the ants.

If you you are growing your orchids in your home, check for other pests and place ant traps around the orchids the ants are bothering.
Nadine Davis sent this tip: She uses bay leaves around the point of entry and in the pots. Ants are repelled by the bay leaves.

If you are growing your orchids outdoors or in a greenhouse, a more aggressive ant control program can be tried. The use of Baygon, Dursban, and Diazinon have been used very effectively against ants. Spray the benches, bench legs, the floors, and walls where the ants can climb up to the plants.

- - CAUTION - -
FOLLOW the directions on the label for ant control carefully.
AVOID SPRAYING YOUR ORCHIDS with these chemicals.
DO NOT USE INDOORS IN YOUR HOME.

Here is a tip I received straight from Mexico:
"Ants don't like to walk across surfaces treated with white vinegar. Rinse your floors of the rooms where you keep your orchids with a solution of white vinegar and water. You can also use it to clean windows and counters. The vinegar is non-toxic(even to animals), and the acidity helps inhibit the growth of mold."
And also he has this one:
"If you have orchids on a table you can keep crawling insects off the table by spraying a ring of cooking oil around each table leg, or applying double-faced sticky tape to the circumference of each leg."
And another tip from Pam Nasatka of Columbia, MD
"I just read your section about ants, and I have a great non-toxic way to keep ants away! Put a bay leaf near where they are getting in and one near what is attracting them and you will no longer have to worry about ants! It has worked really well for me in the past!"

Q: What do I do to combat Snails and Slugs?
A: I have written a special article about dealing with these slimy pests. You can view it by clicking HERE

In addition to my article, here is a tip I received from Vincent Badders of Washington, DC about how he deals with these buggers.
"I had a problem with large slugs coming into my patio and eating my hostas. I had read a blip about egg shells to combat slugs. So I started to collect the shells in a pail by the sink when I made eggs or used eggs for a recipe. After so many, I crushed them down and sprinkled them on top of the soil and around any entry areas. I have been slug free all summer. Something you might want to try."


Q: What are Scale insects? PHOTO
A: The most common scale are the Armored Scale, Soft Scale, and Pit Scale families . They are tiny inconspicuous insects that by the time you realize you have them, they have covered your plant. They are sometimes mistaken for fungal growth. Armored Scale are often found on the leaf, rhizome, or pseudoblub. Infestations often begin below the leaf sheath where you do not notice them. Watch for yellowing leaves. These insects excrete a waxy, hardened shell-like covering that is not part of the insect. This is where the name "Armored" comes from. The armor can be circular, oblong or pear-shaped. The adult female is wingless and can lay 30 to 150 eggs beneath the armor. The males have wings and sometimes look like small gnats. The Boisduval Scale can be identified by a cottony mass on the leaves of your orchids. These are the males. Due to this mass they are easily identified. Soft scales do not have the protective armor and their bodies are clear or opaque. They also infest the leaves and the pseudobulbs.

Q: What are Mealy bugs? PHOTO
A: Mealy bugs are soft bodied and partially or entirely covered with a waxy cottony secretion. They are oval with legs and antennae. They are usually very easy to spot on your plants. They appear as little spots of white cotton. Like the soft scale, they also excrete dew which attracts ants and helps sooty molds to grow. The female lays from 100 to 200 eggs in white cottony ovisac. The eggs are pale yellow and hatch in about two weeks. If the infestation is not too bad, you can wipe off the mealy bugs with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Q: What are Thrips?
A: These are very tiny insects, less than 1/16 to 3/8 of an inch long with strap-like wings fringed with long cilia. These pests suck up juices from the plants, they also carry bacteria, fungal and viral diseases and spread them to your plants. Thrips are very active and when alarmed they turn up the abdomen tip as if to sting you.

Q: What are Springtails?
A: Springtails (Collembola spp.) are small insects that feed on decaying material, fungi, bacteria, algae, and pollen. They are milky white or gray with elongated soft, rounded bodies. Wingless, they propel themselves by means of a forked muscular appendage at the tip of their abdomen to "spring" themselves into the air. If you see little tiny insects jumping all over they are probably springtails. Although not directly harmful to orchids, they can still do harm and even kill your orchid indirectly. Their larvae thrive in a swamp/bog/muddy environment... conditions prevailing in the potting mix. Excessive populations of larvae in the mix can cause strongly reduced aeration, literally suffocating the roots of many epiphytic orchids.

Q: What are Fungus Gnats?
A: The dark winged fungus gnats are more of a nuisance but in large numbers can attack healthy plants. They feed on fungi and decaying material. If you see them, you need to check your potting media and make sure it is still ok. The adults are small flies with dark brown bodies. The young, or maggots, are whitish with black heads. Avoiding over watering and removing rotting material will usually control these insects.

Q: What are Aphids?
A: Aphids or plant lice are small insects that live in colonies. They feed on plant juices causing the plant to become stunted and distorted. They excrete large amounts of honeydew which causes sooty mold to develop. They are only 1/16 to 1/4 of an inch long. They are pear shaped, white, green, yellow, black or brown. They are very slow moving and have a hornlike processes on the posterior end of the abdomen. Most aphids are female and they reproduce with out mating. When a colony becomes overcrowded winged forms appear and fly to the next plant to establish a new colony.

Q: What are spider mites?
A: The bad thing about these mites are the damage is usually considerable before they are detected. Most mites are so small they are very hard to see. Some species spin very fine webs that you can see. You can check for mites by rubbing a white cloth over the suspected area. If mites or eggs are present there will be brownish streaks on the cloth. Watch for stippling, blanching, or a silver-like appearance on the foliage. The first signs are the silvery areas that will eventually turn brown and sunken. The leaves will also turn yellow and drop off. Mites damage plants by removing the sap and the chlorophyll from the leaves of the plants.

Q: What are the white flies?PHOTO
A: White flies are minute sucking insects with white powdery wings. They can occur in very large numbers and are found on the undersides of leaves. The larva are 1/30" scales which are legless and translucent. The adults and nymphs suck juices from the plant and secrete a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew. Sooty mold and black fungus grows on the honey dew. This also attracts aphids and spider mites. Their feeding can also spread viral diseases. You can catch adults on yellow sticky traps. Spray with insecticidal soap or attract native parasitic wasps.

Q: Where can I find inexpensive book about Orchid pests?
A: One of the best and least expensive book I have found is from the AOS. It is called Orchids and Diseases.

Q: How can I control and get rid of insects.
A: Cleanliness is the best prevention. However, sometimes nothing seems to work and you must do something about the insects. There are many insect sprays on the market today. I would be sure and test the spray on a small area before spraying the whole plant. Many of these sprays are very poisonous so care should be taken when using them. I try and not use the poisonous sprays unless everything else fails. Here are two recipes I have used successfully on my orchids. AGAIN please try a small area before using it on all your plants.

In a gallon bottle mix:
1 pint 409 Cleaner
1 pint rubbing alcohol
Fill remainder of the bottle with water, fill spray bottle and
spray the infected plant.

In a pint spray bottle:
Mix half and half water and rubbing alcohol and add 1 tsp
liquid dish soap.

Q: What is Neem Oil?
A: Neem oil is really not new and has been used for ages in India and Burma. This oil comes from a tree native to India and Burma and is known as under several nicknames such as "village pharmacy," "cornucopia," "wonder tree" and "the veritable gold mine." This tree has been used for over 4,000 years for medicinal purposes.

It has also been found that insects do not like it. Most insects that feed on plants will not feed on one that has been treated with Neem oil. The wonderful thing about this product is it will not harm humans or animals and the beneficial insects that do not feed on plants. I have used this product and have been very pleased with its effect on my orchids. I had some scale attacking my plants and since using it, I have seen no reoccurrence. My turtles who live in the greenhouse have not been injured in any way with the use of this oil. This product is good for scale, mealy bugs, aphids and many other nasty little critters :>

As always, when using any type of chemical, PLEASE follow the directions on the label before using this product. You must make a mixture liquid dish washing soap, Neem oil, and water before you can spray it on your plants. Neem has a freezing point of 55§F (13§C) and will turn solid. A few seconds in the microwave or a pan of hot water will melt it.

For more information visit the Neem Foundation or the Neem Association. You can purchase Neem oil from Dyna-Gro.


That's all I have for now. I hope this information has been of some help to you. Keep those questions coming in and watch this list grow.


Linda's Orchid Page http://orchidlady.com
Copyright İ 1996-2001 Linda Fortner. All rights reserved.
Designed and maintained by Hand Krafted Pages
1