The following are intended to be general guidelines for diagnosing the most common problems people experience with Orchids. Keep in mind that each Orchid variety has its own requirements and specifics.

  • Symptom: Plant has no new growth
    Possible cause: Plants growth cycle; some plants grow new leaves every few months while others take much longer.
    Remedy: Keep watering and fertilizing your plant regularly. Check the temperature and light needs.

  • Symptom: Plant won’t flower
    Possible cause: Most commonly insufficient light.
    Remedy: Gradually move the plant to a spot with more light, or supplement light with fluorescents for up to 12 hours per day.

  • Symptom: Leaves turn yellow and drop
    Possible cause: Natural in Deciduous Orchids. In Phalaenopsis; the crown rots.
    Remedy: Skip a watering or two and move the plant to a cooler spot to promote bud formation. In Phalaenopsis; water the plant in morning and keep water from pooling on leaves.

  • Symptom: Leaves turn black or brown and spots increasing in size
    Possible cause: Disease
    Remedy: Isolate unhealthy plant, cut out all diseased areas of plant using sterilized clippers. Apply an Orchid fungicide to affected areas and decrease both water and humidity levels while the plant is recovering.

General Questions

The bloom length for each variety can be different; ranging from many months (Phalaenopsis) to 7-14 days (Cattelya).

The answer is: only when it needs it. Make sure you do not ‘over water’. This is the biggest cause of Orchid problems. A fixed schedule can lead to over or under watering. Each homeowner’s conditions will be different and so will the Orchid’s watering needs. The goal is to let the Orchid dry almost completely before the next watering. One way to test this is to remove the plant label from the pot and feel about 1 to 2 inches at its end. If the label feels moist, don’t water.

Not at all. The Orchids sold at your local home improvement store or garden center, for the most part house plants, can be easily grown in the home or on a porch that gets indirect light. Many of the Orchids will also thrive when grown outdoors under a tree that provides dappled sunlight.

It depends on the variety chosen and the conditions the plant is subjected to.

With a few exceptions, when the flowers are done, you can cut off the flower spike near the base of the plant. The plant will then flower again from another spot on the plant (a new bulb, new plant, or higher up on the stem). With certain types of phaleanopsis the flower spike will branch again from a lower node and re-flower. I wouldn’t recommend cutting a phaleanopsis flower spike off until it is brown and woody or if it has been flowering for a large part of the year (this allows the plant to regain strength and put up a strong flower spike next year). The other exception is the Psychopsis genera which will continue flowering from the same spike for quite a while. Disturbing the flower spike may sometimes upsets the plant.

That depends on the conditions to which the plant is subjected. Under proper care, an Orchid can live indefinitely.

Black spots are endemic in a number of varieties of Orchids, most notably those in the Oncidium or Oncidium family inter generics. These spots are not a sign of disease. They cannot be removed, and will not spread from plant to plant. These spots are generally small and dry. If, however, your plant suddenly develops large black spots, particularly if they are moist, this could be a sign of disease. In such an instance, you should bring your plant to your local retailer for diagnosis.

This is, of course, a natural occurrence. Cut the flower spike at its base as soon as the flowers begin to fold. Once flowers begin to decline, they begin to produce ethylene which could cause plants nearby to also lose their flowers.

Orchids grow everywhere except Antarctica. There is no Orchid that you can’t grow.