Cultural Problems of Orchids

If you wish to solve the problems faced by your orchid all by yourself, you need to be a keen observer, which you need to practice. For instance, you need to examine the troubled orchid in proper work light - the kind of light used by a doctor or a dentist.

Moreover, if it is necessary, you may also use your reading glasses for better examination. In order to understand what you see, you must also know about the growing conditions required by each type of orchid, especially the one you are examining.

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Overwatering is perhaps the most common problem faced by orchids. When you water your orchids in excess, it may cause the pseudo bulbs and even the leaves (in case they are succulent) to wither and grow sluggishly or stop growing completely.

If the plants are overwatered, you will find their roots rotting when you inspect them. The sole treatment for this problem is to water the orchids just adequately. Alternatively, you may also report the orchid if you find that the medium had decomposed.

After you repot the orchid, keep it in a shaded place where it is humid. This should be done till the roots become established in the new medium. At times, this problem occurs when an orchid is planted in a very large pot and the medium in that pot has started decaying.

In this case too, the solution to the problem is to repot the orchid. Take the orchid out of the large pot and plant it in a smaller pot. At the same time, ensure that you use a fresh medium.

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Underwatering is perhaps the second most common problem that affects orchids. When the plants are not watered adequately, they show the same symptoms as in the case of overwatering. However, there is an exception in this case.

When you inspect the roots, you will find that they have become firm and white. In this case, the solution is to water the orchids several times within a couple of days. At the same time, remember to water the plants more often in future.

Nevertheless, in case you are waiting to water an orchid till it has become completely dehydrated, the roots may not be in a position to absorb moisture quickly. And if you water the plants frequently in this situation, it may result in the decomposition of the roots.

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It is necessary to fertilize plants, but when you provide excessive fertilizers at random or fertilize them very often it may harm the plants. The symptoms of this condition include burned edges and tips, while the roots are shrivelled, particularly at their tips.

This condition needs to be treated by leaching the fertilizer out. This can be done by pouring quite a few gallons of plain water, preferably deionized water if it is available, through the growing medium.

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Powdery or scaly white mineral deposits

Scaly or powdery white mineral deposits are usually found on the exterior walls as well as the rims of a pot. In addition, such deposits may also be found on the potting medium's surface. In fact, when you find such deposits you should know that they contain an elevated concentration of different minerals.

When this occurs, the leaves of the orchids may display burned signs due to presence of an overkill of salts, thereby stunting new growth. The problem can be solved by pouring quite a lot of gallons of either plain or deionized (if available) water through the growing medium to leach out the salts.

Alternatively, you may transfer the plant to another pot. While watering, ensure that you do it systematically and do it not only at one spot but over the complete surface of the growing medium. If the water at your place is exceptionally hard, you should mix it with rainwater or deionized water with the aim to lessen the mineral concentration.

Top-heavy plant in small pot

When this happens it is very obvious that it is high time that you divide your orchid as well as repot it. What is, however, not so apparent is the symptoms, which include the color of the leaves turning yellow - the oldest leaf is affected first. In general, the plans, especially the foliage, may also appear to be very dull.

At the same time, there is likelihood that the new growth will be stunted, while the pseudo bulbs may overgrow on the edges of the pot. Alternatively, the pseudo bulbs may be on the verge of growing over one another.

Sunburn or too much light

Sunburn is yet another problem for orchids. You can be sure that the plant has suffered sunburn if you see parched spots on the leaves and other parts of the pseudo bulbs that are exposed to the sun. In addition, the plants will have an overall yellowish appearance.

In extreme cases of sunburn, even the flower buds may be deformed. Therefore, you need to provide the plants with less light and more shade and expose them to lower temperatures during the day. Alternatively, you may increase the humidity level and also circulation of air with a view to put off build-up of heat.

Too little light

While too much light is harmful for your orchids as it may result in sunburn, too little light also damages the plant. When there is inadequate light, the foliage of the orchids will become abnormally dark green or the plant may appear to be healthy but will not bear any flower.

When you notice such symptoms, you need to increase the amount of light little by little over a period of a month. If you are growing the orchid under fluorescent lights, you may enhance the amount of light by increasing the number of lamps.

On the other hand, if the lamps have been used constantly for a period of one year or more, you may raise the plants and bring them nearer to the lights or even increase the time the lights are on every day. At the same time, it is important to bear in mind that you should never light the orchids beyond 14 to 16 hours in a day.

Air pollution

Atmospheric pollution is always harmful for all, including plants, and if it is not detected and corrected timely, it may damage your orchids. For instance, the air may contain sulfur dioxide or ethylene from stoves, heaters, smog or pilot lights and they may damage the flowers.

The damages may include drying up of the flowers becoming dry, discoloration of the sepals' tips and even wilting of the blossoms. At the same time, the buds may fall off owing to poor air circulation. The sheaths may dry and become yellow even before the buds can appear.

You should never leave any flowering orchid in a closed room together with hyacinth flowers or ripe apples, as both of these may emit ethylene and damage the plants. At the same time, ensure that the ventilation is enhanced and the gas appliances are adjusted appropriately.

Bud drop

Orchid growers are sometimes faced with another problem - bud drop. This condition may occur owing to fluctuations in the temperature, lower level of humidity, or any change in the environment. In addition, air pollution may also prove to be a major factor. Any major change in the temperature in a short span, for instance 20°F or more is a major reason for plants to suffer from bud drop.

In addition, moving an orchid that has borne buds from a perfect light, humidity and ideal temperature that is found in a sunroom, greenhouse or a light garden, to a place that is comparatively dry, dark and home situation may also lead to bud drop and shrivelling of buds. If you want to move an orchid, it is suggested that you do it only after the flowers have unfurled.

Pleated leaves

Orchids that produce relatively slender leaves are usually vulnerable to this condition. The orchid named miltonia is a case in point. In such cases, the orchids are usually feeble, have a stunted growth and are shrivelled. It is worth mentioning here that "pleated leaves" is a condition that suggests that the plants have been watered inadequately.

If the growing medium of the orchids become dry out severely between watering, their roots will never be able to establish themselves properly to promote vigorous growth of the plants. In fact, the plants are simply surviving in such a situation.

Therefore, you need to water such orchids more frequently and be consistent. Ideally, you should mark on your calendar or date book (if you have to) and then water the orchids on those dates. It is more like noting down appointments with your business associates and friends and then meeting them accordingly.

There may be other possible reasons for pleated leaves as well as generally dull orchids. One of them is proving the plants with very few good things required by them - such as ideal humidity and a relatively strong light.

It is possibly that you may require introducing a cool-vapour humidifier in the growing area of the orchids when you are using the heating system, which might be robbing the plants of moisture. At the same time, you may provide the plants with some supplementary lights such as fluorescent lights.

Lack of rest

As in the case of humans, lack of adequate rest may prevent the orchids from thriving. In the case of humans, the body starts malfunctioning when there is not enough rest. In fact, plants may also suffer from such a condition if they are grown under lights.

In such a situation, you should always use a timer to ensure that your valuable plants receive the same amount of light and dark during a period of 24 hours. If you put on the lights round the clock, it may prove to be detrimental for the health of the orchids and would produce the same results if you had kept them in darkness for the same period of time.

Potted too high

Potting the orchids very high may also prove to be detrimental for their health. For instance, when potted too high, the leaves of healthy doritis, phalaenopsis and doritaenopsis orchids may begin to shrivel. Therefore, you need to ensure that you have not planted your orchids very high in the growing medium.

In case you find the lower-most leaf of the plant is just an inch or little more above the growing medium’s surface, you would require replanting the orchid in such a manner that the bottom leaf of the plant comes out from the stem at the same level of the growing medium and not above it.

For this you need to take out the plant from the pot and undertake a complete repotting. Be careful not to try and just push the plant down the growing medium that already exists in the pot.


Weeds are a major problem for orchids, especially when there is a collection of potted orchids at one place. The orchid world suffers from quite a few weeds that are prevalent and are not likely to be eliminated in the near future.

One such weed is Oxalis acetosella, while a small acanthus is another problem, especially for plants having big roots, for instance Chamaeranthemum. The only effective cure from this problem is having patience to pull them out as soon as you notice them. Usually, you will find growing the together with the root.


In the orchid world, a number of species exist whose unusual appearance will make you believe that something is missing from the plants. Restrepia x anthophthalma is a case in point. The tiny flowers of this orchid are borne above the leaves. In fact, you may have to use a magnifying glass to look for these diminutive blossoms or else you may invite trouble for yourself.


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