Bud Blast


All the buds fell off my new orchid. Could leaving the plant in a hot car for two hours be the cause? The leaves still look good so I’m not giving up on it. I fertilize it lightly and water every 10 days. Pat H.


Heat stroke can happen to plants as well as animals! Hot cars are notorious for capturing the sun and can reach nearly 200 degrees under the right conditions. The first casualties involving orchids are the delicate flowers and buds which, technically, the plant can afford to lose since they are replenished each year.

Sun burned foliage, on the other hand, can be fatal since most orchids cannot be exposed to direct sun. An enclosed automobile has no air circulation and the windows can actually intensify the sunlight, charring the leaves in a matter of minutes.

Your foliage remains a healthy medium green color so direct sun didn’t shine directly on it. In other words, this plant will not die. In fact, this incident is merely a minor setback and the orchid will fully recover.

Depending on the type of orchid, it may send out another flower spike RIGHT AWAY since it was all geared up to bloom before the heat wave hit. Dendrobiums and Phalaenopsis have the potential to re-bloom immediately. In contrast, Cattleyas and Oncidiums have to make a new pseudo-bulb before they bloom and this process could take up to a year.

Watering should be undertaken whenever the media starts to dry out – usually twice a week. Dilute fertilizer applied several times a month is adequate.

Cut off what’s left of the old flower spike and maybe, just maybe, the plant may shoot out some brand new blooms.


I have a healthy Oncidium with three pseudo-bulbs growing outside the pot. When I went to repot the plant, the roots were so dense that I couldn’t separate them with my hands. Should I use a knife or just leave them in a tight knot? Donna R.


Some Oncidiums have root systems that are very dense – thousands of fine roots intertwined (The Chocolate smelling hybrid Sharry Baby comes to mind). These orchids are nearly impossible to pull apart by hand so a sterilized knife or razor blade is commonly used. Care must be taken due to the sharpness of the tool!

Splitting plants always temporarily reduces their vigor since most of the roots are cut in half. If the bulbs are really over the edge, some sort of action is required or the plant will slowly go downhill as the new roots cannot find media to attach to and will dry up.

An alternative to cutting the plant into pieces is to ‘drop’ the entire root ball into one size larger pot. For example upgrading from a 5” to 6” pot would give the plant another two years of growing space without disturbing the roots or setting the plant back in any way. The result is an uninterrupted prolific blooming schedule.


I purchased some Vanilla plants a couple of months ago. They came in clay pots with sphagnum moss and keep getting taller and taller! What should I do? Mary P.


Vanilla, by nature, is a vine and therefore wants to climb. If your vine has access to a support system that allows it to grab on (such as a wall or trellis), then, step aside and let it grow! If not, encourage the vine to wrap around a hanger or stake by gently directing the tender new foliage in a circle. The longest Vanilla plant that we have seen was over 100 feet so this orchid has the potential to get out of hand! 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - 17:30