I looked under a magnifying glass and it appears that my Phalaenopsis is covered with white scale. It is spreading to other plants. Should I trash it? Eric M.
Most orchid pests don’t need any magnification whatsoever for they are easily visible. The notable exception is mites which are smaller than a pinhead but can sometimes be seen with perfect eye sight.
The tender leaves of moth orchids are vulnerable to many kinds of insects but white scale is not one of them. The only other ‘white’ culprit has to be….GULP…. mealy bugs……. which can completely engulf a plant if left unchecked. And they spread like wild fire….not only do they crawl but they are also easily blown by the lightest air movement.
Though rarely fatal, infestations of this critter are not something to take lightly. Mealies first appear on the undersides of leaves congregating around the edges. Then they move to the leaf axels and crevices where they become increasingly hard to remove. Their final push is ascending the tall flower spike and covering the buds and flowers with their trademark drippy cottony substance.Trashing this orchid is a viable option though making this recommendation violates my plant doctor’s creed of trying to save every patient.Here is what it takes to salvage this situation: Outside, remove the plant from the pot and discard all potting media and pot. Gently wash off the leaves and roots with water so there are no visible mealies (There are still plenty there hiding). Now spray all leaf surfaces thoroughly until dripping with a pyrethrum or horticultural oil solution and let dry in a shady area. Then place into a new pot and add media. Repeat the spraying weekly for a month and inspect the other plants.
I recently brought in my Onc. Sharry Baby from outside and it has five flower spikes. How do I go about de-bugging the plant without hurting it? Roy A.
Not bad for an amateur! A dancing lady orchid with 5 spikes…. each of which will give dozens of burgundy and white flowers smelling like dark chocolate. This must be a very large plant to have so many blooms.
As you have discovered, keeping orchids outside during the warm months has a large payoff – robust new foliage and root growth followed closely by a strong blooming. However, just because the plant lived outdoors doesn’t necessarily mean that it is now covered with bugs. After all, there are plenty of other tasty treats to tempt insects. In fact, I would assume the opposite – the orchid is clean - but look closely on the tops and bottoms of leaves before giving it the green light. The most likely perpetrator would be aphids which are prevalent in Virginia but the complete list of known felons includes brown and white scale, various mites, thrips and mealy bugs. A general purpose pyrethrum or horticultural oil sprayed just once outside should do the trick.
I have an orchid that is growing long worm-like things. What are they and should I cut them off? Eleanor C.
‘Long worm like things’………..hmmm…..those are called…..ready for this…..ROOTS. Plants use these roots to absorb water and nutrients as well as to anchor themselves. Orchids are primarily epiphytic and have AERIAL ROOTS which wrap themselves around tree branches for support and collect moisture and fertilizer found in the rain forest. What happens when the roots are cut off? There will be some initial pain. Confusion. Questions like ‘Why me?’ Followed by feelings of betrayal, resentment, and plans for retaliation. Depending on how many other roots are in the pot, the plant may or may not be seriously affected in the long run. Orchids have proven themselves time and time again to be resilient to all sorts of abuse and have evolved over thousands of years in the jungles. The regular practice of re-potting often requires ripping the plant in two – roots, leaves, everything – and life continues as before. It is unlikely that a snip here or there will ultimately be the destruction of any orchid but, as a general rule, keep the roots.