I recently repotted my lady slipper orchid and found that it virtually had no roots. The plant has beautiful leaves and seems to be healthy but it did not bloom this year. What should be done now? Kathy S
Paphiopedilums, or lady slippers, are unique members of the orchid family in every respect - flowers, foliage, and roots. Most of the hybrids have just one flower each year - an unusual bloom whose shape and distinctive pouch are sure to get attention. Many growers also remark that the plant's lush mottled foliage is another benefit, providing year round enjoyment whether the plant is in bloom or not.
The roots of the Lady Slipper, however, are not too impressive and may only consist of a few in the pot. If no roots are found, drastic measures must be taken or the plant may die. The grower must wrap a small amount of sphagnum moss around the base of the plant and place in the smallest pot that will fit. Keep the moss damp at all times and, hopefully, new roots will sprout within a few months. After another repotting, this time using the normal potting medium (fine bark or coconut husk mixture), the plant will be well on its way to producing a new flower stem.
Today, we moved all our orchids and other tropical plants outside. What is the highest temperature that orchids can survive with little or no harm? Should they be watered more? Elizabeth H
Orchids are mostly warm loving plants so they are happiest outside during the summer months in Virginia. In fact, successful growing in this climate almost requires the use of outdoor space. General guidelines for temperatures are anywhere from 60 to 90 deg F year round. When hotter days arrive (approaching 100 deg F), orchids still prefer being outside as long as the roots are kept damp. Increasing the watering frequency to 2-3 times per week may be necessary since the plant will be using more water.
Another common technique for cooling plants down is to provide a light misting of water on the leaves as one might find in the rainforest. A word of caution before placing orchids outside - they cannot receive full sun even for an hour or the leaves will burn to a crisp. Try to find a location (off the ground) where there is filtered sun for the intermediate light orchids (Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidium) and strictly shade for the low light plants (Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis).
What can I do to get rid of the ants that I found crawling on my orchid plant? Beth S
Ants are not considered an orchid pest because they don't actually hurt the plant However, they can be unnerving to watch and it is probably best if they just go somewhere else. Assuming the ants are living inside the orchid pot, the simplest approach is to take the plant outside and place it in a bucket of water for 1 hour. Make sure that the water level is higher than the lip of the pot. The ants will either crawl out or drown. The plant is now ant-free and can be brought back into the house.
If, however, the ants are congregating on the leaves or the flower stems, and look like they are feeding on tiny droplets of sap, a greater problem exists. Another insect or mite has chewed into the plant and the ants are merely joining the party. In this case, use a safe insect spray (such as a pyrethrum-based one) to kill the main offenders but don't worry about the ants. They will get bored and leave.