Summer Growing

With outdoor temperatures approaching 100 degrees F, should any types of orchids be moved back into air conditioning? Audrey U.
It is hot, hot, hot but not to worry. Most orchids still prefer to be outside during the summer where they receive fresh air and lots of humidity: two conditions which help to cool plants during those blistering hot days. It is imperative to keep the orchids well watered during this time to further minimize any possible heat related stress. An occasional light water spray on the leaves might also be advised as long as the foliage is dry by early evening. Avoid any direct sun which can burn the leaves in a very short time.
There are a few less common orchid types such as Miltonias (Pansy Orchid) that like to be cool all the time so they can stay indoors.
Many orchid greenhouses regularly approach 100 degrees F during the summer and the plants do fine since there is good air movement from large fans and plenty of water from timed sprinklers.
Generally speaking, orchids are tropical plants that love the lazy hazy hot Virginia summers.

I bought an Epidendrum at the New York Orchid Show but the buds never opened. What happened? Nanette K.
'Bud Blast', as it is called in the orchid world, is the condition where buds turn color, shrivel up, and fall off. It is almost always caused by poor culture such as low humidity, lack of watering, or temperature fluctuations though, occasionally, the orchid itself could be defective.
In this case, poor culture is likely to blame though it may be difficult to determine exactly where the offense took place. Sometimes, the venues where orchid shows are held have extremely low humidity and, after 3 days exposure, the delicate buds are affected. Sometimes, just transporting the plants to and from the venue can chill the buds. Under these circumstances, the seller should offer a replacement orchid.
On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the plant was in great shape after leaving the show. Once home, the buds 'blasted' after being exposed to dry air, inadequate watering, or cold drafts.
The exact cause will never be known.
Flower shows are a great place to obtain orchids but always take a few precautions. Inspect the plants carefully top to bottom for any signs of distress (discolored buds is a clue). Get to know the grower so that if there are any problems later on, a mutually agreeable solution can be arranged. Orchids do not come with an iron-clad 'Will Live Forever' guarantee but reputable growers stand behind their plants.
It is also a good idea to review basic orchid culture techniques to verify that a particular home environment is suitable.
Though the buds have come and gone this time around, the plant should return to bloom within a year.

I have a Phalaenopsis which looks very healthy but I just noticed some clear sticky droplets on the undersides of the leaves. What is this? Marcia M.
Sticky fingers are the first to notice 'sticky droplets'. Twenty-twenty vision also helps once one knows where to look. The undersides of the leaves as well as the entire length of the flower stem are the most obvious places to find this mysterious liquid.
Close inspection reveals very little. The plant just seems to be oozing tiny amounts of sap in random places. It takes a magnifying glass to actually see the culprit - mites. These miniscule pests crawl around, chew holes in the plant, and suck out the juices. If unchecked, the mites could render the plant lifeless.
Once discovered, however, mites are relatively easy to control. Pyrethrum as well as most horticultural oils, soaps, and waxes do the trick. Spraying the entire plant until dripping will get 90% of them. Repeat every week for about a month to get 99%.

Monday, August 1, 2005 - 18:15