Orchid Leaves: Cleaning

How do I clean my orchid leaves?

Updated 3/8/17

IMG_1468Washing your orchid leaves, with a gentle cleaning solution, will make them very happy!

Orchid leaves need a healthy surface to absorb moisture and to allow them to breathe. Cleaning your orchid leaves removes residue build up such as; hard water residue, fertilizer residue, dust, dirt, mildew, mold and restores their natural luster. Plus it helps to combat and prevent bugs especially scales.

Find one that is safe for your house if you have kids and/or pets. I use Wash ME! Natural Leaf Cleaner from www.rePotme.com, which is safe. It has a fresh citrus aroma. It is “Made with 100% pure RO water, organic natural castile soap, and a pinch of citric acid for old-fashioned careful gentle cleaning without chemicals.”

You can use most any safe orchid specific cleaner or make your own. Use one drop of dish soap to whole spray bottle of water. Also neem oil works great.

How to clean your orchid leaves;

  1. You simply spray it on.
  2. Then you wipe it off with a paper towel. Use a fresh paper towel with each orchid so you don’t spread any bugs or disease.
  3. Don’t forget to clean the bottom of the leaves as well. Bugs and specifically scales love to live on the bottom of orchid leaves.


It is so easy and your leaves will be crisp, green and clean!!





Other leaf post;

  • If your leaves are wilted, slimy or have spots click on my post, “Orchid Health: fungus.”
  • If your bottom leaves are turning yellow click on my post, “Why are my Orchid Leaves Turning  Yellow?”
  • If your leaves are turning really dark click on my post, “Orchid Light Requirements.”

Hope that helps,


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.

Growing Orchids Outdoors

Can I grow my orchids outside?

Orchids can thrive outdoors given the right environmental conditions that support their unique needs. Orchids are not as finicky as people make them out to be. They can survive in most climates as long as they don’t get too cool or too hot.

– In general, a frosty night can kill an orchid. So many orchids, depending on where you live, will need to be taken indoors in the fall and winter.

– Also scorching heat will both sunburn an orchid leaf and dry it out too quickly. So your orchid will need be placed in an area that has dappled shade (indirect sunlight). You can tell if your orchid is getting too hot by feeling the leaves….if they are hot to the touch then they need to be moved to an area that has less direct sunlight.

Orchids that especially benefit from growing outside are; Cattleya, Cymbidium, Dendrobium and Oncidium orchids. They love the warmth and extra light due to the fact that they are “high light” orchids. Because of this they may grow better and bloom more reliably when “treated” to the summer outdoors. We must remember that even if an orchid is said to be “high light” it does not mean the kind of full sun that you expect in say a tomato plant. “High light” is a term that is relative and specific to the light requirements of the Orchid Family. All orchids need “dapple shade” which is essential for “high light” orchids.

If you wish to move these orchids outside in the warm months simply bring them outside in their pots. You will want to really make sure that your orchids don’t dry out too much, so remember to mist them and put them humidity trays.

You can also mount them as seen in the previous post. My grandfather and grandmother love planting their orchids on Florida trees. This is a beautiful way to grow orchids!

NOTE: Allowing your orchids to benefit from the outdoors opens you up to fungus and pests that can wreak havoc on your dear plant!

Pest and fungus can be difficult to control both in and outdoors. If you have pets or children it can also be disconcerting to use certain pesticides to control these issues.

For pest I do the following; You can wash pests off with water but their eggs will remain so I use GET OFF ME! Pest Control Spray made from cinnamon. I spray this on my orchids each time I water my orchids. Also if you notice a lot of flies you can mix this spray with 50/50 with rubbing alcohol to increase its effectiveness. This is a safe substance to use around pets and children.

For fungus see my post on Orchid Health: Fungus; I always have Physan 20 on hand from rePotme.

Hope that Helps,


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.


Orchid Leaves: All GONE!!

Help! All my orchid leaves have fallen off?

updated 2/28/17

If you have a Phalaenopsis orchid (which is one of the most common orchids) otherwise known as a “Moth” orchid or a “Phal” and ALL of the leaves have fallen off then there is not a lot that can be done. I know this is heartbreaking, from personal experience, because the above orchid is mine and I had taken very good care of it.
You see with the absence of leaves the plant can not manufacture food. Orchids work in cycle between growing new leaves and new roots to new blooms. And without it having current leaves a new leaf cannot grow because leaves grow from the middle of existing leaves. Without leaves it can not produce new leaves, new roots and thus new blooms. The whole cycle breaks down.
In most cases this would be caused crown/root rot because of how it was watered. You would know for sure if it was crown/root rot by looking at the condition of the roots. If the roots are soggy/mushy and brown/black then you would know that it has succumb to root rot.
I always ask the following questions when I see this happen and I provide the suggested post below…
  1. Was it potted in a pot without a drainage hole? Please click on the post “READ THIS FIRST.”
  2. How was it watered? How much and how often? Please click on my post “How To Water an Orchid.”
If neither of the above questions are an issue (like mine) then I say the following (which is what happened with mine):
Many times when we get orchids into our homes they were mistreated before we got them. Mass production of orchids in green houses forces them into bloom (which in itself does not hurt orchids) and then they are shipped to stores. The shipping process can be taxing to orchids and then they are placed in grocery stores etc. that can over or underwater them and most times give them zero natural light.
And A LOT of places sell orchids in pots with no drainage which exacerbates all the problems stated above because the roots are basically trapped in water and begin to rot (even though the blooms may look beautiful at the time).
Then we get them, they begin to suffer and we think we have hurt an orchid when actually it was all the stuff that happened to it before we got it. It’s very frustrating but not our faults at all.
Hope that Helps,
Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.

Orchid Leaves: Turning Yellow

Why are my orchid leaves turning yellow?
Updated 3/1/17
If your bottom orchid leaf has turned yellow it does not necessarily mean your orchid is sick or dying. You can not prevent your bottom orchid leaves from ultimately turning yellow because this is the natural cycle of an orchid.
You see orchids work in balance between new leaves, new roots and blooms. In order for blooms to appear in the winter and spring, new leaves and new roots need to grow in the summer and fall. Older leaves, over time, will die back naturally as will new leaves appear (shown below). From this new growth will come the next bloom!
So when your bottom orchid leaves turn yellow and fall off this can be a good sign! It means your orchid is following natures cues and preparing for new growth.

Okay so what to do with the yellow orchid leafs?

1. Do nothing and wait. The orchid will eventually shed the leaf itself and seal off the area that it fell from.

2. Cut it off. Use a clean tool to avoid the possible spread of disease. Apply cinnamon (yes, the common household spice – it’s a natural fungicide) to the area you just cut as a preventative measure against any possible infection that may try to set in.

When to actually worry –

  • If your orchid drops many leaves very suddenly.
  • If they are dropping from the top of an orchid as shown below and/or you see dark slimy spots.
  • Click on my post on “Orchid Health: Fungus” and “Orchid Health: Rot.”
  • If your leaves are turning really dark please click on my post “Orchid Light Requirements.”

Hope that Helps,


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.

Orchid Blooms: Bud Blast

Why are my orchid blooms shriveling and falling off BEFORE they bloom?

updated 3/2/17

A few days ago my orchid that I repotted last year was about to bloom. It had four little buds and they were growing super fast. The first bloom opened halfway and quickly died. And then the next bud turned yellow/shriveled up and FELL OFF! This process is called, “bud blast.”


Bud blast IS anytime a developing orchid bud starts to look shrunken, wilted and/or dry. Bud blast is NOT when an already bloomed flower naturally falls off. Bud blast is extremely frustrating because you are waiting so patiently for your bud to open and then it turns yellow and/or wilted and then falls off. So why does this happen?

If you experience bud blast, in an orchid you just bought, this is probably not a result of anything you’re doing. The most commons trigger of bud blast is a change in environment. Orchids are naturally grown in a jungle environment. This environment is reproduced, here in the states, in green houses and the shock of changing their environment can be upsetting to them.

As your new orchid is adjusting to its new environment it may drop some of its buds. This has happened to me quite a few times. Bringing a plant home from a nursery or greenhouse is a MAJOR change in environment. Even the car ride home, if the car is really hot or cold may shock your orchid. And just think of the massive change in environment if you had an orchid shipped to you!

Unfortunately once bud blast begins to happen, there is little you can do for that single bud. It can’t be revived but you can stop the rest of your orchid buds from experiencing bud blast by figuring out what is causing bud blast on your plant and then adjusting their environment (And don’t be concerned about your whole orchid dying…it’s just the bloom…not the whole orchid).

There are other reasons why your orchids may experience bud blast. Any major change in the orchid’s environment can shock your orchid like moving orchids around your house. For instance let’s say you want to change windows and the new window is over a heat vent or near a really drafty cold window, this may shock them. Orchids are pretty durable but they don’t like major changes in air temperature, light and water. You must stay consistent in where you place them. Find a good spot and keep them there.

Here are the most common reasons for bud blast….outside of bringing them home.

1. Temperature change

* Too hot: Your orchid may get too hot in direct sunlight. It also may get too hot if it is placed close to a heating vent. Or left in hot car.

* Too cool: There may be a sudden drop in temperature that makes the buds experience “frost.” For example being too close to a drafty window or too close to an air conditioning vent. Or left in a cold car.

2. Light

* Too much: orchids can get too much light. They need dappled shade and can experience “sunburn” in direct sunlight. A good way to tell this is to feel their leaves and if they are warm to the touch, they are in too direct of light.

* Too little: orchids need light. Many people keep orchids in offices or places in their house where there is no natural sunlight…this will stunt their growth.

3. Water:

* Not enough: If an orchid has been too dry between watering it will withdraw moisture from the buds killing them.

* Too much: The worst thing you can do is give an orchid too much water. Orchids are not normal house plants. Click on my post, “How to water Orchids.”

4. Dry air, particularly from nearby air conditioners or heating vents. This follows up on the temperature point but what I mean here is that orchids need humidity. Click on my post, “How to Make Humidity Trays.”

5. Being too close to fruit or other ripening plant matter – as plants age (and decay) they release ethylene gas, which can cause the nearby orchid blooms to age and decay as well, or just shrivel. So be careful with orchids in your kitchen.

6. Repotting an orchid while in bloom can cause bud blast because the orchids is getting use to the new environment.

If you are having trouble with your orchid not blooming at all, please click on my post “Why Won’t My Orchid Bloom.”

Hope that Helps,


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.

Orchids Grown in Nature

How do orchids grow in nature?

In nature most orchids grow on trees. Their roots grab and “hug” the tree bark and support themselves through this union. The orchid uses the tree as an anchor and gets nutrients from all the organic matter that is on the tree and whatever may wash down the tree through the orchid. This typically happens in a jungle environment. Jungles are humid and orchids thrive in this environment because they absorb water from the natural humidity (check out my post on Humidity and Orchids). Because of natural rain in these areas, the orchid is used to experiencing abundant water (which washes over them) and times of dryness. Orchid roots, leaves and pseudobulbs allow the storage of water for an upcoming dry period. Some orchids grow upright and some naturally slope downward (most orchids are staked by nurseries which makes them grow straight up).


Naturally orchids bloom on a schedule that is rarely seen in todays world. In our world orchids are “forced” into bloom by a nursery. Nurseries have a “perfect” growing environment in which humidity, light and temperature are controlled. This environment allows nurseries to produce blooming orchids year round. For example if you buy an orchid in the Summer, and it is in full bloom, it has most likely been forced into bloom by a nursery. Nothing is wrong with a nursery doing this but once you have your own orchids, on a natural cycle, then they will bloom on the schedule of nature which is early Winter and Spring. In the Summer is normally when an orchid will grow roots and leaves. Orchids need to grow new leaves and new roots to store up energy for the upcoming bloom period. See my Season by Season guide post for more information on this.

All of these facts explain why is is very strange for an orchid to grow in your house, in a pot and being staked. This is not to say that they can not be grown in your home (orchids are very hardy and easy to grow) but you must create a “jungle” environment. Meaning you must repot them snug but not smothering (they need to breath), you must give them humidity, and they enjoy a good misting. Please refer to my previous post in regards to potting, humidity , watering and fertilizing on examples on how to create this “jungle” environment in your home!

Hope that helps,


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.  

Root & Spike Difference

What’s the difference between a root and spike?

*Above two picture is one of my Phalaenopsis orchid spiking. You can see the small buds growing.

If you have successfully repotted your orchid (it’s on a natural schedule) and Fall has arrived you should be anxiously awaiting for it to spike. By “spike” I mean the beginning of the shoot that becomes the bloom.

The big question is it a SPIKE or is it a ROOT?

It is very easy to confuse a root for a spike. But once you see a real spike you will not confuse them again! They look like little “mittens” or little hands, as shown in the picture above and will grow upwards towards light. And easy way to remember this…it’s cold out (fall) look for “mittens”

You should expect to see these little “mittens” on your orchid by Thanksgiving. Spikes emerge from the same area of the plant as some ariel roots which is why it easy to confuse them (see my post on aerial roots). In the picture below you can see both a root and a spike. Can you tell the difference? The spike is bright green, aiming upwards and has that classic ” mitten” shape…it’s in the middle. The root is growing lower and is smaller and has a dusty green/white color.


Here is another example…In this picture the spike is again bright green, growing up and has the mitten shape. While the roots, below it, are again a dusty green/white color.


In this last pic we see a better picture of the roots. You can see a big, more established, spike/shoot on the left – which is growing behind the stick and is probably in bloom. This orchid has a bunch of ariel roots, they are growing all around this pot. In this case the orchid needs to be repotted soon to push some of these roots down in the soil.

Each spike on an orchid will have at least a few nodes going up the spike prior to the blooms. A node, shown below, looks like a little half envelope going up the branch and each node has the potential to branch off and have its own bloom!


Make sure you have stakes on hand to hold up your new spike. For spiking tips see my post on How to Stake and Orchid.

Hope that helps!


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.


Orchid Blooms: Dying Naturally

Why are my Orchid blooms falling off?
updated 2/28/17

A lot of people ask me why their orchid blooms are falling off? Most likely your orchid was in bloom for a while before you got it. Orchids naturally drop their blooms after a couple of months. Most orchids bloom once per year, for an extended period of time. The flowers are falling off because they are done blooming. Also at this time the bloom stems dies back as well.

If this is your only concern then your orchid is fine. It’s not dying it just preparing for next years blooms by growing new roots and leaves once all the flowers have dropped and the stems have died back.

Cycle of Orchids

My orchids are on a “natural cycle” meaning I have had them all for many years now and they bloom regularly on the same natural cycle. Normally this is between Thanksgiving and sometime ending near March/April. If I were to buy an orchid from lets say April thru November…in full bloom…it would have been forced into bloom by a nursery. Nurseries can do this because they create a moderated environment that reproduces natures cues synthetically thus forcing them into bloom year round. Once the orchid they forced into bloom actually blooms they sell it. You buy it and after the blooms fall that orchid will not normally bloom again for one year.

Orchids only bloom once a year because they are in a cycle. This cycle goes like this…

  1. bloom
  2. blooms fall off
  3. orchid grows new leaves and new roots to support upcoming bloom season
  4. spikes starts to grow from an entirely different spot from the original stem/spike
  5. it bloom again and the cycle repeats

Orchids work in this balance because they are constantly switching their energy from one cycle to the next.

Click on my “Season to Season Guide” post which further explains this.

This is what I would recommend doing to your orchid now…

  1. Wait to cut the stem back until all the flowers have fallen off.
  2. I would then repot it to give it fresh new mix (nutrients).

Please click on my posts on “Cutting an Orchid Stem Back” and “How to Repot an Orchid” for further help.

Hope that Helps,


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.

Orchid Health: Bugs

Help! My orchid has bugs (scales, mealybugs, mites and aphids)! What should I do?

Copyright American Orchid Society

To prevent pests

  • Apply GET OFF ME! ever time you water your orchid and you can put up sticky traps near your orchids. If you don’t have this you can sprinkle a bit of cinnamon near the base of your plant.
  • Putting your orchids on humidity trays helps prevent pest also because pest really like dry environments (normally found in our homes).
  • Also don’t allow your orchids to be near fresh fruit, in say your kitchen, this causes both flies and the citrus can deteriorate your orchid.

To TREAT pest

Okay, so you have found really gross little bugs on your orchid! Pests can also be difficult to control indoors. If you have pets or children it can also be disconcerting to use pesticides to control these issues.

Don’t panic! The best defense and offense I have found is GET OFF ME! Pest Control Spray made from cinnamon, applied to the affected areas, which I purchased from www.rePotme.com. This is a safe substance to use indoors.

Here’s what to do;

REMOVE YOUR PLANT FROM OTHER PLANTS – you don’t want bugs to move from one plant to another.

  • Wash pests off with water/mild soap solution and pick off bugs.
  1. I use Washme from http://www.repotme.com to wash leaves if you don’t have this use FEW drops of mild soap detergent on the plant (don’t use too much soap) mixed with a bunch of water and spray it all over the plant (underside of leaves etc.) and then re-wash with clean fresh wet paper towel.
  2. Don’t reuse the paper towels – as they have bugs on them.
  3. You can also use the spray nozzle (if you have it) on your kitchen sink to spray off any extra bugs and mild soap solution.
  • Make a solution of 50% rubbing alcohol/water and dab/rub it on the pests. Or for tricky spots you can use straight rubbing alcohol but dab it after with a paper towel and/or rinse it with water so it’s doesn’t burn the plant when the alcohol evaporates. I recently burned all my leaves by using straight alcohol and not following my own advice. 
  1. You can use a Q tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to get into the hard to reach spots.
  2. I really love to use diluted Neem oil in between alcohol solution days. This works by suffocating the bugs and is also used as a leaf cleaner.
  3. You can also spray the 50% solution all over your plant (underside of leaves etc.). Again rinse after. 
  4. Repeat this every few days / once a week until pest are gone.
  • Soaking the entire plant, in water, helps too because the bugs can’t breathe. If you do this then you should repot your orchid to remove all the infected bug area.

Hope that helps,


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.


Orchid Health: Rot

Help, my orchid has crown/root rot! What should I do?

Rot on orchids typically happens when water “pools” on an orchid. This can happen in their crown (where the leaves are growing at their base) and at their roots. It is very important to take care of this immediately because this can kill an orchid! A lot of times we see signs of root rot in the leaves before we see it in the crown as shown below.

Preventing root/crown rot

  • The leaves of these types of orchids act as a syphon for water and because of this water will gather/pool at the base of their leaves. Make sure that when you water your orchids, especially ones like Phaleanopsis, that you take a paper towel and soak up any let over water that has pooled at their leaf base.
  • Rot in orchid roots is usually caused by over watering and also the common mistake of letting an orchid sit in water…like you would a normal houseplant. Orchids are not like normal houseplants in that they HATE having their roots sitting in water. In nature they would typically be growing off a tree and experience natural rain forest water trickle through them (you can click on my post on Orchids Growing in Nature). Please go to my post on How to water an Orchid – for proper watering techniques.
  • Make sure there is air movement around your orchids. Most homes have air movement from the general air conditioning but a fan or an open window can help.

Treating root/crown rot

I use Physan 20 to treat rot but if you don’t have this then do the following;

  1. Treat the crown rot with full strength hydrogen peroxide. Pour it over the crown of your orchid.
  2. Repeat every 2-3 days until the rot no longer fizzes and bubbles with the hydrogen peroxide application.
  3. Then sprinkle cinnamon (yes, the regular spice from your cabinet – it’s a natural fungicide) to treat the fungus.

Hope that helps,


Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at myfirstorchid@gmail.com with pictures of your orchid.