Cold Shock

My husband bought me a beautiful orchid for Valentines Day. It arrived from California by 2 day air but sat on my door step for 3 hours in 35 degree weather. Within a few days, the flowers fell off and the leaves turned yellow. Is it finished? Karen B.
This poor orchid experienced a 'culture shock' having been exposed to near freezing conditions. Not only did the plant sit on the doorstep for 3 hours, but the box probably rode around in the unheated delivery truck all morning. Common symptoms of severe cold damage are dropping flowers and yellowing leaves.
At this point, there are two viable options: (1) Contact the orchid grower and explain the situation. You might get lucky and receive a free replacement orchid (2) Try to nurse the orchid back to health.
The good news is that the temperature was above the critical 32 degree point so the plant should not have been actually frozen. Perhaps the pseudobulbs are still intact even though the leaves are gone. If so, it may begin a new leaf growth soon. A few months later, it may begin another. Years later, this orchid may return with a vengeance.
There are many stories of orchids that have been 'given up for dead' by their owners only to gloriously re-bloom at a later date. It's not over until all the pseudobulbs are brown and mushy. Then it's over.

Three weeks ago, I bought a baby Phalaenopsis in a 1" pot. I just noticed that there are purple markings in the leaves. Does it need more light? Theresa P.
Phalaenopsis leaves are generally different shades of green but there are some interesting variations. Many of the purple flowered hybrids have the same colored pigment subtly patterned in the foliage.
The newest, most tender leaf will display the beautiful markings while the older leaves will tend to fade to solid green. A pronounced purple mottling comes from the early ancestry of the plant - Phalaenopsis schilleriana, an impressive species from the Philippines whose rich marbled foliage makes for a highly desirable house plant even when there are no flowers. In the jungle, this orchid can grow into specimen size and have over 250 blooms! It is no wonder that it was used in breeding.
Your small plant is quite healthy - just showing its true colors and taking after its relatives.

I have several Oncidiums whose new growths are turning brown. I trim the leaves to keep it from spreading. Any suggestions? Jeanette N
The orchids in question are suffering from a fungal condition that is manifesting itself in the plant's most vulnerable area - tender new leaves. Poor culture is the cause and comprises a deadly combination of two factors - moisture and cool temperatures. Moisture can be either water on the leaves or very high humidity. Cool temperatures are those in the 50's.
The spores of many pathogenic fungi are floating in air all the time and when conditions are dry, they remain dormant and harmless. But when moisture is added to the environment and the temperatures drop, the spores begin to grow. In the wild, the ultra-violet rays of the sun help to keep the fungi in check.
Poor culture can be reversed easily and turned into good culture. When this happens, the fungal condition will go away. No fungicides necessary.
Start by watering only on sunny mornings so that all moisture has evaporated by night. Keep the plants away from cold windows. Spread out the orchids so that air moves freely around the leaves. Some growers even sprinkle cinnamon on the infected areas to help dry things out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - 18:15