Outdoor Insects

I have had my orchids outside all summer. What do I need to do in order to bring them in? I don’t want any insects. Ann A.
One of the secrets to growing orchids successfully in Virginia is to keep the plants outside during the summer. Regrettably, the warm days come to an end and the orchids must be brought in. Watch the weather closely and have everything inside when night temperatures fall into the 50’s regularly.
A close inspection of the leaves (tops and bottoms) might reveal the presence of common orchid pests including aphids, brown scale, white scale, mealy bugs, mites, and thrips. Sticky areas are an ominous clue. So is a congregation of ants.
Then there are the nocturnal (and cowardly) threats from inside the pot – slugs and snails. Slimy trails and chewed off root tips leave no doubt as to the perpetrators. (Re-potting these suspect plants is the only remedy).
However, the heavy majority of orchids which live outside during the summer months return without any casualties, injuries, or even encounters with the enemy. Therefore, spraying is not usually required.
If in doubt, there are safe treatments available including those that contain pyrethrum, horticultural oils, and insecticidal soaps. Complete coverage of the leaves is essential since these products work by direct contact with the pests.

I purchased an Oncidium at the Maymont Flower Show that was doing fine until recently. In the past few weeks, some of the pseudo-bulbs have become soft and the new shoots have died. Help! Laura S.
This ‘Dancing Lady’ orchid has seen better days and there may not be any days left to dance. The critical question is whether ALL the pseudo-bulbs are soft (and rotten) or whether some are still green and healthy.
If no greenery can be found, throw it out.
On the other hand, if only parts of the plant appear infected, cut into the rhizome of the plant with a sterilized utensil and remove the bad pieces before the bacterial or fungal decay engulfs everything. Many plants have been saved using this emergency technique. Other alternatives include moving the plant to a sunnier location, using a mild fungicide (such as copper sulfate), or sprinkling cinnamon (a desiccant) on the affected area.
The root cause of the rotting was most likely a late day watering in which water was trapped in the leaf axils of the new growth overnight. From there, the infection traveled from pseudo-bulb to pseudo-bulb. Orchids are always happiest when they are watered in the mornings on sunny days.

My first Phalaenopsis has bloomed beautifully and now the flowers have fallen off. The leaves still look healthy. When will my orchid re-bloom? Julie P.
Phalaenopsis are unique to the orchid world in that their flowers usually last 3 months and are seasonal. Under normal conditions, moth orchids will ‘spike’ in the fall, open their blooms in the winter, drop their blooms in the spring, then grow a new set of leaves in the summer. This process repeats itself year after year, indefinitely (or until their owners kill them).
It is imperative to let Phals ‘rest’ after they finish blooming so they don’t bloom themselves to death. (In some cases, it is advisable to remove the flowers early to force a resting period.) Cut off the old flower stem near the base and repot the plant. Within a few weeks, new roots can be seen and a new leaf starting. Coaxing the plant to re-bloom sometimes requires a little known trick. Exposure to a brief temperature drop in the fall (50’s for a few weeks) will greatly increase the likelihood of generating a new flower spike. From there, it’s just a waiting game......

Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 18:30