An orchid is a beautiful flower, so it stands to reason that these exotic beauties can be high maintenance. If you know a few tips to help you along the way though, then it needn't be that difficult; you just need to know what to look out for.

Root Problems & Environment

A lot of orchid plant problems can be put down to the environment in which they are kept, get this right and your problem is solved before it begins. Make sure your orchid is:Close up of an orchidCredit:

  • In a sunny position. You can replicate this atmosphere with fluorescent plant lights if you don't have a suitable location. Leaves on an orchid plant are the best indication if there's a problem - pale green to yellow and the orchid is getting too much light, dark green and it's not getting enough. The perfect appearance is if the leaf has red/purple edges.
  • Getting enough air circulating around it as it would in its natural environment. Stagnant air can lead to fungal problems. Use a small fan if necessary.
  • In a location with moist air conditions. Either use a humidifier, or mist it with water once a day.
  • Not overwatered. Overwatering is the main cause of orchid root problems. Orchids can stand to be a little dry between watering, so look to the plant for guidance. Add enough water to just drain through the container. If you do get root problems though, you will need to repot - and quickly. Remove any dead roots and repot in fresh soil.

Orchid Viruses

While viruses are rare, they are the main cause of disease for orchid plants. There are two main orchid plant viruses (CymMV and ORSV), both of which show themselves in similar ways:Mottled ladyslipper orchidCredit:

How to Spot - Look for mosaic patterns on leaves, or black and brown spots, sunken areas, and lines. Ring spots may also show up on stems. The effects of the virus are slower to show on the flowers, but may show themselves in the form of dark spots, or streaks of irregular pigmentation - make sure your orchid variety isn't one that is meant to have spots though, like the mottled ladyslipper (pictured).

How to Treat - There is little that can be done for an affected plant, but it should be removed from the area where there are other plants. It can be transmitted to other plants also through the use of tools etc, so make sure you thoroughly clean and disinfect any cutting tools, work surfaces and pots that you have been using. Wash your hands before handling other plants, or dispose of any gloves you have been using. Unless the plant has been visually spoiled too much, it can still be kept as a houseplant, but in isolation.

Other Orchid Diseases

Fungal infections are not common problems for orchid plants, especially if you adhere to the environment tips in the first section, but plants can sometimes be victims of:

  • Botryitis (gray mold/ grey mould)
  • Leaf Rot
  • Mildew

How to Spot - the name of these problems will be enough of a clue for you to spot them, generally showing themselves on the leaves of the plant.

How to Treat - Use a fungicide spray that's suitable for orchids (some aren't, so it's worth checking). Correct the conditions that caused the problem in the first place (bad air circulation etc.). For a quick fix, before you can get to the garden center, use some cinnamon powder to dust onto the leaves.

Orchid Loving Pests

Pests on orchid plants aren't as big a problem as they are for a lot of other plants. There are two main reasons for this:Orchid with mealybugsCredit:

  1. Most orchids are kept indoors, so pests aren't common.
  2. Orchids are generally alien to most atmospheres, especially as a lot of species are hybrids, so bugs find them alien too.

Slugs, mealybugs, weevils, common scale, biosduval scale, and greenfly are the most likely pests to have a munch on your orchids and cause problems.

The best measure is to try and keep pests out of your garden the natural way, before they have a chance to cause damage -- this is even true if your orchids are indoors. If pests are persistently invading your plants though, then set to work with a suitable pesticide and keep on top of the situation by treating every 5 days. You might also try wiping the leaves with a cloth dipped in methylated spirits.

To keep bugs away you can also try companion or diversion planting; making sure there is a bug friendly area of your garden to keep them happy and away from your plants -- it's a great food store for birds this way too!

Preventing orchid plant problems before they develop, should obviously be your first course of action, but the guide above should have given you some quick fixes, as well as long term solutions to your orchid problems, leaving you free to enjoy their beauty.