Weakened or already damaged orchids often have to struggle with diseases and pests. Here we inform you about the most common crop protection problems with orchids and how to recognize the pathogens in good time.
As with all plants, the same applies to orchids: Good care is the best prevention. But despite an optimally coordinated supply of nutrients, water and light, plant diseases and pests can occur on your orchids. In the following sections, we will introduce you to the most common ones and explain what you can do about them.
The mosaic virus shows itself on older leaves by black, mosaic-shaped spots on the underside of the leaf, which in the later course of the disease also spread on the upper side of the leaf. Then the stems of the orchids rot from the inside out. If you discover an infestation, you should immediately dispose of the affected plants in your household waste, because successful treatment of the viral disease is unfortunately not possible. You should clean scissors and knives thoroughly before and after each use so that infections that have not yet been recognized are not transmitted to other orchids.
Phytophthora and Pythium fungi are responsible for the so-called black rot – also known as root rot or fall-back disease. The affected orchids turn yellow, turn black and ultimately die. Rapid leaf fall can be seen in the genera Vanda and Phalaenopsis. Sick plants, infected pots, or contaminated substrate are causes for the rapid spread of the fungi. You should therefore regularly check your stocks for abnormalities. Cool and wet living conditions also promote the spread. These two root infections are also incurable – so it is better if you part with infected plants on time. However, the infections do not spread to healthy specimens as easily as viral pathogens, which are often transmitted by sucking pests such as spider mites.
Leaf spot diseases
Occasionally, leaf spot diseases also occur on orchids. They are caused by fungi of the genera Colletotrichum and Cercospora. The fungi cause yellowish, brown, black, or reddish leaf spots, often with a dark edge. Since these are weak parasites, a suitable location and the right care for your orchids are ideal prevention. Infected plants can usually be saved by removing the infected leaves. Then place the orchids on the terrace and treat them with a suitable fungicide.
Caution: danger of confusion: Burns caused by a location that is too sunny, improper use of fertilizers, or a lack of nutrients can also result in yellowish and dark leaf spots. You should therefore first check whether the leaf spots are possible of non-parasitic origin.
The most common orchid pests are spider mites. The animals mainly stay on the underside of the leaves of the affected plants. An indication of spider mites on orchids are lightly speckled leaves, which later become brown and dry as the infestation progresses.
Damage to the orchid spider mite (Tenuipalpus pacificus)
During the suckling activity, the animals inject poison into the leaves, which strongly impairs growth. In addition, viruses, bacteria, and fungi can easily penetrate the puncture site. To remove any affected leaves. The use of predatory mites has also proven to be useful in the spasm against spider mites. Commercially available biological preparations based on potash soap or rapeseed oil can also be used to control spider mites. However, always test the remedy on a leaf first, because not every type of orchid can tolerate the treatment.
Since scale insects are usually introduced by newly purchased orchids, you should take a close look at the plants you want in the nursery. The pests are mainly found on the underside of the leaves of the orchids because there they are color-matched to their surroundings. The small-scale insects feed on the sap of the orchids with the help of their proboscis. The result: the leaves of the plants begin to deform and wither. The suction activity on the plant also creates small holes that are ideal entry points for fungi and viruses such as the mosaic virus. The animals also stick together the leaves with their excretions, the sugary so-called honeydew, on which a black fungal lawn often forms.
To avoid spreading to other plants, the first measure should be to isolate the infected orchids. Once this is done, the most effective way to do this is to scrape off the scale insects with a knife and then collect them. Since scale insects hide mainly between the bracts of orchids, it is advisable to remove them.
The use of tea tree oil offers itself as a biological control measure. The oil is ideally dabbed onto the infected parts of the plant with a cotton swab. The oil deprives the pests of breathing air and they die. But be careful: With repeated use, such preparations can cause the sensitive plants to shed their leaves.
Damage to the fringed wing, commonly known as thrips
Thrips also damage orchids by sucking. They pierce the tissue of the leaf surface and fill the cells with air. These then reflect the light like small mirrors. This results in a typical silver sheen on the affected parts of the plant. Black droppings also indicate an infestation with thrips. As with spider mites, organic remedies with potash soap or rapeseed oil can help.