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Preventing and Treating Orchid Viruses

September 19, 2012

Just like people, orchids occasionally get sick. Overwatering or lack of proper air flow can lead to bacterial or fungal infections, pests can attack or your orchid may contract a virus. With a little tender loving care, Phalaenopsis orchids can often fight off infections or pests, but there is no cure for orchid viruses. You can try repotting a sick orchid; but if it continues to fail, you will have to discard it. Prevention is the best way to keep your orchid virus-free. 

Keeping Your Orchid Healthy 

As noted in our last post, viruses can spread from contaminated plants or be introduced by mites or insects. But the No. 1 cause of orchid viruses is improper tool sanitation during orchid handling. To prevent orchid viruses, follow these plant sanitation guidelines: 

  • Buy orchids only from reliable growers.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands before and after working with plants.
  • Wear disposable gloves when handling plants and dispose of gloves after handling sick plants. (Inexpensive disposable surgical gloves are available at drug stores.)
  • To sanitize work surfaces and tools, fill a bucket with a solution of 90% water and 10% household bleach. Use the solution to wipe down work surfaces before and after use. To sterilize tools, knives, stakes and clips, soak in the bleach solution for 10 minutes. Soak used pots for 1 hour. If you are using inexpensive plastic pots, you may prefer to discard used pots and repot plants in new pots.
  • Use only new potting mix when repotting orchids

For additional information on orchid diseases, orchid pests and other orchid ailments, visit the orchid care section of our website.