Orchid Leaves Spots

Question of the Week:

Dear Ryan,

I’ve enjoyed your Orchid Book and Green Thumb Club very much. But as you’ll see in a moment, I need some help with one of my orchids. I’ve been trying to find out about the problem presented in the leaves of my Cymbidium; most of them have brown spots as you can see in the photo.Cymbidium-Leaf-Spots The plant is currently in bloom with 7 spikes of fresh flowers.

I purchased this plant before I had a copy of your book, so I’m sorry to say I didn’t really pay any attention to the condition of the leaves. I believe the brown spots were already on the leaves when I bought it. Please help me save my plant! I’ve already removed the worst leaves and disinfected with Listerine and cinnamon per your instructions in your book. I’m in Sydney and we are in the middle of winter (it is pretty mild now). Do you know what is wrong with my Cymbidium? What do I need to do to save it? Or do you think I should talk to the nursery about returning it?

Best regards,
Elsa Kennedy
Sydney, Australia



Ryan’s Recommendation:

Hi Elsa!

Sometimes a beautiful orchid catches our eye and we snatch it up quickly (before anyone else can!) and rush to purchase it. We return home with our precious new purchase only to find that it isn’t as perfect as we first thought.

(Been there, done that!)

Your First Option…

Fortunately, some retailers have a relatively flexible return or exchange policy when it comes to live plants (especially when you deal with them locally). If you think your plant’s roots, leaves, and/or blooms might be sick or diseased there’s a good chance you can take it back to the nursery or garden center for a refund or exchange.

Now, keep in mind, they likely won’t accept your plant if you’ve done the damage yourself (you dropped the orchid and broke the spike during transport). The widespread damage seen on the leaves of your Cymbidium is not something that appears overnight. I would attempt to contact the nursery and discuss your orchid’s condition and their return/exchange policy.

(I’m not sure how nurseries operate in Australia, but it’s definitely worth a shot…)

If Returning the Plant Isn’t An Option…

Of course, prevention is the best medicine. A thorough inspection of the entire orchid is a MUST when purchasing any new plant. All new orchids brought into your home should also be quarantined from the rest of your plant collection initially just to be extra safe.

Now, whether or not you can successfully exchange the orchid for a new one in better health – either way, here’s what I’m going to do:

… Because spots can be “contagious” and easily spread to other plants, we need to talk about the spotting seen on the leaves in your photo. You are not the first orchid grower to find strange brown/black spots on an orchid – and anyone reading this article should pay close attention to what we’re about to cover.

And the reason why, is because these spots could have been caused by a number of things, some serious and some NOT so serious.

I’m going to walk through a few of the most common reasons why orchids develop spots like this, so the next time you see spots on one of your orchids – you can easily determine whether you’ve got a “911” situation on your hands… Or if it’s nothing you need to worry about.

Comparing Different Types of Orchid Spots

What They Mean & What to Do About Them…


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