The Crucial Task You Shouldn’t Skip When Bringing An Orchid Indoors For Winter

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The Crucial Task You Shouldn't Skip When Bringing An Orchid Indoors For Winter

Orchids are stunning flowers that can add a touch of elegance to any room in your home. However, they can also look great when placed outside, such as on a patio side table or an outdoor bar. You can safely leave your orchids outside, as long as they are kept in a shady spot and receive appropriate watering to combat the heat.

When fall arrives, it’s time to bring your orchids back indoors. However, before doing so, it’s important to check them for mealybugs. These pesky bugs are a common problem for tropical flowers like orchids and could have potentially hopped over from an infected plant outside or even landed on your flower by hitching a ride on the breeze. Therefore, it is crucial to thoroughly examine your orchids’ leaves, roots and stems for any signs of an infestation before bringing them back indoors.

Why you should check for a mealybug infestation before bringing in your orchid

mealybugs on orchid

Irina Boldina/Shutterstock

Mealybugs are notoriously difficult to control and eradicate. Because of this, you don’t want to bring them indoors at the risk of infecting your other plants. Chances are that your orchid isn’t your only potted plant in the house. These pests like to move — hopping over to a neighboring pot or even floating on an air current produced by your central air. Because of this, they can get pretty far, possibly even infecting plants in different rooms. And they aren’t picky on where they land — mealybugs can infest anything from ferns and palms to cacti and potted herbs.

Once they invade your home, they will be difficult to remove. Insecticides typically don’t work thanks to their waxy bodies, which means you have to try home remedies such as rubbing alcohol to get rid of them. However, that usually proves to be difficult thanks to the fact they love to burrow in hard-to-reach places, which means you might not get them all — making them reappear over and over. That’s why you must inspect your orchid.

How to inspect your orchid

close up of mealybugs

Space creator/Shutterstock

First, you need to know what these pests look like. Mealybugs have oval-shaped bodies and wrap themselves in a soft-looking white wax. The wax is usually splotchy, with the outer edges giving the appearance of tiny insect legs or antennas. They can be as small as 1/20th of an inch, but you will often find many of them clustering together.

When looking for mealybugs, first start in the obvious spots. For orchids, that would be on the underside of leaves, on stems, and even their petals. However, keep in mind, that they love to embed themselves in cracks and crevices, so just because those places are clean doesn’t mean your orchid isn’t infected. After that initial sweep, also check the roots, moss medium, and the underside of your planter lip. If you find that your plant is infected, leave it outside and treat it with 70%  rubbing alcohol. Add it to a cotton ball and wipe the plant down with the solution. Do this several times a week until you rid your plant of mealybugs. If it is heavily infected, you will need to unfortunately dispose of the plant, so as not to spread the infestation.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.