Designing Spaces That Reflect You
The orchid plant is sunburne

Solved: The Mysteries Behind Orchid Leaves Turning White

orchid leaves turning white

I visited a friend of mine a couple of days ago and saw her troubled face when she showed me her orchid plants. I remember her joy and excitement when she took my hand and led me through her orchid garden five months back. But now, her orchid plants looked dying and in need of help, and I even became sad to see them so desperate and my friend so unhappy about them. I could no longer see the lush green foliage, and now all I could see were orchid leaves turning white. So, to help my friend and many other friends over the internet who are worried about their orchid leaves turning white, I decided to write down this article and present them with the possible causes and ways to fix them. All we need to take care of garden plants carefully and effectively.

How does a healthy orchid look?

There are two blooming periods for healthy orchids, one during summer and early fall and the second blooming in early spring. Some orchids have flowers for several months before the blooms wilt and fall off. During the bloom season or when the plant is preparing to bloom, the leaves should be of the colour of healthy grass, with yellow undertones and a bright medium green colour for the leaves. The plant’s leaves begin to lose their lustre as orchids finish blooming and enter into winter dormancy, becoming dull and a somewhat greyish colour. But if you see the leaves not in these standard colours and orchid leaves turning white, it indicates an underlying problem. It would help if you first studied the leaves, looked at the conditions you are providing the plant and the ideal conditions for growing orchids, and finally decided how to fix the problem. 

The orchid plant is sunburned

The orchid plant is sunburned

The biggest reason behind orchid leaves turning white is that they are partially or wholly sunburned. Sunburn commonly happens when the light intensity changes drastically; this damage isn’t harmful to the plant. For my friend, this happened because she had placed her orchid plants in a West facing window, and the sun would shine harshly and directly at the plant, thus burning the foliage. The leaves turn white at first and then fall off after becoming black and dead. 

How to treat sunburned orchids?

The easiest solution is to move the plant and place it where it doesn’t get direct and bright sunlight. What my friend did was to keep the plant in the same window but kept it two to three feet away from the windowsill so that it wouldn’t receive direct scorching sunlight. 

If your plant is in a south or west-placing window and you have an East-facing window where you can place it, then do this as soon as possible. Over-exposure to sunlight bleaches the green colour of the foliage and makes it white and discoloured. 

If moving the plant isn’t easy for you, hang curtains on the window to give the plant some lovely shade. The plant soon recovers from the sun strain and grows happily after a short while. 

There is low humidity

low humidity

If you are troubled with orchid leaves turning white, look for whether your plant has a proper humidity level and whether you are watering it in the right way. The leaves may turn white, resulting from a lack of water that causes the root system to dry out. The roots start to turn pale and wrinkle if the plant needs moisture. If you see any signs, increase the air humidity immediately and adjust the irrigation system. 

How to treat low humidity?

The foremost thing to remember is to water the orchids abundantly; the best way is to immerse the pot for 10 to 15 minutes in lukewarm water, or even for half an hour, and then drain out the excess water. But remember not to immerse the tips of the leaves in water as it can form white oval spots on the leaf tips with a hole in the middle. Your environmental and other conditions will precisely determine the needs, but orchids may need watering from once every ten days to once every week. Always keep the soil moist; in the summer, you may need to water it more frequently. The tip is to keep the orchid root system thoroughly moist to supply moisture to the leaves correctly. 

The soil is improper for the growth of orchids

The soil composition in which the orchid plant is growing determines the colour of its leaves.

Improper soil conditions may lead to white spots on the leaves.

Fungi usually develop when a poor-quality or dense substrate blocks the supply of oxygen from reaching its roots. You should replace infected soil instantly as it can spread to a healthy orchid. 

How to treat improper soil conditions?

The soil loses its properties, decomposes, and becomes a good breeding ground for fungal diseases, so you should transplant the orchid into a new substrate every two to three years. An easy way to disinfect the orchid bark and get rid of viable bacteria and pests is to fry it in an oven at 60°C for 15-20 minutes. 

Physiological problems with orchid leaves

If you mix two varieties of orchids that the horticulturists shouldn’t mix, it sometimes results in white leaves’ growth. These leaves naturally emerge in white and do not turn white after a while. In case of such problems, contact the nursery where you bought your orchid, as some hybrid varieties are weak and need to bear even small changes in growing conditions. 

Why does my orchid have white spots on its leaves?

white spots on its leaves

Many people ask the reasons for orchid leaves turning white and some having white spots on orchid leaves, and they feel heartbroken to see the orchid leaves full of white spots that don’t go away. There can be many reasons behind these white spots; one is white-coloured pests that we see as white spots on the leaves. First, examine what the white mark looks like, and then look for a possible remedy. 

1. White spots 

If you see white spots on your orchid leaves, they are tiny scale bugs that look like spots but are insects feeding on the plant sap. Remove them immediately to minimise the damage, as they can lead to yellow leaves and brown edges. 

How to treat scale bugs?

If you see that the scale infestation is just starting, then use a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol and rub it wherever you see the white spot. Remember to wipe the undersurface of the leaves and the cavity where the leaf joins to the stem. Also, spray some isopropyl alcohol on the plant to finish the scales. You can also spray neem oil on the plant and rub the bugs off the leaves using a paper towel every 5-7 days. 

2. White blotches

White, powdery, cottony blotches on the orchid leaves are Mealybugs. These pests can quickly kill your plant, so you must immediately eliminate them. Check your plant regularly to detect the presence of Mealybugs early, and also look at the flowers, foliage, and buds to see signs of the feeding of Mealybugs. You have a Mealybug infestation if there is a sticky residue called Honeydew, which gives rise to a fungal infection called Sooty mould. 

How to treat Mealybugs?

If you catch the Mealybugs early, then follow these tips to get rid of them quickly:

  • Dip cotton swabs in isopropyl rubbing alcohol and rub them on the infected leaves.
  • You can also use a clean toothbrush and scrub off the Mealybugs. Remember to do the same in hard-to-reach places, as they are reasonable breeding grounds for pests to lay their eggs.

If you notice that Mealybugs have already developed a large population and to prevent any future infestations, do the following:

  •  If your plant gets infested once, the soil can have a lot of eggs. Thus the insect could attack your plant again. Thus, report the affected plant and change the potting soil.
  • Use horticulture oil or insecticidal soap to spray on the infected plant.
treat Mealybugs

Care tips to prevent orchid leaves from turning white

There are many needs of an orchid plant that you need to fulfil to keep the plant healthy and blooming. Some care tips that you must take care of include:

  • Adopt proper watering habits: Moisten the soil every 2-3 days, but let it dry in between to prevent over-watering.
  • If your environment is too dry, use environmental humidifiers or a pebble tray with water to provide enough humidity.
  • The orchid should receive diffused sunlight for 10-12 hours daily.
  • If you see any parts of the plant, including a substrate or bark fragments that are rotten or mouldy, then remove them immediately.
  • Grow your plant in well-draining soil that contains moss, river sand, peat, and tree bark.

Frequently asked questions about orchid leaves turning white

How to know whether my orchid has life in it or is dead?

The simple test is to look at the roots of the orchid when you water it. If the roots feel completely dry and white, then it is most likely that the plant has died, and you cannot recover it. But if you notice a small glimpse of green, even on the tips of the roots, then the orchid probably has life in it, and you can recover it. 

What is the right way to get rid of powdery mildew on orchids?

Use a homemade remedy for powdery mildew on orchids: mix one teaspoon of liquid black soap, one teaspoon of alcohol, and one teaspoon of rapeseed oil at 70°C in 1 liter of water. Use a spray bottle and spray it on and under the affected orchid leaves twice a row at intervals of 30 minutes. 

Which fungicide works best for orchids?

If you have solved the problem of your orchid leaves turning yellow and see fungus attacks on the orchid plant, then remember that copper and hydrogen peroxide products help prevent many fungal infections. You can also use homemade remedies to prevent and treat fungicidal infections. One is making a solution using four teaspoons of baking soda, 1 gallon of water, and two teaspoons of insecticidal soap and washing the entire plant with this solution. Use this treatment every couple of weeks to get the best results. 

Wrapping up

I was recently reading the concerned comments of an orchid owner about their orchid leaves turning white; she has checked the roots, and they were fine. The white leaves that came out later showed that a shift in the sunlight had happened, and she had recently got that orchid plant and was trying to adjust to the conditions she provided. So, white leaves signify a change in spot, and the plant usually adapts to the new needs soon enough, giving the plant some extra love and care.