When you buy a new plant, there is always that question in the back of your mind:
What happens if it is carrying a disease or harmful pests?
That is why it is always a good idea to have some kind of quarantine routine just in case.
How to quarantine orchids is actually quite a widely debated subject and there is a lot of information out there on it.
So, to help you, we’ve tried to pull as much of it together as possible in this guide.
So without further ado, let’s jump in.
How To Quarantine Orchids?
Ideally, you will want to quarantine a new orchid for around a month in a separate room with good airflow. You should also consider repotting and treating it. Effectively quarantining a new orchid can significantly reduce the risk of introducing hidden pests and diseases to the rest of your plants.
In all reality, there is no right or wrong way when it comes to quarantining orchids.
There are no dogmatic answers as such, and there is actually a lot of contradictory advice out there.
It very much depends upon your own conditions, the orchid you buy and what works for you.
Some people will say you don’t need to quarantine your orchid, others will say keep it quarantined for two months.
Some will say you can keep your new orchid right next to your other plants, some will say it needs to be in a totally different room.
I am most definitely not trying to avoid the question here but just trying to make you aware the subject is a bit of a minefield!
What is important is finding a routine that works for you.
But first of all…
Why Do You Need to Quarantine an Orchid?
Isolating a new plant is done to prevent any bugs and diseases from spreading to the rest of your collection.
Even though your plant may seemingly look very healthy it will take days, or sometimes weeks, before insect eggs hatch or pests multiply to noticeable numbers.
Likewise, disease or rot won’t happen overnight.
If anything does develop it is much easier to treat a single plant in isolation than see it spreading to your entire collection and then trying to deal with it on a mass scale.
Quarantining your orchid just allows you to keep a close eye on it and watch out for any problems.
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Quarantining Your Orchid
Point #1: Where Did You Buy Your Orchid From?
One important thing to consider when establishing a quarantining routine for your orchid, is where did you buy it from?
If it is from a trusted source that you use regularly, then you probably don’t need to have quite such a strict routine.
After all established orchid vendors make a living from selling the plants, and won’t want to damage their reputation and give themselves a bad name.
On the other hand, if you are buying from a vendor you haven’t used before, or buying from an individual seller you should be more careful.
Point #2: Do You Need to Repot Your Orchid?
This very much depends on the person, the plant and what it is potted in when you get it.
Some people will repot immediately into soil they are familiar with, so they can draw on their previous experiences for watering, etc.
Others will repot dependent on the medium the orchid arrives in. If the soil mix looks old and is breaking down you should repot the plant.
If the orchid is overgrowing the pot, and it is near the start of the growing season, you should repot it.
But remember you should only repot a plant when it is at the right point in its growth cycle to do so.
- Phalaenopsis can be repotted at almost anytime in which they are in growth.
- As Cattleyas tend to make new roots once a year if you repot them at the wrong time, you can damage their roots, and it might be a long time before they replace them. I would not repot a Catt unless you see new roots growing.
- Oncidiums also have a very defined growth cycle, so you need to be careful about changing their growing medium. I would only do so when you see it growing new roots.
Point #3: Do You Need to Treat Your Orchid?
Personally, I would never use a fungicide on an orchid unless I knew exactly what I was treating and I knew the fungicide would be effective in treating it.
If you used a fungicide to treat a disease incorrectly, it can kill other fungi that might be beneficial for your plants.
In particular, I would be careful about using hydrogen peroxide, as it is a contact disinfectant and as such it won’t be effective against pests and it can kill root cells and root hairs, etc.
If you can see issues with your orchid and clearly diagnose them, then treat them with a relevant fungicide during its quarantine. I know a lot of people swear by Thyomil and Physan 20.
Point #4: How Far From Other Plants Should Your Orchid Be?
As alluded to at the start, this is another point that is open to debate.
I have read others say that as long plants aren’t touching each other it is fine.
But ideally, I would suggest you want to quarantine your orchids in another room completely.
If that isn’t possible then I would suggest that anything 20 feet (6 meters) and over is a safe distance.
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You have to consider that anything below that and it becomes increasingly easy for potentially harmful bugs to crawl from plant to plant.
Something else I have seen some people do is to use clear plastic storage tubs to put over their orchids, to act as a temporary terrarium.
This will add a physical barrier if isolating your orchid at a certain distance from other plants is difficult.
Point #5: How Long Should You Keep Your Orchid in Quarantine?
Again there are varying viewpoints on this, but the most commonly held belief is that a quarantine period of a month is enough, and this is something I tend to agree with.
During this period you should inspect your orchid regularly for signs of pests and disease.
There are some who believe a quarantine period of two months is necessary, due to the belief that viroid infections often take a number of weeks to show up.
However, I’d suggest if you got your plant from a trusted vendor, who you know, a quarantine period of four weeks should be sufficient.
Point #6: How Often Should You Check Your Orchid in Quarantine?
You want to be checking your orchid twice daily, or at least daily, for bugs and disease whilst it is in quarantine.
Don’t forget to check the underside of the leaves, as this is where unwanted bugs are most likely to be found.
When I was researching this article I came across many people’s routines for quarantining new orchids.
They all differ, but I thought it might be useful to include some here as case studies, so you can see how views vary on this subject:
Case Study One
My plants tend to be sent to me.
I open the box away from my other plants and then look it over thoroughly. I check the soil for anything and then get rid of it (the soil).
If I find anything I spray the orchid with mouthwash and then hydrogen peroxide. Then I rinse it and repot it.
I then usually put it with my other plants, unless I have reservations. Then I quarantine it in another room for a while.
Case Study Two
If I am buying in person I thoroughly inspect the plant and if I have any concerns it might have insects I won’t buy it.
Otherwise when I get it home I bare root the plant if possible, then apply insecticidal soap all over and repot it in a new pot with a new medium.
I always do this, regardless of whether I see anything or not, just to be on the safe side.
I then repeat the application of insecticidal soap after two weeks and four weeks.
After four weeks if everything looks good I move it in with the rest of my collection.
Case Study Three
I always segregate a new plant from my others, just because you never know what might be hiding undetected.
Personally, I isolate the plant for at least two weeks.
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I always thoroughly evaluate the potting medium. First to see if it is in good shape and second to see if it is viable as a medium for me.
I tend to repot the plant into something that works for me unless it is in bud or bloom.
After about two or three weeks, if everything is going well and I’ve seen no sign of pests or disease then I will introduce it to the rest of my plants.
Case Study Four
I always check for bugs as much as I can before buying.
Then once I have bought it, I sometimes use a clear, tall plastic bag to protect it.
I don’t think six weeks is necessary (for isolation), I’d say a few days.
If the plant looks fine, I will keep it away from other plants in the kitchen or bathroom and check it closely once in the morning and once in the evening.
If I don’t see bugs for a few days then it is all good to move in with your other plants. I have never had a problem.
Finding the perfect way to quarantine orchids is very much a personal choice.
You could be ultra vigilant and keep your new orchid in another room separate from other plants for a couple of months.
You could repot it and spray it with fungicide.
Then introduce it to your other plants and still have problems.
Or you could take no precautions at all and everything could work out fine.
However, I would say having a quarantine period and a routine when you buy a new orchid can significantly reduce the risk of introducing unknown pests and diseases to your other plants.
Buying your orchid from a trusted seller, keeping it in quarantine for a month in a separate room and possibly repotting it are all sensible measures.
It is very much a case of the old adage, it is better to be safe than sorry.