Burnt Orchid Leaves: What To Do For Scorched Leaves On Orchids

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Is my orchid sunburnt? Exactly what causes scorched leaves on orchids? Just like their human owners, orchids can be sunburned when exposed to intense sunlight. Low-light orchids such as Phalaenopsis are especially susceptible to sunburn. What can you do if you notice scorched leaves on orchids? Read on for helpful tips.

Signs of Burnt Orchid Leaves

Recognizing scorched leaves on orchids isn’t rocket science. That said, sunburn in orchids is often evidenced by a white patch surrounded by a dark ring, or you may see several small spots. Severely burnt orchid leaves may display a reddish-purple tint, or leaves may turn black or yellow.

If the scorched spot is contained to a small area, just leave it alone and wait for the plant to recover. Eventually, a new leaf will replace the damaged leaf. Watch the sunburned leaf closely for mushy spots or other signs of rot. Rotting leaves should be removed immediately to prevent spread.

Preventing Sunburn in Orchids

Be careful about moving orchids to new light conditions, especially if you’re moving the plant outdoors for the summer. Remember that even partial shade may burn orchids accustomed to being indoors. Also, make changes gradually. Watch for any changes in leaf color between changes.

Feel the leaves. If they feel hot to the touch, move them to lower light, improve air circulation, or both. Sunburn is more likely to occur when the air is still. If you like to put orchids on the windowsill, be careful that the leaves don’t touch the glass.

Don’t place orchids too close to supplemental lights or full spectrum bulbs. Remember that new bulbs tend to be brighter than old ones. Light-sensitive orchids, such as Phalaenopsis, tend to do well in an east-facing window. Tougher orchids may tolerate brighter light from a window facing south or west.

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