Orchids are stunning flowering plants. Nearly all of them look easy on the eyes and smell wonderful when in full bloom.
Many people go to great lengths to ensure their orchids are healthy and growing well. However, even when people take very good care of their orchids, problems can still emerge. This is the reason why it is important to be constantly on the lookout for telltale signs of issues so as to stop small issues from becoming serious problems.
In this post, I am going to share with you information about orchids becoming sticky. While most people might think that this is a small issue, it is not. It is often a telltale sign of big problems.
Why Do Orchids Get Sticky?
Several factors can make orchids sticky. Some are harmless but most of them are dangerous.
Here are the main causes of orchid stickiness.
- Mealybug infestation. Mealybug is a parasite. It is also one of the most common causes of orchid stickiness. Stickiness caused by mealybug infestation is usually visible as small sticky drops all over leaves and on the leaf tips. The drops are usually followed by the entire plant being covered by a grayish or whitish bloom from insect colonies. The colonies usually multiply quickly and kill the affected orchid plant.
- Self-defense. Plants usually use nectar to distract pests from getting to the important parts of their flowers. The nectar is usually viscous to trap small pests. Because of its viciousness, nectar often feels sticky to touch.
- Aphid attack. When aphids attack orchids, they usually secrete honeydew (sticky sugar-rich substance) as they consume plant sap. The honeydew is often brownish in color. In addition to aphids, several insects also secrete honeydew when they eat plant sap.
- Diseases. Diseases caused by attacks from worms and ticks can also lead to the release of sticky substances on some orchids.
- Erratic watering. Erratic watering or irrigation can lead to the formation of small sticky drops on some orchid leaves.
- Excess fertilization. When orchids are fertilized excessively, they usually get saturated with nutrients. To cope with the excess nutrients, most orchids usually try to expel them as sucrose, which appears as a sticky substance on their leaves.
- Pollination. For pollination to happen, orchids must attract pollinators to their flowers. While orchid flowers are usually bright for this purpose, they almost always have nectar in them to make them even more irresistible to bees, spiders, wasps, moths, and other pollinators. This nectar can feel sticky to touch.
What to do When Orchids Get Sticky?
As you can see above, there are several factors that can cause orchid stickiness. Most of them are issues or signs of issues that need to be addressed urgently. When you notice orchid stickiness, your first action should be to investigate to find out what is the cause. You can use the elimination method to eliminate the causes of stickiness explained above so as to find out which one is the most likely cause. Once you find the cause, you should address it. For example, if it is erratic watering, you should address it by watering your orchids more consistently.
When you address the cause of stickiness but still find that your orchid is sticky, you should use the elimination method again to find out what other factor could be the source of stickiness. If you cannot find the source of stickiness, follow the general orchid care tips below. They will either directly or indirectly help you stop the stickiness.
- Dip your orchid pot in a bucket of water for 15 minutes every two weeks. The purpose of doing this is to drown every insect or organism lurking in the planting mix. Some people add a fungicide tablet to the water in the bucket to make very sure that every fungus hiding in the planting mix is dead. Make sure the water covers the planting pot but does not touch or cover the lowermost leaves.
- Apply neem oil or insecticidal soap every week or as instructed. The purpose of applying neem oil or insecticidal soap on your orchid is to kill aphids or any other insects that could be feeding on it and leaving sticky substances on its leaves. There are many effective organic oils and safe insecticidal soaps available on Amazon.
- Reduce watering during winter. Winter makes it difficult for water to evaporate quickly from orchids and their medium/ media they stand in. Therefore, normal watering during winter often results in excessive moisture, which creates perfect conditions for pests to reproduce and cause stickiness. For this reason, you should reduce watering during winter to prevent excessive moisture.
- Do not allow plants to dry out in summer. Orchid leaves tend to dry out during summer leading to wilting. When they are watered, they expand and return to normal size. If you constantly allow your orchid plant leaves to contact and expand, they can produce sticky substances. Therefore, you should not allow them to dry out especially during summer. Water them regularly.
- Stop fertilizing excessively. Too many nutrients due to excessive fertilization lead to excessive nutrients in orchids and the secretion of sucrose by some orchids. To prevent sucrose secretion, you should stop fertilizing excessively. In fact, you should stop fertilizing for a while until the stickiness clears before resuming but doing it weakly.
- Cut off affected flowers and wipe leaves. In case of a mealybug infestation and powdery leaves, you should wipe all the leaves clean. You should then cut off all the affected flowers and leaves. Do not cut leaves if your orchid will be left bare. After trimming affected flowers and leaves, you should apply an insecticidal spray to maximize our protection.
- Make an organic solution to kill mold and spray it. Mold on orchid leaves can make them brown and sticky. There are many videos on YouTube explaining how anyone can use home ingredients to create a mold killing solution. Check out the videos and create your own and then spray it on the leaves.
If you follow the steps above, you will do away with orchid stickiness and it will probably not be an issue for your plant any time soon.