Sanitize Pots, Tools to Prevent Plant Viruses

The Winston-Salem Journal posts a thorough response to an orchid virus question. The column covers a lot of details, including how to kill orchid viruses by sanitizing pots and clippers with a 10% bleach / 90% water solution. Streaked colors on flowers and deformed growth might mean an orchid virus has infected a plant, and that’s bad news. Orchid viruses have no cure. Some plants may continue to grow and bloom while infected, but most will eventually fade and die. The usual fate is to throw away the infected orchid.

The question of whether a diseased plant should be kept depends on the owner. For a casual grower with just a few plants, it probably isn’t a big deal. But for a serious grower with a valuable collection, a single infected specimen is a threat to the entire plant population.

The best remedy is prevention. Sterilize pots, clippers, and any tool before it comes in contact with an orchid. Wash your hands before working with an orchid, especially if you have just touched another plant. Do not reuse water or allow it to drip from one plant to another. Do not reuse potting material.

Test kits are available for the 2 most common virus types, but they are pricey, and they require precise handling. However, they can help to identify infected plants before disease spreads to other orchids.

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3 Comments on “Sanitize Pots, Tools to Prevent Plant Viruses”

  1. Donald Porter Says:

    Where can you buy these virus kits? Do you need to buy kits for every type of virus? Can orchids infect other plants?

    I have a few orchids that might have viruses, They haven’t bloomed for a long time and the flowers were small and defective. Is that also a sign they might be infected?

    I’d like to keep them, but if the kits are too expensive it might just be cheaper to buy new orchids. Do you test your orchids for virus? Do you keep them if they are infected?


  2. Marc Says:

    Hi Donald. The Winston-Salem Journal article has a link to the company which sells orchid virus test kits at There’s a single test for the most common orchid viruses, CymMV and ORSV. Your local universities, Cooperative Extension, or Master Gardeners may have resources for testing, too. Small, defective flowers can indeed be signs of a virus, but can also be signs of pests or other problems with growing conditions (like cold temps,) so don’t panic yet. Good luck!

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