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How to Remove Damaged Orchid Leaves

By Debra L Turner ; Updated September 21, 2017

Orchid leaves talk to you, but you have to pay close attention and listen carefully. Leaves indicate overall plant health, nutritional condition and even the presence of dangerous pathogens. But simple leaf damage can occur from inappropriate or rough handling of an orchid plant. Careless or improper packing can result in leaf damage during transit. Orchids exposed to too much sunlight can easily sustain burns on their leaves. Whatever the reason, the damaged portion of a leaf will quickly die and turn dark brown or black, and feel dry and papery to your touch. The damage will remain entirely localized, and won’t spread or progress until pathogens enter the plant through the untreated injury. Infections and secondary diseases facilitated by leaf damage will maim or kill your orchid. You’ll need to act quickly and remove the damaged section before it’s too late.

Examine the affected leaf carefully to ascertain that simple leaf damage is the culprit. The discoloring will appear suddenly and be localized. This can be easily remedied by removing the damaged portion.

Use a sterile new single-edge razor blade to remove the damaged area of the leaf. Make a clean, crisp cut completely across the leaf’s entire width through healthy green tissue, directly below the black or brown discoloration. Discard the blade--don’t use it on another plant.

Apply a good fungicide for orchids to the entire wound according to the packaging instructions.

Look for signs of sun damage. The affected leaf will yellow if the plant receives too much sunlight. Extreme overdoses cause actual sunburn, killing overexposed areas of leaves. The dead spots will be non-progressive and confined to the damaged section.

Repeat steps 2 and 3. It isn’t necessary to remove entirely yellowed leaves, just the damaged portions. Discard the blade--don’t use it on another plant.

Evaluate the sunburned plant’s lighting conditions and adjust as necessary to avoid recurring damage.

Check for nutritional deficiencies and pathogens as causes of leaf browning or blackening. The leaf begins to die and blacken from the tip. Discoloration spreads downward toward the plant as leaf death progresses. Then opportunistic fungi attack and feed on dead and dying leaf tissue, producing a yellow band between the dead and healthy portions of the leaf.

Remove the damaged area of the leaf with a sterile new single-edge razor blade. Make a clean cut well into the healthy green tissue, directly below the yellow fungal band adjacent to the black or brown tip discoloration.

Apply a good fungicide for orchids to the entire wound according to the packaging instructions.

Discard the blade--don’t use it on another plant. Pick up and destroy the diseased plant material--don’t toss it onto the compost heap. Disinfect your work area to prevent spreading disease to other plants.


Things You Will Need

  • Disposable single-edge razor blades
  • Fungicide for orchids


  • Always use a new sterile single-edge razor blade for each orchid plant you touch or treat. This is the most effective way to prevent the spread of viruses from one specimen to another. Orchid viruses are incurable.


  • Be very careful when handling razor blades. Don’t try to tackle more vigorous tasks such as cutting tough rhizomes with them.

About the Author


A full-time writer since 2007, Axl J. Amistaadt is a DMS 2013 Outstanding Contributor Award recipient. He publishes online articles with major focus on pets, wildlife, gardening and fitness. He also covers parenting, juvenile science experiments, cooking and alternative/home remedies. Amistaadt has written book reviews for Work At Home Truth.