Orchids forum: Orchid help needed

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Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
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keithp2012
Jan 29, 2015 3:45 PM CST
My Sister is a novice with plants and her mother in law gave her an orchid and it's not doing good, now her mother in law is upset thinking she is lazy neglecting her "gift".

I'm the plant expert in the family, but I've never owned or grown an orchid, no room in my house.

I know they like moist but not soggy substrate and humidity and require staking for the flowers, and they have thick support roots and flowering stems grow from the side, but other than that I don't know much. I've seen orchid fertilizer pellets sold.

So my sisters plant is on a windowsill and gets a good amount of light but its drafty in winter and hot in summer. It's 2 years old and hasn't bloomed and it's in the same substrate and phorid flies are infesting it.

What substrate is used for repotting, they don't water often so is plastic pot good over bottom with pebbles in water? Do roots get trimmed?

Here are photos, I have no idea what kind it is.
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Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
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Ursula
Jan 29, 2015 4:53 PM CST

Moderator

Hi Keith! What you have here is a Phalaenopsis.
Perhaps you might read this nice thread on how to take care of this Orchid.

The thread "Broke down and got my first orchid" in Orchids forum

I am sure others will chime in here.
Name: tarev
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tarev
Jan 29, 2015 7:06 PM CST
I agree with Ursula, it is a Phalaenopsis.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Jan 29, 2015 8:29 PM CST
Visually looking at it, the leaves looks dehydrated, though there seems to be a new leaf forming in the middle.
Read through the other thread as recommended then pull out that orchid from the container, get a photo, upload it here, if you have problems assessing how it looks. Typically if there are dead roots, where it appears really brittle brown, then you can cut it off. I still see viable roots from your photo right now, so there is hope for that one. Just needs some repotting and understanding of its cultural needs.

Phal roots are typically thicker, the plant grows monopodial, upright one stem growth, new leaves added in the center alternating. They are noted for having real long blooming times sometimes reaching 6 months, so after it blooms the plant goes on a rest mode to recover its energy. During that time, it will make new roots and leaves. In your orchid's case, I would imagine the media may have gone too stale already or broken down if it has never been replaced before, so will need a repot, to a container with drainage of your choice, it is preferably with side holes to allow more root aeration. That is very important for most orchids, especially Phals. It hates being too soggy wet, needs to breathe. In its natural growing habit, the plant is usually a bit upside down, so even if it rains, the water flows away from the crown. In our home environment, it starts out nicely potted upright, but eventually the plant finds away to bend to the side.

Anyways, I maybe repeating some already stated in the other thread..but be ready with your media replacement. For starters, use orchid bark mix, can easily get it at any big box store or order online if you need to. I usually soak the new media overnight, since it takes awhile for new bark mix to be moisture retentive, then I do the repot the following day. Some do not do it that way, it is a matter of preference at times.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jan 30, 2015 9:26 PM CST
Keith, here's a picture of 4 of my Phals. See how they are facing sideways, not straight up? It's pretty important to place the plant that way in the pot so that water never sits in the crown of the leaves. Also there are 3 good examples (and one bad one) of pots for them. Holes in the sides of the pot are important, or you can mount on a piece of wood or (in my case_) a palm boot. That's not the best way for one that's going to be grown indoors, though.
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As Tarev said, start with some orchid bark mix and a pot with holes. Dump that baby out, and trim away all the roots that are brown or beige or squishy. Healthy roots look like those sort of shiny grey ones, or white and spongy. You don't need to bury all the roots when you repot, either. The plant will grow roots up into the air because that's what it needs.

I would see if there's a better place for her to grow that plant than the drafty windowsill. Phals like indirect light, not direct sunlight so it doesn't really need to be that close to the window. A tray of pebbles under the pot with water in it (not touching the bottom of the pot) will supply some extra humidity and I also spray the leaves of mine with a fine mist of plain water at least once a day when the humidity is low - and it almost always is low indoors.

Don't worry if it doesn't bloom this spring, it is recovering and needs to grow some new leaves before it will bloom. Next spring will be it's time. Btw, patience is a huge virtue with growing orchids. They are really slow growers, most of them.

Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jan 30, 2015 9:31 PM CST
More pots with vent holes in them for the orchid roots. The clay pots are available for very little money at the big box stores.
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Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Kate
Holmes Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
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karmatree
Jan 31, 2015 5:43 AM CST
I agree with Elaine. The best looking, happiest Phal I have is mounted at a weird angle on a palm boot. It bloomed in September and has a new bloom spike on it that forks in two directions again, already.

I think the most important thing to remember about orchids is that the majority of them are epiphytes. Imagine if your favorite spot to live is high in the tropical canopy atop a tree branch, with mosses and other epiphytes, misty rains, dappled light, a little bit of organic food and a chance to completely dry out between rainstorms.
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Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
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Ursula
Jan 31, 2015 7:55 AM CST

Moderator

Kate, I do agree with you, except for the "completely drying out between rainstorms".
I would think that depends on the region and time of year. Even in tropical regions you have seasons:
Years ago at a walk through the tropical Jungle near Manaus/Brazil as we got thoroughly drenched, and that was in the dry season, we were told that it rains every day in the dry season and it rains all day in the wet season. Smiling
And then you might have a warm Savanna with a typical dry season, but surely even there is considerable morning dew.
If you pull out my Ecuador report, you will see us getting soaked plenty, and many of those areas simply didn't dry up completely.
It truly is not that clear cut.
Name: Jim Hawk
Odessa, Florida (Zone 9b)
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hawkarica
Jan 31, 2015 8:12 AM CST
Once again, it depends on the type of orchid you are trying to grow and what it is accustomed to. Read and get to know your orchid, then try it in different locations. Grow one in a pot and mount another, then observe. It will soon be obvious what your plants like.

Jim
Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
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Ursula
Jan 31, 2015 8:50 AM CST

Moderator

I agree
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
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drdawg
Jan 31, 2015 9:08 AM CST
Me too I agree I tend to keep all my orchids on the dry side during the cool/cold months, while they are in the greenhouses. Thus all of my epiphytic orchids, which compose 95% of what I grow, do dry out completely between watering. I do try to mist all my plants at least every other day and on nice, sunny days (though the outside temperature may still be in the 30-40's), I try to mist them daily. The only ill-effects that I see (other than perhaps a bit slower growth) is some shriveling of some of the varieties' pseudobulbs and some shriveling of a few of my varieties' leaves.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
Region: United States of America Winter Sowing Plays in the sandbox Birds Native Plants and Wildflowers Tomato Heads
Vegetable Grower Garden Photography Hybridizer Spiders! Annuals Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
keithp2012
Jan 31, 2015 10:18 AM CST
Do I water when the soil starts to dry out but isn't dry? I might mist to get the plant started but after reading it appears it does better watering from below.

I would like to know how often to fertilize.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
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drdawg
Jan 31, 2015 11:14 AM CST
Keith, keep in mind that you would never use any sort of soil. You want a bark-based medium. I custom make all my own orchid media, but if you are going to re-pot your orchid, go to one of the big-box stores and just get a small bag of "Phalaenopsis Orchid Mix".

You really can't water from below using orchid mixes. Well you could do so by submerging the pot in a basin of water/weak fertilizer mix up to the pot's rim, but you still need to water/fertilize any aerial roots. I do submerge my pots when they are in the house (when in bloom), but I have to hold the plant/medium down with a hand since the bark will tend to float out of the pot!. Aerial roots would be those that grow above the medium or out the pot's holes. Here are a few pictures of my typical Phal. so you can see what aerial roots are all about. Phal. loves to have their roots growing outside the medium/pots. Notice that the plants are all tilted.

Since I am a seller of orchids, I do my misting/watering/fertilizing way more than the average person. With over 600 orchids, I am always having to water, mist, and/or fertilize something. Sighing! I do tell people to always think of the phrase: "Weakly-Weekly" when it comes to fertilizing their tropical plants, orchids included. During the cool/cold months, I dilute my orchid fertilizer by 1/4 and during the warmer months, I dilute it by 1/2. Thus, if the orchid fertilizer label says to use 1 tsp. per gallon, I would use either 1/4 tsp. or 1/2 tsp. Using the recommended 1 tsp. per gallon is fine, you just wouldn't want to fertilize as often and then would want to flush your plant's medium with plain water between every fertilization. That flushes out the salts left in the medium when the fertilizer solution dries.

Be sure your Phal. is tilted so that any water than gets in the crown of the plant can drain out. Leaving water in the crown frequently will cause "crown-rot" and you can lose the plant.

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drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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