Ask a Question forum: Orchid expiry?

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Name: Lisa Olson
Washington DC (Zone 7a)
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5601Lisa
Jan 24, 2016 11:50 AM CST
Leaves fell off my Phal and the center looks black. Anything I can do, short of buying another one?
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Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
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Dutchlady1
Jan 24, 2016 11:58 AM CST
It looks like it rotted. I think it might be a goner.
Phalaenopsis orchids (which are epiphytic) were never meant to be growing upright in a pot, but rather with the leaves downward and the spike sticking out horizontally. They are not easy to display (and sell) that way, which is why you will find them 'potted up' with a stake to hold the spike upright. This often does cause rotting when the plant is overwatered.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Jan 24, 2016 12:28 PM CST
Lisa, I have to agree with Hetty ... it looks like your poor Orchid might be a goner. Sad I notice it's planted in what appears to be spaghnum moss, which either stays soggy and does not allow much air circulation around the plants roots, causing them to rot .... or it gets as hard as a rock, causing the same issues. Although many folks grow Orchid (Phalaenopsis) in containers, the wood baskets with orchid bark chips would probably be a much better choice for potting medium because it would drain quickly and allow for air to reach the roots.
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Name: Lisa Olson
Washington DC (Zone 7a)
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5601Lisa
Jan 24, 2016 2:34 PM CST
Thanks. This is such a great resource!
Now I'm thinking I should repot several other orchids potted in moss. Do have some blackish roots. Suggestions?
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Jan 24, 2016 3:29 PM CST
Hi Lisa, each orchid grower will have a preference for their orchid media. Personally I really hate sphagnum moss, I can never gauge properly when to water, it holds water too much and too long.

If those were my plants, I would remove the sphagnum moss, and make a thorough inspection of the root system. If there are dried out roots, brown and very brittle, cut them off. Make sure you sterilize your scissors or whatever thing you use to trim them out. I think your orchids are Phalaenopsis, so I would recommend you use chunky orchid bark mix till you get used to the plant. Phal roots are rather thick, so it really wants lots of air circulation at the root zone. So make sure your container has good drainage holes at the bottom and side holes for further air circulation. I would position the plant at a slanting angle in the container, it really likes it that way. Typically before I do the repot, I would have already presoaked the new media overnight. Some again have their own preferences about this, either they presoak the new media or not.

During repot, carefully try to put the roots inside, and shake in the new media. During the first few weeks I dunk water the container for a few minutes, up to root zone level only, not wetting the leaves and then let the water drain out thoroughly. It takes awhile for the media to be moisture retentive and I always run the ceiling fan after watering. Good air circulation is what it likes. Now as to watering, oftentimes overwatering is the primary killer of orchids. You have to adjust watering as seasons change..less during cold season, and a bit more during the warmer months. Each orchid grower has their own style. I do not spray mist my Phal leaves and they thrive well. Some would spray mist them a lot, but you have to consider where they are growing the plant, oftentimes it is outdoors. Orchids love the outdoor interaction a lot, but in our indoor microclimates, it will adjust differently.

As to fertilizing, weakly weekly is being done by most, meaning half the strength of the fertilizer. Too much will cause fertilizer burn on the roots and leaves.

Good luck on your plants! Hope they recover Smiling

Just adding: the first photos of your orchid..I agree with what the others have said..it is better to start anew..it is kaput.
[Last edited by tarev - Jan 24, 2016 3:30 PM (+)]
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Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Jan 24, 2016 3:52 PM CST
Here is a picture of how Phals grow in nature. You see that the place where the leaves meet is facing outward, so it would never hold water the way they do when they are forced to row upright in pots. I agree with tarev that it would be better to plant your orchid at least somewhat at a slant to prevent the same problem.
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Name: Lisa Olson
Washington DC (Zone 7a)
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5601Lisa
Jan 24, 2016 4:40 PM CST
Thanks very much. Not sure how much/many roots to clip off. Everything not green and ropey? Some roots are brown, spindly, dried out. Clearly, those go. But what about thick roots, slightly black?
Shall repot a few Phals tomorrow. Can't go anywhere with this whopping snowfall.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Jan 24, 2016 5:02 PM CST
The greenish, fleshy looking roots are good but the brown, brittle ones are dead and can be removed. I agree with tarev and Dutchlady about plant Phalaenopsis at a slant.
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Jan 24, 2016 5:07 PM CST
Lots of good advice here, Lisa. As to which roots to trim, any that are dried, or feel mushy should go. If you squeeze them gently with your fingers and they feel firm, I'd leave them. They are holding water.

One thing I'd add - when you're re-potting since you have had a case of crown rot on that first plant: when you're finished trimming and have removed all the moss from amongst the roots, gently wash them under the tap in warm water and while they are still wet, sprinkle cinnamon all over the roots. It is an organic fungicide and also somewhat antiseptic as well. So it will help your plants resist infection if there are still any fungal pathogens hanging around.

Yep, all my Phals are either mounted with leaves hanging down (as they grow in nature) or sitting in their pots on a slant. This way, water can't sit in the crown of the plant. The flowers are meant to cascade gracefully downwards, too, not stand up as they are sold in the stores. I think they pot them that way also because they can ship more plants in a box if the flower stems are vertical.
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Elaine

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[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Jan 24, 2016 5:08 PM (+)]
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Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
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Ursula
Jan 24, 2016 5:10 PM CST
I can only echo what has been said here!! I do agree about the Sphagnum moss, in my hands it will kill that Orchid within half a year! For that reason I never buy a Phal when I see it potted in moss since I will have to remove that stuff and replace it with bark, or perhaps mount that plant bare root.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
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tarev
Jan 24, 2016 5:18 PM CST
Also the plant, depending if it has just bloomed, maybe on resting mode. just have to be patient with it, so do not be tempted to overwater or try too much fertilizer. After repot the plant will acclimate again, so give it time to adjust.
Name: Lisa Olson
Washington DC (Zone 7a)
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5601Lisa
Jan 24, 2016 5:29 PM CST
Love you gals! Have learned a whopping amount.
Name: David Laderoute
Zone 5B/6 - NW MO (Zone 5b)
Ignoring Zones altogether
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DavidLMO
Jan 25, 2016 12:27 AM CST
5601Lisa

Good advice above. Lisa - the first plant is dead. Leaves are gone and the base looks horrible. There is no way to help it. When Phals have serious root problems, it can take as long as a year or more to get them to recover. Been there. Done that. If they have essentially no roots, it can take more than a year. There is nothing you as an amateur can do to get them to grow new leaves

Roots should never be brown, black or dried up. They should be white or green or in between and should be plump. If your plant has not been watered for a while, roots can take on different colors. Always check after watering before removing any.

If I succumb and pick up a "rescue" orchid at Lowes or whatever, as soon as I get it home, I repot it immediately in bark. I know a lot of advice says never do that with a blooming Phal. Well - if you leave it in the media it most likely is in - packed in moss that is soaking wet - your plant will go down hill until you get the moss OUT. I have seen that stuff packed so tightly inside the root zone - it is amazing. And if you leave that crud in there - the Phal will DIE.

If you must keep your plant mostly vertical, always ensure that the crown area is DRIED after you water it. Water collecting in the crown area (where the leaves join) will lead to Crown Rot and yer Phal will DIE. Been there - done that. Use a paper towel to soak up the excess water.

And regardless of how well you care for your Phals, some will die. You are not an orchid grower til you have killed several.

Don't let this set back get you upset. Happens to the best of us. In my first 5 or so Phals, I killed 3. Lessons learned. Now I have 19 Phals and another 9 Keiki babies. Have not lost a Phal in over a year.

Not mentioned above is the use of Physan or Consan. Once a year or so, I flush my Phals with a solution of those. When I repot, I clean out a pot with the solution and soak my bark in it. Good stuff and lasts a long time. When trimming roots, I dip my tools in alcohol and then the solution.

Good luck. Hope you come to enjoy them. Right now, I have ~ 13 flower spikes forming on mine and 2 are in bloom.
Seeking Feng Shui with my plants since 1976
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Jan 25, 2016 5:43 AM CST
Great advice David! Thumbs up
And I like your statement of 'And regardless of how well you care for your Phals, some will die. You are not an orchid grower til you have killed several.'

When newbie plumeria growers tell me their cutting rotted or their plant died I tell them 'These are Plumeria lessons' - it's how you pay for learning to grow them...

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