Orchids forum: Am I taking care of my orchid right?

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Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
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keithp2012
Jun 8, 2015 11:56 PM CST
I brought a discount orchid that appeared to be rotting. The medium was moss and decaying wood chips. Most roots were brown and mushy but a few were green. It has many healthy leaves and a brown flower stem.

I reported in orchid bark. Trouble is leaving water underneath in a dish doesn't reach the top of the pot near aerial roots. So I poured water from above to soak the medium. Well, next day bark was completely dry! Do orchids need to stay in wet bark or is watering once a week by soaking the bark good enough? I don't know how long the roots can be dry for?

And when and how often to fertilize? The bark has no nutrients I assume?
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
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drdawg
Jun 9, 2015 10:27 AM CST
Keith, one important thing to keep in mind is how orchids typically grow in their native habitats. Most grow in trees and the ONLY water they get is when it rains or from mist. Perched on a tree trunk or a limb, how long do you think those roots stay wet? That's why we grow our orchids in bark media, though mounting them surely is closer to the way they grow in nature. We want the media to dry quickly and other than a few varieties, the last thing an orchid needs to do is sit in a saucer of water. I assume you have a Phalaenopsis ("Moth Orchid")., so letting the orchid media dry before watering is just fine. Orchids can go days without water but if the bark media looks dry, just water it. You might want to do this every day. Also, if it is a Phal., be sure your plant has a tilt so that any water that gets in the crown of the plant, can drain away quickly. Also watch for mealy bugs. For some reason, my Phal. are magnets for these insects.

I fertilize all the time, but I dilute my fertilizer by 1/2 during the spring/summer and by 1/4 during the fall/winter. I have a lot of orchids and am always watering/fertilizing something.
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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
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keithp2012
Jun 9, 2015 1:53 PM CST
Do you fertilize during blooming, or only when not in bloom?
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 9, 2015 2:24 PM CST
Keith, as in the wild, orchids get nutrients from the stuff that falls on them from the sky and the tree canopy. It's a constant, very dilute supply, so you can continue to fertilize while your orchid has blooms. If yours is a Phalaenopsis, it most likely won't bloom again until next spring, so grow that baby this summer for great blooms next year!

Most of us fertilize by spraying very weak fertilizer all over the plants at least every week. During the summer here, I spray fertilizer every time I water, because we have sudden rain showers that rinse all the goodies away. Also in warmer weather, the plants are growing faster and can use more.

They're epiphytes so they absorb a lot of nutrients, if not most through their leaves. The roots are really designed more to hold the plant in place, rather than to absorb water and nutrients. So don't be too worried about keeping the roots damp. But it is a very good idea to keep a saucer near or under your orchids, filled with water and pebbles to keep the pots from touching the water. This will keep the humidity up around the plants.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
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drdawg
Jun 9, 2015 2:58 PM CST
I agree Thumbs up
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Jun 9, 2015 4:36 PM CST
I grow my Phals differently here, I water the root zone thoroughly, then let it drain. The roots are thick, so it likes to dry out fast. Keeping it too damp, may invite rotting. So it is advisable to use containers with side holes. Or some would just mount the orchid, but will require more frequent watering. I do not bother misting the leaves either, helps save a step keeping the crown dry. Or if I do ever accidentally have water by the crown area, I quickly dry it off with paper towel. Growing them indoors does not accord the usual heat and wind that will facilitate faster drying time, so got to be careful to protect the crown area. I also water early in the day, never at night.

Usually, when I repot, and if I have to use bark mix, I presoak it first overnight before I use it. Some don't, but I do it so the roots have some moisture right away, and first few weeks, I have to dunk the root zone and let drain, since the media as you observed dries out fast. I also try to lean the plant a bit to the edge, it likes it that way, keeping the roots below the media and the other end a bit above the media. It will also grow aerial roots, so I just spray those ones when it does make some.

I also run our ceiling fans or open our windows weather permitting for air circulation. You mentioned the flower stem is brown already, if it is dried out, cut it off, so your plant can redirect its energy to forming new roots/leaves.

Your plant will be adjusting to your current environment so sometimes it takes awhile to see it grow actively and if it has just recently bloomed, it maybe on resting mode, so just have to wait patiently for it to start growing new roots and leaves.

Have fun!
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
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ShadyGreenThumb
Jun 12, 2015 10:05 PM CST
Quick story here. My sister was whining or bragging, I couldn't tell, about a plant she "almost killed". I told her it was an orchid and that she could cut off the brown stems. "Give it more light and it will bloom again for you" , I told her. "Oh. I hardly ever water it!" (again I couldn't tell if she was bragging or what?) I told her, "GOOD! The plant (in soil) doesn't need too much water". I wanted to snatch the poor plant and take it away from her!!
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 13, 2015 8:56 AM CST
Rolling my eyes. Hoo boy, Cheryl! Sadly she'll probably give it to you once she really has killed it.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
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Ursula
Jun 13, 2015 9:52 AM CST

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I don't know how many people have given me their old tired Phals, thinking I might restore them to their former glory. Hah, little do they know!! They could just call me the Phal Undertaker!! If I keep them in the living room, they do fine. The greenhouse conditions and then those later in Summer outside, are usually the death knell for them, at least in the second year!
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
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drdawg
Jun 13, 2015 9:57 AM CST
Why is that, Ursula? I would think being outside would be good for them. All mine are outside and though I would not cry over their loss, still, I don't like to lose orchids.
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Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
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Ursula
Jun 13, 2015 10:44 AM CST

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I would think they don't do well in the greenhouse because I water from the top. Ditto for outside? I do tilt them, still. One season is ok, the next season they will not look too hot.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jun 13, 2015 10:57 AM CST
My only problem with Phal. is that they seem to be mealy bug magnets, the only orchid variety that appears to have mealy bug problems.
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Carol
Santa Ana,Ca. (Zone 10b)
Sunset zone 22
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ctcarol
Jun 13, 2015 11:39 AM CST
Ursula, I have the same problem with Phals, even though I'm very careful not to water them from the top. I think they just don't like the change in temps outside. Mine do fine in the house also, but I use the swamp cooler when things heat up inside. That also helps with the humidity. Of course it ccould be that I over water them while watering the rest when they're all together. I tend to forget them in the house.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Jun 13, 2015 12:11 PM CST
I find that I have to treat my Phals like succulents grown in a cooler condition. Deep water at least once a week at the root zone only, and let dry for several days, but really lots of air around. I guess it helps simulate a nice cool down.I think the leaves hate our hard water, but roots don't mind as long as they dry out fast. I only dare to have the leaves wet, when it will be rain on the leaves when temps are warm. I always find them to prefer to have a cool summer feeling.
Thinking about it, in their natural environment, I think they get lots of rain on very warm days, cooling them down. And typically, during cold season in the tropics, there is no rain, just cool air around, or gentle cool mist.
[Last edited by tarev - Jun 13, 2015 3:07 PM (+)]
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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
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keithp2012
Jun 16, 2015 1:45 PM CST
So, the orchid stopped rotting and is looking better, the leaves greened up.
My only issue is it being top heavy with shallow roots so it keeps flopping over plant and roots the wood chips don't even weigh it down.

I decided to bring the orchid outside during a warm rain, it seemed to appreciate the natural fertilizer, I dried the crown after.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Jun 16, 2015 2:08 PM CST
Yes, they love liquid gold! Then allow it to get some good air circulation, it will enjoy it even more.

Name: Jim Hawk
Odessa, Florida (Zone 9b)
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hawkarica
Jun 16, 2015 2:28 PM CST
If the orchid is falling out of the pot, you need some pot clips. Any orchid supply house will have them. If the pot itself is falling over, just set it into a larger, heavier pot.

Jim
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 16, 2015 4:05 PM CST
Yes, they do like to have their roots up in the air, and until they attach to something, usually the pot, they tend to tip themselves out. I had one that refused to stay put, so I stuck a piece of cork bark into the basket and it is happily attached to that now.

Thumb of 2015-06-16/dyzzypyxxy/37f2a4

Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
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
Jun 16, 2015 4:51 PM CST
I got a pot clip and it worked great, thanks for the suggestions! Cool looking setup @dyzzypyxxy

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