Ask a Question forum: Beginner planter-- what am I doing wrong?

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Aug 10, 2018 7:26 PM CST
Hello! I am new to the whole gardening life and I have a few plants in my college dorm that just aren't doing well. It seems that either plants are hit or miss with me-- either they flourish or die a week after I get them. I refer to the internet when I try to find out what I'm doing wrong but I want to ask an actual person for an opinion. I currently have three plants - a small orchid, and African violet**, and some kind of a daisy (not sure what it is, it was a gift) - that are all struggling. What do you think is wrong with them?

**I have another African violet that I have had for about a year now and it is flourishing. I see lots of new growth all the time. I follow the same watering schedule with my other African violet and it's dying pretty quickly on me. I'm not sure why my apartment's environment/my watering schedule works for one plant but not for the other.
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Name: Sally
central Maryland
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Aug 10, 2018 8:40 PM CST
Daisy is a chrysanthemum, that is used as a flowering gift and not well suited to houseplant life. But it just looks dry. So tiny, it could dry out in a heartbeat.
Af violet is gone. Looks very wet. Sometimes, one waters a bit too much, and once roots start dying, the watering compounds and spirals downhill.
Orchid looks dried out but some good roots there. Leave should not be wrinkly, and should be more 'erect'. It too may be drying out too fast, being a little pot. I can't quite tell how much moss is in that pot. It might have damp, compacted, clogged areas of dead root. I like videos by MissOrchidGirl on youtube, yours is a Phalaenopsis, generally easy care and can take some abuse.
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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Aug 10, 2018 9:18 PM CST
Hello andimarie13, your orchid is a Phalaenopsis. This particular orchid likes lots of airflow around its root zone area. Typically, I would remove all of those moss around the root zone area. At times, sellers wrap them around the roots since they do not know how long the plant will stay in stores, so to keep moisture they put the moss.

But now that it is with you, it is time to allow more air flow at the root zone. It is somewhat suffocating the roots already and it is showing on the leaves, being unable to take in moisture properly. Get some chunky orchid bark mix as your new media. Different growers vary in how to use first use them.

For my own preference, I soak the bark mix overnight then I drain the excess water, and that is the media I use for my Phals. Container I use have side holes and bottom holes, Got to have lots of airflow around root zone. I also position the plant a bit sideways, so that water flows away from the crown. Phals usually do a rest period after it has bloomed, so it may seem to be doing nothing, but is actually still doing photosynthesis through its leaves and roots.

When I finally see some active growth, that is the time I start using fertilizers, half dose only. Too much fertilizers may end up burning the roots and leaves. During watering time, water the root zone thoroughly till you see water drain out, and run your fan, to get air circulated around. Remember this is an epiphyte, so it likes lots of good airflow. It is a low light plant, so position it indoors where it gets indirect light. Sometimes the roots may grow in disarray, going out of the container, they become aerial roots, so just let it be, that is the natural way it grows, trying to grab on to something, like growing on a branch of a tree. In time, you will learn to use other forms of media to grow your Phals, but for now, start with the most common way of doing it, with orchid bark mix. Btw, you have to observe watering intervals for this plant, it does not like its roots being too soaking wet.

When it is given a chance to get some good cool down in Fall, it may trigger a flowering spike, and you may get your blooms around Spring. I like the blooms of Phals, it can last for 6 months. Smiling

As for the African violets and Daisies, I do not grow them, so I will let others comment on that.
[Last edited by tarev - Aug 11, 2018 10:56 AM (+)]
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Name: Will Creed
Professional indoor plant consultan
Aug 11, 2018 7:36 AM CST
If you prefer to keep it simple, your Moth Orchid does not have to be repotted .

It appears the lower portion of the sphagnum moss growing medium is dry whereas the top is wet or damp. That probably means that you have been watering very lightly and the water never gets to the lower roots.

Make sure the plastic container has drain holes. If it doesn't, then make some by poking a knife or scissors up through the bottom. In the future, allow the top inch of potting medium to dry before taking the plastic container to the sink and letting lots of water run through the entire root system. The excess will drain out through the holes.

Provide lots on bright but mostly indirect indoor sunlight; a north or east windowsill would be best. Fertilize at half strength every month or two.

Your other two plants are lost causes.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Cat Lover Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Region: California Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
Composter Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener
Aug 11, 2018 10:51 AM CST
andimarie13, to be honest, Phalaenopsis is not as easy and as simple as it seems. Nothing is really simple in growing orchids actually, lots of factors to consider, light, humidity, temperature, watering etc. But it is a good orchid to start with. You just need to find patience too in growing them. It has a great appeal in being grown at home, since it is a low light plant, and can bloom nicely indoors. Some orchids require higher light intensity and humidity which is often not easy to duplicate at home. I have killed some Phals previously too before I finally understood what it needs. Steep learning curve at times.

Good luck on your Phal. I would also suggest you watch repotting videos online, there are lots to choose from. Keep us posted how it goes. There are also lots of info in our orchid forums here, read through it to see how various approaches maybe applicable to your growing area. Repotting for the first time is one of the challenges in orchid growing as well, so don't feel bad if you feel daunted by it. Smiling
Aug 11, 2018 11:03 AM CST
Thank you all so much for the advice!
Name: Lin
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Aug 11, 2018 11:46 AM CST
Here's our database link for Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)
The American Orchid Society Culture sheet for Phalaenopsis:

You didn't show a photo of your healthy African Violets (Saintpaulia) but was the one that's a goner ever watered from the top? It appears to have experienced crown rot or either the soil didn't drain well which caused rot and complete collapse of the plant. African Violets should always be watered from below or just at soil level, keeping water away from the leaves and especially the center crown of the plant. I found that out the hard way many years ago when I forgot and left a few African Violet plants outside ... it rained and all of them rotted.

I've never grown Chrysanthemum as an indoor houseplant but as has been suggested, yours looks like it may perk up with more water.
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot! ~

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