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  #1  
Old 03-04-2021, 02:08 AM
sarah_alia sarah_alia is offline
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Any hope for my Phal with no leaves?
Default Any hope for my Phal with no leaves?

Hello,

I have a phalaenopsis that I badly mistreated. I'd like to learn what I did wrong so I can do better next time, and also get any tips or advice about whether I can still save this little zombie.

I was gifted the phal in November and it was blooming. I didn't check the leaves/stem/roots at the time since I was distracted by the pretty flowers.

Looking at the photos it had five leaves originally. I put it in my bedroom which gets a bit of indirect sunlight. I have cats and the spike was very tall so I was limited to placing it high enough to be safe but not too high that it would smoosh the ceiling.

In California it doesn't get too cold, 60F maybe 50F minimum in the bedroom, but the temps may have fluctuated too much for the orchid since it was sitting near the ceiling where it could get hot/dry when I turned on the wall heater.

By end of December, of the five leaves, one young (top of stem) leaf had fallen off and three older (bottom of stem) leaves were wilting and turning yellow. I thought this was due to too much moisture trapped in the plastic pot - the sphagnum moss was perpetually moist - so I cut off the plastic and let the sphagnum moss dry out for about three weeks I think. I didn't replace the medium as I was daunted by the task.


Eventually, the yellow leaves fell off leaving my phal with only one leaf, but that leaf looked healthy and deep green. The last flower bud didn't bloom, it just turned off color and fell off, and some of the flowers also turned white in places.

When all the flowers had fallen off I cut the spike near the base.

Then on Feb 16th I decided I better take a look at the roots to make sure they're healthy enough for another spike to eventually grow. So I took out all the sphagnum moss on a whim, even though I didn't have any replacement medium on hand. It was packed super tight and was quite moist inside. There were tons of roots, many of them white with green tips, but many also had black squishy spots.

I noticed a dry husk around the stem/leaf base, which I peeled off to find some black areas. And I also noticed some black spots at the stem where it meets the roots.

I watched some YouTube videos and decided I should pick out the black spots, which I assumed was fungus, with tweezers. Unfortunately as I was performing Phal surgery, somehow I snapped the final leaf off the stem. It was super tragic and I cried.

But after some research I learned that green roots can still photosynthesize, so I didn't give up quite yet. I continued picking out all the black spots from the stem and roots, sprayed all the roots with hydrogen peroxide, and also sprinkled everything with cinnamon which I have now read should be kept off of the roots since it is a strong desiccant....

Since I didn't have any medium and since orchids are epiphytes, I thought I could get away without any medium. I kept the orchid root cluster in a covered glass vase for a day or two and the spike stub grew mold so I took it out and hung it from its stem.

I tried to keep the roots moist and fertilized, and its hung by a window now with lots of indirect sunlight, but I think the cinnamon has really dried everything out and I'm pretty doubtful that there is any hope left at all.

If anyone has some black magic or orchid CPR tricks, please let me know what my next move should be.

Otherwise I would very much appreciate any advice on how to address issues like the above next time. I've already adopted my next phal and I'd really like to be a better plant mom this time.

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 03-04-2021, 08:42 AM
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To me, it looks just too far gone for recovery. Sorry.
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  #3  
Old 03-04-2021, 10:35 AM
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estación seca estación seca is offline
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These are warm to hot growing orchids. 50 F / 10C is too cold for them night after night. Even 60 F / 15 C is too cold. That alone is enough to kill one. Try some Oncidium hybrids.
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  #4  
Old 03-04-2021, 10:49 AM
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I agree with Ray and ES... and don't spray roots with peroxide either.
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  #5  
Old 03-04-2021, 12:07 PM
Arizona Jeanie Arizona Jeanie is offline
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Any hope for my Phal with no leaves?
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Hello Sarah,
I always admire the spirit of trial and error, even if it doesn't always work out. That's how you learn!
Here are some suggestions, my opinion only of course:
Learn what conditions of light, temperature, water and medium are appropriate for orchids. See what fits with the conditions you have. 50F is too cool for Phals, they can't fight off the pathogens that are always hanging around.
Hydrogen peroxide kills live tissue. Don't use it on plants. There is disagreement on this, but my recommendation is not to use it. (I'm not an expert.)
I use cinnamon in my oatmeal, never tried it on plants. I seem healthy.
Don't fertilize struggling plants. It just makes things worse. IF they start showing new growth, then your can use tiny amounts of a complete fertilizer, maybe once a month.
Orchids are slow growers, give them time. Think "palliative/hospice" instead of "ICU" care.
I have brought one back after losing ALL its leaves. It had a tangle of healthy green roots, and quite quickly put out two new basal kiekies. I had left it outside while I was on vacation, temps got into the 50's and it developed stem/crown rot. I kept it in a clear vase, added and emptied water daily, sprayed the rot area with Physan a couple of times, then potted into medium bark as soon as a new leaf appeared. Watered a lot at first. It didn't bloom this year, but is looking pretty good, to my surprise.
How are you treating your new orchid? Moss or bark? Can you keep it warm enough but not too hot? How are you watering? How much light does it get?
Orchids are so interesting and the flowers are great. I've been very happy to have them as part of my "habitat enrichment" over this last year. I hope you enjoy them too!
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Old 03-04-2021, 07:28 PM
sarah_alia sarah_alia is offline
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Thank you all very much for the insights!

Jeanie,

I appreciate your thorough and thoughtful response.

That's so great that you were able to bring back your orchid even after it lost all its leaves! I wish I had reached out here sooner :] I hope it continues to thrive.

I'll stop trying to resuscitate my first phal and focus on providing a better environment for the next one.

Roger that on avoiding the H2O2 and fertilizer if my plant is struggling.

I've attached some photos of my new phal which I adopted from a friend who rescued it from a dumpster two years ago.

I'll keep this one at work where there is a very large northwestern-facing window nearby, and where the temperature stays above 65F all the time.

This phal is also in sphagnum moss in a plastic container. It seems a bit too moist to me but I'm not sure how to really tell. I've attached a photo.

My friend was watering it with "one small glass of water once a week." I've only had it for a week.

I really love orchids and in the past was able to keep two for more than 3 years and watch them re-bloom several times which was so exciting! Unfortunately I neglected them for too long and they died in January 2020, and after this last incident where my phal died after only a few months I'm feeling pretty sheepish about taking care of the next one properly.

Looking forward to learning more from this forum
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  #7  
Old 03-05-2021, 01:09 AM
aliceinwl aliceinwl is offline
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I agree that your first one is probably beyond saving. Your new addition looks to be in pretty old moss. You probably want to consider repotting sooner rather than later.

Some things to consider when repotting and for general care:

If you’re growing on the cool side (70s) an open less water retentive substrate, like bark, can be more forgiving.

Even pretty crummy looking roots can be functional: it’s often better not to cut off any roots

New substrate, especially bark, will dry fast so be prepared to increase watering frequency (you can use wet versus dry pot weight, green versus silver root color, or wet versus dry looking bark to help you gauge when to water).

Avoid letting the plant get bone dry. Don’t wait for every bit of condensation in the pot to disappear and the pot to feel feather light before watering. That will put stress on the plant.

There is no fixed time table for watering. When to water and how much to water will depend on temperature, substrate, pot size and type, size and health of the plant, sun exposure, etc. It will be different for everyone. You’ve changed the conditions for your new plant so you may need to modify your watering regime accordingly.

Good luck!
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Old 03-06-2021, 12:31 AM
sarah_alia sarah_alia is offline
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Any hope for my Phal with no leaves?
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Hi Alice,

Thank you for the advice!

I'll get some bark and repot the new addition this week.

Would you recommend simply repotting it in the same plastic pot?

Any other tips on proper repotting techniques and what to look for when I'm trying out the new watering schedule would be much appreciated!
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Old 03-06-2021, 07:58 AM
Mountaineer370 Mountaineer370 is offline
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Your newer Phal looks to be in one of those soft, flimsy nursery pots, and it looks damaged (the pot). If you've had that Phal for two years and it's never been repotted, that is the first thing I would do. It needs new medium. The bark you mentioned would be fine, but remember that plants in bark or other media that is not very water-retentive will need to be watered much more frequently than those in sphagnum moss.

Here's a recent thread about using clear plastic pots, if that's what you want to stick with:

Clear Container?

And another one discussing sources:

Clear slotted pots...comparison

edited to add: If I wasn't clear, yes, that orchid needs not only repotting but a new pot.
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Old 03-06-2021, 08:20 AM
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Sara, if you choose a bark based medium, soak it overnight before using it to pot up your plant. Don't get cheap big box "orchid potting" stuff... too many fines in it. Since you're only potting up a plant or two, use a good mix off Amazon like this or similar

Amazon.com

When you repot it, try to get at least a couple or more roots up next to the side of the pot. That way you can see when the roots start to get silvery and not green. It will help you learn how often you need to water until you really get the hang of it.
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