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  #1  
Unread 09-03-2009, 02:46 PM
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Question Problems with phalaenopsis orchid - Yellow leaves and blooms dying

Hi,
Six weeks ago I got my first orchid as a gift from my mother, I think it's a phalaenopsis orchid??
When I received the orchid it seemed healthy, this is what it looked like, healthy and with 3 unopened buds:


This is what's going on with the orchid:
- Week 3, the first bloom drops and one leaf starts to yellow, it was dark green and turned yellow over 2 days. It didn't shrivel up or dry up, the whole yellow leaf just feel off.
- Week 4, 3 more blooms shrivel and die, all at the same time and they go from looking pretty good to dead in less than 48 hours.
- Week 5, the last of the 3 unopened buds that bloom dies within 5 days of blooming.
- Week 6, another leaf goes from dark green to yellow literally over night, it's drooping and looks like it's about to fall off. There are 4 more blooms wilting.

I sometimes see tiny black flying bugs near the orchid, we had a fruit fly problem in Toronto after the garbage strike, I set some traps, that seemed to work as I've only seen 2 flies recently. I'm not sure if this could be a problem?

The orchid is on a table about 6 feet away from a east facing window, it gets bright light most of the day, I tilt the shades so there is no direct sunlight on the orchid.
The window is frequently open letting fresh airflow and our A/C is usually set to 71*F.
I water about every 8-10 days or when the soil starts to feel dry, I don't let it dry out between waterings. It's been quite humid lately, so the orchid hasn't been in a dry environment.

I am a total newbie when it comes to what it's potted in so I can't provide much details, it's in a plastic pot inside a ceramic pot. There is shredded mulch type material covering the soil. I'm not sure if I'm even meant to keep this mulch, I wasn't sure if was decoration or something that was meant to be there?

Here are pics of the current condition:





What could I be doing wrong? Any help would be greatly appreciated, I really love my orchid so don't want it to die on me.
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  #2  
Unread 09-03-2009, 03:12 PM
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Hi KrystalGem and welcome to Orchid Board.

I'm afraid I think it is possible your Phals roots are rotting

Phal roots like to breath and the easiest way to allow them to do this is to ensure they DO dry out between waterings. If the roots can't breath then they will generally rot.

Often the first signs of root rot is flowers dropping before they should and leaves dying.

It looks like your medium is sphagnum moss. You mention soil, is it the moss all the way down or is that just a layer on the top. Phals should not be grown in 'soil' as such as it is generally not airy enough.

The most common mediums for Phals (and many other orchids) are bark or sphag. Many people (including me) find sphag holds the water too long though and it is a common cause of begginers getting root rot. It can seem dry on the surface and be soggy lower down.

Another comment is, does the pot have holes in the bottom, or is there an inner pot which can be pulled out and which has holes. It seems far too many Phals are sold in pots without holes in the bottom and that also leads to rot. They should not be left with water standing in the bottom and if there are no holes in the pot then the water just stays there when you water.

So....

the first thing I would do is remove it from the pot and take a look at the roots.

Are the roots firm or are they mushy/hollow?

If they are firm then they are good roots, if they are mushy/hollow then they are rotten/dead.

Remove any rotten/dead roots with a sharp sterile knife. You can dab a little cinammon on the cut end, but don't use too much as it can by too drying on roots. Just a little dab on the cut end can help stop infection.

Do you have any/many roots left?
Does the sphag smell bad?
Were there any holes in the pot?
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  #3  
Unread 09-03-2009, 05:19 PM
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Thank you so much for replying.

I just removed the inner pot and the sphag at the top and there are some firm roots and then some hollow, dry and stringy roots. These are just on the surface, I haven't removed the orchid from the inner pot.

It turns out the orchid is not in soil, it's all sphag, the lower parts are compressed, I must be blind to think it was soil!! In some areas the sphag has turned very pale brown. It doesn't smell.

The pot does have holes in the bottom, at the bottom of the ceramic pot is styrofoam packing with a small amount of water.

Do I take the orchard out of the inner pot or just remove the dead roots on the surface?
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  #4  
Unread 09-03-2009, 05:39 PM
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Following on from what Rosie said I would definitely remove the orchid from its pot and gently tease out all the moss and let it dry out for a day before repotting gently in a new bark based orchid compound. The little flies could be fungus gnats whose grubs feed on roots so fresh compost is a good idea.

If you can, get a clear pot so that you can see when it needs watering ( green roots = don't need water, white roots with green tips = a drink please) with lots of holes in it. Keep it on the dry side and see how you go.

Note : re potting with a flower spike may mean loss of flowers, but I have repotted and severely pruned the roots of Phals in bloom and they were fine. Just keep your cutting blades clean and you should be fine. The spike could be shortened and you could get more flowers from it if they do all drop off. White Phals are sometimes very persistent at flowering from the one spike for a long time so as long as there are buds forming at the tip don't cut it off!

Good luck and welcome to the club
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  #5  
Unread 09-03-2009, 07:05 PM
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Okay so I removed the orchid from the pot and it sure is a rotten mess! I can definitely smell it now.
The sphag was inconsistently damp, some areas were bone dry others very moist.
I ran into another problem while removing it from the pot, the leaves completely fell off, they're black at the bottoms and it's black around the area they fell from....Is this normal for root rot?

I took some photos of the roots and the leaves:





The roots are a mushy mess, I can feel 3 firm roots that appear to be okay. I've got it sitting in the shower right now, I won't be able to repot it until tomorrow, will this kill it?
I have not trimmed the rotten roots, can this wait until tomorrow as well? I gave no cinnamon handy.
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  #6  
Unread 09-03-2009, 08:05 PM
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Did all your leaves fall off? I don't know if it can be recovered if theres no leaves, but then again, I'm still a beginner myself.
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  #7  
Unread 09-03-2009, 08:16 PM
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All the leaves fell off.
I really hope it can be saved, I wish I'd found this forum sooner!
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  #8  
Unread 09-03-2009, 10:33 PM
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No leaves, no roots just cut flowers left...
not much you can do - maybe buy another one on sale... I bought a few at Lowes for a dollar or 2 after they bloomed. some had rotting roots - one died, 2 are good, 2 are in between.
I am trying water culture and maybe will try to mount one on some piece of firewood or branch if I find it...

Saw these huge white Phals at a fancy florist - they were all in moss [gateway to the grave].
I just went to Trader Joe's in Brooklyn and many of their nice Phals were starting to get yellow leaves/ rot. The Dendrobiums were in way better shape: they were potted in either cut to shape coconut husk or wood. looked very healthy. Trader Joe's has the cheapest prices...
Now that you know it is better to try with a better start...
stefano
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  #9  
Unread 09-03-2009, 10:36 PM
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It's dead. Buy a new one. Nothing is salvageable at this point.

Full on moss in my most honest opinion is the most terrible choice in potting media to be used on Phalaenopsis.

You must dig through some of the older posts here and look for pics with Phals growing in the wild. Then you'll understand what's going on. You can also google image Phalaenopsis in the wild to pull up a small series of pics of Phals in the wild. There aren't very many of them.

A general biology note on how Phalaenopsis grows in nature is that they grow horizontally on tree trunks and branches with little or no moss around the roots. Sometimes they are found in swamp forests or on trees that grow along the edge of rivers. Many species grow in tropical locales, but a few are present in subtropical habitats as well. Let this fact simmer a bit up in the noggin, as it can be a bit hard to picture and gather the informational clues you need to grow them.

Generally speaking though, bark is the potting media of choice when dealing with Phalaenopsis. Potting in a clear plastic pot, like someone mentioned, does offer the grower the ability to check out the roots and know what's going on with them. But it also allows for the roots to photosynthesize, yes you read correctly, they are fully capable of photosynthesis.

Of course in my opinion, the best method so far for growing Phalaenopsis is by mounting them onto a piece of wood and lightly covering the roots with good quality New Zealand sphagnum moss.

Hope this helps.

Finally what were those things attached to the stakes holding up the flower spikes?

Last edited by King_of_orchid_growing:); 09-03-2009 at 10:39 PM..
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  #10  
Unread 09-03-2009, 10:39 PM
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We all lose a Phal or two, I'm rounding down, so dont worry. I agree with Stefano, go buy you another on sale somewhere, and start all over. If you get a phal in sphag, which is likely at box stores, repot it immediately when you get home, even if in bloom. Phals are pretty good about keeping their blooms during repotting stress, though they may not last 3 months like they normally would. Best of Luck!
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