How do I save my orchids from root rot?
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Old 03-14-2010, 04:42 PM
KHaze KHaze is offline

Join Date: Mar 2010
Zone: 5a
Location: Upstate New York
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How do I save my orchids from root rot? Female
Default How do I save my orchids from root rot?

Got two mini Phalaenopsis orchids at Christmas this year. I thought I was being really careful to wait until they were dry before I watered them, but the leaves started turning yellow. Took them out of the moss to look at them and saw they have root rot.

One is not too bad...lots of roots left. The other only has a few. I cut off the dead roots and repotted them in new moss. I moved the one with only a few roots left to a tiny pot.

I am very nervous about watering them now. It is so hard to tell if the moss is all the way dry. Should I repot them in bark chips? They are very tiny plants and the bark chips seem too big for them.

I keep the pots in tall glass containers with pebbles and a little water to help with house is very dry. I am careful to make sure that the water is not touching the pots.

Also...should I cut the flower spikes off? I'm thinking they should be growing new roots, not flowers right now.

Should I fertilize them? I hope they live. I'm just sick that I did this to them!
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Old 03-14-2010, 04:57 PM
Sandrilene Sandrilene is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2010
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If you are having a lot of problems telling if your plant is wet in moss i would switch to a bark mix. Bark is available in different sizes so u can choose a smaller size... however with bark you want to make sure there are gaps for air to get to the roots and so that the bark doesn`t get soggy. I would not clip the spikes off. I would recommend putting the pots on a plate or shallow dish with some water and pebbles on it (to keep the pot out of the water) for humidity to promote better air circulation then the glass containers would provide. Lightly misting the plant in the morning wouldn`t hurt either.

If you are really worried about the roots and the plant not having enough roots some orchid growers have recommended getting liquid seaweed and using it twice a month. I went away in novemeber/december for a month and my husband overwatered my orchids and the roots rotted like yours have. I repotted them and just kept the same culture as I usually use and the roots have been slowly growing back. You should only fertilize your orchids if it is time to do so. If you never repotted them when you got them it may have something to do with how tightly the moss was packed I have found most orchid mixes orchids come in to be disgusting so if you have never changed it it could also be due to that.

If you decide to go with a bark mix you may want to use the clear plastic containers (if you don`t already) they usually will fit in your pot if u want it for decoration. This way you can see how dry or wet the mix is much easier and the condition of the roots. Smaller pots tend to dry out more quickly. On the dry side isn`t bad but sitting dried out is. Hopefully this helps you.
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Old 03-14-2010, 05:01 PM
Izzie Izzie is offline
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How do I save my orchids from root rot? Female

You're right about cutting off the flower spikes- I'd go ahead and do that so the plant can put it's energy into rooting.
Fertilize "weakly, weekly" is the general rule around here. You might see if you can find some SuperThrive, it's great to add to fertilizer. (I recently found some cheap($10) at Home Depot.)

The media you plant an orchid in generally depends on the roots, the thicker the roots, the larger the media, and vice versa.
I've had success with my Phals in half bark half loosely packed sphag, with some packing peanuts (green or white) in a single layer on the bottom.

To tell when they need watering- get some bamboo skewers that you can stick gently into the pot, all the way to the bottom. If it's damp all the way down, don't water. Let them dry out a little between waterings (like upper 2/3rds dry).
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Old 03-14-2010, 05:08 PM
KHaze KHaze is offline

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How do I save my orchids from root rot? Female

Thanks so much! I'm glad I didn't cut the spikes off...almost did this morning.

I'll repot them in bark and put them on a dish instead of in the jars.
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Old 03-14-2010, 05:11 PM
flowerpower flowerpower is offline
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How do I save my orchids from root rot?

My mini Phal came in a fine bark mix and it's doing nicely. I only have medium grade and was concerned if it was too big for when I get around to re-potting (I like to re-pot new orchids). When I asked on here the general consensus was that medium grade would be OK too. In a medium grade you might need to keep up with watering but I think it would be a good preventative of root rot!

I'm not sure regarding the spikes. One of my Phals has been in bloom for about four months. A few of the flowers dropped off and I thought that it was finished. But then I saw that a new sidespike with buds has emerged. My point is that a wave of new roots has also emerged, regardless of the three spikes that it is flowering on.

In addition, two aerial roots seem to have reactivated themselves, regardless of the blooms.
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Old 03-14-2010, 06:01 PM
cabbo cabbo is offline
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I wouldn't water for a couple weeks to promote new root growth. And to answer your original question, the way to save from root rot is to underwater. These are generally VERY tough plants and have a strong will to survive. Most can go a while without water especially in sphag. It's trial and error for each persons conditions and you have to make some mistakes along the way to learn. Hope that helps.
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Old 03-14-2010, 08:45 PM
stever_sl stever_sl is offline
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I had a Cattleya hybrid whose roots basically all rotted off in bark mix - if you have too big a container like I did, what's around the outside will look completely dry while what's in the middle where you can't see it may be very wet. So I was overwatering without realizing it. I put its lattice-box container with fresh bark mix into an old aquarium and kept about a quarter of an inch of water in the bottom of that, then I only watered the mix from above maybe once a month. It worked like a charm. The combination of water slowly wicking up through the bark from the bottom layer, and the high humidity in the aquarium, let the plant recover completely and it's in bloom now for the first time in years!
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Old 03-15-2010, 09:41 PM
cirillonb cirillonb is offline
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How do I save my orchids from root rot? Male

I have had similar problems with 2 min phals. Resorted to sphagnum loosely around remaining roots and a very small pot. One was so bad it wanted to fall out of the medium so I needed to do some ingenious staking. I have kept them fairly dry. Usually I move my orchids to the kitchen and water them there but these two are so fragile they get watered in place. Both now have started areal roots which are more robust that I would have thought so medium bark or coco chips would probably do OK. And I thought they were going to be easy!

Last edited by cirillonb; 03-15-2010 at 09:42 PM.. Reason: text error
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