Is orchid dehydrated or drowning?
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Old 11-29-2018, 08:15 PM
Jinglebells0518 Jinglebells0518 is offline
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Is orchid dehydrated or drowning?
Default Is orchid dehydrated or drowning?

I am really struggling to get my orchid back to normal. When I purchased it, it was fine. I followed the 3 ice cubes worth of water a week rule and it grew great. Then I went away on vacation and our house sitter didn't water the plant. The potting medium was completely dry and the flowers all fell off.

I took this opportunity to repot it in fresh medium since it was still in the store medium. After repotting it, I have never been able to get it right again. I did everything I was supposed to. I soaked the premixed Phalaenopsis medium in water overnight. I cleared all the old medium and cut dead roots and repotted.

Since then my medium has been growing snow mold so I assumed it was too damp. But the leaves were also getting wrinkly and floppy which I read was due to them being too dry.

I repotted again to get rid of snow mold and cleaned the roots appropriately. This time I didn't soak in water to prevent mold and just watered as I saw the medium start to get dry. The bottom of the pot is condensating and more snow mold is growing but the top medium is completely dry. Some of the roots are drying out and some are becoming mushy. The leaves are smooth but droopy and limp.

I'm out of ideas. What do I need to do to save this plant?!
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Old 11-30-2018, 02:10 AM
aliceinwl aliceinwl is offline
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Is orchid dehydrated or drowning? Female

If you're still watering with ice cubes, stop. The cold water is really bad for heat loving plants like Phalaenopsis.

What kind of media are you using? The most common orchid media I see in stores is from Miracle Grow. Even though it is marketed as being suitable for Phalaenopsis, I think it contains too much fine material. You want something like fine-medium grade bark. I've had great success with the media on Repotting Phalaenopsis (Moth) & Other Monopodial Orchids although I use orchiata instead of fir. Also, I would avoid any root trimming at this point.

I suspect that your orichid is looking limp because the roots aren't healthy enough to take up enough water to support the leaves. If you get it into good media, and it still has some viable roots, it should recover. Avoid the temptation to overwater, you may be killing it with kindness (mold is typically due to the media being too wet). Check out the sticky about using skewers to judge moisture. If skewers don't work for you, get the plant into a clear pot with some of the roots against the side. Water when the roots turn silver, don't water when they're green. The leaves will likely stay "limpish" until the plant can push some new roots.

Also check out the sticky thread, the Phal abuse ends here... There's a lot of good information within.

Good luck!!!

---------- Post added at 11:10 PM ---------- Previous post was at 11:02 PM ----------

Another note, if you get it into good media and are watering appropriately, don't worry too much about mold on the roots. If the roots aren't healthy, there will be some root death and they will rot/mold. It's better in this case to leave the plant alone rather than subject it to the trauma of another re-potting.

If there is a big growth of mold on the media like you're describing, either the media is bad, things are too wet, or a combination of both. And, whatever you do don't spray the roots with hydrogen peroxide.
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Old 11-30-2018, 08:31 AM
Jinglebells0518 Jinglebells0518 is offline
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Is orchid dehydrated or drowning?

I was using melted ice cubes so the water was room temperature. I used better gro potting medium which does not seem too fine but may have been a bad batch in the bag and got damp during packaging?

It seems the bottom of the pot is staying wet and the roots are getting mushy but the top of the pot is very dry. I'm not sure how to prevent this.

If I repot the orchid, what should I do. Should I leave all the mushy and dry roots? Should I soak the medium first? Should I water the plant right away or let it dry out? How much water should I give it to begin with after the new potting?

Also what happens if you put it in hydrogen peroxide? I already did that because that was the advice that many forums gave. Is there any saving this plant?

My orchid was doing great until it dried out and was repotted and I have not been able to get it back to normal since. I'll try to post pictures tonight of the root system.
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Old 11-30-2018, 09:55 AM
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Ray Ray is offline
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Is orchid dehydrated or drowning?

This reply assumes the plant was in packed sphagnum when you got it, so consider this scenario:

The roots it had were perfect for sphagnum (but that may not have been best for your growing conditions). The plant lost a lot of water while you were away.

Instead of rehydrating it as it was, you moved the plant into a new medium, one for which its roots were no longer optimal, so they are not functioning as well as they would have in moss.

In order to get the plant to recover, the plant will need new roots to grow, so they may "tailor" themselves to that new environment. There are two ways that can promote that; one is to apply a good root-growth stimulant like KelpMax, and the other is to set the plant on a seedling heat mat - or both.
Ray Barkalow, Orchid Iconoclast
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:08 AM
aliceinwl aliceinwl is offline
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Is orchid dehydrated or drowning? Female

Roots have delicate tissues as well as microscopic hairs and symbiotic fungi to take up water. Peroxide will damage all these.

Your plant is probably still salvageable. Ray's advice concerning the heat mat and kelp supplement may speed up recovery. With the peroxide treatment to already unhealthy roots and the change in substrate, expect all the current roots to slowly die but hopefully not before they're replaced by new roots. Sphagnum doesn't work well for me so I repot to bark, if the plant's roots are healthy they weather the change fine, if they're already in poor shape I get a lot of root death.

I'm not sure how you currently have it potted. I've tried the Better Grow media and it looked decent, but my Phal didn't do well in it (I didn't really know what I was doing back then so it may have been more my fault). You're going to want to have your Phal in the smallest pot that can accommodate the roots and it should have lots of ventilation. I get the slotted clear orchid pots from rePotme Orchid Supplies (you could fabricate something similar with a plastic cup and a soldering iron). With new bark, I've found soaking works better than letting the water run through. I put the slotted pot in a larger cache pot, water until the slotted pot is almost submerged, let sit for about 5 minutes, and then let all of the water drain out. Under my growing conditions, I end up watering every 5 to 7 days (I go mainly off of root color and weight of the pot, but the skewer method was really helpful when I started out).

If you have a larger pot but very few roots, you may want to consider packing the bottom with something like styrofoam packing peanuts. Because the roots are not in good shape, they're not taking up a lot of water from the bottom of the pot so it's staying wet. You want to shoot for a situation where your substrate is near dry by around 7 days.

If you end up repotting again, I'd mess with the roots as little as possible. Even if they're dead or dying they still may get some water to the plant through wicking. I haven't tried the heat mat or kelp max route, but the rootless Phals I've rehabbed have taken a year or two to recover depending on condition at the time of intervention.

Everyone's situation is unique. There are many possible watering methods, substrates, pots etc. You may have to experiment a bit to find the best strategy for you.
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