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  #1  
Old 11-22-2020, 03:02 AM
orchidkitty orchidkitty is offline
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Root Rot in S/H? What am I doing wrong?
Unhappy Root Rot in S/H? What am I doing wrong?

everyone

I started using a S/H setup with my Phal for the first time back in July of this year. I'm still quite a newbie at being an Orchid owner so please forgive me for any obvious mistakes here...

Before this I had my phal in a very airy basket with a lot of holes, in sphag moss. I was having lots of issues with root rot when I first purchased the orchid so I moved it to the more airy basket in hopes of preventing that. It did stop root rot but ended up dehydrating the plant, because the moss would dry up way too fast and I couldn't keep up with the watering.

I discovered S/H earlier this year and moved my phal into it hoping that it would be a happy medium that keeps it hydrated without root rot.

At the time I wanted to buy a setup I could use immediately without having to do DIY. I purchased an orchid pot that basically has a basket on the side with slits along the side and a rope to wick the water up. On the outside there is another pot without holes that acts as the water reservoir. Forgive me if this is not truly "S/H", but I figured it is close enough since it involves having a water reservoir and a "self watering" setup.

My orchid seemed to really like the transition. I repotted it into the new pot with leca back in July, and over the summer it grew roots and new leaves crazy fast. I didn't see any issues with the roots that were visible (unfortunately basket is black so couldn't see all roots inside) and at least no signs of root rot at the time.

There are two root that actually through the slits in the basket (this phal loves to squeeze roots through the tiniest openings) and one actually went to the very bottom of the reservoir and directly into the water. In the photos you can see it's the one that's very obviously an "L" shape because it reached the bottom and then grew horizontally. Also in photo you can see the hole I had to cut around the root to get it out.

The 2nd root that grew through the air slit was going horizontally, white and doing really well. As far as I could tell all the roots were plump and healthy, with cute fuzz around it (which it never had before when dehydrated )

However things took a turn in the recent 2 weeks. I check my orchid regularly and suddenly discovered the 2nd root growing horizontally through the slit had turned black and its original white color is steadily going brown. I left it alone for a few days and then yesterday examined it again and unfortunately very obvious white fuzzy mold/fungus was growing on the black parts -- definitely not the hair fuzz but actually mold.

I panicked a little bit because I was very worried the mold would spread to other roots and decided to try and cut away the moldy root. However, because there's these 2 roots growing through the basket slits I could not get at them without removing the entire plant and repotting it. When I took the plant out I was really surprised to see that so many of the roots actually are looking brown/rotting. I decided to clip the rotting ones also due to fear of molding.

I have heard that orchids may need time to readjust to S/H, especially one like mine that came from a very dry environment previously. However I was surprised that the rotting seemed to be on new growth, and that it seemed to be doing fine until just recently. But I can't be sure because the basket is black and maybe I just couldn't see the roots starting to rot back in July.

I also wonder if it has to do with adding fertilizer? I have started adding the tiniest amount starting about a month ago, pretty infrequently, since I am pretty paranoid about overdoing it. But maybe I did because I don't think I was properly flushing the pot after adding fertilizer. Additionally, I did notice that the roots started having black spots (hopefully visible in the photos) - I'm not sure if this started with the fertilizer, I want to say it was pre-fertilizer and slowly started showing up in the last 1-2months, but my memory could be wrong...

Additionally this phal LOVES growing aerial roots and I was concerned they would get dry compared to the roots inside the basket, so I started putting on a humidifier in the room about 2-3 feet from the phal, with a little fan blowing that rotates as it blows. I started doing this about 2-3 weeks ago when the temperature dropped and I started to worry the home heating would dry up the room. The humidifier was as much for the plant as it is for me as well

I have included some photos taken while re-potting. I had to repot fairly quickly because it's actually very late today and past bedtime, but I really wanted to get that big patch of mold out. The “L” shaped root previously in the water I wasn’t able to get it back into the pot - should I make more of an effort to put it back through the hole I cut so it can dip into the water again? I do see it has dried up quite fast after repotting since it’s not used to the new drier environment.

Really looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts on what I did wrong here and could do differently. This phal has been with me for many years so I am quite attached to it, and would really like to see it flourish (and bloom!)

Thank you!~~

PS. There IS a dried white with black patch on two leaves (visible in one photo) that have been there since before being repotted into S/H. I don't know what caused it but I think since being moved to S/H it has stopped expanding and being a problem. At least I hope so!
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Root Rot in S/H? What am I doing wrong?-img_3576-jpg   Root Rot in S/H? What am I doing wrong?-img_3578-jpg   Root Rot in S/H? What am I doing wrong?-img_3579-jpg   Root Rot in S/H? What am I doing wrong?-img_3582-jpg  

Last edited by orchidkitty; 11-22-2020 at 03:08 AM.. Reason: minor grammar change
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  #2  
Old 11-22-2020, 04:04 AM
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Welcome to the Orchid Board!

The spot on the leaves looks like sunburn. Phals are fine in full shade.

Your roots look fine. Don't cut off roots. It's hard to tell whether they are dead.

I can't see the percentages well, but the fertilizer you have appears close to plain water. It's not enough to do much.

I think your plant looks fine.
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Old 11-22-2020, 04:50 AM
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Yes, it is true. E.S. mentioned everything looks fine. Totally agree.

The orchid looks just fine. Just don't let it get burned too much by the sun.

The roots of your orchid are adapted to a lower oxygen and watery environment.

Just avoid having the roots too cold and too wet for long periods of time. If the water moves constantly ----- even if slow and constant ----- and if the temperature is not super cold, then everything should be ok.

Issues can arise if the temperature gets cold for quite a long time, and the roots stay wet and cold for quite a long time.

How 'cold'? Not sure. Maybe sort of like cold refrigerator water cold.
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Old 11-22-2020, 05:29 AM
Orchidtinkerer Orchidtinkerer is offline
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Root Rot in S/H? What am I doing wrong?
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Hi orchidkitty,
when I first heard semi-hydro I thought of the usual culprits but then I saw you are using the wicking version which is safer to use so big thumbs up from me for using a great growing method. I was thinking ok what has gone wrong as it is very hard to cause rot with the wicking version.
I was thinking you must have made some horrible mistake but then I scrolled down and saw your pictures and was reassured your plant is looking great. You are worrying too much which is normal but in this case there was nothing to worry about and the black spot was most certainly caused by checking on the roots excessively - ie mechanical damage!
Roots can break, they will rot, a healthy plant will take it with no problem. The amount of "bad" roots on your picture are nothing to worry about and they don't even look dead, I think you snipped off healthy roots, overall your plant is looking great.

this is what a healthy root can look like - it is not mould as I cannot see any mould in your pictures, if this is what you saw they are root hairs

Last edited by Orchidtinkerer; 11-22-2020 at 05:37 AM..
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Old 11-22-2020, 09:15 AM
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The pot you used is entirely too small for the size of the root mass. I would at least double that.

The only “brown, rotting roots” I see are points where they have been broken. It is unavoidable and only a minor problem, so can be ignored.

The primary issue you’re going to have to deal with it evaporation.

As ES, mentioned, phalaenopsis are deep shade plants, but they are also hot growing plants. Yes, they are tolerant of our household comfort zone, but in winter, when the air is really dry, the evaporative cooling from a semi-hydro pot reduces the temperature of the roots. If you lower the thermostat to save energy, it is possible - even likely - that the pot temperature will be too cold for phals, as they absolutely cannot take cold, wet roots.

I suggest you consider acquiring a seedling heat mat to place the plant on, keeping the pot warm.

Oh - “inert medium plus reservoir that is wicked upward” IS semi-hydroponics, no matter the physical setup.
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Old 11-22-2020, 01:14 PM
orchidkitty orchidkitty is offline
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Root Rot in S/H? What am I doing wrong?
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Quote:
The pot you used is entirely too small for the size of the root mass. I would at least double that.
I thought so too! I was pretty confused because this was the largest pot I could find online at the time, and it showed pictures with even bigger orchids than mine in it. I thought I was just potting my orchid wrong - good to know, I am looking into a bigger replacement pot now

Quote:
Roots can break, they will rot, a healthy plant will take it with no problem. The amount of "bad" roots on your picture are nothing to worry about and they don't even look dead, I think you snipped off healthy roots, overall your plant is looking great.
It looks like I overreacted! I am really happy to hear that everything is fine, although it is unfortunate I ended up cutting some otherwise healthy roots. Next time I'll post first before making any big moves - I think the PTSD from previous root rot caused too much panic.

Quote:
this is what a healthy root can look like - it is not mould as I cannot see any mould in your pictures, if this is what you saw they are root hairs
I am pretty sure that the "mold" I saw was not root hairs, because it was clumped up near the black broken part of the root and growing in a ball. I should have taken a picture of that first before re-potting. Lesson learned. Hopefully give the flower some time to rest and not be disturbed after moving to bigger pot, everything will be sprightly again

Quote:
Just avoid having the roots too cold and too wet for long periods of time. If the water moves constantly ----- even if slow and constant ----- and if the temperature is not super cold, then everything should be ok.

Issues can arise if the temperature gets cold for quite a long time, and the roots stay wet and cold for quite a long time.
This part I am not sure how to handle -- how do I make sure the water is moving slowly and constantly in this wicker-basket setup? The water sits in the outer pot and becomes stagnant. I have the little fan blowing but of course the air circulation won't get to the inside of the pot.

Quote:
I suggest you consider acquiring a seedling heat mat to place the plant on, keeping the pot warm.
Thank you for the suggestion! I will look into acquiring one in the coming days. Black Friday is coming up Question - what are signs if a phal is too cold? Are white roots turning brown in color a sign?

Thanks so much everyone for your responses. I am much relieved to hear my phal is pretty healthy and OK. I guess I am too much of an overprotective plant owner and will leave it alone more :blush:
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Old 11-22-2020, 02:34 PM
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The water does not need to move - it does so naturally within the LECA.

You cannot "see" the issue of "too cold and too wet". If you see damage, it's too late. Instead, you have to think about the factors that might lead to that.

Personally, I prefer to avoid letting phalaenopsis getting much below about 20°C. If your room temperature goes as low as 18°, you can count on evaporative cooling taking the pot temperature even lower, and that could be damaging.
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Old 11-23-2020, 07:11 PM
volyund volyund is offline
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Root Rot in S/H? What am I doing wrong?
Default Or you could abandon S/H

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Originally Posted by orchidkitty View Post
Thank you for the suggestion! I will look into acquiring one in the coming days. Black Friday is coming up
Or you could... abandon S/H, repot into bark mix, and not worry about evaporative cooling. I live in Seattle, and have tried growing Phalaenopsis in S/H setup same as yours. I had to abandon it, after potting two separated clones of store hybrid side by side (same size initially), one in wicking pot S/H and the other in normal bark mix. After two years, bark mix one is now twice the size of the S/H one, has double the number of leaves and roots, and have flowered twice in the last year vs just once for S/H.

My Phal pulchra is doing very well semi-hydro, but it seems to prefer wetter environment in general.

Anyway, so I know that in my environment of lower humidity and cooler temps, phals do not do well in S/H. Abandoning it is also an option.
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Old 11-23-2020, 10:04 PM
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HelloKitty ..... I mean .... hello orchid kitty.

What Ray means is that the leca will keep drawing the water upward, so that's good. And that there is continual water movement, which also moves oxygen around too - good for the roots.

Keeping the temperature inside the pot at high enough temperature can just mean having the whole plant (orchid, pot and all) in a growing area that has a high enough temperature - so that even the temperature inside the pot and around the roots doesn't get too cold.

Another method for keeping the temperature of the pot and roots nice ...... is a heating mat. It's a mat that can prevent temperatures from getting too cold, and yet won't do anything bad (such as heating being too powerful). Same idea as a fish tank heating element that prevents tropical fish from getting too cold or frozen ---- but at the same time won't cook the water.
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