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  #1  
Old 10-14-2016, 10:49 AM
jh0330u jh0330u is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2016
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Rescue Experiment: Root Rot
Default Rescue Experiment: Root Rot

Please help me successfully save this plant!
Any input would be appreciated!

Experiment Root Rot

Reason for Experiment
Lost my first white moth phalaenopsis orchid/indoor-plant due to severe root rot (or in the process of losing, currently has 0 roots, 2 leaves with drying edges). I feel without the ability to stop/contain this common illness, I may lose a plant I become fond of in the future.

Known Knowledge
-I am completely new to indoor-plant/orchid growing
-Identifying root rot. Mushy roots = dead/rotten roots. Black root tips = root rot.
-Understand of root rot. Root rot has spore and is easily transmissible.
-healthy velamen below unhealthy velamen can still absorb and send nutrition/water. (Ref. 2)
-open cuts should never have contact with water as it will rot. After any cuts/damage, few days should be given for the plant to repair itself.
-Technique's with dealing with root rot:
1) Cutting few cm above dead/ rotten roots with sterile blade. Careful of cut to cut transmission of disease as it can transmit to the fresh cut (I believe this was the reason I could not stop the root rot in my first plant).
2) Using H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) by soaking/misting then letting it completely dry before doing anything else. Ratio (water = 3% H2O2): 1cup = 1~1.5tbsp, 1 quart = 2tbsp, 1gallon = 1/2 cup. (Ref. 1). NOTE: H2O2 can damage roots as they will destroy any organic matter.
-I have seen many videos and read many materials on root rot. However, I have never seen any cases confirming successfully recovering so far. I've seen multiple posts around the web where the poster abruptly stops updating. My guess is, dead plant.


Hypothesis
Given enough moisture, root rot will continue to grow but with well managed hydration/ventilation, the root rot can be contained/stopped.

Environment
Indoors in an apartment Vancouver, Canada.
Very dry humidity.
Sunshine is getting shorter during winter.

Materials
-one sick orchid (white moth phalaenopsis orchid) which recently finished it's bloom suspected of root rot but nothing visible in top few inches. 3 bigger leaves, 1 medium/big leaf, 1 green spike, and 1 dead cut spike from before. The bottom leaf is under the two spikes and the grocery owner had packed it with moss above the bottom leaf. ($3.50)

References
1) (forum2.gardenweb.com/discussions/1388282/hydrogen-peroxidethe-miracle-cure)
2) Phalaenopsis Orchid Care - Healthy Roots vs Root Rot - By rePotme - YouTube

Experiment (Observations)

Sept 21, 2016
-white moth phalaenopsis orchid which recently finished it's bloom suspected of root rot but nothing visible in top few inches purchased for $3.50. 3 bigger leaves, 1 medium/big leaf, 1 green spike, and 1 dead cut spike from before. The bottom leaf is under the two spikes and the grocery owner had packed it with moss above the bottom leaf.
-Removed from pot, as carefully as possible. Severe root rot confirmed as suspected. Tight wet moss squeezed in. Some of the moss had "melted" like a wet tissue and layered some of the roots. Removed as much moss from roots as possible. The "wet tissue" like moss is very difficult to remove. I will try again when dry. Interestingly there are quite a few completely white roots near the center.
-Used a retractable knife, cleaned with dish soap (cleans 99.9% bacteria) and sterilized by burning in open fire until smoke was coming off. Made sure to cut at least 1cm into the healthy part. Approximately 35% of roots were removed, few roots were completely removed.
-cleaned cuts with soap then thoroughly rinsed off all soap content.
-heated a few open cuts with a lighter (in attempt to thwart any root rot spores to have been transmitted through cutting), close to singeing. Because the roots are wet, the open cut simply got a bit dry.
-let dry sitting on it's side for 2 days.

Sept 22, 2016
-roots are drying, some extra roots which didn't look strong but felt firm and not rotting are also shriveling. Cuts seem to be drying out during light brown like straw.

Sept 23, 2016
-there are few roots which shriveled up including all but a portion of one white root. I suspect they were already dead or dying before drying.
-any shriveled/squishy roots were cut off again in the same manner as before. I wanted to dry again after this second cut but I wasn't perfectly sure that the roots were shriveling due to dehydration.
-took the old sphagnum moss which had been drying beside the phal, tossed it around in water, then placed in back in the container the phal came in very loosely. I gently placed the phal on top and gently filled any cavities in between best I could. Let sit for one week without watering.

Sept 30, 2016
-the lowest leaf (under the spikes) is becoming less firm and showing signs of yellowing. I assess this to be a sign of the plant being dehydrated due to loss of roots resulting in being unable to absorb enough water.
-removed phal again from medium very carefully to examine roots.
-top few inches were dry but few inches in, they were still very moist and heavy.
-much of the root rot were stopped in it's track where cuts were made but some had continued for the roots deeper into the medium. I cut few back all the way. Let dry/heal for two days.

Oct 2, 2016
-Everything looking good. Repotted in similar manner as before.

Oct 9, 2016
-the bottom leaf was very yellow. I removed it by tearing to avoid any transmission of disease through contact.
-only one root which had continued to rot after cut. Completely removed this root.
-3 root tips were black but very small.
- one semi-aerial root which came with a crack half way through it seems to be dead in the middle. Will need to keep close attention to this as I think any root after the crack will eventually die. I won't cut this as the tip is discolored to a straw-light-brown but still firm.
-placing into drying period again.

Oct 10, 2016
-tiny shriveling piece of root cut off.

Oct 11, 2016
-few drops of water were given to very healthy looking roots.

Oct 12, 2016
-learned/began-learning about the "no medium method". This would be great as I can visually see whats going on with my roots.
-black tips had turned light-straw-brown. Seems like that rotting spot dried out first.
-ran roots in running water (a bit less than warm to touch) twice (once in the morning and once at night) and let hang from top of coffee mug supported by a metal wire which was tied to it's spike and a paper clip attached from the dead/old spike and clipped onto the top of the mug.

Oct 13, 2016
-Some roots look very healthy. When dry, Some roots are silvery white. When wet, some are a very nice light green, some are dark green with few small white "freckles". Some are just white/light yellow with or without water. All firm to the touch.
-all the roots look completely dry in approximately 10hours.
-cut the spike down to right above the second node from base (I should have done above first node but I think it should be okay)
-the semi-aerial-root condition seems to be worsening but not bad
-I submerged all root tips and up to 1/4 of the roots in water for roughly 30min.

Oct 14, 2016
-the semi-aerial-root's condition is definitely worsening. About 1-2cm after the crack begins de-coloration to a slightly brownish color and slightly shriveled. At the point of crack there is a slightly blackish tint. However, still feels very firm up to the tip. Will give it a few more days to try to salvage the portion of the root.
-Most remaining roots look generally healthy
-Few cut tips from before look very similar to a black root spotted before now. They both look very dry, light-straw-brown. Either the black tip stopped rotting or is traveling through the inside of the root leaving only the outer appearance to be dead/dry/contained. Immediately above the former black tip, is some discoloration to slightly reddish. Above that is whitish then back to green healthy. I will keep a vigilant eye on this.
-One yellow root looks a bit weak but felt firm.
-The current lowest leaf's end, approximately 1/4 of it, feels and looks a bit less firm.
-I feel currently I maybe over-watering a bit, I will try to skip watering tomorrow. Maybe only few drops onto very healthy roots only.

Oct 15, 2016
Skipped watering today.


Oct 16, 2016
Noticed one of my root slightly shriveling and slightly burnt leaf edge.
**I guess for my environment, 48 hours with only water underneath is in-suffice.
**However, submerging my roots in water for 1 hour every 23/24 hours is too much.

Decided to change watering schedule.
-Roughly every 30~36 hours will submerge for 1 hour.


Submerged roots in water for 1 hour.

Oct 23, 2016
Noticed slight discoloration (green to brown) above the first node past the cut on the spike.
I assume the spike will dry out.
Submerged roots for 2 hours.




I think I can now say root rot has completely stopped.
The aerial root that had damage in it is a bit discolored but still feels firm to the touch. I think this root may eventually die off but maybe it will survive(?).


Conclusion:
-Root rot IS STOPPABLE! You can stop root rot from traveling further up.
-Cleanly cut off (few cm into healthy) with sterile blade. Careful not to transmit rot spore from one cut to another.
-Sterilize open cuts (ex. dish soap -kills 99.9% bacteria)
-let any "wounds" heal/close up by drying for at least 2 days (this can apply to root damage during/after repotting) before giving any water or else rotting will occur at the wound.
-I suggest suspending in air for root visibility (some root parts rotted within one week back in sphagnum moss only being watered once in very loose moss)
-roots can only soak up so much water at once. 30min~1hour is said to be the enough.
-black = too much water, shriveling = not enough water
-watering once every 24~36 hours was best for my environment. I would assume it would differ depending on climate/humidity/temperature.

Last edited by jh0330u; 10-24-2016 at 04:36 AM..
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  #2  
Old 10-14-2016, 02:14 PM
Arizona Jeanie Arizona Jeanie is offline
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Wow, you are very methodical and determined to make this work, I know you will both succeed and learn a lot about orchids! I'm not an expert, but have also been trying different approaches to get to healthy plants. Here are a few general observations and suggestions.
Ambient humidity here is very low, aerial roots tend to start then die back. If other roots are healthy, it's not a problem, my plants just don't have aerial roots. I've also noticed that aerial roots can be a last-ditch survival attempt by a plant that's lost its lower roots, and may not really be a good sign. I've tried using a humidifier (drug-store type, for croupy babies)--the plants do seem to like it, I'll set it up again this winter when the furnace is on and the windows closed. I've also used the poor man's Wardian Case--also known as a ZipLock bag--which did help along the Rootless Rescue Phal. When I got tired of looking at the plastic bag, I bought a "Wonder Bubble" which is a small plastic terrarium, although I don't seal it up tight so there's still a bit of air flow. That's working well also, I'm now trying to start a Ludisia cutting in it, looking good so far.
About root rot, I would suggest a paradigm shift. Molds and fungi are everywhere in our environment, always. Healthy roots can fend them off. Healthy roots are part of a healthy plant growing in the proper environment. Your job as Chief Plant Curator is to discover and create the environment that keeps the plant healthy, and it will fend off the root rot for itself. (There are certain corollaries here with human health!)
My opinion on Hydrogen Peroxide: it kills living cells. It doesn't know a root cell from a mold cell. Is this really what you want? I know that some people use it, but I don't think it's going to help your plants.
Can rootless plants recover? Yes, not always, and it takes a long time. You'll learn a lot about just what that proper environment is!
Keep at it, and best of luck to you!
PS, just curious--are you an engineer or scientist of some sort? You seem very thorough.
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  #3  
Old 10-14-2016, 03:51 PM
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Leafmite Leafmite is offline
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I use red lava rock and basket pots for all the orchids that are not mounted. The more air/less humidity the orchid needs to its roots, the larger the rock. There are some orchids in very fine lava rock chips and others in the larger pieces. The nice thing about the set up is that the medium doesn't decompose and it is difficult to rot roots unless the orchid is left standing in water.

I do not grow many Phals (moth orchids) but I do have two bellinas, both in lava rock and medium size lava rock. Years ago, when I did have a nice collection of Phals, they did very well in clay pots and red lava rock.

The medium, in the case of a Phal, is to provide humidity to the roots between times when they are watered. Phals grow in very humid environments (humid and breezy). Like with all plants, we are forced to make adjustments to successfully simulate the environment enough to make them happy in our homes.

Good luck!
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Old 10-14-2016, 07:09 PM
jh0330u jh0330u is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leafmite View Post
I use red lava rock and basket pots for all the orchids that are not mounted. The more air/less humidity the orchid needs to its roots, the larger the rock. There are some orchids in very fine lava rock chips and others in the larger pieces. The nice thing about the set up is that the medium doesn't decompose and it is difficult to rot roots unless the orchid is left standing in water.

I do not grow many Phals (moth orchids) but I do have two bellinas, both in lava rock and medium size lava rock. Years ago, when I did have a nice collection of Phals, they did very well in clay pots and red lava rock.

The medium, in the case of a Phal, is to provide humidity to the roots between times when they are watered. Phals grow in very humid environments (humid and breezy). Like with all plants, we are forced to make adjustments to successfully simulate the environment enough to make them happy in our homes.

Good luck!
Thanks for your input!

I have heard that all that a phal needs is water and air circulation. Hence, medium is only present to provide consistent humidity. I heard many people grow in lava rock, my guess is due to it's lightness and crevasses with the ability to hold tiny bits of water.
Do you add anything to your water during watering?
What does your watering schedule look like on these? (how often, how long, and how much root-water contact?)

In the past, I have seen one of my father's orchids, which grew into half of a charcoal log, with tiny bits of sphagnum moss in between, onto a plate-like container with a bit of still water after waterings. I'm sure my father was gifted this but it looked so very nice.

I have heard that phal orchids naturally grow in very humid conditions (with good ventilation). Currently I have the roots fairly dry most of the time. I gently moisten roots in running water daily, and soak roots in water for 30min every 2 days. My phal is suspended over water (for a bit of humidity, it is very dry here). Suspending over water gives nowhere close to the humidity of moss but I feel it is of utmost importance to first make sure the rotting is contained. Once I am sure of that the rotting is contained, I will work to create a more humid environment.

If sphag-and-bag works well, I am thinking maybe if I could just cover the roots and water underneath from the top of the coffee pot with clear-plastic-wrap (with a cutout for the leaves above)? However, I've also heard the roots need good circulation with fresh air though.
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  #5  
Old 10-14-2016, 07:49 PM
bil bil is offline
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I have saved a few orchids, and if I am honest, I have a basic rule. I treat a sick orchid like a healthy one. If it is so far gone that that won't fix it, then it wasn't worth the bother.
Plus, look at one Catt I have saved. It was eaten alive by black mould, to the extent that I had to amputate all the leaves from the pBulbs, except half of one leaf, and then I had to cut half the pulbs off, so all that was left was a plant with 5 shrivelled pBulbs, with just half a leaf between them all.
That was some time back, two years? and it now has two or three good leaves, but it will be another year, maybe two or three before I see a flower.

It really wasn't worth the work if I am honest, other than a lesson in how bloody minded and persistent I could be.

The lessons I have learned are that it is possible to save sick orchids, it just isn't worth the trouble, unless the orchid is valuable (sentiment or money) or rare.

Personally, I think focusing on providing the best environment for your plants is key.. a happy orchid is a tough cookie, but one with suffocating roots is one sick baby.

Oh yeah, I never bother about removing dead or rotten roots. I just repot them in pure, coarse bark and water as normal.. As long as the medium is good and well ventilated they will put out new roots pronto. The problem is that if they have been left too long in a bad state, and used up too many resources, then they will die before they can put out new roots.
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Old 10-14-2016, 09:29 PM
jh0330u jh0330u is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arizona Jeanie View Post
Wow, you are very methodical and determined to make this work, I know you will both succeed and learn a lot about orchids! I'm not an expert, but have also been trying different approaches to get to healthy plants. Here are a few general observations and suggestions.
Ambient humidity here is very low, aerial roots tend to start then die back. If other roots are healthy, it's not a problem, my plants just don't have aerial roots. I've also noticed that aerial roots can be a last-ditch survival attempt by a plant that's lost its lower roots, and may not really be a good sign. I've tried using a humidifier (drug-store type, for croupy babies)--the plants do seem to like it, I'll set it up again this winter when the furnace is on and the windows closed. I've also used the poor man's Wardian Case--also known as a ZipLock bag--which did help along the Rootless Rescue Phal. When I got tired of looking at the plastic bag, I bought a "Wonder Bubble" which is a small plastic terrarium, although I don't seal it up tight so there's still a bit of air flow. That's working well also, I'm now trying to start a Ludisia cutting in it, looking good so far.
About root rot, I would suggest a paradigm shift. Molds and fungi are everywhere in our environment, always. Healthy roots can fend them off. Healthy roots are part of a healthy plant growing in the proper environment. Your job as Chief Plant Curator is to discover and create the environment that keeps the plant healthy, and it will fend off the root rot for itself. (There are certain corollaries here with human health!)
My opinion on Hydrogen Peroxide: it kills living cells. It doesn't know a root cell from a mold cell. Is this really what you want? I know that some people use it, but I don't think it's going to help your plants.
Can rootless plants recover? Yes, not always, and it takes a long time. You'll learn a lot about just what that proper environment is!
Keep at it, and best of luck to you!
PS, just curious--are you an engineer or scientist of some sort? You seem very thorough.
Hi! Yes, my background is in electronics engineering. Was it obvious?

I was exactly hypothesizing the exact same thing about moulds and fungi in nature! If orchids all died so easily from cases of root rot, I wouldn't think there would be very many orchids in the world!

My hypothesis is that in nature, if an orchid root grows/reaches a point in it's environment/medium that is too wet, it cannot ungrow/u-turn therefore rotting occurs. As the portion/entire affected root rots, the orchid will disconnect/distance itself from the rotting root velamen. Without someone to cut off rotting roots, I suspect this to occur up to a "joint" of a sick root (root split junctions and connection to base root). I thought this as I noticed the velamen in joints of unhealthy roots were especially very narrow in diameter, almost like sausage links. I think maybe this small gap creates enough space in between velamen to stop further spread of rot. Untouched, the orchid would then avoid growing into that area due to rotting in the future and rather grow continuously in search of environments beneficial for the plant roots.

My other/first phal which had been in bloom for at least 5 months, now has 0 roots, 2 drying edged leaves, but fascinatingly one small baby leaf that is growing in an astonishing rate! Untouched, I would think this is a possible way for the orchid to slightly move higher up in elevation and by losing it's lower leaves (and using its stored energy to grow new leaves), it would give room for new roots to grow in a higher-up/less-wet environment which is more "beneficial/suitable" for the plant.

Therefore, setting up a "beneficial/suitable" environment for the plants through choices of medium/watering must key to keeping healthy plants and roots. Removing all of the rotten/dead velamen and roots I hope will give a chance for some roots to be salvaged. However, I think that the information of rotten roots are sent up the roots to joints much faster than the actual rotting and begins to disconnect/narrow. As long as I can stop the rot though, I suspect healthy velamen below narrow joints should still absorb and provide nutrition/hydration to the plant. (According to Ref 2).

I will soon post pictures when I have enough posts.

---------- Post added at 05:29 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:10 PM ----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by bil View Post
I have saved a few orchids, and if I am honest, I have a basic rule. I treat a sick orchid like a healthy one. If it is so far gone that that won't fix it, then it wasn't worth the bother.
Plus, look at one Catt I have saved. It was eaten alive by black mould, to the extent that I had to amputate all the leaves from the pBulbs, except half of one leaf, and then I had to cut half the pulbs off, so all that was left was a plant with 5 shrivelled pBulbs, with just half a leaf between them all.
That was some time back, two years? and it now has two or three good leaves, but it will be another year, maybe two or three before I see a flower.

It really wasn't worth the work if I am honest, other than a lesson in how bloody minded and persistent I could be.

The lessons I have learned are that it is possible to save sick orchids, it just isn't worth the trouble, unless the orchid is valuable (sentiment or money) or rare.

Personally, I think focusing on providing the best environment for your plants is key.. a happy orchid is a tough cookie, but one with suffocating roots is one sick baby.

Oh yeah, I never bother about removing dead or rotten roots. I just repot them in pure, coarse bark and water as normal.. As long as the medium is good and well ventilated they will put out new roots pronto. The problem is that if they have been left too long in a bad state, and used up too many resources, then they will die before they can put out new roots.
Hi.
I was thinking this as well. I know it may not be worth my time and effort to save these phals but for my next healthy orchid purchases, I want to be able to keep healthy plants and be able to manage rotting if it occurs.

That is very interesting that you dont bother removing dead/rotten roots! So during repotting, do you just plant everything, dead roots and all, into the coarse bark?

My goal is to be able to have 3-4 nice healthy phals which can provide me beautiful blooms year-round, every year.
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  #7  
Old 10-15-2016, 03:18 AM
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estación seca estación seca is offline
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Hybrid Phals rot enthusiastically when ambient temperatures are too cool. Most are warm growing plants that barely survive typical temperate indoor winter temperature if they are healthy going into winter. If they are in bad shape in the fall, they often die during December-March. Rootless Phals will continue trying to make roots until they die, so you have a good chance of rescuing them if you are at all careful.

To save your plant now you need a heated, high-humidity terrarium. Find a small used aquarium on Craigslist or at a nearby moving sale. Get a glass top for it. You can have one cut at a hardware store. Attach a handle with epoxy so you can lift it without slicing your fingertips on the sharp edges.

Get a reptile heat mat for placing under the terrarium. Remember this may damage wood. I set my terraria on slices of polystyrene wall insulation. Get a thermometer/hygrometer to place inside the terrarium. Again, the kind sold for use with reptiles serves well. You are aiming to keep the terrarium 27-30C at all times. A little cooler is tolerable, and a lot warmer is tolerable.

Place a bed of barely-damp sphagnum moss on the bottom. If it feels moist, it is too wet. Set the Phal on top of that. Or, set the Phal on a dry dish, and have another dish full of water in the terrarium. You would like the relative humidity as high as possible.

Get some kelp solution sold for rooting purposes. I use KelpMax from First Rays. Other products are sold at hydroponics shops. Dip the root zone at first, and weekly thereafter.

Take the Phal out of the terrarium once a day. Examine it. Dip the roots zone in water. Put it back.

This terrarium doesn't need air circulation the way permanent growing terraria intended for more delicate orchids need air circulation. You are taking the plant out daily; this will be enough to prevent avoidable rot.

With any luck it will grow more roots. Pot it up when they are 2-3 cm long each. Keep it in the terrarium until room temperatures are nice and warm in the spring.
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Old 10-15-2016, 05:09 AM
jh0330u jh0330u is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estación seca View Post
Hybrid Phals rot enthusiastically when ambient temperatures are too cool. Most are warm growing plants that barely survive typical temperate indoor winter temperature if they are healthy going into winter. If they are in bad shape in the fall, they often die during December-March. Rootless Phals will continue trying to make roots until they die, so you have a good chance of rescuing them if you are at all careful.

To save your plant now you need a heated, high-humidity terrarium. Find a small used aquarium on Craigslist or at a nearby moving sale. Get a glass top for it. You can have one cut at a hardware store. Attach a handle with epoxy so you can lift it without slicing your fingertips on the sharp edges.

Get a reptile heat mat for placing under the terrarium. Remember this may damage wood. I set my terraria on slices of polystyrene wall insulation. Get a thermometer/hygrometer to place inside the terrarium. Again, the kind sold for use with reptiles serves well. You are aiming to keep the terrarium 27-30C at all times. A little cooler is tolerable, and a lot warmer is tolerable.

Place a bed of barely-damp sphagnum moss on the bottom. If it feels moist, it is too wet. Set the Phal on top of that. Or, set the Phal on a dry dish, and have another dish full of water in the terrarium. You would like the relative humidity as high as possible.

Get some kelp solution sold for rooting purposes. I use KelpMax from First Rays. Other products are sold at hydroponics shops. Dip the root zone at first, and weekly thereafter.

Take the Phal out of the terrarium once a day. Examine it. Dip the roots zone in water. Put it back.

This terrarium doesn't need air circulation the way permanent growing terraria intended for more delicate orchids need air circulation. You are taking the plant out daily; this will be enough to prevent avoidable rot.

With any luck it will grow more roots. Pot it up when they are 2-3 cm long each. Keep it in the terrarium until room temperatures are nice and warm in the spring.
Hello, thanks for your input. The information about the temperatures hydration level really helpful.

However, my two little phals are really not worth that much investment though. Nor is my apartment big enough to make it possible to take in anymore furniture.

I will take your advice though to mimic the environment with what is available to me. I plan on making a homemade fertilizer, by boiling rice water, dried kelp, and dried sardines to mimic the kelp solution. I will also do the 'sphag-and-bag' technique leaving it closer to a wall heater by a window to mimic the terrarium environment.
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  #9  
Old 10-15-2016, 05:22 AM
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The rooting hormones in kelp aren't stable when dried nor boiled. There won't be any rooting hormones in your mixture. At this point fertilizer (nutrient solution) is not needed. Rooting hormones are needed.
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Old 10-15-2016, 08:02 AM
bil bil is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jh0330u View Post
Hi.
I was thinking this as well. I know it may not be worth my time and effort to save these phals but for my next healthy orchid purchases, I want to be able to keep healthy plants and be able to manage rotting if it occurs.

That is very interesting that you dont bother removing dead/rotten roots! So during repotting, do you just plant everything, dead roots and all, into the coarse bark?

My goal is to be able to have 3-4 nice healthy phals which can provide me beautiful blooms year-round, every year.
Yup. As soon as I get a new orchid home, I repot, even if they don't need it. I want a look at the roots et al, and tbh most times had I not repotted the orchid would have shortly been circling the drain.

I never cut off roots. They provide stability and there is the possibility that they will still wick water to the plant.

"I want to be able to keep healthy plants and be able to manage rotting if it occurs."
If you are doing the first, you are unlikely to have to worry about the second. That's not arrogance, but a simple observation. If they get too hot or cold, andd the crown starts to rot, trust me on this, BIN THEM.

If you put them in moss, and the roots start to rot, then frankly, the cure is, pot them up in coarse bark ONLY and treat them as if they are healthy. From this of course, the obvious deduction is, pot them in bark AT THE START, and then your only problem is underwatering. That can make the leaves go floppy. Then all I do again, is water them as if they were healthy (ie water them more than you were.) Here in High Summer, I water 3 times a week, and in winter, once a week.
In summer they get 25ppm of nitrogen every watering, and winter when it is x1 a week, they get 75ppm.

"My goal is to be able to have 3-4 nice healthy phals which can provide me beautiful blooms year-round, every year."

Nope. What happens with the common phals is that they all synchronise. Mine are starting to throw flower spikes, and once they start flowering, I will have flowers on some of them till September.

One suggestion is, look at the minature phals. I have a white one that was flowering almost all year.

I'll attach a pic of the big and the small white one to show what sort of pot sizes I use. The minature phals are potted in fine bark btw.
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Rescue Experiment: Root Rot-summer-holiday-pics-2016-phals-4-jpg   Rescue Experiment: Root Rot-summer-holiday-pics-2016-phals-2-jpg  
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