Mostly dead roots (Phrag, Oncidium, Cattleya, Laelia, Maxilaria)
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  #1  
Old 08-09-2022, 11:19 AM
Fishbox Fishbox is offline
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Mostly dead roots (Phrag, Oncidium, Cattleya, Laelia, Maxilaria)
Default Mostly dead roots (Phrag, Oncidium, Cattleya, Laelia, Maxilaria)

I've got a bit of a situation, and I'm still on the newish side of things/earning my confidence. Hoping you can lend your collective knowledge to help me navigate this!

After having a heck of a time finding orchids in my area the last few years, I found an orchid show and picked up five plants:

Phragmipedium Mini Grande
Oncidium tigroides
Cattleya Ernesto x Laelia tenebrosa x Cattleya leopoldii
Laelia purpurata
Maxilaria striata

Excitement!

The good news is that the foliage and pseudobulbs are in pretty good shape.

The bad news is most of their roots are desiccated and dead.

However, there was a very tiny green root on the Laelia, which I took to mean it had recently produced the root. This one still had some live roots, or at least live portions, but I'm unsure if this is one which preserves its roots or if anything cut will inevitably die and rot.

The Phrag's roots were brown, but I figured this was staining. Nearly all of them seemed pretty firm, and the sheath wouldn't come off. So I left them.

No new heads visible on any of the plants.

I soaked the plants first, which I believe made my job a little harder in hindsight. I removed the dead roots using a rubbing alcohol sterilized razorblade and sprayed them with 3% peroxide before planting. I dipped them in water after the peroxide spray (to remove any excess/remainder), which I believe was a mistake.

I planted them in Lamberts Orchid Mix:
25% Canadian Sphagnum peat moss
25% Hardwood charcoal
25% Red pine bark
25% Volcanic rock

I added a bit of extra Sphagnum moss to the Maxilaria pot mix, and put a thin layer of sphagnum over the tops of the pots to keep humidity up until new roots formed.

Admittedly I don't love this mix for the Cattleya/Laelia. I have hydroton I could add, or I found another mix that's just wood chips, charcoal, and a bit of perlite. Unsure if it's worth redoing? It's not like there's a bunch of roots I need to pull out to repot at this point.

Everyone is planted in net pots, so there should be decent air circulation around the roots, regardless. I live in a fairly humid climate (60-80%) and run a humidifier during the winter months to maintain 40-60%.

The plants are now sitting at the far end of my living room, opposite side of my NEE facing window to keep the light soft until they've had some time to adjust.

Any further advice? I know I didn't do everything perfectly, but I'm still learning to have a "procedure". This is my first time dealing with plants with this much root loss. My prior Phal's and Oncidiums always arrived fairly established.

I will post pictures of plant + roots in subsequent posts so it's easier to pair the roots with the plant. No photos of the Cattleya, I actually didn't have a pot large enough so I will be potting it this evening.

Last edited by Fishbox; 08-09-2022 at 11:38 AM..
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  #2  
Old 08-09-2022, 11:22 AM
Fishbox Fishbox is offline
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Mostly dead roots (Phrag, Oncidium, Cattleya, Laelia, Maxilaria)
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Phragmipedium Mini Grande
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  #3  
Old 08-09-2022, 11:23 AM
Fishbox Fishbox is offline
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Mostly dead roots (Phrag, Oncidium, Cattleya, Laelia, Maxilaria)
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Oncidium tigroides
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  #4  
Old 08-09-2022, 11:25 AM
Fishbox Fishbox is offline
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Laelia purpurata
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  #5  
Old 08-09-2022, 11:27 AM
Fishbox Fishbox is offline
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Maxilaria striata
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  #6  
Old 08-09-2022, 12:01 PM
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Cutting off all or most of the roots severely sets back orchids. Many times it kills them. I strongly recommend you never cut off roots again.

It is highly likely you cut off a lot of old but still living roots. If you had a problem tomato outside, would you dig it up, cut off all its roots, replant it, and be surprised when it dies?

There is a lot of advice on video sites to cut off orchid roots. I think it is always wrong, especially for beginners who don't know what orchid roots look like through their growth cycle. If you cut off the roots after watching suggestions to do so on a Web site, I recommend you not take any more advice from that site.

Many orchids make new roots only during defined periods of their growth cycle. If the grower cuts off the roots, the plant won't make more until the proper time. Meanwhile it must try to survive taking up water with no, or next to no, roots.

Phragmipedium roots are normally brown. They look different from roots of most other orchids. I would never cut off Phrag. roots no matter what. Phrags prefer staying somewhere between evenly moist to wet. Don't let their roots dry out or the roots and plant will be damaged.

New Oncidium roots are bright white. They age to light brown. As long as they are not black they are probably alive. I don't ever cut them off. Sometimes dead roots may fall off when repotting, with a slight shake.

Oncidiums only make new roots when they are making a new growth, and the new roots only come from the newest growth. You should wait to repot Oncidiums until the new roots are just beginning. Repotting always damages some roots, and if the plant is not going to make roots for some time afterwards, it may struggle to take up water.

Perhaps your plant will grow soon; if it doesn't, it will wrinkle away, losing most of the pseudobulbs and leaves. It is likely it will live, but most of the current plant will have died from lack of water before the new growth makes roots sufficient to support a plant. It will probably be years before it flowers. Your potting mix should be fine for this plant. It too likes to stay evenly moist, without drying out.

Cattleya alliance roots are usually thicker than Oncidium roots, but otherwise look similarly. They start as bright white with green tips. They age to light tan with no green tips. Even when the outer layer can be pulled off the inner root core, they may still be alive and taking up water. Again, I never remove roots from Cattleya alliance plants.

The roots I see in your Laelia photo are healthy. L. purpurata is a very sturdy plant, so there is an excellent chance it will recover. Unless growing conditions are excellent this plant rarely extends old roots, so you will need to wait for new roots until it makes new growth. With any luck it will soon do so. The time to repot Cattleya alliance plants is also when new roots are just forming.

The Maxillaria will probably be severely set back. These are high water use plants. I would put your division into a very small pot with sphagnum moss and keep it moist.

What are your growing conditions? Temperatures day/night, relative humidity? What kind of light are they getting? The Laelia prefers temperatures during the growing season much higher than in most people's homes. It will live and grow at lower temperatures, but not very fast.
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  #7  
Old 08-09-2022, 12:56 PM
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Quote:
There is a lot of advice on video sites to cut off orchid roots. I think it is always wrong, especially for beginners who don't know what orchid roots look like through their growth cycle. If you cut off the roots after watching suggestions to do so on a Web site, I recommend you not take any more advice from that site.
Hmm I was aware that it would be setting the plant back, but you are correct, many (I would say all?) websites/orchid channels suggest cutting dead roots, and do suggest that brittle roots that easily lose their sheath are dead.

Quote:
Many orchids make new roots only during defined periods of their growth cycle. If the grower cuts off the roots, the plant won't make more until the proper time. Meanwhile it must try to survive taking up water with no, or next to no, roots.
So for future practice, leave all roots unless black until I begin seeing new root growth, and then worry about the old roots? Or just leave the roots entirely, always (unless black).

Quote:
New Oncidium roots are bright white. They age to light brown. As long as they are not black they are probably alive. I don't ever cut them off. Sometimes dead roots may fall off when repotting, with a slight shake.
Quote:
It will probably be years before it flowers.
They definitely weren't black, but they were pretty crispy/brittle. May have made a mistake on this one. Knowledge acquired, experience gained, I can live with the consequences and enjoy the process for what it is.

Quote:
Cattleya alliance roots are usually thicker than Oncidium roots, but otherwise look similarly. They start as bright white with green tips. They age to light tan with no green tips.
I've attached a photo of the Cattleya that I didn't have a proper pot for. I would describe this as "mid-to-dark brown and mushy to the touch, like wet paper". Before soaking they were shriveled, brown, and brittle.

Quote:
The Maxillaria will probably be severely set back. These are high water use plants. I would put your division into a very small pot with sphagnum moss and keep it moist.
Just straight Sphagnum? Noted. Bummer, but I love the foliage, so live and learn.

Quote:
What are your growing conditions? Temperatures day/night, relative humidity? What kind of light are they getting?
Summer months averages are highs for 20-23C, lows of 11-15C.

I do not climate control during the summer, just leave the windows open. So indoors would be comparable.

Annual humidity average of 67%, lower 60 range during summer.

I heat to 23C in the winter, and maintain 40-60% humidity indoors.

Light is coming from an unobstructed NEE facing window with a light white sheer curtain to block direct sun. Not opposed to considering grow lights, though.

If there's anything else I've missed that would help, let me know.

Appreciate your time!
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Last edited by Fishbox; 08-09-2022 at 01:10 PM..
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Old 08-09-2022, 01:39 PM
manurespreader manurespreader is offline
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I would say all?) websites/orchid channels suggest cutting dead roots, and do suggest that brittle roots that easily lose their sheath are dead.
yes roots that have lost their sheaths don't last and should be removed. There are of course differing opinions on this so you just have to chose like with pretty much everything growing orchids so you go with moss or bark, do you go with ventilated pots or unventilated, mounted or potted, organic, inorganic, cut a flower spike, don't cut a flower spike, keep an orchid dry in winter or not. Everyone does things differently.
That doesn't mean there is no right or wrong and that orchids don't prefer certain things but they do tolerate a lot too so many do things differently.

The problem with leaving rotting roots is that they can cause further root rot problems to spread. Most people tend to remove them.

PS: the roots on your pictures are not the worst I have seen and should be able to bounce back.
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Old 08-09-2022, 01:57 PM
Fishbox Fishbox is offline
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PS: the roots on your pictures are not the worst I have seen and should be able to bounce back.
Great, I'll plant that one as is then.

Quote:
The problem with leaving rotting roots is that they can cause further root rot problems to spread. Most people tend to remove them.
This was my thinking. I would rather set things back than risk an issue with spreading rot that could jeopardize the plant if not caught in time.

Quote:
That doesn't mean there is no right or wrong and that orchids don't prefer certain things but they do tolerate a lot too so many do things differently.
That's kind of how I was looking at things. I do work with plants quite a bit, and have kept orchids for years, but never 'challenged' myself to grow and improve beyond what came easily. Plants are pretty tough, and this certainly isn't the first time I've removed significant amounts of roots from plants. Just the first time doing it to an epiphyte (on second thought, that's a total lie).

Last edited by Fishbox; 08-09-2022 at 02:03 PM..
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Old 08-09-2022, 02:10 PM
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I suggest you not cut off any roots and you will have a lot fewer problems. It has been shown hollow roots with intact cores can still take up water. I would have just repotted the unpotted Catt you showed without doing anything at all to the roots.
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