soft leaves on a phal

wildpersimmonsJanuary 7, 2008

Hey folks,

I've had this phal for a few months, adopted from someone who had it for 2 years. It's been pretty healthy, has grown a new top leaf in my care after I repotted it and is currently engaged in a new stalk, about three inches long so far. The leaves in the last week or so have turned very soft-- normally they're stiff and sit up, but suddenly are very pliable. Is it actually possible I'm underwatering and they're not turgid? Or have you seen this behaviour before? I'm hard pressed to pull out any of the bark and check the roots for rot to see if I've gone the other way overwatering, because of the stalk. Would it be too much shock to pull it out and cull some of the dead roots?

let me know!



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gardnergal(10 SoCal)

If you recently repotted, you shouldn't have to uproot it to check, unless perhaps you used a media it isn't suited for. Are you growing others successfully? Are there any other changes it has been subjected to?
I have had this happen to a few of mine. I gave them one or two longer-than-usual soaks in water (~half an hour each) and the leaves came back to normal. If you wait too long, however, this may not work.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 4:51PM
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howard_a(z6 NYC)

I have to ask why you are suspecting underwatering? Have you made some change in the watering schedule recently? Is the change in leaf turgidity accompanied by a color change towards yellow? If no color change then, yes, the lack of leaf turgor could be a sign of underwatering but whether this should be addressed by an increase in water at the roots or an increase in RH (humidity) is less clear. Dead roots, if any, aren't doing anything for or to the orchid and removing them will not do anything beneficial (or not) either.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 5:06PM
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d, The previous comments are good ones.

You have only had this plant for a few months. You are sharing your concerns at the worst time of year for natural light, approximately 5 weeks around the winter solstice--not a terrific time for repotting anything except emergency cases.

Emergency cases? I had four yesterday! I accidentally spilled a partially loaded carrier of orchid plants!Aaaaaaaack!!

Good Luck with restoring your Phal.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 8:00PM
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W.P, This is a difficulty many newer growers have experienced. Phals exhibit similar symptoms from both overwatering and underwatering,the difficulty is in distinguishing between the two.

A few follow up questions may help us to make an educated guess. What medium was the plant in when you recieved it,and what did you repot into? When was the last time it was repotted before you acquired it? Has there been an increase or decrease in light? Are all the leaves affected or only the bottom ones?

To give you an example, I purchased a large phal potted in very tightly packed sphagnum moss. This plant was still damp a month after watering. Didn't work for me. After flowering, I repotted in a bark,moss mixture and the plant didn't like it. I think it had accustomed itself to always being damp. I bumped up the light watered more often and made it work for a living.took some time (6 months) but now it is doing fabulous! Point being, figure out the variables in light,medium and watering and it should be fine.There usually is an explanation just part of the fun of growing them to find it. :)

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 8:12PM
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mehitabel(z6 MO)

It's possible the new bark may be staying too dry, making it difficult to get any water to the roots, if you didn't pre-soak the bark.

If it were my orchid, I would pull it out of the pot to look at the roots. Others would disagree, but if the orchid is clearly suffering, something is wrong with the roots. You can't make the right choices til you know what it is.

If you do take it out of the pot, try re-hydrating it using the method outlined in the url below, or by simply soaking it in a container deep enough to "float" the whole plant.

A few minutes spent reading culture notes for phals at the Canadian Orchid Congress website will repay you in a lot more confidence knowing what to do for your phal. COC notes, BTW, recommend examining the roots when you think they are compromised.

Excellent culture notes for new phal owners are also available at Bedford Orchids and Big Leaf Orchids. Well worth a few minutes of your time.

Here is a link that might be useful: re-hydrating rootless phals

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 10:35AM
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