Home Depot Orchid Dilemma

WishMarch 3, 2007

Hi There,

Ok, I'm sure everyone has bought an orchid from Home Depot at one time or another. I just bought a mini-phal (doritis, I think) that was absolutely irresistable. I noticed it was potted in spaghnum moss but have never checked roots--I'm a newbie.

In any case, I bought it on Tuesday and when I came home from work on Friday, most of the 24 blossoms had fallen off. I consulted a girlfriend of mine and she said two things:

1. Often, you can get a flowering orchid at the end of its blooming cycle. Which means that that the flowers fell off naturally.

2. It could be root rot. Check the roots, she said. And I did tonight and about 50% of them were mushy while the other 50% were green and firm.

It appears to be a mature plant because, at close inspection, it had a spike that had been cut off in the past and it has 7 leaves--more than what I've seen. Also, I noticed that althought the leaves look fairly healthy, they are dark green. I've read that its a sign of lack of light. But the spike is also dark brown. Could this be just a specie thing?

In any case, my question here is: Should I take it back? Can I take it back and get it exchanged? Has anyone returned an orchid to Home Depot? And alternately, if I really like the plant (which I do), should I suck up and prune off the mushy roots, repot in bark (which my girlfriend gave me) and wait until next year to see if it'll send out another spike? Does anyone have any experience with this type of Phal?

I have never seen this kind of orchid before--it has got 7 branches off a main spike and the prettiest blush pink mini phal blossoms...

What to do?? I would love any advice!

Thanks so much,


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salvialvr(Utah Zone 6)

It almost sounds like it might be a Doritis pullchera (sp?)
If it is this Orchid it is related to Phals and is often crossed with phals to produce some really Beautifull hybrids. Since you really like the plant I would keep it if I was you becasue the liklyhood of getting a healthier Orchid from HD is slim to none. Your lucky it has half of its roots still in good shape because HD usually waters the poor things to death in no time flat. Just trim off the rotted roots and dust them with cinnamon before you repot. Since it has so many healthy leaves it'll recover quikly. As to the repotting, I have a few DTPS hybrids which have both Phal and Doritis in them and I have mine potted in a 50/50 mix of bark mix and Sphag. I use the same mix in both clay pots and plastic because I have enough light to keep the Orchids happy and don't have to worry muhc about over watering. Just let the medium get almost dry before watering it really well again. This cycle keeps mine happy and growing. Be carefull about the lighting changes. If the leaves are allready Dark green slowly increase the amount of light being careful not to burn the leaves. Check the leaves seveal times a day as you are acclimating it to new light levels and make sure they don't feel warm to the touch. If they are feeling warm then reduce the amount of light a little to prevent burning. Mostlikely the reason for the flower drop had to do with bringin the plant home. if it got chilled on the way home this could trigger flower drop, also keep in mind that if the anther cap on the flowers gets nocked off the flower will die in a day or two so try not to touch the flowers untill you know how to ID the different parts of the flower.
Since your new its important for you to spend a little time going thru the FAQS and older post to learn as much as you can about growing Orchids. They aren't really hard but if you are used to growing other types of house plants you have to remeber to treat Orchids different.
I hope this helps, nd be warned you only have a day or two left before the addiction kicks in hard and you find yourself wanting more orchids, LOL. Have fun and enjoy your new Orchid.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 11:58PM
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I don't think you'd be allowed to return it just because the blooms fell off. Since you have most of your roots, i think they fell off either because they were near the end of their bloom cycle or they were shocked because of the change of environment. Now that the spike has died back, I would repot it into whatever mix works well for you (i'd recommend a bark mixture with some sphagnum moss mixed in for water retention) and by this time next year it should rebloom for you! Good luck with your new guy!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 12:29AM
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orchidguyftl(z11 FTL FL)

I have all my phals growing in moss
they absolutely love it
but you have to pot with a medium that works for YOU
and how you care for them
I would say that either the moss is packed in too tight or you are over watering or sitting the plant in water

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 12:32AM
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If you have the receipt and you are still within the thirty days of purchase, you can return the plant to Home Depot. If you desire, you can mention that you are worried about the health of the plant due to the roots' condition.

I recently purchased an orchid on its last legs just to experiment with rehabbing big box orchids. Two months into the experiment, the lovely is producing a huge green root. In addition, the top leaf has grown three inches.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 11:31AM
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Thank you all so much for such speedy responses! Adam, I am so grateful to learn that another person out there has experience with this type. I was lucky enough to buy this one as it arrived in a shipment the same day. However, I went back later on in the week and the plants looked so sad! It was a warm day when I brought it home--nearly 50 degrees. It was covered in two bags. Of course I took it on the subway and had to walk a few blocks home so it may have gotten a bit chilled... In any case, I will try to salvage this beauty. (Courage, oh faint of heart.)

The spike is still hard and healthy looking. Should I cut it off now or wait for it to wither? Also, I noticed a few styrofoam pellets in the bottom of the pot--is this normal? Should I discard them when I re-pot? I will re-pot in half spaghnum/half bark. I haven't has much success with full spaghnum in the past...

Will it grow another multi-bract spike again if I cut this one off? How often does this kind bloom in a year?

Thanks again for such thorough and supportive input. By the way, it's officially too late--I've well into my addiction!

All the best,


    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 11:31AM
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orchid126(z6, NJ)

Wish, you can cut the spike to within an inch of the base and allow it to dry or you can cut the spike to just above the second or third node and hope that the spike might branch and continue to bloom for you. Since you lost all the blossoms I doubt if they had a chance to weaken the plant, so a second flush of bloom should not hurt it. Then again, the spike might turn brown and dry anyway. You'll just have to try it and see.

The article on growing phals in the latest AOS magazine recommends 80% bark and 20% sphagnum moss. You might want to consider this when repotting. I use fine bark.

I use styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of all my pots to allow for good drainage and good air circulation and to prevent the roots from sitting in water.

If the spike does not branch and withers, then you'll have to wait until the fall for the plant to spike again.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 4:21PM
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audrey_va(Zone7 VA)

Home Depot (and Lowes) have a one year guarantee on all their full price plants except annuals. If you love the plant, keep your receipt and the UPC bar code and see how the plant does. If it dies within the year, take it back for a refund. I knowingly bought a phal from Lowes with horrible roots, but I'd never seen that flower before (or since), so I was willing to take a chance. It's currently doing its best to put out more roots, and it looks like it will make it. If not, it goes back to the store. Good luck. Audrey

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 7:05PM
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Orchid126, did you read the last installment in AOS on Phals?
Interesting about the temps.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 9:55PM
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Hi There,

I decided to keep it and see...I've trimmed the roots and dusted them with cinnamon. And I cut the spike after the second node (branch). It had seven branches. Did I do it right??

If I get spaghnum or dust off the bark in the crevice between the leaves, is that bad? How do you get the stuff out with out water? I know you are not supposed to get water there because of rot...

I would appreciate any helpful advice..!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 7:56PM
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mehitabel(z6 MO)

I think the dust or sphag in the cracks might, repeat *might* grab and hold a bit of moisture, so might not be the greatest thing.

If you do run water over it, just set it right in front of a fan for a couple of hours. That dries it off pretty thoroughly. I do that all the time.

If you don't have a fan, maybe you could wrap a toothpick in moist paper towel and ease it out.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 10:01AM
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orchid126(z6, NJ)

Jane, I haven't gotten the latest issue yet, so can't comment. I'm still trying to digest last months info.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2007 at 4:34PM
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highjack(z6 KY)

Don't be afraid to wash the plant with water - tell it a monsoon is approaching - LOL! After running the water over the plant, tip the plant and let as much water run out as possible. Take a paper towel and twist the ends into a tight point and put the point of the towel into the crown and absorb the water. At my house, my plants get dusty (OK I'm a bad housekeeper) and I regularly wash the dust off them.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2007 at 6:48AM
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OK, here's a dumb question: how long do you wait to see if a new branch will develop after you've cut it down?

I am so afraid that I've ruined my chances of seeing any buds by cutting it at all. There's a lot of conflicting info out there. Some say cut, others say don't cut. Some say cut at a certain point. The more literature I read, the more it says to not cut until the branch has withered naturally.

Did I jump the gun?? What is the protocol when you bring a doritis hybrid home and it drops all of its flowers? Do you just wait to see whether new buds will form again? I didn't know!!! Have I traumatized it?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 1:09PM
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mehitabel(z6 MO)

Don't worry so much, you didn't ruin anything. No one can tell you for sure what your plant will do. Just start *observing* your plant. Notice things as time goes by. Pretty soon you'll be an expert on how your plant behaves under different conditions.

The "conflicting advice" occurs because different phals have different parentage. Some phals, violacea and amboiensis and some others, keep blooming off the same spike, so you don't cut these at all. The same spike can keep putting out a flower or two at a time all year.

For the others, cut or not cut is a matter of your own preference. I cut mine back all the way, to get a new spike. Other people try to get a branch on the spike by cutting above the first node. Either way is ok.

The spikes that branch are probably the most likely to put out a branching spike with more flowers when cut. But that's just what I assume, not what I know for a fact.

Watch and see what it does.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 11:29PM
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I think you are learning some of the most important lessons to learn in growing orchids - observation over time will tell you what works best for orchids in your own growing environment and with the way that you personally care for them. People who tend to like to water a lot may see theirs doing better with more bark and less moss; orchids kept outside down here in Zone 10 tend to need more moisture; etc. I don't think orchids are difficult to grow - it's your own personal learning experience of trial and observation that will ultimately make your plants thrive. (Also - keep records - when did they bloom; how many blooms; when did you repot; when did you try moving them to higher light; diseases treated; etc.)

Also, note that the articles in AOS regarding Phals refer to the grower in a large greenhouse, who has very tight control over temperature, humidity, and amount of light. A lot of their findings are difficult to directly apply to our "home" environments when growing Phals - useful nonetheless, but not practical sometimes for the individual grower..........

The important thing is have fun learning by observing - orchids are not for the gardener who always must have instant gratification!


PS I've found some of the greatest value in Phals in my collection at HD! Several of them have been practically nonstop bloomers for over nine months now!)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2007 at 9:45AM
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