Wrinkled leaves on repotted Phal...

sue36(Z5 Maine)April 23, 2010

I purchased a Phalaenopsis orchid early last fall and it was doing well, but the plastic pot it came in was starting to get mis-shapen (I assume from growth) and I was worried about rot because the roots were really jammed in the spaghum moss. I purchased a clay orchid pot and orchid mix from a garden center that sells a lot of orchids (they have their own mix). It is basically bark chips and that white crunchy stuff. As expected from being in spaghum, there was some rot on some roots, but not too bad. I repotted it about 6 weeks ago. One leaf on the bottom has turned yellow, and now all the other leaves (including the newest one) are wrinkled and wilty. I believe it is underwatered. The mix dries out very quickly, I water it every other day or every day. It was doing better before, in the spaghum (I only watered it about once a week then). There is no sign of new rot, so I don't think it is overwatered (and don't see how it could be, the chips hold no water at all) Should I repot again, but mix some spaghum in with the chips? Should I use a completely different mix? (they knew the type of orchid I was repotting and said to use this mix, it wasn't cheap either) It is still flowering, btw. Thanks.

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orchid126(z6, NJ)

Congratulations on your repot. A couple of possible answers to your problem.

If the orchid mix is indeed bark, the bark should have been soaked for several hours or overnight to condition it, otherwise water will just run over the outside crust and not penetrate the bark.

If the mix is CHC (coconut husk chips) the chips should have been washed and rinsed many times to eliminate any salt.

Also, mixes dry out more rapidly in clay pots, which breathe, than plastic, which does not. Many people swear by clay pots while many people prefer plastic because they don't have to water as often.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 4:36PM
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dragon_kite(z6 NYC)

Orchid126 brings up great points.

Lemme add some of my personal experience as well.

The bark chips and crunchy white stuff (probably perlite or vermaculite) holds "dampness" not water but this is good for most orchid roots. Watering every day or every other day is probably too much for this type of media. Especially right after re-potting, you'll want to keep the media on the drier side for a week or 2 to stop/prevent rot. I grow my phals in LECA in unglazed clay pots (which holds even less water than your mix) in zone 6 and I only water them every 4-5 days, sometimes I'll stretch it to a week when it's been rainy for a couple of days.

When you say "clay orchid pot" do you mean it's one of those pots that have holes all over it? Are the holes big enough for the bark and perlite to fall through?

Are you sure no new roots have rotted? I don't know if you want to do this or have already done this but personally, I would take it out and check the roots just in case.

Also what kind of light is your orchid getting? Is it on a windowsill or is it getting artificial light? And for how long does it get the light? If its natural light, is it morning light, afternoon or late afternoon light.

And do you fertilize it? If so, what are the N-P-K ratios and how often do you apply it, and at what rates?

I know it's a lot of questions, but I just wanna cover all the bases so that fellow members can naorrow in on what's going on with your phal.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 8:14PM
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sue36(Z5 Maine)

I check it out when I got home tonight and the medium is definitely bark chips with vermiculite/perlite and some black chips which may be charcoal? The pot is a Guy Wolff orchid pot (unglazed clay). It has holes, and no medium has fallen through. I use Schultz orchid food, only since repotting (just water before), it is 19-31-17. I mix up a gallon of water following the directions for feeding every time I water, but I haven't been using that water (with the food) every time because I'm watering so much. It is on a window that faces west. This time of year it get a lot of bright afternoon light, but it isn't hot, but probably in late May I will need to move it somewhere else (actually, I was thinking of putting it outside for the summer).

When I got home tonight I removed about 1/2 the medium and I have it soaking in water right now, trying to "condition" it as orchid126 wrote above. There are many new roots and new growth on old roots since I potted it. And it is still forming flower buds.

I have another smaller Phal in the same mix (also in a clay pot) that is doing fine (no wilting), but it is inside a large apothecary jar (with a lid) and it is humid in there. I almost never need to water that. That plant gets less sun, it is in the middle of the room and gets no direct light.

Thanks for the help.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 10:00PM
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orchid126(z6, NJ)

Sounds like you're doing lots of things right. Mixing some sphagnum in with the bark would be a good idea. I use 25-30% sphag in my phal mix with plastic pots. You're probably underwatering with the bark in a clay pot. And let me say your phal is in good company if it's in a Guy Wolf pot!

You might try the skewer method of watering. Get a shishkabob skewer from the grocery store, trim it down and put it in the pot and keep it there. The next time you go to water, take out the skewer and touch it to your lip, cheek, or the back of your hand. If it's wet or very damp, don't water. If it's dry or nearly dry, water. How wet or dry the skewer is before you water will depend on what type of orchid it is. Phals like to dry out a little, but not completely dry.

Putting the phal outdoors for the summer would do it wonders. It can take some early morning sun and then good light the rest of the day.

The phal in the apothacary jar in the middle of the room is not only not getting any direct light, it is in the dark. It needs light. Not enough to cook it in the jar, but much more than it's getting now.l

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 4:23PM
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dragon_kite(z6 NYC)


Your phal sounds fine, perhaps the wrinkly leaves were a reaction from the loss of roots from the past (like a delayed reaction?). Anyway, the roots sound like they're in good shape, the pot might be too "hole-y" for the mix that you're using. Orchid126's advice about adding some sphag is a good idea. Looks like you just need to wait for the roots to grow out so the plant can take in more water.

As for the phal in the middle of the room, if it's doing fine the way you're taking care of it, then continue whatever you're doing. If problems start to arise, that's when you post back.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 9:38PM
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sue36(Z5 Maine)

Thanks. I think I am going to add some spaghum to the bark mix, as suggested. The small Phal probably does need more light, but it looks so nice on the island! I think I'll put it on a table in my living room.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 9:56PM
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