Orchid Newbie...ID, and advice?

lauraeli_May 12, 2014

Bought a clearance orchid at a gardening center. My apartment is a jungle, but i have never had an orchid before. I'm normally great with plants but occasionally I come across a plant that just doesnt like me (zz plant, yikes). Any advice so I don't accidentally kill it?

It is in a plastic pot, set inside a clay one. I am afraid to repot it. Should I?

The plant seems healthy but the leaves look a little yellowish to me, like maybe it needs fertilizer?

Should I fertilize it? Foliar feed? Can I use Miracle Gro for blooms?

Can I grow it under a 20W fluorescent bulb? Or would it be fine in a north window?

Also, ID?

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dendrobium I think

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 10:59AM
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Thank you, after viewing photos I am leaning towards dendrobium.

I stuck it outside today because we had lovely rainstorm come through. Still waiting on any advice though!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 1:28PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

It is a warm growing hard cane "Phal" type Dendrobium. It needs warmth, moderate humidity and good light throughout the year to do well.

I'm guessing that you are somewhere where orchids have to grown inside during winter.

Notes in the link might be a good starting point.

Here is a link that might be useful: UK Orchid growing notes

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 3:06PM
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Thank you, Arthur :-) After doing some more research, I have decided to attempt a driftwood mount. I dont believe that either a north window or a 20 watt CFL is going to be sufficient, so I will combine the two :-) and likely switch to a higher watt CFL later on. But for now i will work with what I have.

Although I have no experience with orchids, the growing medium it is in seems to be the equivalent of a rotting log and is too soggy imo to keep it healthy for long.

A driftwood mount would technically require more care, but it's easier for me to care about a plant twice a day, than twice a week. That's why my zz plant is unhappy. I had to stick it in a corner where it is not easily seen, surrounded by plants that DO want my attention. So much easier to neglect it now!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 3:23PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Might do OK on a mount, especially if surrounded by other plants. They tend to flower late Autumn/ early winter after a very slight cooling down.
Easy to grow in tropical places, Hawaii, Miami etc.etc.
Difficult here in Sub tropical Sydney, need a glasshouse.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 3:56PM
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shavedmonkey (Harvey in South Fl.)Z10b

mounted orchids need to be watered every day. Direct morning sun afternoon indirect will make it happy. That is true for south florida. I don't know where you are. Strong, fat roots are good for mounted plants. I use maxi-crop. It is Norwegian sea weed juice. It replenishes. So it is green. It has a naturally occurring chemical, humic acid, a root stimulant. Makes plants strong. Good for all plants, especially mounted orchids. Maxi-crop is not just for orchids. All plants like it.

Pictured below is brassavola minnie mouse. It started as a pot in a basket. now the pot can't be seen. Lots of roots thanks to maxi crop.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 10:24AM
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Wow that is a lot of root growth! I will have to look into that product.

Thinking about putting my orchid on my east-facing balcony this summer. It has an overhang so it would be getting 1-3 hours of morning sun.

Im worried about pests. Last year I grew a lot of annuals, so it was a veritable feast buffet. I had to deal with thrips and spidermites, not to mention the foliar nematodes.

The neem oil insecticide was pretty effective on the thrips, and if it was dry enough outside for spider mites, the orchid would be in trouble anyway.

Still, I havent been bitten by the flower bug this year yet, and it is already May. All I have outside right now is my herb collection- parsley, mint, rosemary, and thyme. It is looking like this year is going to be a houseplant year.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 11:38AM
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Please give more information! Where are you located??


    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 4:40PM
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shavedmonkey (Harvey in South Fl.)Z10b

get powdered orthene. A systemic. If you suspect trouble you could spray in advance. Or on the sign of trouble. Make sure the plant is secure to the driftwood. I put a pinch of sphagnum moss between the roots and the wood.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 6:47AM
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westoh Z6

"parsley, mint, rosemary, and thyme"

Almost went back to my younger days there :-) "sage/mint"


    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 7:01AM
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I'm in zone 5.

For the time being, I will keep the orchid in a pot, until I can find a suitable mount for it.

On a side note, I rescued a clearance orchid from Walmart yesterday. (looks like I caught the orchid AND african violet bug* at the same time. Do you think I will be okay? O_O)

Well I figured the orchid was rotted because the flowers were wilted and the leaves were starting to wrinkle. They tried to tell me it just needed some sun. I raised my eyebrows at that. But it was only 5 dollars. Anyway I got it home and sure enough, all the roots that were in the medium were rotted. I cut them off, along with the flowers. Here's what is left of the roots.

Since I have two orchids now (and a white bat flower :-D) Im going to get a ten gallon aquarium and set them all in there with some wet sphagnum moss, and put it in my east window. It only gets an hour or two of sun in that window, very early in the morning, so I dont think it will get too hot. I dont plan on putting a lid on it. The plants are too tall anyway and I would rather they have airflow.

This post was edited by Lauraeli on Wed, May 14, 14 at 15:06

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 9:26AM
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This morning I checked on it again, I made a couple more cuts, then soaked it in water for a few hours. The roots have plumped up. Here is the before and after. Not sure what to do with it now? I have the Miracle Gro orchid mix which is entirely bark. Should i pot it up? Just set it on top? or should i bury the roots?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 2:04PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Do we think you will be OK? There are two glass-houses and a shade-house down the yard, crammed with orchids, plus some orchids in the kitchen and in this room. Too many to count. It is called orchid mania.
If you can grow African Violets, you can grow anything. Beasts of plants!
Seriously, your latest orchid (Phalaenopsis) is probably easier to grow and bloom indoors in zone 5 than the Hard-Cane Dendrobium. Mountains of Information on the net. Find some complete cultivation notes written for Northern USA Climates.

This post was edited by arthurm on Wed, May 14, 14 at 15:06

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 2:49PM
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*bug* I meant orchid and african violet BUG. Sometimes I type so fast my fingers just take the first two letters and fills in a likely word. Finger-auto-correct. :-D

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 3:05PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

African violet grown by an expert (Not me).
African violet Tiny Pink

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 3:17PM
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Will my orchid do alright with how many roots it has left? Should i put cinnamon or rooting hormone on the cut ends?

Due to the amount of conflicting info on the internet, I am tempted to fall back on my previous experience/knowledge of plants in general, combined with what i have read about orchids, and just sort of wing it.

Is it fine to put it right back in a bark-based mix? Unless anybody has any dos and donts, i guess I will cross my fingers and go.

The flowers perked up when i put them in water. Pretty :-)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 3:21PM
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That is a beautiful AV :-D very uniformly shaped. I always end up dropping mine, or dropping something on them, so they aren't quite so perfect...I grew this one from one leaf.
It's still so small! But blooming its little heart out :-)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 3:32PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

The spag and the 10 gallon aquarium is not a good idea.
The two orchids do not come from cloud forests. They need to be watered and the roots have to dry a bit before the plant is watered again.
Both are in pretty good condition and the rotted roots on the Phal. are probably due to too much watering while the plant was waiting to be sold.
Think about where these orchids grow in nature on a rock or on a tree with many of the roots exposed to air. They have storage mechanisms to stop them from drying out. The canes on the Dendrobium and the thick "cactussy" leaves on the Phal.
I have my Phals potted in treated pine bark chunks plus perlite.
Do some more research for culture appropriate to zone 5.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 7:12PM
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allymarie(zone 10, So. Fl.)


Your African Violet is beautiful and you grew it from a leaf, how amazing!You have skills Lauraeli!

I have learned so much from this forum.There is a wealth of knowledge here from universities and many many years of growing orchids.Everyone is so helpful.It's a great place for you and your orchids to grow.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 8:08PM
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Arthur- I was going to keep the plants individually potted inside the aquarium, if that makes a difference. I actually meant to say spanish moss on the bottom. The purpose being just to keep the humidity up around the plants.

Allymarie- thanks :-) I love all my plants as individuals. It was fun to watch this one grow. If you have patience, I recommend it!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 10:05PM
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westoh Z6


Some very basic instructions...

Soak the bark overnight, put 3-6 styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of a 4" pot (with holes in the bottom), place plant in pot, cram the bark around the roots being careful to not break any of the roots. It should have most of the roots buried.

Watch closely for a few weeks, water when dry (every 4-7 days usually).

Bright east window is a good place, maybe even outside on a protected patio with no sunlight from 11-5. Same for dend, maybe even a little more light than the phal.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 6:55AM
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Thanks Bob! Some of the roots are on top of the bark. I feel like i should mist them when they are dry. That's what Ive been doing. Is it better to bury them completely?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 10:40AM
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Also, it is on a north window sill right now, in my bedroom, since that is where it is most humid (50% during the day). I do have an east window as well as an east balcony with an overhang. But I have considered that the north window might be better while it is settling in. The lower leaves are wrinkly as well as some of the roots so I am afraid to dehydrate it further.

The bark that it is in was soaked for a few hours only, i hope that will be sufficient.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 10:46AM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Looking good! Positive signs to look out for are growth of a new leaf from the centre of the plant and new roots emerging from the base.
If you must mist do so in the early morning so the plant is drier by nightfall.
Healthy Phalaenopsis have roots in the medium and out in the air. Maybe add a few more pieces of bark.
Sorry, I have been sparse with information, climate conditions here are nothing like zone 5. The micro-climate outside is zone 10 and I would never put a Phalaenopsis out there.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 6:06PM
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Interesting. I have been told to stay away from sphagnum moss, but how do you guys feel about these statements regarding orchid care/culture?

âÂÂâ¦early research at Texas A&M University showed that plant growth was vastly improved in a medium consisting of 20 percent coarse sphagnum peat and 80 percent fir bark, compared with fir bark alone.âÂÂ

âÂÂFir bark particles do not have much capillary action and do not readily transfer moisture from the bottom of the pot toward the surface. A medium of fir bark alone can hold too much water in the lower portion of the pot once it begins to degrade, which can lead to severe root rot and poor plant performance.âÂÂ


    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 11:02PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

There are some 90 Orchid Societies in the state of NSW Australia and the base of most orchid mixes is treated pine bark with this or that added according to the Genera and the growers conditions.
I now have your problem, bought Coel. lawrenceae x Coel. usitana today and it is potted in the dreaded spag. Not that spag. is all that bad, given proper drainage and ideal temperatures for the genera to be grown it is fine. At one stage I even grew some Tolumnia in that medium in a very small pot.
The problem as i see it is that the notes were referring to Phals grown in ideal temperatures and humidity not Phals. grown in homes.
What do indoor growers in zone 5 mostly use?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 5:52AM
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westoh Z6

The peanuts at the bottom of the pot will help with the air circulation to help keep it more evenly hydrated. When I re-pot a phal I like to try and bury it up to it 'neck', as Arthur said, "maybe a few more pieces". I use a bark mix: a little spagh, perlite and cork mixed in with the bark.

IMO, a north window is not enough light and light is much more important than humidity in the long term health and blooming of a phal. Get it in a bright east window if possible, or a shaded/sheared west window.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 7:06AM
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Im not sure what growers in zone 5 use, I have been unable to find that information online.

The orchid is only in the north window temporarily. That is where the majority of my plants are and it is easier for me to keep an eye on it in there.

The east window is in the kids' room and I mostly use it for rooting cuttings. I dont spend a lot of time in there. Who likes stepping over toys?

The only plant that is in there permanently is my spider plant.

I might be comfortable putting the orchid in there if it is in an aquarium- unlikely to get knocked over, or dry out.

This is my current setup in the north window. It changes periodically, as a result of boredom, and to give individual plants a chance at a more optimal spot. The pothos in the foreground is 6 feet from the window. I grow pothos in there against the wall, ten feet from the window. It is currently putting out new growth. I have grown cordyline terminalis (hawaiian ti) in there for years. The impatiens in the lower righthand corner are not flowering currently because it was previously away from the window and recently repotted (putting on leaves instead), but it does flower in the spot that it is in. It has had foliar nematodes since last summer but you would not know by looking at it. It seems to be resistant. It is not touching the hoya vine in the pot next to it.

The snake plant, philodendron, impatiens, pothos, spring cactus, and hoya vine are putting on new growth. I grow african violets and a hen-and-chicks under the floor lamp. It is 2000 lumens on an area about a square foot, in addition to the light from the window. So, not SUPER bright. But my african violets dont mind a bit. You can see the two orchids to the right of the hoya. I shouldnt think a couple weeks to a month will do them much harm (?). Both orchids will likely end up on my east-facing balcony, but it has been rainy and cold lately. It must get down to 50 or 55 at night.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 10:45AM
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In the upper left-hand corner, under the juvenile philodendron bipinnatifidum, sits my new (and very small) white bat flower :-) tacca integrifolia. They are pretty new to the houseplant trade. Not a lot of info out there. Every day that it decides not to implode or spontaneously combust is a happy day for me.

This post was edited by Lauraeli on Fri, May 16, 14 at 11:02

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 10:53AM
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westoh Z6

I keep some of my blooming orchids in a very large north window at work, even my phals decline if I leave them there for more than 2-3 months at a time.

FYI: My pathos at work does great in my north window (10-15' long runners currently), but my 'kids don't...

I'm in zone 6 (west/central Ohio) and I pot in bark mix and put almost all of my phals out on a partially shaded east facing patio for the summers (late May - late September).

Good luck,


    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:23AM
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shavedmonkey (Harvey in South Fl.)Z10b

I think you potted the phal perfect!. Generally I like to pot orchids on the medium not in it. With variation. The roots will either dive into the pot or in the air. The roots will find the choice spot of what is available. The plant will want some in and some out. It knows.

Your choice of medium is subject to 2 important things. You and your environment. I'm heavy handed with the hose so I use terra cotta pots vs plastic. I do not use much sphagnum. I use it on mounts and squeeze some between the roots and substrate. Naturally you climate matters too.

Look at the potting material as an adjuster to modify the needs of the plant vs you and your climate. Asking advice from locals usually will be a more experienced and viable comment. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:41AM
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Thank you everyone :-) I am excited for the summer to start moving along, so that my houseplants can enjoy my balcony! Well, some of them. My spathiphyllum, pothos, and even my cordyline (really, cordyline?) do not appreciate any direct sun, even in the mornings.

But my orchids and a few others could benefit from some more light. As could I!

If I have any issues with my orchids, i know where to turn :-)

Last question: does the humidity OUTSIDE matter? Also, since i live in Wisconsin, this question applies: at what temperatures/weather conditions should I bring my orchid inside?

A Wisconsin orchid must be the bravest orchid around. I should name them something like...Lady Celsica, and Katniss Everdeen. The latter, because it sounds like something you would name a flower. But really, who names their plants? Do I? Perhaps I should.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 12:44PM
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I received my first orchid for my 46th birthday from a friend in January. I joke that if it doesn't bark to say that it needs water... it doesn't stand a chance in my house!

But I've been faithfully giving this beautiful orchid 3 ice cubes every Sunday and it has flourished. I've done so well with it that others have brought to me 2 other orchids to join it.

I have just one small window that faces south. The others face North, so this is the sole window that they are in. The small orchid is bare. Just one branch but buds are beginning to come again.
Last week, I accidentally knocked the second branch on my 1st orchid.My first reaction was to stick it into the soil but then I realized, there isn't any soil.

I didn't want to lose this branch with all of these beautiful flowers & buds so I placed the stem into a glass of water and it's looks just as good as when it was on the plant.

Here's my question...


If not, will it keep long in water and if so how should I care for it to help it last as long as possible?

I'm learning so much reading on this forum. I'm going to discontinue the ice cubes and water & mist them as recommended on your site. The roots of my orchids look dry. Must be luck that mine are doing so well. Now I see that they should all be green. I'm also going to eventually repot them.

I'm not sure what kind I have. I'll have to do more research on that.

FYI... I live in west central Wisconsin, in the valley, tucked in-between the hills. Winters get very cold and summers can get quite hot. We get the extremes! from 35 below 0 F in the winter to 105 above in the summer.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:22AM
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westoh Z6

You won't be able to get anything to grow from the broken bloom spike, keep it in fresh water and enjoy for 2-??? weeks.

If you are using the ice cube method, I assume you have a phal orchid. I'm not a fan of misting phals, seems to be just asking for fungal issues. I'm also not a fan of the ice cube thing, yet I go by: If it ain't broke don't fix it... Your call on changing your watering routine.

As a side note: Phals love protected east facing patios in late spring through early fall, let them adjust slowly to the brighter light if you go this route.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 9:36AM
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