Orchid woes...

petra_gwJuly 24, 2014

Hi all, am new to orchids and have run into a big problem. I had 2 beautiful phalaenopsis which were quite pot-bound, so I decided to re-pot them. The original containers had what appeared to be soil, but the new "soil" I re-potted them into is not like soil at all, it is bits of bark and other pieces of stuff. It is called Orchid mix, suitable for various species, including phals.

Well, I just noticed that some of the orchid leaves are turning yellow, so I pulled both plants out and all the little, green, healthy roots both plants had are shriveled and dry. And the supposed soil mix is bone dry, though I've watered frequently (noticing that water ran right through each time).

Anyway, to get to the point, are these plants salvageable or should I give up on them. And second question, is the dry mix even suitable or would the plants be better off in another planting medium?
Thanks for any advice!!

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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

The "dry" mix is an attempt to copy the "medium" the plants ancestors were growing on in nature i.e a rock or a tree, where the roots would be wet in a rain shower or morning dew and would dry out a bit before the roots were wet again. In other words you might have to water more frequently in the dry mixture than in the original more moisture retaining mix.
Did you find some complete Phalaenopsis culture notes on the net that relate to where you are in the USA and the the spot where you have the orchids?.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 11:17PM
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I don't know what your 'Orchid Mix' is but someone was passing some out at one of our shows. It's a mixture of bark, moss, soil and other thing, totally unsuitable for epiphytic orchids. I keep it and use it for part of the mix I make for terrestrial orchids but for a Phaelanopsis, the stuff I have called 'Orchid Mix' is totally unsuitable. Use good quality orchid bark, it's most forgiving.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 11:27PM
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Hi Arthur, thanks for the reply! So it sounds like ideally, they would need to be misted and watered, is that correct?

I haven't checked any location data because they are indoors, residing on the dining room table. :o) They are in medium light and not in direct sun. We live in TX and they are exposed to air conditioning in the summer. I suppose that does dry things out a bit, so just based on that they might need more moisture.

Do you suppose they are salvageable, or are they pretty much goners once all the little roots have dried out?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 11:27PM
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Hi Orchidnick, here's what it says on the bag, and it sounds like what you are describing:

"Special orchid mix
It is a rich mixture of western fir bark, hardwood charcoal, and sponge rock to ensure healthy and long-lasting plants
It is a multi-purpose mixture that is appropriate for all epiphytic orchids
Provides your orchids with the drainage, air flow, and root ventilation they find and thrive on in nature
Should be used when re-potting your orchid, at least every 12-18 months or as needed to support healthy growth"

And I agree about it not working, it is bone dry and water just runs through it. I wonder if I should have soaked it before repotting them, though the instructions didn't say so.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 11:43PM
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A mixture of bark, char coal and sponge rock is OK. The bag I have has lots more in it and it is much more like soil compost.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 11:49PM
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westoh Z6

I'd suggest soaking the plants, pots and media in water for at least 1/2 hour to re-wet the bark mix. Generally when you repot an orchid, you need to soak the new bark mix in water overnight to get it re-wetted and ready to accept water before using it to repot.

It won't hurt the plants to let them sit in a bowl of water for a while, 1/2 to 2 hours shouldn't hurt.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 6:39AM
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Thanks Bob, am going to soak everything today. What do you guys think, Is there hope though all the little roots are dry, or are the plants likely not going to recover?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 10:58AM
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westoh Z6

Hard to tell without a pic, but if the roots turn green when wet, it should recover with proper care.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 11:56AM
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Follow Bobs instructions, right on. New bark needs to be soaked. I soak mine (even Orchiata) overnight before using. If you have some sphagnum moss, you can wet that and mix it in. Otherwise, just soak the mix.

As Bob said, sit the plant, in the pot in a bowl of water to rehydrate the roots. Unless you let the plant go dry for weeks, it should bounce back.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 12:05PM
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Thanks Bob and Jane, everything is soaking. Fingers crossed the plants recover.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 2:17PM
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They should recover. Phals living in an environment like yours will grow well in the bark, but you have to give it a deep soak at least once a week. The bark will absorb the water and keep things damp until the next time. Just pouring water over it isn't enough ... unless you hold it under running water for a while, to really wet the bark.

Don't be afraid to mist them now and again, too.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 4:20PM
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