Do not throw out dead orchids

tropichrisOctober 26, 2008

I had a dendrobium orchid that lost all of its flowers and leaves. I almost threw it out a month later,thinking it was dead, but then I thoroughly inspected it and found two extremely small green babies sprouting out of it's base(they are almost too small to see!)So, the moral of the story is: there is still hope for "dead" orchids! :) :) :)

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richardol(Santa Royale CA)

You're right about that. Unless an orchid is COMPLETELY brown, it can make a comeback. I encourage everyone to practice on one or two of these "dead" orchids. The satisfaction of taking one of these wounded plants back to blooming is wonderful.

It is also an inexpensive way to expand your collection for those on a tight budget and lots of time.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 4:07PM
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Thanks. Also, I have it mounted on to driftwood, so it is even more rewarding.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 7:25PM
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Other side of the coin?

I have almost infinite patience, but personally I don't like waiting for rehabs. There really is a fabulous satisfaction in rehabing a plant, but unless its a rare, expensive, or otherwise irreplaceable plant, my feelings are much more satisfied by buying a new plant. They ARE plants after all, not children. Rehabing can be a messy and frustrating practice, and I grow plants to calm down, not frustrate myself :) Not to mention expensive, depending on the lengths you go to bring them back. Around my place, half dead or otherwise nonperforming plants whose presence in my life don't excite me get chucked.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 10:16PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

One lady i know has a section of her collection called Hospital Corner. I'm sure that the undertakers are not far away for most plants there.

Apart from the chronically ill there are those plants that are unsuited by my conditions or are just poor growers.

Best to get rid of those by putting them on the sales table so they do not clutter up valuable growing space.

I'm not saying that you should not try to cure sick orchids. In fact my wife has found a couple of marked down phals at Florists that just need a bit of TLC.
But they were just in need of a doctors visit compared with a rootless horror that an orchid society member gave me to revive. How do you tell people that they should just throw those plants in the bin?

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 1:10AM
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richardol(Santa Royale CA)

I don't advocate saving every plant you run across, but it is an important skill. We all have plants we like have setbacks from time to time and we get offered a piece of a nice plant that is not itself in good condition.

If we have practiced on a couple of plants that would not be a great loss if they didn't make it, then when the opportunity for a great addition to our collection comes our way, we can take it with confidence.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 6:02AM
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savtaj(Z 9-10 (Israel))

Bravo Richard!
As usual, your comments are balanced, logical, constructive and encouraging. Not all of the contributors to this forum are growing orchids in order to win prizes in competitions. There's a lot of fun in experimenting with different growing procedures, just for the sake of gaining experience and rising to the challenge. And when one does succeed in reviving an almost hopeless case, what a sense of achievement!
Oh, Arthur - I hope you were nice to that lady and didn't give her the complete brush-off. She was probably a newbie, like a lot of us, and didn't realise how many times you had been approached with similar requests in the past, and what a bore it would be for you to answer her cry of distress. I would like to think you took the plant home and nursed it back to health (grumbling all the time lol).

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 7:36AM
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orchidguyftl(z11 FTL FL)

Same can be said for flower spikes
Never cut them off until they are completely brown, dry and shrivelled
Especially species, some will continue to bloom off the old spikes, sometimes even years afterwards

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 12:10PM
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I'm guilty of fooling around with pieces and back bulbs. It is fun to see roots form from a 'bit of nothing.' Then I get bored with it and usually get rid of them. They require too much attention and take too long to flower. Dens are so easy to root but take forever to reach blooming size.

I just don't have the time, energy or space anymore.

But, it is educational and rewarding,


    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 10:00PM
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Sounds like the natural cycle for many dends. Many loose their flowers and leaves every year, go dormant and then start new growth.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 10:18PM
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Glad I stumbled onto this forum. I posted to another forum but think this one might give me better answers. A rat, I think, dug up my beautiful Cymbidium that I have on the front porch in a pot. It ate most of the roots(?) leaving just a few stubs. Rats have eaten all of my succulents and even my primroses down to the ground. Never had this happen before. Is there any hope of saving this poor thing? Thanks for any ideas.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 2:36AM
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orchidguyftl(z11 FTL FL)

yeah, back bulbs are a great way of increasing your collection.
Make sure they are from parts of plants that have bloomed before and are mature. Matured backbulbs have the hormones contained that made the plant bloom, and starting with a backbuld of this age will decrease the time needed to flower again. Most of the backbulb plants that I start up bloom the following year. If, however, you use the immature backbulbs that had never flowered, they do not contain any of the hormones of maturity and can make your new plant take a lot longer to get to bloom. Even if you use a mature backbulb, you need to grow the new plant in an otpimal growing condition for it to mature faster.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 12:46PM
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As an avid gardener and novice orchid grower, the experience of bringing a plant from death's door to a healthy, green growing plant is invaluable... it teaches patience, among other things, which is a necessary ingredient when delving into the world of plants.

While not all of my experiments have made it through the recovery process, the ones that have give me great satisfaction! I'm in the process of losing a Coelogyne backbulb, but have managed to grow a lovely Dendrobium from a tiny piece. It's a learning experience for me, and the knowledge gained will help me in future endeavors.

For some, it's not worth the time or effort, or takes up space that could otherwise hold new or blooming plants... but for me, it's a great tool to add to my gardening experience as a whole. I have limited space, and a limited budget, so I won't be tossing and replacing plants... I'll be putting my knowledge to work and will end up with a nice collection at a price I can afford, and a lot of satisfaction.

I recommend trying to save a few not-so-lovely orchids or backbulbs if you have the space, time and inclination... and I recommend using Richard's website as a guide... wonderful information for the novice and experienced, alike!

Here is a link that might be useful: Backbulbs

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 11:13AM
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richardol(Santa Royale CA)

Oh noes! Not the Coelogyne :-O What do you think is happening with it?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 11:25AM
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highjack(z6 KY)

I think she sphag and bagged it too much.

I need to do updated pics of my Coel. rescue you sent Richard. The two tiny old pbulbs I broke off now has two fat pbulbs. The main plant which only had one pbulb with leaves has now produced two new pbulbs and one spike.


Here is a link that might be useful: sphag & bag

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 7:28PM
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bolero(VIC Aust z9)

Is it possible the Dendrobium was a deciduous type that normally loses leaves and flowers anyway?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 2:53AM
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Yes, its possible. The dendrobium was a miniature orchid that I was going 2 put in a terrarium, but it was a little too big. So I mounted it on driftwood with spag ang rubber bands.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 10:35AM
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Actually, I removed it from the bag, moved it into indirect light, and while keeping some sphagnum moss wrapped loosely around the base, I propped it in a pot with orchid bark. I've kept it moist, but not too wet, and misted frequently... I think my environment and conditions are simply not up to par for certain orchid types.

The air in my space is very dry, and the heating unit is propane. Being a small second story apartment, and having the AC and heating units we have, it's very tricky to keep a constant temperature.

It's ok, though... it's a great learning experience, and has taught me many things. It's not the first plant I've ever killed, and it won't be the last. Without greenhouse conditions, which I just can't duplicate indoors, I'm afraid some types of orchids simply aren't going to perform.

So far, Cymbidiums and Epidendrums seem to do best, with Dendrobiums following close behind. Phals don't seem to like it here, although I do have a young species type that is thriving. Encyclias seem to like it ok, and the one Oncidium I have is alive and green. The Paph I have is doing fine, as well. There is new growth on many of my orchids, the Cyms with the most new growth.

Without perfect orchid conditions, I do the best I can... actually, I'm very surprised that so many of my orchids are doing as well as they are!

Losing one backbulb is not the end of the world... I'll learn from it, and move forward. I'm just very appreciative to have had the opportunity to try growing it! Thanks, Richard... I'm glad that your generosity allowed me to learn something new!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 11:26AM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

This thread has wandered onto propagation which is vastly different to trying to revive those sick plants that just linger on and on.

Judy, the lady with Hospital Corner has been growing orchids for yonks. She is not a Novice grower.
The Horror Phal. belongs to another (Novice) grower and it is sitting repotted on my kitchen windowsill. Prognosis grim. The problem was caused by someone trying to make a quick dollar by on-selling phals just plonked into a large decorative pot.The root ball just left intact and the evidence covered by perlite. Result = all roots and the base of the plant rotted.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 6:40PM
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That's exactly what happened to the very first Phal I bought... it was in what looked like regular orchid bark, but upon closer inspection, after having brought it home unfortunately, I found that there was only an inch or so of bark... below that was soggy potting soil and a mess of rotted roots.

I tried to save it, but it was too late. It turned out to be two small Phals potted together. Both pieces died a slow, agonizing death, losing one leaf after another until there was nothing left to save.

Lesson learned? Check medium and roots BEFORE purchasing plants! Tip the root ball out of the pot if you must, but make sure the roots are healthy!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 8:12PM
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savtaj(Z 9-10 (Israel))

Arthur, I KNEW IT! You're a softie at heart! I'm curious to know your salvage plan (moisture/light/root -enhancing material)and how long you'll give it until you throw in the towel.
Jodi, I'm impressed. A "failure" with your first orchid (but not your fault!) and you still battled on. I don't think I would have become "addicted" so soon if I wasn't exceptionally lucky with my first orchid - which is still surviving, in spite of all!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 7:10AM
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Well, you win some, you lose some... and when Mother Nature is part of the equation, you don't always get to control what happens.

I guess I don't look at it as a failure, but more as a lesson to learn... a piece of knowledge to be added to what I already know. Once you put all of the pieces together, the puzzle begins to take shape, and you can see what you're doing wrong, or what you're not doing that you should be, etc...

I love plants and gardening too much to let one or two dead plants deter me from trying again! I'll get it right... eventually! :-)

And in the meantime, those puzzle pieces keep adding up, growing my knowledge base.

Never say never! With gardening, many things are possible!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 10:21AM
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I do not know anything about gowing orchids and now I am freaking out because my beautiful mini phalaenopsis is dying! It was a gift from someone I love and do not want it to die. It was blooming and beautiful, in less than a month it had two new flowers and three on the way and in 2 days (LITERALLY) it just dried up and died. I want to revive it, please what do I do?

I live in FL. I keep it in my office, where the temperature is always in the lows 70's. I did not do anything different to it at all. I was watering it every 3 days or so and it was fine. I watered it on Friday and when I came back to work on Monday it was looking mighty bad. I watered it again, but's not coming back to life.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 8:22PM
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  1. ORchids like most plants go throughh a rets period when nothing much happens.Of the owner can be excused for fhinking they are dead or.dying but they arent.They are merely taking a rest.for many it takes twelve months to produce these unique blooms that are kings of the greenhouse.Many may bloom only a few times in ones life time when everything come together to allow this ofen poor scruffy looking plant to produce such regal beauty for a month or so.When it happens it is worth waiting for.Cymbidium's for example love nothing better than to be placed under a shady tree to rest and nuild up for the next season.They need no pampering etc; to produce their yearly splendour.
  2. It in my hospital corner that I learnt to be a green thumb .It is from mistakes and.disasters that I learnt how to keep plants healthy and to propigate them.Success no matter how small or large is to be had with equal enthusiasim.
1 Like    Bookmark   March 13, 2015 at 2:59AM
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From greenthumb dragon,

What I forgot to mention is many of the orchids have similar needs ie;flowering in a damp.period and.resting during a dry period.They love course porous leafy mixture for the tree growers or epiphytes to course loamy mix forr many of the terrestrial.ground dwellers.But.most hate water logging and overattention.I find they generally.have similar needs as ferns but are.easier to grow.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2015 at 3:22AM
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