Zone 5 phals spiking?

bradarmiNovember 5, 2008

Hello all. As I moved all the orchids inside and enjoying several blooms on dendrobium, catts, oncidium, and vandas; I can't help but wonder what's up with the phals? For some reason, I think I should have spikes on the 20+ phals that I have. For the rest of you in IL, IN, IA, are your phals doing anything??

This summer they were in a "summer house" (shed with windows and a spa) with extremely bright light (I used to keep all phals in the N window of my city apartment - since moved so the orchids are with my parents, much to their dismay). The orchids in the city bloomed from Thanksgiving to Easter more or less, and this year, after impressive growth, nothing. I have been pushing the light limits so to speak with all orchids the last year or two and the results are impressive, every orchid flowered, except the old standby phals (which bloom for me every year for the last 4 yeas around this time).

I am thinking that since my dendrobiums were off by 3 months this year (they always flowered in June/July, this year they are flowering now!). Every other orchid seems to be on its own schedule (especially some catts), but the phals were always so dependable - even though they had plenty nights where it was cool and the windows in the summerhouse (contains a spa - so it is also humid) were left open. Any ideas ??

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Ooops, forgot to say now they are in an attached sunroom (west exposure) but behind all the other orchids and furniture with an hour or two of direct light and the temp goes to 60-65F at night and up to about 72-74 on a sunny day. The warmest days have not seen over 80F either. But I remember +90F was the temperature at which flowering was inhibited. I felt the leaves on sunny days and they are still cool, so no over heating that I am aware of.

Fertilzer is every other watering in a diluted form, and once a month I flush with RO water. Most are planted in sphag, some in both sphag and bark, and a few in bark; water frequency is adjusted accordingly.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 9:29AM
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I am anxiously waiting for some spikes on my phals, too--and this year I will be sure to write the dates down!
I have one phal that has a bump that is very slowly getting larger--I'm pretty sure this will be a spike!
If memory serves me, my phals started spiking in late November, December last year--at any rate I still had flowers in August...

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 11:20AM
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I have maybe 5% of the winter/spring bloomers with spikes right now. The longest are about a foot or so, but most are just emerging. I don't expect to see the rest of the mature plants in spike for another month or two. I think the unusual weather this year may have coaxed some of these plants into spiking early.

I take digital photos and notes for the better looking seedling as they bloom. This way I can compare the quality of the flower from one year to the next and decide if I really want to keep the plant. I can also look at my notes and see when the plant bloomed. It is surprising how regular some of these guys have been.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 11:46AM
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rayne(z5 OH)

I meant to post a week or two ago. I have my first spike forming on one of my NOID phals. *Happy dance* It's about 3 inches or so now. I was so excited when I saw it, and I've been keeping a good eye on it, just to see how it grows. I also have another phal that bloomed, but strangely. It had two spikes with two buds on each. The one opened, but the other spike blasted. Now there is a new spike (offshoot?) growing off of the spike that blasted. Aren't plants neat?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 2:40PM
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I have eight large 'adult' Phals which are all spiking. They started in September. I have three basal keikies which are growing roots. I do not have any summer bloomers. Mine all flower in winter.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 10:06PM
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counselor4444(6A NJ)

I'm no expert (yet.. LOL) but everyone on here tells me it will still be primetime for phal spiking in the next few weeks. So, yours may just be slow. My phals are obviously also now all indoors and seem to be prospering... two have brand new spikes, and four have secondary spikes from pre-exiting spikes. Once I added supplemental lighting, they all took off (still truly amazing to me that I aided in this!).

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 7:43AM
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I watered a few this morning, an lo and behold, one has a spike!! I guess they heard me when I asked them if they were interested in flowering this year, or are they going to sulk like the odontoglossum that earned a spot in the compost pile (first healthy orchid I actually threw out!). In any case,I believe some plants are just like people, they will do what they want when they are ready.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 1:25PM
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Hi ,
I am in Mo. most of mine are in spike, some low some tall
What is odd some of the Catts. are off schedule blooming earlier then in years past,also the Vandas are in over drive . .. Congrats. on your spike .. Gin

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 4:09PM
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zzyzzyx(Lower MI)

I'm in a small spot of Z6 in MI, but most of the lower peninsula is Z5. I have 6 phals in spike right now, and one catt, one onc. (already in bloom), and one epi. all in spike. I didn't do anything differently. All in an east/south tilted window plus supplemental lighting, throw&grow at 17-17-17 and a 7-9 day watering schedule in 65-72% humidity. The house gets down to about 62 degrees F at night.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 6:25PM
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Hi, since your posted this you may have begun to see spikes. I'm in Chicago and began to see spikes on some of my Phals about 2 wks ago.They're usually in bloom between Nov.-Jan. I have had NO LUCK with dend, onc, and have just added some mini-catts that I've previously not had luck with. I'm curious to know your trick. The phals do fine in my living room, though it is bright. Please email me at

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 7:27PM
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Derek, I tried to email you, but the server for my email was out so I posted here.

Once I had luck with the oncidiums and dendrobiums, I was hooked, so be careful. In Chicago land, my oncidiums, dendrobiums, and catts go outside intermitently (few hours here and there) in April, and permanently out in late May. They get dappled sun under a tree (I hang them in all our large trees and shrubs). I bring them inside in late September/October, but have been known to run a couple outside for a few hours for a nice rainstorm after this. I leave my cymbidium outside as long as possible, for weeks bringing it in the garage at night (I just brought it indoors yesterday, with 3 spikes). I have never successfully grown any orchid other than phals and paphs without summering them outside. I never have to worry about humidity, or light, and unless we have a drought - water. Your dends might look better than mine with shiny nice leaves - but even though mine looked like they survived a bomb (squirrels, birds, sunburned leaf) I don't care since I usually look at the flowers. I noticed that after I stopped babying them, they bloomed larger and more frequent.

My advice is keep you phals the way you are and experiment with a dendrobium or oncidium you are not attached to (a common one), and see what happens. Last year I grew one dendrobium in almost all sun, and the flowers are huge. I also fertilize with orchid food every other watering and water them with pond water (koi pond) in between, it seems to help. It is almost impossible to duplicate tropical weather, but our summers are close. Place tehm outdoors in a east exposure (or north) for a while and slowly move them more south or west to get more sun a the summer progresses.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 1:51PM
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I put most of my plants outdoors during summer, Phals included. Most begin to spike while still outside. When the nights get cold, I bring them in but will put them out in the daytime if warm. Winter in NY is long and cold. They go in a bright room with W. exposure. Some I finish under lights, CFL's in a warm room. I keep my house cool and I have lost a few Phals over winter to rot due to the cool temps. Most winter Dens begin to spike outdoors in summer and continue either in a SW window or under CFL's.

This year I moved most plants out into a sun-room with a space heater. As winter progresses, it will most likely become too cool for the Phals and some Catts. It was in the 20's this past week.

This is a photo in the sun-room taken tonight. Phals are all in spike(never got around to staking them), which started in Sept/Oct. They have been in window light, no artificial light.

These are a few Phals under CFL's in a warmer room. They will get moved out to the windows when further along. The spikes go toward the lights. You can train the spikes with the lights to grow straight up.

This is a shot of the other end of the sunroom where I have my higher light plants. I add a few CFL's to extend the hours of light. There are spiking Dens and Catts. This section gets full sun (east, south & west) with some skylights above.

With good light from windows and some supplemental CFL's you can get growth and flowers. Without window light, you need to get stronger artificial lights.


    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 12:21AM
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I have 3 phals and 1 has flowers 1 has lost all the flowers already and the last is growing several new leaves. I live in IA. They are acting strange for me as well! Weird...

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 10:51AM
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I have one Phal that my mom gave me as a rehab project last winter after it have exhausted its blooms. It sat all winter, spring, summer, and fall putting on new growth and shooting four or five new roots. Went to water this AM and notices the tiny flower spike! This will (hopefully) be my first orchid to bloom.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 12:14PM
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whitecat8(z4 MN)

Hi Brad!

My aging OS and GWeb haven't been in sync. Hopefully this belated message will post.

Congrats on your basement conversion. Sounds like you've got some happy orchids, and the place looks beautiful.

Your Phals may be spiking like crazy by now, but to clarify - the Phals you were posting about had been in the spa house during the summer and have since been in the West-facing sunroom w/ an hour or two of direct light a day?

If they've had the same schedule the last few years, that 's one thing. If they moved this year (sounds like it), the move could have thrown them off, including changes in their temp range.

Minneapolis is in Zones 4 and 5. Eleven of my 18 Phals are spiking or in bloom. Just checked - none went into spike in Sept., but 2 did in late Aug.; the rest between early Oct. and mid-Nov. Hmmm - five of the nine that spiked after August started between Oct. 12-24.

The huge variable here is a few months ago, I replaced the 2 T8s in the 4' long shop light fixture w/ three 42W spiral CFLs in 3 brooder fixtures. (Natural light is a 4'x 4' E/SE window) Whoa!! Phals that haven't spiked in the 3 or 4 years they've been here are spiking. Two Phals have 2 spikes each!!!

One other thought - because the sun's so weak this time of year in our zone, could your Phals perhaps benefit from more Western direct light, esp. cuz you were pushing light earlier?

Regardless, here's hoping they've sorted themselves out by now.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 5:43AM
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Hmmm. Riddle me this: Out of 7 phals, 5 are spiking--violently! 2 or 3 spikes on each, some spiking off old spikes...all have been blooming on and off since May.

The Paphs are all blooming too, one or two at a time since August...

They're all in a sunroom, but sheltered from direct light; orchid food once a month along with Super thrive. I never flush them or put them outside.

Maybe it's our water?

I've always wondered how the plants would know what season it is since their growing conditions never change much--somewhat warmer in the summer, sure, but the temp is basically in the same range, and in the winter the lights are on in the greenhouse, so the short days aren't an issue.

So the phals, oncs, paphs, miltassias, dens, and catts all bloom year round whenever.

But! I can't get my cyms to bloom. Ever. Aargh.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 10:56PM
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highjack(z6 KY)

You may not know what the trigger is, but the plants do.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 6:24AM
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Whitecat8- Been busy trying to get my dissertation written, so I havent been keeping up with the posts either.

Thanks for the comments on the basement set-up. I plan on taking pics and posting while we build the permanent structure this winter/spring. I have a lot of practical ideas (some from ideas here, other from experience I cannot wait to share/implement).

Its been busy this year: marriage, new house, landscapping the yard, graduation, new job, and trying to get the orchids taken care of. I think between it all they received a certain amount of neglect - which stimulated blooming. I cannot remember how many times they were fertilized this summer, I may not have even done it more than three times?? I do know one thing: I unnecessarily pampered most of them. Before I used to measure the fertilizer and check to make sure water didnt end up in the apex of the phals, etc. Now I just turn the water on and soak everything.

Elvis, my cymbidium is spiking, I leave it outside until its almost frozen (I loose leaves every year - but so what). I actually went to fish the new divisions I made from the backyard and post to see if anyone wanted them - but they uhm...died. I still have one huge one (4 feet wide that will get divided with an axe in a few years).

Right now, I have a few winter cattleyas, a dendrobium (since September!), 2 vandas, 5-6 phals, a Tolumnia, and Oncidium Sharry Baby flowering.

Also jamed under the lights are some epi cuttings (kind gift from another Garden web memeber)growing dangerously quick and some amaryllis bulbs that will flower the week before and 4 weeks after Christmas no mater what because they are just a pain but I like them.

I am so sold on the indoor lights though, I will never keep orchids near a window again. I never liked the idea of a "grow room" but now I just bring blooming orchids upstairs to enjoy - the only problem is everything is blooming!

take care all - merry christmas and happy holidays.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 6:57PM
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Hi bradarmi, your point about bringing blooming plants upstairs was something I'm curious about. I had heard that you shouldn't move phals until all of the blooms had opened, otherwise they'll open in all random directions. Has this been true in your experience?

Also, are the plants okay with lower light when you bring them upstairs temporarily? How long are they away from the grow lights from?

Thanks! Ateles

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 1:53PM
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I move plants from wherever they are growing to a space where the blooms can be enjoyed by us no mater what. If the plants are growing outdoors, under lights, a sunny window etc. once they start blooming (ie flower buds open) they go into the dining room, foyer, master bathroom etc. The lower light is fine for a few weeks, its not going to kill the plant, especially since after its blooming, it gets returned to the original growing area immediately.

I do wait a while until bringing the phals in particular to a darker (less suitable for growing, but more suitable for viewing) location - the buds sometimes do distort - but not that bad, I try to face the stem in the same direction it was growing (usually towards the light source) once it is moved. Don't worry about it and enjoy all your hard work.

All being said, I found that when you move orchids (and other blooming plants) out of direct sun, the flowers last longer. So it actually extends the life of the flower (slightly) by keeping it somewhat in subdued lighting. I also keep them away from heat sources if possible since it tends to dry them out.

(For example - we have a dendrobium that is to tall - 3 feet total with flower stalks, that it only fits on a foyer table which has a heat source near it. I just water more frequently and close the heat source 50% to keep it from drying out).

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 11:31AM
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donaldb(5B Worcester, MA)

Sounds like your phals get taken care the same as I do here in Massachusetts. All of mine are either in bud or blooming and will find themselves in different rooms to be enjoyed by all. Last year at this time only a couple had spikes and this year it's just the opposite. They have a mind of their own.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 12:27PM
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