Phals roots keep rotting!

klyde(8)December 26, 2011

New to posting in orchids, so hello everyone :)

I have a small phal who's roots keep rotting.

It's a very small plant, with purplish-green leaves and the smallest lavender flowers. Not a flashy plant, but the loveliest scent imaginable, and I've had plenty of phals (scented and not).

It was planted in a 2-inch pot with moss when I bought it, and the roots were not in great shape. I repotted in a very slightly larger pot with fresh sphagnum moss. I don't overwater at all, but when fresh roots grow, they don't get very big before they start to rot. The plant has sent up a couple of leaves (in a year), so has not grown particularly well. It has not bloomed for me. What might I be doing wrong with the little sweetie?

Kelly in Victoria

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Some more information would help. Where are you located? What is your light conditions? How often are you watering?

Sounds like you could be keeping your phal too wet, possibily underlit and possibly too cool. Making a few leaves in a year is a good thing. That's about all a Phal should do. Making new roots is also good. Not sure what you mean about the roots rotting.

Do you have a pic? If your plant is making leaves and roots it doesn't sound like you have a problem.

Try to post a photo of the roots.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 12:29AM
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Computer challenged with photos, so not possible for right now. I'll try to describe.

There are about 6 roots, but grow to 1.5 to 2 inches long, then the rot starts. They get quite shrivelled and mushy beyond the initial couple of inches. I have the plant in sphagnum from New Zealand, in a 3 inch pot. I didn't pack the moss in tightly, and water when the moss is almost dry (occasionally it is dry). I do keep my house cool at night and it is quite dull for us at this time of year (Pacific Northwest).

I've taken it out of the plastic pot, trimmed off the mushy bits and rinsed off all of the old moss. I dunked the roots in hydrogen peroxide, and dried off. Used a cotton swab to dab rooting hormone on the areas, and put in a shallow terra cotta pot (very small now) with new moss that is only very slightly damp. Then I put it on a heating mat in a West window. I have a wee bit of cinnamon on the growing point as the last leaf that came out looked suspicious to me, and grew out with some deformations (mind you, I did summer the plant outside and it is possible a slug nipped at it). No cinnamon on the roots.
What have I missed :)

Kelly in Victoria

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 8:36PM
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I like to use for my photos. It's free and they make it very easy to post. Just click the "html code" field under your picture and it automatically is copied. All you have to do is push "ctrl + v" to paste the code into your post and viola, you have a pic!

Sorry if I told you stuff you already know. Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 10:55AM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

You need to give the members here more info. For example what is the usual daily range of temperature in your house? What is the weather like in Victoria in the middle of winter. Cold and sunny outside or cold, damp and miserable. I was there ages ago (in summer, nice)

Does the plant have a name tag? Small scented flowers suggest maybe Phal. violacea/bellina though the rest of the description doesn't tally.

There is a complete set of Phalaenopsis notes put out by the Canadian Orchid Congress that may help. Just google them to find.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 1:19PM
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Thanks crazytbone. I'll give it a go. I did sign up a few months back, just never figured it out :)

Neither voilacea or bellina. Not a species or prime. Just a cute little orchid from Safeway that I've come to care about.

Cold and sunny outside in winter in the PNW? Too funny. Think Seattle for those who know nothing of Canada...

Thanks anyway,
Kelly in Victoria

    Bookmark   December 29, 2011 at 3:30PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Why are you being snooty about my little comment? Most people think it rains all the time in the PNW. Must have been lucky in the whole two weeks of my life spent in those parts when it didn't rain all that much.

Anyway, from my not great experience with Phals it is a waste of time fiddling with them if they are unhappy, they just sulk. Give them great conditions and they thrive.
My diagnosis from the limited data available is too damp, not enough warmth and not enough light.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 4:46PM
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Rot means stagnation. I am wondering if your pots have slits on the sides? Air is key and Phals love lots of air circulating around their roots.

Since your Phals don't seem to be liking the moss, try switching them over to bark chips - root rot is a serious problem that can kill your plant, so do strongly consider replacing your medium even though it's not the right time of year.

Bleach the pot to kill fungus spores, virus and bacteria, rinse well and allow to dry before putting new medium in. If your pot doesn't have slits, you should put a few around the sides and make sure the air holes at the bottom are large. Air circulation for Phals is priority numero uno.

I also keep my house very cool at night - only 14 degrees celsius! As long as the daytime temp is around 20 degrees Celsius, Phal's don't mind the temperature cycle.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 5:38PM
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Phals also love an east sunny window (at least mine do - they get 3-6 hours of morning sun every day). You live in a higher humidity zone, so it might also help to keep a gentle fan on to circulate the air.

In the natural tropics the nearly daily weather cycle is: wind (air flow), buckets of rain and some sunshine - so try to mimic these conditions, although a Phal in Canada won't need rain every day. When you water, use distilled or rain collected water (they're really sensitive to dissolved minerals and any sodium/salts will kill them) and flow plenty on it to allow time for the roots to draw some up...then allow to drain thoroughly, stick back in your east sunny window and provide a weak fan for "wind" circulation. Mine love this sort of treatment and are currently blooming like crazy.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 6:34PM
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Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I think I will do as suggested and repot with bark. I just have not had great success with that darn moss.

My little plastic pot did not have the slits, and I ended up drilling a bunch of holes in the sides of the pot to increase air flow. I then ended up taking it out of the plastic pot when I probably should have considered just switching the moss to chips (and some of the other things suggested). We don't have the pots with holes up the sides (they call them azalea pots here) available in the small sizes, but a crap load of drill holes solved that problem :)

Okey, dokey. Off tomorrow to find me some bark mix. Lot of fuss for a phal I know, but it is really a sweet little thing. Small, narrow leaves and light lavender flowers about the size of one of the miniature african violets. A strong and very lovely scent. Nicer than violacea IMO.

Thanks again everyone. Lots of helpful info...

Kelly in the PNW

    Bookmark   December 30, 2011 at 8:56PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I received an Orchid (my first) from my grandfather, and it was packed in sphagnum moss.
I didn't want to offend him by immediately yanking it out of the pot and tossing the moss,
but after two weeks without drying, I could see that the roots becoming shriveled and grey;
so I removed all the moss and soft roots and re-potted in a mix of bark, perlite, and pumice.
Since then, my orchid has grown two new leaves...and is now producing its first spike!

My conditions: east-window, dry house (20 percent humidity), and frequent watering
(every 3 - 5 days or so).


    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 3:50PM
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That's it then. Moss is a goner. Always wondered - it just seemed too good to be true. Being in the PNW, it doesn't always dry out all that fast. That and the cool conditions are likely causing most of the problem. Must work for the growers and their conditions somehow, which is why they come that way.

I'm tickled with the positive, helpful advice! :)

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 7:15PM
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