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Messages posted to thread:

Catherine02-Nov-04 11:12 AM EST
dm02-Nov-04 10:17 PM EST 3   
Catherine01-Dec-04 04:19 PM EST   
dm01-Dec-04 05:34 PM EST 3   
Catharine A13-Feb-05 09:56 AM EST 3   
dm13-Feb-05 03:43 PM EST 3   
Catharine A15-Feb-05 05:18 PM EST 3   
Dave20-Feb-05 08:17 AM EST 5a   

Subject: Orchids
From: Catherine
Date: 02-Nov-04 11:12 AM EST

I've just been given a Phalarnopsis Orchid, called 'Bright Light'. It is very beautiful and at the moment has 5 flowers with quite a few other buds. On the tag with it, it says to water once a week, but I find it is still wet after a week and so have waited until it's dryer. I need to know so much, such as ? Misting, ? Fertilizing, how it will adapt to the usual home conditions, temperature and humidity, particularly in winter. Any help would be appreciated as this is all very new to me. Thanks as always.

Subject: RE: Orchids
From: dm
Zone: 3
Date: 02-Nov-04 10:17 PM EST

Be careful. Growing orchids is addictive, especially once you realize how easy it can be. It's great that you want to give your plant the best home you can.

You're right to water when the plant needs it rather than on a regular schedule. Watering depends on the medium (some orchids are in bark, some in moss), and the growing conditions in your house (which can vary from season to season). Misting is virtually useless, and you NEVER want standing water in the crown--that would just set up conditions for rot (make sure there's no water there after giving the plant a drink, either). Instead, put the plant on a humidity tray.

I'm guilty of underfeeding my orchids because my plants tend to get too dry between waterings and it's not a good idea to fertilize a dry plant. Treat your orchid as you would other houseplants...less food when it's not actively growing (watch for the development of a new leaf in the crown.) Give your plant a weak solution--dilute the fertilizer to 1/2 or even 1/4 strength. Some growers in my orchid society swear by giving orchids a mixed diet (i.e. varying the brand and NKP ratio). I don't know if it makes a difference, but I don't see why it wouldn't. A higher K and P ratio, plus enough light (bright but not full sun) and a slight drop in temperature (easy to do if the plant is growing near a window), around the end of summer should trigger a rebloom.

While many Phals bloom in fall and winter, there are other varieties that can bloom at other times of the year. With blooming stems lasting up to 6 months, you could have orchids blooming year round just by getting a couple more plants!!

There is so much information available to you in the library and on the internet. Google "Phalaenopsis culture" or "growing Phalaenopsis", and you'll get lots of information. Try the American Orchid Society site as a beginning point. You'll need to repot into fresh bark or moss in a year or two, so it's wise to look up how to do it. It's not harder than repotting other tropicals into soilless mix...just different.

You'll be surprised how easily this particular species of orchid thrives in normal house conditions. I used to be an African Violet grower, until I discovered that many kinds of orchids are EASIER and LESS FUSSY to grow. But let's keep that a secret...we want people to think that growing orchids is very exotic!

Good luck with your new plant. And welcome to the world of orchids. If you become addicted, remember that I told you so.

Subject: RE: Orchids
From: Catherine
Date: 01-Dec-04 04:19 PM EST

Hopefully, my friend, dm, who replied last time, will see this and help again. My orchid is doing beautifully. It has had a total of 10 flowers. One or two of the blooms have now withered and dropped, but I am wondering what to do once all the blooms drop. Does the stem need to be cut back at all, or just left to rebloom at a later time? Will it rebloom on the same stem? Will the regime of fertilizing change when there are no blooms? How often do you give fertilizer? I do appreicate any help you can give.

Subject: RE: Orchids
From: dm
Zone: 3
Date: 01-Dec-04 05:34 PM EST

Hi, Catherine. I'm glad your orchid is doing well and that you're enjoying it.

Once the blooms are finished, you can leave the stem alone (as long as the leaves look healthy). Some people will say to cut the stem just above the second node to enduce reflowering. I haven't tried this...I have found that the stem can reflower from any of the nodes (sometimes 2 at a time, depending on the variety). Rebloom is not guaranteed, of course, but I don't cut the stem unless it turns brown. Phals need a long period of cool nights (60-55F) in order to bloom (easy to do if they're near a window). That applies whether you're trying to get a stem to rebloom or if you're trying to have the plant set another spike.

Don't leave a stem on the plant if the leaves are starting to look stressed. The plant needs to recuperate before being allowed to bloom again. One of my orchids bloomed for 3 1/2 years non-stop. I finally cut off the 2 blooming stems when I noticed that the leaves were turning a bit yellow. Believe it or not, some phals can bloom themselves to death!!

Orchids can be fed all year, especially when grown under artificial lights. I would cut down the frequency or amount in winter if you grow in natural light. Some people use one type of fertilizer to grow leaves and then switch to a bloom fertilizer to initiate flowering. I have found that most phals bloom so easily that you don't have to be too particular. If you're aiming for a spectacular flowering, you may want to do more thorough research into types of fertilizer, etc. My orchids get a little bit of epsom salts mixed with their food a couple of times a year. They also like the odd meal of seaweed fertilizer (some growers use this exclusively with good results).

You can feed each time you water, as long as you keep the solution very weak, and as long as you don't fertilize dry plants. Water well with plain water first, and then feed. Once a month, flush the plants with plain water to minimize the build-up of salts.

Last time, I said not to mist the plant...then I caught myself misting my own. I still think that misting plants doesn't do much good, especially in my very dry house, but there's something satisfying about misting the aerial roots of orchids. Maybe it's because they turn such a greatful green! I still caution you against getting water in the crown!

So...when are you buying your second plant?? ;-)

Subject: RE: Orchids
From: Catharine A
Zone: 3
Date: 13-Feb-05 09:56 AM EST

I bought an 'Phalaenopsis Orchid' last year and after it finished blooming it seems to be sick? The leaves are very green but wilted. I follow the growning instructions to a tee but nothing seems to help. Do I need to transplant the orchid,is it slowly dying? I don't know what to do.

Subject: RE: Orchids
From: dm
Zone: 3
Date: 13-Feb-05 03:43 PM EST

Hmmm. Could be the medium has started to break down and the roots are rotting. Transplanting into a fresh orchid medium (bark mix) is a great idea. You could first carefully lift the orchid out of the pot to check the medium and the roots. Healthy roots are white or light brown and are firm and thick. Rotting roots are squishy and dark. The medium should be firm and not crumbly. Have some fresh bark mix on hand in case the whole thing falls apart and you can't put it back in the pot! All organic media break down over time, and there's not telling how long ago your plant was transplanted, so that may be the answer to your problem. There's lots of info on the web showing how to transplant orchids, and there's lots of well-illustrated books in most public libraries. After putting the plant in new, moist mix, I'd temporarily put the plant into a terrarium or large plastic bag (not touching the leaves) so that the wilting leaves get hydrated and firm up again. Good luck!

Subject: RE: Orchids
From: Catharine A
Zone: 3
Date: 15-Feb-05 05:18 PM EST

I did what you suggested dm. The root are totally rotten. There are two very small roots left. Could I still save the plant if I transplant it into fresh mix and start again?

Subject: RE: Orchids
From: Dave
Zone: 5a
Date: 20-Feb-05 08:17 AM EST

As dm says, it should be replanted.(all flower spikes should be cut off) I had the same problem with on of my Phals. The difficulty is that humidity around the plant must be kept quite high (after repotting)until leaves become firm again and new roots have started. This can be accomplished by putting the fresh repotted plant in a clear plastic bag, in low light and the potting mix not too wet.The top of the bag can be left open just a little so it doesn't overheat. It will take a couple months for the leaves to firm up and new roots to start.The bag will create a mini greenhouse effect and the plant should stop going downhill. You still may loose a few bottom leaves after you replant and that is normal. It is best to replant in the spring when plants are in growth.When a plant is stressed like yours, repot right away.

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