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rainbowgardener
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now what -- orchid question

I was gifted with an orchid this spring. I've never had one, because they are expensive and have a reputation for being fussy.

This one had a beautiful flower on it when I got it. After awhile the flower spike died. At first I thought that meant the plant died, but I realized that the plant was still growing.

It is in a very small cache pot. Inside the pot is a little plastic cup, about 2 ounce size. There is no soil in the cup, just roots. All I have done for the plant since I have had it is lift the plastic cup out, run water through it until everything is wet, let it drain a few seconds and put it back in the pot. The cup is now full of roots which are starting to grow out the bottom and top. The leaves have been growing, not new leaves, but the existing ones getting a lot bigger. It is sitting on an east facing window, which looks out on to covered front porch, so no direct sunshine, but plenty of morning light.

What should I do now? Bigger cup? Give it some kind of growing medium? Fertilize? You understand my usual growing style, I don't use any fertilizer, so I'm pretty much at a loss when it comes to things that need it..... :shock:

Actually I'm surprised the poor thing is still alive!
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applestar
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Re: now what -- orchid question

Ah ha! You might want to look in this thread. Unfortunately SPierce's photos were on Photobucket so no longer viewable, but imafan posted lots of great details. Hopefully she will also visit this thread and give you individualized response. :wink:

Subject: Orchid Care: Do I need to repot? What about wrapped roots?
applestar wrote:FWIW -- this is how I'm potting mine -- two are in clear orchid pots slipped inside clay pots and two are in top half of 2 L soda bottle with a flap cut out of one side and standing inside clay pots. It's a combination that seem to work best for me to avoid drying out too much as well as drowning.

I like that I don't have to worry about water in the tray -- in fact I usually keep the drip tray flooded with 1/2 or so of water to add humidity while they are in the dry indoor climate for the cold months. I remove the drip tray when they are outside.

All four of them seem happy enough. You can see the one on the right has grown out of the bottle top and I'm going to have to cut that bottle open to get it off. The aerial roots get stuck onto the clay pot but so far, I've been able to get them to let go....

Image
Unfortunately this photo seems to be one of the ones the full size file was lost in the server transfer, but the in-line size might be enough. If not, I'll go outside and take some pics -- during the warmer months, I keep my orchids on the picnic table bench under the mulberry tree -- full shade except morning rising sun direct through the trees and then dappled through the thick canopy. (It might get too hot during the hottest months where you are though.) This location is good because the birds feed on the mulberries and well, you know... and then I water with water from a 10 gal bucket -- resident goldfish and minnow -- sitting under the corner of the picnic table which is ever so slightly not level so water from the table surface runs off the corner of it. When they are inside, they are watered with the usual diluted leftover beverage mix, maybe eggshells and UCG, tea leaves, etc.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

imafan26
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Re: now what -- orchid question

Orchids are the largest genera of plants in the world especially if you include the man-made hybrids. They come from every continent except Antarctica and have adapted to multiple habitats. Most are epiphytes, lithophytes or terrestrial. They naturally live on trees, rocks, well drained soil, on top of bogs and there is even an orchid that dwells underground in a cave. The one place that is very unnatural for them to be is confined in a pot. People like to put them in pots, they would rather be hanging out under a tree.

Orchids don't need to have soil but the best for phalaenopsis are orchid bark or NZ long fibered sphagnum moss. The most popular orchid bark is orchiata which breaks down slower than fir bark. Orchids can also be mounted on wood or in baskets which actually is better since it mimics its natural habitat and there is less chance of root rot which is what kills most orchids.
No media in the pot is the other way to go. Avoid the glazed ceramic orchid pots. They are good as display pots but the built in saucer will rot roots if you leave standing water in it. It is ok to use if you use an inner pot and do not water the plant with the cachepot.

Orchids like to be tight or they won't bloom well. Phalaenopsis and most orchids should be repotted when the media starts to breakdown every 2 years. For big plants you want to use medium bark and large bark. Seedlings and mini orchids should be planted in small bark or Sphagnum moss. Orchids should be planted high usually with the top roots just at the surface. Orchids can be tied to the pot or a stake like bonsai to keep it from falling out until the roots grab hold.

To repot your orchid, soak the plant in a bucket of water for about 10 minutes until the roots get softer and easier to work. Gently remove the pot and examine the roots. With a very clean sharp pruner. We actually flame the blade with a torch to sterilize it, and use gloves working with one orchid at a time to prevent spread of diseases from plant to plant. Working on a table with newspaper makes clean up easier. Cut any soft, dead or damaged roots. We dip in a fungicide but you can also sprinkle cinnamon on the roots as it is a natural fungicide.

Choose a clean pot, orchid pots for phalaenopsis are usually clear with slit on the side as well as the holes in the bottom.because phalaenopsis are actually able to photosynthesis through their roots. (Also why I am guessing your orchid is a Phal). Other orchid pot choices are wood baskets, wood mounts, plastic baskets, terra cotta (azalea pot are shallower), or hydroponic pots. You can use a regular green nursery pot, just use a soldering iron and make holes all over the sides of the pot and the bottom. Wear a mask and do it in a well vented space. Plastic fumes are toxic. Select a pot that you can just barely get the roots to fit in the pot and shallow is better. You could even put it back in the same size pot.

Orchid pots are chosen based on the size of the root mass not the size of the plant. Phals produce support roots that hold on to media or the pot itself and aerial roots to gather nutrients and do photosynthesis. The aerial roots should be allowed to hang out of the pot. It looks messier, but the plant will be happier You can can tie or stake an orchid to the pot to keep it stable. Put it back where it was growing indoors. Outdoors, it grows in 70% shade (under shadecloth, phylon or on trees). Do not water for one week. The soak it got to soften the roots should be enough. You could have added some water soluble fertilizer to the water when you soaked it to feed it. The dry period gives the damaged orchid roots and parts that were cut away a chance to heal.

Orchids grow at different rates and some will go dormant during certain times of the year, usually in winter. That is why winter blooming orchids are more expensive and the varieties are limited. In general orchids that are deciduous should not be fertilized when they are dormant. Phalaenopsis main bloom season is February -June. Doritinopsis will bloom after that through the fall. I am guessing by what you said, you have a spring bloomer.

Most orchids should be fed throughout the growing season. From the time keiki or new leaves appear until a couple of months before they are to bloom. It is better to feed a phal or vanda that has exposed roots with a water soluble fertilizer like the Michigan formula . You can use a balanced orchid fertilizer like MG for acid loving plants or Peters (1/2 strength weakly weekly) while the plant is actively growing. Switch to a Michigan formula around September to promote blooming. 13-3-15 for rainwater or RO water. There is a different formula for well water (it is based on the very alkaline water in Michigan). Old timers used to use the old fashioned tobacco bags and fill it with chicken manure and tie it to the orchids so it would get manure tea every time the orchid was watered.

Healthy roots should immediately turn greener when it is watered. As the roots dry they become paler. Roots that are brown, don't change color, or are soft are dying. Usually from over watering and decayed media. Peters makes a bloom food and a growth food, so does miracle grow. It is important to know when to use them. If you do both the orchid will get confused and try to grow and bloom at the same time (Duh, did that). The bloom formula usually has a lower nitrogen than the growth formula. Michigan researchers were doing a study on phosphorus and blooming and found out it was not phosphorus itself that promoted blooms but the relative lack of nitrogen. Swtich back to growth formula as soon as you see the new leaves starting to come out. If you repot or the fertilizer schedule was off the plant may not bloom the next year.

If you want a second bloom of smaller flowers you can cut the spike just above and unbloomed node and it will rebloom, however, the price will be smaller blooms the next year. When blooming is done cut the spike back to the base. Phalaenopsis are sympodial growers so they grow upwards instead of sympodial or sideways. They may need staking as they grow, they will produce aerial prop roots. Older leaves turn yellow. New leaves will come from the crown. It is important not to have standing water by the roots (since this is an epiphytic orchid) and especially to make sure the crown does not have water. On a tree phalaenopsis usually like to be sideways or upside down on a branch.

https://www.amazon.com/13-3-15-8Ca-2Mg- ... rchid+food
http://www.aos.org/orchids/additional-r ... art-4.aspx
https://www.amazon.com/Wooden-Square-Ba ... hid+basket
https://www.amazon.com/Orchiata-Zealand ... hiata+bark
https://www.amazon.com/4-5-ounces-Zeala ... agnum+moss
http://www.aos.org/orchids/culture-shee ... opsis.aspx
http://www.phalaenopsiscare.net/Repotti ... _Care.html
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: now what -- orchid question

Thanks so much for all the good information!

Sounds like I'm doing pretty ok, except for needing to fertilize. They are in a clear plastic pot. I run water through the pot and then let it drain before I put it back in the cache pot. So no water staying in the cache pot and I never put water on the crown. The roots are crowded in the pot, but sounds like that's not a disaster. I guess at some point I should get it a bigger plastic cup. I will have to cut the one they are in off of it.

Is the no direct sun OK? It seems to be at least tolerating it. I guess it is an understory thing that isn't used to getting direct sun anyway. In Costa Rica, I did see them growing wild in their natural habitat (rain forest).
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

imafan26
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Re: now what -- orchid question

Phalaenopsis and Paphs make good houseplants because they like the temperatures most people are comfortable at around 70 degrees and they like humidity, which you can provide with a humidity tray or misting. They are 70% shade plants. Their wide leaves and roots are designed to capture as much light as possible in the thick tropical forest so they do not like to be in direct sunlight. Phalaenopsis that I have in less than ideal light grow thicker tougher leaves and they are much smaller. It sounds like your plant is happy in an east facing window with a sheer curtain. They also tend to do well in a well lit bathrooms because of the humidity and because the bathroom windows here at least are always left open so it gets good air circulation

If you don't have media in the pot, just the cup, don't cut it. If the roots are good you only have to put the whole thing in a larger cup. It will damage fewer roots that way.
When the spike comes out be careful not to turn the plant. Spikes and flowers in the soft stage before they harden will turn if the light comes from another direction. You can stake a long spike with a thin wire to support it.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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