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Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

Posted by greentoe357 z7b Brooklyn NY (My Page) on
Sat, Aug 3, 13 at 1:16

As of yesterday, my toe is officially in with a couple of new orchids I bought for the first time ever. I'd been reading about them and looking at orchid porn :-) online but hesitant to get any because I was afraid to kill them and because they are not cheap. Yesterday I got two little sickly ones in the same pot at a big box store nearby at 50% off.

Looks like they recently finished flowering. There was one flower stalk definitely dry - I cut it off. Apart from that, the 2-leaf plant has a flower stalk with 2 tiny bulbs at the every end and the 4-leaf plant has 2 non-dry flower stalks - one has been broken or cut off 3-4 nodes in and the other has a tiny bulb at the very end.

Both plants had extensive root problems - very rigid dry wiry center in each root covered with an empty shell with no meaty tissue in-between - I cut all of those off and the picture shows what little good roots remain.

The leaves are a bit droopy and wrinkly, but far from dead.

As much as I'd love to get these to flower just to see what those flowers look like, I strongly suspect I need to cut all the flower stalks to the very bottom in order to let the plants rest and regenerate healthy roots in order to survive into the next year. My priority is 60% long term survival of the plants but also 40% seeing the flowers ASAP - so if the plants are not likely to be hurt too much further by flowering now (and if that is even likely with these tiny roots), then I might let them try.

Another question is whether my plants are good candidates for the "sphag and bag" technique (shown here for example: to help phals grow new roots. Are they?

Very broadly, what would you do with these if you were me? I look at these as good learning opportunities - which is to say I might choose the more difficult or labor-intensive route if I am likely to learn from the experience, even if I kill one or both in the process.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

For now, I repotted them into separate pots into my own mix consisting of 3 parts pine bark (>3/8ths, what was too big for gritty mix), 1 part coarse perlite (>1/8th) and 1 part chilean sphagnum moss).

I keep reading about fir bark for phalaenopsis - is it a problem that I used pine bark?

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

  • Posted by arthurm Sydney, NSW AUST (My Page) on
    Mon, Aug 5, 13 at 6:09

Fir Bark was wonderful, but it has not been available in Australia for a long time. Replaced by cheaper treated Radiata Pine Bark.
Good luck in the adventure with the Phals.

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

I would cut off the spikes and keep them someplace warm (70 to 80 degrees) and out of direct light.

The only thing I was ever able to grow with the sphag and bag method was mold.

How much were they at 50% off? You can buy seedling size plans online for $5-$10 and have a much more rewarding experience. In the time it will take those plants to recover (if they ever do) you could get a large seedling to maturity with much less effort.

Don't get discouraged if they die, it is difficult for anyone to get a sick plant back to health.

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

Lowes frequently marks down phals that have finished blooming to $1-$3 US ($1.12 - $3.37 AU).

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

I agree with lumpy, but if you have the patience and energy. here's what I would do.

I grew orchids in NY for many years. You are in Brooklyn and its still summer. Your challenge will be getting them to make it through winter in a chilly house.

For now, keep them warm. Forget sphag and bag, as lumpy said, its a waste of time. Get a root hormone and put some on the roots. Cut the spikes off all the way down. Forget flowers at this point, you want roots and some leaf growth. Water when the mix is just slightly damp. I would soak the bark for a few hours or overnight to get it to hold water.

Put the plants in a bright area near a window. No direct sunlight but you need bright light and warmth to stimulate root growth.

This winter the plants will still need light and warmth. Don't worry about a cool down as the plants do not have enough roots to flower. Find the warmest spot in your house to carry them over the winter. If you have a floor lamp or clamp light, you can supplement light. Don't get water in the crown.

The positive you have going is the leaves. They appear healthy and with bright light they should carry the plant and get the roots growing.

The plant on my right does not look good. But with warmth, light and some rooting hormone, you might get them going.

Good luck, and please post back,


RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

>> The only thing I was ever able to grow with the sphag and bag method was mold.
haha. Skipping that idea then.

>> How much were they at 50% off?
$12.50 for both. Perhaps not a deep bargain I was hoping for with these roots. I did unpot them at the store, but did not want to be obnoxious and make a huge mess by actually bare-rooting them there.

Love_the_yard, I had never seen phals on sale here, or any plants on sale really, especially not at a buck or three, no matter how bad their condition was - and often it is really bad. I've read somewhere here that big box stores have negotiated buy-back deals with their plant suppliers for unsold plants, so there is no incentive for them to drop the price, apparently. I bought these at Lowes.

Jane, root hormone! How did I not think of that! I cut the flower stalks now, put cinnamon on the scars and rooting hormone on the whole underground part and stuck them back into the medium.

Two days ago I had already bagged them both, as one leaf started yellowing pretty badly (see pic), and I thought that would help. Should I cut off that leaf, or let it die away naturally? I think while it's at least partially green, it's doing some fo the job it needs to be doing for the plant - is that a good assumption?

I put them back into the plastic bag on the window sill. No direct light there ever. While they are in the bag, I assume misting is better than watering?

I had soaked the pots with the medium, so the bark is probably saturated.

Temps are probably OK for the rest of the summer, and in the mean time I might buy a propagating pad for these and some other plants.

Any other wisdom from the crowd?

Thanks, all.

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

The yellowing of the leaf from the base outward isn't a good sign. Yes, the plant has no roots, so the leaf can't take in moisture or nutrients, but it can also be a sign that the core, or base of the plant may well be suffering from a slow, bacterial or fungal infection (rot). The leaf will eventually fall off anyway. But if more leaves begin to yellow, then the plant maybe a gonner. The "sphag and bag" method of reviving plants is better suited to propagating cattleya backbulbs (and with cattleyas, a rooting hormone/powder is usually applied to the base of rhizome and eyes). Small plants such as these I've potted up in sphagnum moss in small clay pots. A problem with may orchids, especially phalaenopsis is the tendency to overpot the plant. The larger the pot, the more moisture it holds, especially in the center. Often, for an epiphyte, allowing the roots to dry out between watering helps promote stronger root growth. In the wild, phalaenopsis species grow in the canopy of trees (Philippines and southeast Asia).

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

Here is an update. The leaf yellowed and I ripped it off. No yellowing of other leaves, which is encouraging.

I would open the bag every few days to air it out and check on the plants. The was a slight moldy smell like a week ago, so I removed the bag for now. The mix, esp. peat moss, felt very moist at the time, so I hope no bag is ok for now.

I got a big grow light the other day and just set them both under it today.

Exploring heating pads next.

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

i am in brooklyn to bought one from lowes and tried the same thing with the bag and the plant died my sister bought me two from some market place in PH for $2.50 each and they are doing fine

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?


The phals never went back into the plastic humidity bag - they and their mix looked OK without and I never phalt (HAHA!) that they needed it.

Today at watering I saw tiny leaves coming out of both orchid's crowns! (barely seen in the picture here.) To me it means definitely no crown rot (phew!) AND that roots may already be regrowing. Let's just say as a first time ever orchid grower, I am VERY happy.

Once I saw the leaves, I gave them fertilizer for the first time (Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 at half strength, like I give most of my other plants). I intend to continue at every watering unless you guys have better ideas.

Also, I am conducting a little experiment and had set one of the plants under a light fixture and the other on the shelf below, so in lower light. The result is also visible on this picture taken today - the one subjected to more light (top right) is getting a purple tint all over its leaves. The other one has just a bit of that purple color, mostly under one leaf, but the leaves are otherwise green. I intend to continue placing them on these different shelves just to see how different light levels affect plants in similar conditions (observing growth rate difference would be interesting) - unless you tell me something here looks unhealthy and I should change. I've read online that just a slight purple tinge marks the top level of light intensity phals should be given - so I may be overdoing it on the top shelf - wonder what knowledgeable people think.

I've been watering when the medium (the moss really) feels like it's just about to dry out completely, which has been a little more often for the plant directly under lights, compared to the other one, as expected. The mix feels really good, chunky and airy to me.

Thanks again to all for sharing your wisdom and experience.

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

Looks great!


RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

i am happy u were able to save yours

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

UPDATE TIME! ('cause I can't hold it in, you know!)

I did not go digging around for root growth deliberately, but while watering today, the mix shifted and I noticed this. YAY!

RE: Let these flower? Sphag and bag? Something else?

What a thrill. Congrats!


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