Return to the Orchids Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Posted by little_stars 4 (My Page) on
Sun, Dec 9, 07 at 18:09

Hello
I've been lurking for more than a year. I've been growing orchids on and off for over a decade. Now I need help. My phals are dying. 6 months ago I carefully followed the directions of repotting, floating, cutting the dead roots, dusting with cinamon and repotting in fresh bark mix. I have them under (4) 40 wat tube lights. 2 cool and 2 warm. 14 hours every day. They have gone down-hill since I repotted.
What did I do wrong? I never killed a plant before now. Is there any hope?
Can someone out there please give me the name of the book where they got these sick phal directions?

I am trying to figure out how to post photos
TIA! LS's


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Just wondering what "fresh bark Mix" is? Fir Bark? Treated Pine Bark?


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Hello arthurm. The bark is fir

L*'s


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

What do you mean by "floating"? Pre-soaking the mix?

Frankly, in zone 4, phals should be a no-brainer for you. I'm thinking you inadvertently over-did it. Phal hybrids prefer lower humidity and less light. Stick them in a window and forget about them.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Less light?? I was just going to ask about that.

More info needed.

Jane


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

It sounds like you did many of the recommendations. The only thing I can think that would be off is heat and temperature.

There are a million threads on phals on the Garden Web, plus the FAQ's. Type in phal - in them you will find many different recommendations for phals, many websites mentioned for specific phal culture and many books recommended. See if you can figure what is causing yours to fail when you appear to have done many things correct.

What other plants succeed for you? If you can grow a philodendron, you can grow a phal.

Good luck - Brooke


 o
RE:more Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Fingers typing without brain in gear - I meant temperature and watering might be off.

Brooke


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

I know others use bark very successfully, but my experience is if you grow inside with lower humidity, sphag works much better. It keeps a better environment of air and moisture around the roots, and it's easy to figure out when to water--when the top has dried and the pot feels light. I'm going to post a photo of my phal setup on the gallery, under 4 32-watt T-8 CFL's. Every plant has spikes except a handful that were blooming thru the summer and into fall. Some have 2 spikes.

I normally don't bother with trying to recover damaged phals unless they are something special, because it just takes too long. But there are a couple in this photo that I brought back from near death, and they have recovered to bloom again

I normally put a layer of styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of the pot, and use a mix made of about 2/3 spag and 1/3 coarse perlite mixed with diatomite.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Hi again
I floated them in physan 1 teaspoon per 20 gallons. I see the process posted here all the time. Obviously it's not a no brainer or I wouldn't have come out of lurk. You sure they will be ok in my window up here in Canada? I gave them too much light? My pleuros need extra light. I don't know if I would agree with that. It sure is dark up here without the lights. I have a North window
This is the phal before:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This is the phal now. The photos are dark, so sorry.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The lower leaf was starting to die. It was in spike. The spike died. But thats ok. Next time.It didn't exactly die. It became a woody petrified stump shortly after the repot. The phals are getting worse! I can't throw it out. They were presents from my mother's collection! She raised orchids all her life. R.I.P.

It was originally repotted into spag. I had to switch to bark because spag was rotting the roots. Maybe that's where I went wrong with the instructions? My watering is when the plant is getting dry and the temps are 23-26 c

TIA! L*s


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

That phal doesn't look like it's dying! It may be a bit underlit from the color of the leaves but it's really hard to tell. I grow my phals over the winter under really crappy lights (2 40watt tubes...and pretty far from them too, so they're doing practically nothing...+ some natural light from a east window) and they bloom..but then again they get nice light outside during the summer so um..maybe it balances out? How far are your plants from the light? Any windows?

I agree Holly about the sphag in dry centrally heated houses though, but then again your plant looks absolutely fine. Phals lose lower leaves normally as part of their life cycle.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Yes, your plant looks to be anything but dying.

Here's the deal, you are in zone 4, I'm in 9, opposite ends of the spectrum to be sure but most of the people on this forum are in 6 or 7, so sometimes drastic modifications need to be made from the "norm". Hybrid phals do better in your conditions than mine. Hence, I don't even bother with them. But, that said, since you are in zone 4, you need to find your own way, so to speak, and use the advice here as a guide but modify it to your own conditions. One could say that about everyones growing conditions, for sure, but you are in a zone of extremes. Even when I was in zone 7/8 the advice here was often overkill. I hope this makes sense. It's not that the advice here isn't good, but our growing conditions are vastly different from most of the posters on this forum. That said, hybrid phals generally do very well in your conditions and are very easy for people living in very harsh conditions, with little work.

I have an aunt who lives on an island off the coast of Maine. About once a year she asks me for advice on her phals. I always give her the same answer, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. She lives in extremely dry conditions, burning and smoking isn't allowed on the island, but her phals bloom and grow continuously.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

  • Posted by jamcm Ottawa Area, Canada (My Page) on
    Mon, Dec 10, 07 at 9:02

Little Stars,

I agree with everyone else that your plants do look good. The new root on the second plant, with that fat green tip, is a great sign!

As for the downturn after repotting... as you gain more experience with repotting, you know what works (bark) and what doesn't (sphag) for you. For the sphag, by the way, I also found that sphag always ends up becoming a tight wad, which just does not work, so I mix it with some small bark and some perlite to keep the mix open, but moisture retentive enough that I'm not watering every day. Make sure your mix is "open" enough and watering when dry is the way to go, as long as it's also drying inside the pot (stick a finger down the side).

Also, seriously, I still remember last November (2006) and the whole whopping 5 remotely sunny days we had that year in Ottawa. That's what made me switch over all of my orchids to supplemental lights and I have a southeast window, which is way better than a northern window. Your plants are not overlit. Keep them under the fluorescents and make sure the tubes are no more than 12 inches from the top of the leaf. You might even want to try a CFL or two and see if that helps.

Hope this helps.

Julie


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

You might also consider the skewer method of watering. Get a shishkabob skewer, trim it down, and keep it in the bark. The next time you go to water, take out the skewer and touch it to your cheek, lip, or the back of your hand. If it's wet, don't water. If it's nearly dry, water. The type of orchid will determine how wet or dry the skewer should be before watering. Phals like to dry out a bit, but not get completely dry.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Hello, Little Stars.
What a beautiful Phal! A fellow-lurker, I've gone through agonies with my phals too, and as all eight of them are now in bloom, bud or spike at present, I must be doing something right!
I have mine near a South window, with 4 26 watt CFLs. I hope to get tubes as well, soon, then I might use fewer CFLs. I find that they actually take a lot more light than all the advice says, so don't worry about overlighting them at present - they have to have sufficient to keep the leaves a mid-green.
I use the skewer method of testing for dryness, too.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

That is some slide indeedy. Ya would have been better off to leave the plant alone. Sure ya know that already. Spike or no spike. Decline is not solved by repotting a plant. First course of action; Light. 6 months ago would have put ya end o' spring- beginning of summer. The plant was out of gas from a winter and spring without light. No reason to repot.

Lookin' at the pics, ain't a watering problem. Media type is never the problem. Why did ya repot the plant? For the 1 dropping leaf? Could have been a natural loss. My thought, not enough light. 4 tubes in z-4, not enough. Spag will rot roots without right amount of light - heat. Venividi has it right. Get more light on the plants and leave it be. Ya may get lucky.

Like to know what book this phal recovery method is found in too. I've only seen this "method" on this board. The alternate method is to leave it be, add more light. It works
Mike


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Little Stars, check out the Bedford Orchids site. Howard Ginsberg has some very good advice for Phal growers, and he likes light, too. He says to give them "just enough light so that they come close to but don't burn."
William Cullina, in "Understanding Orchids" says that Phals will survive in very low light, but will benefit from slightly brighter conditions. He says that "if the plant is receiving enough light, the upper surface of the leaf will be a medium to dark green and the lower surface should have some maroon or burgundy tinting, as should the root tips, wet roots, flower spikes, and leaf bases." That describes my plants to a T. Incidentally, I like that book, although it is only one of several that I refer to on a regular basis.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

  • Posted by jamcm Ottawa Area, Canada (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 12, 07 at 9:13

Mike,

I hate to disagree, but there are times when I just can't help myself. It sounds to me like light is fine. The OP just had a few problems when she repotted, i.e. kept it too wet at the beginning, rather than letting the media get a bit drier than usual to encourage root growth. Or maybe it was too cool still. Or any one of a dozen reasons (like the fact that cinnamon inhibits root growth). Experience will be the best teacher. From what the OP stated, sounds like her plants just needed a good repotting, not that it was going downhill before the repotting. Hey, it was in spike! In my book, that's a good thing. If she was able to get it there and to grow what look to me to be healthy plants, she's doing something right.

I grow some of my Phals in the basement, with four fluorescent tubes. They love it. Speaking of Howard Ginsberg of Bedford Orchids, he grows amazing plants. And guess what - he grows his mini Catts under four tubes!

Light is very important, but let's stop always saying it's the only thing someone's doing wrong.

Julie


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Sphag doesn't rot roots, overwatering the sphag causes roots to rot. If you grow a phal in full sun but water the sphag daily, the roots will rot.

Brooke


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

I also see that the plant has slid considerably. The top photo vs the bottom photo clearly shows that this phal didn't maintain rigid leaves. There was no need to disturb the plant as a 1st solution to a potential problem, especially when the plant was in spike. Repotting is done when a plant is in active growth and should be done only if there is a need. When a plant is going a long well, best to leave it be. It also leads me to believe that there was nothing wrong with the media if it was in spike and had nice stiff leaves. I have seen healthy phals in no media. I agree with Mike, media is never the issue or the answer. The bottom leaf could have been a natural decline. When a plant is in spike, it is directing it's energy elsewhere. When phals are crisp and stiff, often the bottom leaf is obscured from light. It also could have been reacting to a change of environment. It may have been using energy stored from the previous environment. Hard to say without knowing the circumstances. It was good instinct to be alerted that something was wrong. There are better first lines of defense as your learned.

I agree that cinnamon inhibits growth. There are more targetted modern "weapons" in our arsenal. I don't think a few rotten roots are something to get excited about and have to be chopped off. That is a normal cycle of any plant. I'm sure I have a few rotten roots in my phals. The leaves are crisp and in double spike for the 2nd time this year. I don't know what's under the media and it doesn't matter. The plants are the peak of health. A couple rotten roots will not bother the plant. It not a bad thing to have some decomposed organic material in the media. Cinnamon could have been a small factor in the demise of the plant but not entirely.

The OP has an issue of light. There have been 100's of threads about N. windows in upper zones. A north window is never recommended to successfully grow an orchid of any type. At this time of year day length is truncated combined with a low sun angle. This does not improve the farther North one travels. I would imagine the plant is receiving 200fc's in a north window under the best of conditions probably less.

Spag works provided a plant is properly light and heated. It fails when the plant is underlight and poorly heated. It is a water retentive medium. There is no reason for water retention if there is no corresponding light and heat. Lees light less heat less water. Phal roots are less tolerant of water, more so than other orchids.

I took a look at the Bedford orchids link. He may grow some nice plants but his culture sheet is not really clear information, some of it is outdated. AOS sheet will serve a better purpose for general information. I also have to wonder why someone would choose to greets viewers with an "Don't buy Dell" essay. Unfortunetely there is a lot of information posted on the internet that may not be the best route. Taylor's Guide or Ortho's book is your best bet for comprehensive information.

The OP obviously has been around orchids for some time. I don't know how your mum was growing them (G/H?) but think about her environment and try your best to replicate it. Did she keep notes? The less you physically do to a plant the better off it willl be. Ask yourself if your mum used the methods that you read about before you try them. Have you ever needed to use them previously? There is nothing new about growing orchid; no short cuts to success. Orchids are considered difficult to grow and rare for a reason. They are not really ideal houseplants in Northern zones. They need help such as supplimental lighting. They are fragile and do not tolerate conditions that other houseplants may.

I have both Taylor's Guide and Ortho as well as a few other books. There are no directions for the method you tried in any book. They all give re-potting instructions for healthy plants. Their methods are predicated on repotting healthy plants for specific reasons, such as outgrowing the pot and complete media breakdown. If you are using good quality media, that could be 2 years, depending on your growing and watering habits. You may want to pick up a copy of Taylors or Ortho.

Clara


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

I agree, the OP has to have plants under light. Having said that, the other issue is warmth. I don't have a problem with phals in bark. I used to have a problem with phals in sphag, before I put them under lights and warmed them...the sphag simply didn't dry out fast enough given that my house was kept at 65 during the day and 60 at night through the winter.

I would watch the watering, keep the light up and pay attention to the temps....and have patience. Sphag and bark are different critters when it comes to water retention.

Also, when you water how do you water? Pour through, or soak? If soaking, how long? How do you test to see if it needs watering?

We have a habit of tossing off one cultural requirement and thinking it is enough. However, a plant might do ok if one cultural requirement is off, but when you look at others combined, then as each of those don't meet the needs, or are not optimal then the plant may start to have problems. That is to say, give it lots of light, and maybe water, but don't pay attention to food and warmth, then the plant might begin to have trouble, and some are more tolerant than others, particularly in the case of hybrid phals.

This plant has plenty of life left in it...just breathe deeply, don't hover and change multiple things at a time, but really look at the needs of the plant and what are you doing.

One other thought...does someone else live with you? I had a friend who I trained to water her phals correctly, but her husband didn't think it was right to let it dry out...and watered it when she wasn't looking.....and...as the core was in sphag., the plant ultimately died....


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

  • Posted by jamcm Ottawa Area, Canada (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 12, 07 at 12:23

Clara, just to clarify, in the first post, the poster clearly states that she grows under four fluorescent tubes on for 14 hours a day. The whole north window issue popped up when some of the first responses stated that her orchids were getting too much light, which subsequent posters (my humble self included) shot down.

As for Howard G. -- imagine our Howard, a 100 times crustier and blunt, and there's Howard G. He's a character! Also makes him a fantastic speaker, FYI.

Julie

Here is a link that might be useful: Canadian Orchid Congress Culture Sheets


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Hmmm, orchids are fragile? I guess that's how the catt pbs hung on a string and thrown in a pot survived and put out new growth and roots? And fragility is what caused richardol's old pbs to throw sprouts?

Could we agree that *some* orchids are fragile and hold back a little on the dogmatic declarations and overgeneralizations?

*Especially* when writing to newbies?

IMO, it's a disservice to newbies to say repetitively that orchids are fragile. Almost as if we are trying to prevent anyone new from starting with orchids.

Just IMO.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?--Julie

Hi, Julie. Forgot to say, thanks for the link. What a great site, and reference pages for newbies! (And the rest of us)

I'm bookmarking it. Thank you, maam.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

I've been lurking for more than a year. I've been growing orchids on and off for over a decade

They were presents from my mother's collection! She raised orchids all her life.

Not a newbie to me
Mike


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

oh no...the tedium begins - Mike, lets not try to commit too many red herring fallacies, shall we? I believe we have attracted several pruners to this board, who will take care of this shortly, but until then - take a read and enjoy.

The plant looks fine...all this discussion over a phal which is growing a new leaf and a new root! :) It won't be exploding in growth right now anyway unless you take measures to reproduce summer conditions indoors, which I don't feel is necessary to the vitality of this plant. As long as you keep it relatively content, there's no need to treat it like some sort of patient in the ICU. I don't think phals are that delicate...well at least, not hybrids.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

I'd say put it in a clay pot with some broken clay pieces in the bottom and pot it in sphag... and give it more light and wamer temps. i think your plant looks cold and underlit. i could be wrong though.


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

well I don't know nothing from nothing.....

but I think the OP is still very much - here


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Kids, let's try to play nice.

Sometimes we just need to say what works for us and stop making these sweeping generalizations about what is right.
We also have to remember that not all indoor growers can throw massive amounts of lumens at plants, thusly we need to be able to help them do the other things better to make up for the lack thereof. Light can not be the magic bullet when one can not provide for it.

On the original questions: I think the OP's plant did a significant amount of growing between pics. 4/4' flouro's are plenty to bloom a phal as long as you keep them within 4-6" of the bulbs. I think the plant will be just fine with proper watering, if anything underwater a little in spagh. To me the medium looks fine in both pics. The OP was probably a little hasty in repotting because of a dieing bottom leaf, my experience says this is just part of a phals life cycle. I have phals that maintain anywhere from 3 to 14-15 leaves at any one time with all of them loosing a bottom leaf here and there. The 3-leaved ones bloom just as well as the more highly leaved ones, so I think some things as far as leaf count are genetic and not cultural related. As long as I am getting blooms and the plant seems healthy, I don't concern myself with the # of leaves or if one or two of the bottm leaves die off. I don't 'float' them either, I assuming the OP did this because of the perceived problem with the bottom leaf die-off, probably not needed but should not have hurt anything.

Counted last night and had 32 out of 41 phals spiking or blooming, many with doubles. It's going to be a pretty winter and spring at the office and at home.

It's the holiday's, it's tough but let's all try to chill a bit.

Bob


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

  • Posted by jamcm Ottawa Area, Canada (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 13, 07 at 9:58

Mehitabel,

Don't you just love those culture sheets? They were adapted from the AOS culture sheets specifically for us Canadians (their advice could easily extend to anyone not growing in tropical areas, however). Whenever I have beginners, these are the sheets I use. I also find their advice clearer than most other culture sheets out there.

Julie


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Julie,

I use the Canadian Orchid Congress sheets a lot too, and the site to find vendors, societies and shows. It's an excellent resource.

Have you visited Bedford Orchids? I may visit Montreal briefly in March, but it appears that all visits are by appointment only. Would that be correct? I know he says to phone him at the office at any time, but I feel reluctant to do that. I remember that Howard A enjoyed that site when he visited for the first time, because not only did they share the same name but also the same growing philosophy, especially about light.

June


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Excellent resource--to echo venividi and mehitabel. For the genera with which I have had any experience those are the best and *clearest* written general culture guidelines I have seen. The bullet format makes them particularly easy to follow.

Thank you, Julie, for the link. There's a bookmark I'll use!

Sweetcicely


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

I second the use of Spagh. Since mehitabel recommended potting my phals in it, they have really taken off. I'm in zone 5. Just my two-cents. Hope this helps. Liz


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

My girlfriend has been reading all the old orchid posts and she has spotted this white orchid pot. I have searched locally and online, and can't find anything even close to it. Are these common and I'm not looking in the right place or is this a one of a kind and I'm wasting my time?

Thanks in advance!


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Orchid pots normally have slits or holes in the side of the pot. Does this pot?


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Check the link below - they have more of the ceramic slot type pots for orchids than any online source I've seen.

Good luck I hope you find the pot.

Brooke

Here is a link that might be useful: Repotme


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Tommyr I assumed it was an orchid pot since there was an orchid planted in it.

Brooke, thanks for the link, hopefully they can help me.

Anyone else have any suggestions?


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

Decorative orchid pots are usually used for displaying flowering plants. At least that is how I use them. Otherwise the roots grow through the openings and you usually have to break them to repot. I put the plastic/clay pot inside the pretty pots when the plant flowers.

I use any type of pretty pot no matter whether its an orchid pot or regular dirt plant pot.

Jane


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

I agree that it looks a little cold and lacking in light. One important thing to remember with fluorescent lighting is how important distance from the light is. At one foot from a lamp which outputs 20,000 foot candles, the light level is 2000 foot candles. At two feet from the lamp, it is 500 foot candles. Every inch counts with fluorescent. Also consider that full spectrum bulbs from a hydroponics store or aquarium store might suit you better. Fluorescent tubes also loose their intensity fairly quickly. It's recommended that you change your tubes every 6 months. What distance from the bulbs is your phal?

Here is a link that might be useful: Lighting Info


 o
RE: Dying Phals, what did I do wrong?

  • Posted by jodik 5 Central IL (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 10, 09 at 10:35

For me, growing Phals was definitely NOT a no-brainer! Everyone keeps saying how easy they are, but I've had a heck of a time getting any to stay alive and actually grow!

For my environment, bark works the best. I use a combination of natural window light and a bit of supplemental lighting from shop light fixtures. I water when the bark mix is nearly dry, and with the low humidity of winter, I mist them a couple of times daily.

I've resigned myself to the fact that I don't have the best conditions for orchid growing, and I've decided not to baby any of them. Funny thing is... the few Phals I have are responding and actually growing! One has a spike growing... Phal equestris, I believe.

What made the difference for me, I think, was the addition of the lighting fixtures. That, and simply not hovering, which leads to over-watering for me.

Everyone has slightly different conditions to contend with, and I think you just have to find that happy medium of cultural advice.

Good luck with your Phals!


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Orchids Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here