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Rootball when Repotting

This is a discussion on Rootball when Repotting within the General Information forums, part of the Frequently Asked Questions category; I noticed some phal growers would wedge a tight rootball of sphagnum right in the ...

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  1. #1
    work2ski's Avatar
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    Default Rootball when Repotting

    I noticed some phal growers would wedge a tight rootball of sphagnum right in the middle of the root system of the plant. I've also noticed them in some of my phrags when repotting them for the first time.

    I don't do it anymore because the plants would get SEVERE crown rot when overwatered.

    Some orchid books also encourage using a rootball.

    1/ Is this practice encouraged when repotting a phal and other orchids?

    2/ What are the pros and cons of using a rootball?

    3/ Does it make a difference to the overall health of the plant?

    Your feedback will be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    I'm not quite sure what you mean by a tight rootball. But you do have to give the roots a support structure. Most orchids roots spread out, so you need to put potting media into the middle of the pot to support the body of the plant, then the plant, then more media....

    I agree that with tightly packed sphagnum it would be easy to get rot, no matter what type of orchid. The roots need air just as much as water. I have only found a tight ball of sphagnum on a couple of plants I have purchased - and I repot them as soon as it's reasonable for me to do so.

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    I have seen it used . I don't do it when repotting , but have used a cone of plastic canvas with the roots spread over it . Gin

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    HI Diane,

    Let me clarify the post. Before repotting, the phals were in a bark/diatomite mix, with a sphagnum rootball (not visible) wedged in the middle of the root system.
    The rootball is either for retaining moisture or plant support, not sure.

    So let me repeat the question.

    If I am using a straight bark mix, is it necessary to wedge a damp rootball (made of sphagnum) at the bottom base of the plant?

    From past experience (God bless their souls), I have been deviating from it.

    Thanks,
    Trung

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    Hi Trung,

    What I've found after purchasing plants and repotting them, is that many growers are lazy in repotting. They pull the roots and old media out of a smaller pot, and then drop it into a slightly larger pot with new media around the outside only.

    The 'newest' of the old media falls away from the outside of the root ball fairly easily, but the oldest, most broken down crud is still wedged firmly inside a cage of roots. It can take 1-2 hours to carefully work all the old media out of a tight clump of roots. My guess is, that's what you're seeing. I've found internal masses of rock wool, broken down bark, broken down sphag, you name it.

    My view is that the roots want water/air. If the old junk is packed in the middle, or bark clings to root hairs, that's that much less surface area available to act like a root. So I go to great pains to clean it all out. But it is slow work and can take time. I then get some media inside the hollow root sphere - but never pack media tightly! The roots need air pockets. Tight packing (particularly of sphag, bark is much less a problem), eliminates air pockets and induces root rot.

    Hope this helps!

    Julie

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    I have seen this practice here in New Zealand by some of the larger growers,I hate it.
    Yes it is spag.but can but other substanes like rock wool and it is used for moisture retension.I class it as lazeyness on the part of the grower,but then they are trying to make better use of there water supply.
    From my point of view it is ok for their growing conditions, but more than likly not for us .
    I remove that ball when I repot ,which in most cases is the day that I recieve the plant/s and put them into the mix that I am using.

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    Trung ,I would not do it . Gin

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    sounds like it could simply be "potting on". young plant is grown in sphagnum, and when it's time to move up the pot size, the entire thing is stuck in a bigger pot and medium is filled in around it.

    works ok if and only if:
    1. the roots are in excellent shape
    2. the medium is in excellent shape (sphagnum breaks down every 6-10 months and is NOT suited for potting on, ideally)
    3. the medium you use outside is similar to the stuff inside (which will remain significantly wetter now that it is in the middle of a larger pot).

    commercial growers don't care, it's a time saver to pot on rather than to loosen the roots and remove the old medium.

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    Great informative feedback.

    Thank you all,
    Trung

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