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Repotting: saving/trimming roots

This is a discussion on Repotting: saving/trimming roots within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; One thing I've never known is how to really tell whether roots are good or ...

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  1. #1
    poetiscariot's Avatar
    poetiscariot is offline By virtue of the absurd
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    Default Repotting: saving/trimming roots

    One thing I've never known is how to really tell whether roots are good or not. I'm fine with getting rid of ones that are clearly black/mushy, but there seems to me like there's a whole spectrum between that and firm/white, and my strategy has always been to leave everything that wasn't obviously rotting because I was too afraid I'd cut off tissue the plant needed. I have a few orchids I think I'm going to repot tomorrow because they're so topheavy they've blown over a couple times and this would be a good opportunity to try to teach myself better ways to decide about how salvageable roots are in different conditions.

    * What do you do with ones that are sort of beige, not white, and that seem old, but don't exactly seem clearly dead? Ones that are hollow or wrinkled but appear basically sturdy. Are those dead but just not decomposing, or are they withered but not dead? Even if they are dead, what do you think about leaving them for the sake of support?
    * What about roots that are dark, but not mushy? One of the ones I'm going to repot has some roots that are like this, dark and withered-looking, but they seem very strong and seem to turn greenish when it gets watered. None of its roots look like they're in really good shape, so I'm anxious to let it keep as much as possible. These are all Cattleyas, fyi, and this one in particular is a Blc. Yen '24 Karat.'
    * Two of them have CRAZY massive root systems, growing way out the bottoms of their pots. I think I might have to cut the pots to get them out; how would any of you negotiate between desire to save their roots and the fact that trying to cut a stiff plastic pot is kind of a pain? I'm tempted to clip off a lot of the roots and just pull the plants out. Is that really terrible? It's a C. brabantiae, and a cross between Slc. Dream Cloud 'Sparkler' and C. amethystoglossa. The brabantiae I expect to be kind of a rambler, but I don't know whether that means it will freak out if I break off some of its roots or if it would shrug that off and grow more. The other one, I didn't expect to be so rooty for the size of the plant & have no clue how it might behave.
    * I have two little bitty Lc. seedlings and I think I've about dehydrated the roots on both plants. I potted them in the same kind of bark I had larger plants in because that was what I had; apparently not the greatest idea. What should I be putting them into? Sphagnum moss? Finer bark? Something else? And would you cut off the withered roots or leave them?

    I would love it if anyone had pictures of roots they've gotten rid of they could post, or other info/experiences to share.


  2. #2
    cindiras's Avatar
    cindiras is offline Senior Member
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    I've got some shots of a phal I trimmed the roots on. I posted them in the water culture thread and haven't figured out how to post them here again. I'll work on that. Be sure to soak the roots for a good ten minutes or longer for the living roots to have a chance to absorb water and plump up and turn green. If the roots are gray and squish after soaking, they are goners. Sometimes roots are dark colored from the potting material or are algae covered, doesn't mean they are dead and roted. The gentle squeeze test for squishyness is the best test. I usually trim off broken roots too, as they will just die and rot. I wouldn't save obviously rotten roots just to use them as a support for the plant. Bamboo skewers pushed down into the planting medium with a twist tie holding the plant to the skewer works for support.
    With the catt rooting out the bottom of the pot, I would cut away as much of the bottom of the pot as I could, then slip/pull the plant free of the rest. With your seedling catts, break the bark pieces smaller, mix in some vermiculite to hold a bit of water, or tear up some of the sphagnum moss to add to the mix for a little bit of water retention.

  3. #3
    cindiras's Avatar
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  4. #4
    poetiscariot's Avatar
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    Default Now some pics. . .

    First, what one of the very rooty ones looked like when I got it out of its pot. This is after carefully extricating all the medium from its roots -- it's holding the shape of the pot only from the thick root growth. While I was working on this one I was listening to a John Coltrane album and I thought, this sounds like some slang that needs to be invented, rooty catts. "Man, they have some of the rootiest cats you ever saw in that joint!" I can't decide whether that'd be a compliment or an insult or what, though. I just wanted to show its roots to you all -- it came out and went into a new pot fine.

    The other pic is the one on which I really want some help. This is the same poor plant that arrived sunburnt and had little bits of fungal attack on its leaves. It's been potted for about three weeks and I got it back out because it's so topheavy I decided it pretty much had to go into a ceramic pot. None of these roots look like healthy, light-colored cattleya roots to me. A lot of them are rigid, but almost more like twigs than like orchid roots. However, those appear to respond to watering by plumping up some and turning somewhat green, and they definitely don't have that papery/hollow feeling. The response I think I'm seeing could be my hopeful imagination, though. They really look exactly like they did when I first potted it.

    The white powder is rooting hormone, which was still clinging to the roots in parts from its previous potting.

    I'm going to get a pizza, I think, and see if anyone happens to be around who could give me any advice on the second one. Do I need to get rid of all its roots? Hoping not. It has a little shoot it's trying to grow, it wants to live! So I want to give it as much help as it can possibly get.
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  5. #5
    plucker is offline Member
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    Just my opinion, but the roots with the soft bits are gone. The ones that still feel solid should still be live.
    Looks like this plant has just come out of a dormant stage, and possibly wont show much root growth for a while yet. The new PB will get fairly large before this happens.
    Cats store most of their energy in the PB's and will continue to do so on this plant. The roots will absorb a tiny amount of water which will be enough to stock up the PB till the next rain fall.
    Plant it up, keep it still, and water ocasionally and it should be OK.

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