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Orchid bark medium turns bad

This is a discussion on Orchid bark medium turns bad within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; A little upset that I was shown the wrong bark medium to use twice and ...

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  1. #1
    Chicknlegs is offline Member
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    Default Orchid bark medium turns bad

    A little upset that I was shown the wrong bark medium to use twice and have had to repot my orchids three times in three months.

    I went to our local gardening/home improvement ---- vendor information removed -see faqs on posting----here in Australia and I was shown by the store assistant to use this brand of bark medium for my phalaenopsis orchids which cost $12

    ---- vendor information removed -see faqs on posting----

    I asked him if he was sure the bark was the right size and not too coarse and he told me he had over 15 years experience with growing phals using this bark medium and it was good.

    So I bought it and repotted all my phals with it then I realised that it was too coarse and that my phals we're not doing so well in it after a month. So I went to another gardening store (Masters) and the lady there told me to use this one which cost $11

    It even had a picture of phals on the packet. But now I have found that all the phals had root rot due to all the fine soil bits in the bark which attached to the roots and suffocated them.

    So now I have just gone and bought a cheap $5 bag of pine park that says suited for epiphyte orchids and mixed them with perlite and spagnum moss topping to keep them moist since they have barely any roots on all of them.



    Fingers crossed that they will be happy with this and hopefully show signs of improvement and root growth soon.
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  2. #2
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    If you don't repot them any soon again and don't overwater, they'll be fine.
    Orchids are epiphytes and don't depend on the medium as much as other plants do. I know people who grow phals on rocks, bare root or in pure sphagnum moss. Any of these options would kill my orchids very soon, so I stick to pure bark medium and double pots (the inner pots are with ventilation holes), so I can control the humidity level depending on the temperature / humidity outside by taking them out of the outer pots or keeping them in double pots. This seems to be working in my conditions.
    Phals can grow in anything as long as you are able to maintain some basic conditions for them. So you have to find smth which suits both you and your plants.

    Actually I made the same mistake last year - couldn't stop repotting my orchids, as every time smth seemed to be wrong either with pots or with medium, with roots etc. It resulted in multiple otchid deaths.
    The worst thing is to repot them endlessly when they are growing new roots, each time you are disturbing them, the roots would "freeze" and then when you finally think the orchid is perfectly potted, the growth period is over and all you can do - wait till the next one (here it's usually around spring), IF the orchid is able to survive till then with the roots it currently has. 80% of mine didn't make it tilll spring.
    So I would suggest you don't repot them anymore, just water moderately and be patient. And if they are healthy enough to survive, sooner or later they'll give you a sign.
    Hope it all works out fine

  3. #3
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    Sorry to hear about your frustrating problem Legs. I've found there are exceptions related to what makes orchids happy. I might have 2 or more phals that get repotted on the same day and find one may not do well in the same media as the others.
    Carolla can tell you a sad story about losing a phal to bark media. The ''Fines'' (Small fine pieces) did the same thing to her plants roots.
    It sounds to me like you have the right formula now. I use the same mix and include some sphag too for increased water retention. And then I finish with a 1" layer of sphag m. too, like you.

    I won't keep a plant in total sphag anymore. Too easy to over water and if it's packed tight the roots can really suffer. I have two right now suffering from sphag too tight. They did well till just recently.
    In this Arizona climate bark is a better bet, but you have to be really careful they don't dry too quick.

    Looking at your picture above... be careful you don't pot your plant too deep. Especially if it's topped with sphag. Clear an area around the base because the leaves don't want to be nestled in moist sphag too long.

    I hope your plants reward you soon for all your effort, T

  4. #4
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    I like coconut husk chunks as it acts like little sponges and retains water much like the sphag. But it doesn't break down as quickly.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by 78Terp View Post
    I like coconut husk chunks as it acts like little sponges and retains water much like the sphag. But it doesn't break down as quickly.
    I've got to look for that. Don't know that it's available at the local merchants... you getting it on-line? Or making your own? And are you talking about the hair like stuff on the outer covering?

  6. #6
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    Thanks T4ltrman. You're exactly right it's "the fines" that killed them. I tried to flush them out when watering but when it dries they just attached back to the roots. Can't believe I was shown twice at two different stores with one person telling me he had 15yrs experience using that bark for phals which is impossible because mine didn't even last a month.

    I did pot a little deep but only because the phal had barely any roots and only very short so the rim of the pot had to hold it in place. But the spag topping is only thin and placed very loosely. I have been spraying carefully everyday to keep spag moist but not to get any water in the crown or between the leaves. I've held off on watering them for a couple of days now just so the cut roots can dry and heal.

    I've also put some ----rooting hormone gel on the stem and the roots to promote root growth.

    Now I'm thinking that the pot might be too big since it only has very short roots, but I'm trying to refrain from repotting them AGAIN, but it is plaguing my mind hmm...
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    Quote Originally Posted by T4tlrman View Post
    I've got to look for that. Don't know that it's available at the local merchants... you getting it on-line? Or making your own? And are you talking about the hair like stuff on the outer covering?
    I went to our local gardening store which is a major franchise here and they did not have coconut chips with the husks but something called coir, which I think is bark that's similar in texture to coconut chips but bigger.

    I've read that you can actually purchase them from the pet shops as they're used for reptile habitats as well. But you have to soak and rinse them everyday over a week or so as they have a lot of tannins in the husks and can leave a lot of stains in your clear pots and stain the orchid roots roots. But that's just what I've read.
    Posted via Mobile Device

  7. #7
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    When using bark, I always soak it for a day first. Then I swish it around as I'm pulling it out to get only the larger chunks and eliminate the fine debris. You may be able to use what you have, run it through a colander or even a net pot and flush it. Something with holes large enough for the fine pieces to go through.

  8. #8
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    Relax Legs - I'd leave it in the pot. It's a good one for seeing moisture and it's very well ventilated. Both pluses. Give it a chance with what you've done. It probably needs a break from being uprooted.

    I don't think you have to worry about misting the leaves or crown in your climate. It all evaporates shortly afterward, doesn't it?

    "Rooting hormone on the stem"? I didn't know they had a hormone for the stem... I have some for roots.

  9. #9
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    The source I buy from guarantees the coconut husk chunks have been pressed to remove any salts that may be present.

  10. #10
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    The more you change the pots on your orchid, the more likely you are to kill it. It looks fine, leave it alone at this point. The roots need to grow into the new media before the plant will thrive. The roots stop growing when they are disturbed and won't start again, it will then have to wait until the next growth cycle for more roots. For me growing Phals is all about happy roots. A change in the root environment (which is necessary every so often, as the potting media breaks down or the plant outgrows it's pot) means the plant will have to grow new roots as they adjust as they grow on the cellular level to the conditions they grow in and will slowly (or quickly) die back in a new pot with new media and a change in growing conditions. One of the biggest things you need to grow Phals is to know when to just neglect them and when you have a potting emergency on your hands. Mostly I am successful with Phals because I am lazy and don't do a lot of messing with them and don't over water them or repot them very often (every couple of years). Keep the roots healthy, let them do their thing and don't let water sit on the top to rot it and you are good. If its potted a bit deep, just remove some of the extra media at the top, but try to just adjust watering to let it dry out , then water it thoroughly, then let it dry out again. A little dilute fertilizer in your water that is allowed to wash through should be good. Your Phal has nice coarse bark, it would benefit from soaking a bit every few times you water, to really hydrate the bark, then letting it dry out. Sometimes less is more!

    Really most people have the most trouble just letting the plant grow at its own pace.

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