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Keeping a Phal Orchid Alive

This is a discussion on Keeping a Phal Orchid Alive within the New Growers: Ask the Senior Members forums, part of the New Growers category; I can officially call myself an orchid killer. (It's not something I'm proud of seeing ...

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  1. #1
    Ellycin's Avatar
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    Default Keeping a Phal Orchid Alive

    I can officially call myself an orchid killer. (It's not something I'm proud of seeing as I love orchids... possibly to death. ) The first phal I picked up lasted for about 9 months before it died off, I probably over watered it. So when I picked up the second phal, I was determined to not over water the poor thing. I watered approximately every 2 weeks depending on how wet the medium was. Alas, after 2-3 months, the second phal's stem rotted and died.

    I've come to the conclusion that I'm either doing something terribly wrong or the store I picked up from wasn't keeping the orchids in good condition. I've also come to the conclusion that I really hate sphagnum moss. I'm afraid to purchase another phal orchid. I would love to try again but I just have a feeling that I'll never be able to keep it alive. Any suggestions?

    Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Cjcorner is offline Senior Member
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    First of all don't fell like you are necessarily to blame. If the plant is in spagnum, most of the time they are doomed. It's important when you buy a new orchid to go ahead and repot it. Phals are pretty forgiving and as long as you are gentle and do not break roots it'll do just fine. Buy a bag of the phalaenopsis bark mix at your local hardware store or big box store and repot. I would guess the knot of compacted stuff in the middle is killing your plant. It sounds like you are doing right with the watering. If you still feel unsure, you can try the wood stick in the mix to check how dry it is. Put the stick to your cheek...if it's cold and damp don't water. If the stick feels warm and dry it's time to water. I try to encourage people to repot before they give up and say orchids are too hard. Many times the plants aren't expected to live and are potted to last only through the flowering. Good luck with your next orchid...it may also be you haven't found the right kind for your care. Sometimes a person that cannot keep a phal alive does great with cattleya. Hope this helps.

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    Great advice given above! I did poorly with phals at first. Try another genre. Oncidiums and encyclias were the ones that made the obsession stick for me. Temperature tolerance seems to be a key to ease of growth and phals are not known to be temp tolerant. What are your temps like?
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellycin View Post
    I can officially call myself an orchid killer. (It's not something I'm proud of seeing as I love orchids... possibly to death. ) The first phal I picked up lasted for about 9 months before it died off, I probably over watered it. So when I picked up the second phal, I was determined to not over water the poor thing. I watered approximately every 2 weeks depending on how wet the medium was. Alas, after 2-3 months, the second phal's stem rotted and died.

    I've come to the conclusion that I'm either doing something terribly wrong or the store I picked up from wasn't keeping the orchids in good condition. I've also come to the conclusion that I really hate sphagnum moss. I'm afraid to purchase another phal orchid. I would love to try again but I just have a feeling that I'll never be able to keep it alive. Any suggestions?

    Thank you.
    well, agreed to what Connie said, great advice. no further suggestion right now but would like to give you some encouragement. don't give up, you are doing much better than me. my first catasetum didn't even last for a month!!! we made mistakes all the time but the important thing is to learn from it, i find internet browsing quite useful and off course, ORCHID TALK FORUMS helps!! members here are very humble and helpful.
    but soon after learning more on catasetums cultivation, now i had 30 different types of catasetums alone, din mange to kill one for a very long long time and also able to help to revive some very poor conditioned catasetums i bumped into from time to time in the nursery.

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    Agree with all above I see you mention it was the STEM that rotted? Are you watering the plant or the medium? If you get any moisture in the crown of the plant, you can almost guarantee that some funky action is gonna go on lol. Generally, you want to water the medium, and keep the water out of the top of the plant.

  6. #6
    orcoholic is offline Senior Member
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    Kiwiorchids is right. Letting water sit in the crown (where the leaves meet) is a death sentence for phals. All you have to do is dry out the crown if you get any water in it. Other than that, Phals are very easy and rewarding as they are one of the most reliable bloomers.

    As for the Sphagnum Moss: I need to disagree with some of the info provided above. I think it is the best medium in which to grow Phals. About 99.44% of all phals grown in the world are grown in sphagnum moss. Every phal out of Taiwan is grown in moss. I grow about 500 phals in moss and the moss is never a problem. What is a problem is overwatering.

    To grow a Phal in moss, you need to take care not to water too often. Only water when the moss is almost dry. You can tell when it needs watering by lifting the pot and seeing how heavy it is, or by sticking your finger into the moss. You should water once with fertilizer and the next time with plain water. This keeps dangerous salts from building up in the moss. Using moss allows you to water much less than bark. You need to repot every orchid every couple of years, especially the ones in moss.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cjcorner View Post
    First of all don't fell like you are necessarily to blame. If the plant is in spagnum, most of the time they are doomed. It's important when you buy a new orchid to go ahead and repot it. Phals are pretty forgiving and as long as you are gentle and do not break roots it'll do just fine. Buy a bag of the phalaenopsis bark mix at your local hardware store or big box store and repot. I would guess the knot of compacted stuff in the middle is killing your plant. It sounds like you are doing right with the watering. If you still feel unsure, you can try the wood stick in the mix to check how dry it is. Put the stick to your cheek...if it's cold and damp don't water. If the stick feels warm and dry it's time to water. I try to encourage people to repot before they give up and say orchids are too hard. Many times the plants aren't expected to live and are potted to last only through the flowering. Good luck with your next orchid...it may also be you haven't found the right kind for your care. Sometimes a person that cannot keep a phal alive does great with cattleya. Hope this helps.
    Thank you so much for your encouragement. From my understanding it seems I need to repot the phal as soon as I purchase them even if it kills the flowers. Does the wood stick still apply to check the amount of water when when the medium is the bark mix?

    Quote Originally Posted by cakedaddy View Post
    Great advice given above! I did poorly with phals at first. Try another genre. Oncidiums and encyclias were the ones that made the obsession stick for me. Temperature tolerance seems to be a key to ease of growth and phals are not known to be temp tolerant. What are your temps like?
    Posted via Mobile Device
    The temperature fluctuate from high 60s to mid 80s F during the year. Will that affect the phal? I'm not even sure where to purchase an oncidium or encyclias. I've only seen phal where I am.

    Quote Originally Posted by kiwiorchids View Post
    Agree with all above I see you mention it was the STEM that rotted? Are you watering the plant or the medium? If you get any moisture in the crown of the plant, you can almost guarantee that some funky action is gonna go on lol. Generally, you want to water the medium, and keep the water out of the top of the plant.
    Well, I watered the phal in the sink and try to soak the entire medium. I do dry out the crown after I finish watering the plant if I've accidentally gotten water on it though.

    Quote Originally Posted by orcoholic View Post
    Kiwiorchids is right. Letting water sit in the crown (where the leaves meet) is a death sentence for phals. All you have to do is dry out the crown if you get any water in it. Other than that, Phals are very easy and rewarding as they are one of the most reliable bloomers.

    As for the Sphagnum Moss: I need to disagree with some of the info provided above. I think it is the best medium in which to grow Phals. About 99.44% of all phals grown in the world are grown in sphagnum moss. Every phal out of Taiwan is grown in moss. I grow about 500 phals in moss and the moss is never a problem. What is a problem is overwatering.

    To grow a Phal in moss, you need to take care not to water too often. Only water when the moss is almost dry. You can tell when it needs watering by lifting the pot and seeing how heavy it is, or by sticking your finger into the moss. You should water once with fertilizer and the next time with plain water. This keeps dangerous salts from building up in the moss. Using moss allows you to water much less than bark. You need to repot every orchid every couple of years, especially the ones in moss.
    I've noticed that the first inch of the moss gets very dry but deeper in, it is still rather damp. Maybe people who are more experienced with caring a phal can use the sphagnum moss, but I've had bad experience twice already. It makes me nervous. lol I would water with only 50% of the fertilizer for the first three times before watering with just pure water. I hope that's acceptable.

  8. #8
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    Hi Ellycin,


    I would suggest that if you know other people in your community that have Phals, please don't hesitate to ask questions with them on how they taking care of their Phals. I think it's is a good idea to do that since you are in a same community with the same factor such as environment, temperature and humidity.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jef09071984 View Post
    Hi Ellycin,


    I would suggest that if you know other people in your community that have Phals, please don't hesitate to ask questions with them on how they taking care of their Phals. I think it's is a good idea to do that since you are in a same community with the same factor such as environment, temperature and humidity.
    This guys advice= A+! That is a superb idea, then you can get a resonable idea, instead of trying to wok it out from other countries conditions etc

  10. #10
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    I'll speak up for moss as a medium for Phalaenopsis. I have 5 Phal or Dtps orchids in moss and they're all doing great -- one is a rescue, even, that's putting out a new leaf way before I thought it would. I also have a few moisture-loving mini vandaceous hybrids, an Aerides and a Haraella in it -- these all have similar watering needs to Phalaenopsis. Moss is good for orchids that want even hydration, and most people I know, whether they're hobbyists growing in their houses (that's me) or serious growers with huge greenhouses use sphagnum moss for Phals. Not all, but most. The moss itself is rot-resistant -- you can use sphagnum to dress wounds. Usually, Phals succumb to crown rot, as kiwiorchids described, not root rot.

    Actually, other than two of the first orchids I ever bought, years ago, the only problems I've ever had with rot have been with plants in bark. These were plants that just needed less water and more air than I gave them, even with the freer-draining medium.

    Success with any aspect of orchid growing does depend on your conditions, though, so if you don't know people growing orchids in your area, let us know where you are and what kind of circumstances you have -- humidity, light, air circulation -- and there are probably people on this board who could speak from similar conditions. But definitely don't give up. Everybody sends a few to orchid heaven on the way to figuring them out.

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