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Phalaenopsis challenging me to a battle of wits (and winning...)

This is a discussion on Phalaenopsis challenging me to a battle of wits (and winning...) within the New Growers: Ask the Senior Members forums, part of the New Growers category; First off I am totally new to plants, not just orchids. I had issues even ...

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  1. #1
    solus is offline Junior Member
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    Post Phalaenopsis challenging me to a battle of wits (and winning...)

    First off I am totally new to plants, not just orchids. I had issues even keeping succulents alive for awhile. Even bamboo has withered under my care. However, I do love flowers, and when I moved a year ago two lovely friends knew I have a particular affection for orchids and decided to give me two phalaenopsis plants to brighten up my living room. Against all odds I have managed so far not to kill them. I mist once every other day (its humid here already) and water in the morning once a week and allow all of the water to drain into the orchid pot for an hour or two and empty it so they are not sitting in any excess water. I keep them in sunlight and turn them a quarter turn every few days so they are evenly sunned. I even managed to trust myself to cut them above the second eye last year after they dropped their flowers (and I watched the video showing me how about 20 times). One of the plants bloomed again beautifully this year, with 3 flowers on each of its two stalks, and this is where things get weird...

    The plant that had flowered still has one stalk with 3 beautiful flowers on it, but the isn't doing well at all. First one of the flowers fell off (after about 2 months of blooming I didnt think that was strange at all) but then the other two started to wither, and then the stalk with it. Over the course of three days the whole stalk has turned brown, while the other is still blooming beautifully and a lovely shade of green.

    The other plant, I dont even know how to describe it. Its growing leafs from the tops of the two stalks. Both stalks have two sets of leaves and what appears to possible be roots (on top of a plant?!?).

    I will post some pictures as well. I really would love to keep these beauties going. They really have brightened up the room and make me wonderfully happy. The original success even gave me the courage to try a mini ficus, which has somehow also survived and is flourishing. Sorry to show up and immediately start asking questions, but once I saw what was happening with the plants I had to find people who would know more than I do about what might be going on with them. I would appreciate any help or tips. Thanks a million!!


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  2. #2
    nagurski's Avatar
    nagurski is offline Junior Member
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    It seems to me like you are messing with them too much.

    Never ever mist the flowers. They can't handle it. They will almost instantly go limp and drop off. Only mist the leaves if you have too. I would try not to mist much at all when they are flowering.

    What kind of water are you using to mist? I wouldn't recommend tap water, as most municipal supplies have high percentages of calcium in them which becomes calcium carbonate (chalk) when the water evaporates. You are then left with a thin film of chalk on your leaves which becomes thicker and thicker the more you spray. There are probably other minerals being deposited as well. These mineral films interfere with natural respiration/transpiration of the leaves and the plant as a whole. Other growers here might use tap water, and there are many knowledgeable folks here, so we can wait for them to chime in with their ideas.

    I spray my orchids, but only use distilled water, and I never spray the blooms. I have my own distiller. In my opinion, even purified tap water is also not good enough, since you can never remove all the resolved minerals with a conventional filtration method. I can give you information on a good distiller if you are interested.

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    Also my personal recommendation would be don't turn them so often. Other more experienced growers might have more information on this, but they can maybe give you a method that is successful for them..i.e. frequency and amount, times of year, etc.

    It also sounds to me like you have a developing keiki (baby individual plant) developing on one of your flower spikes. This can be a good thing. I found my first one early this morning on a dendrobium plant of mine. Let it develop roots and grow until the point where you think it would be successful to separate and plant on its own, then plant it in a small pot separately. If it stays healthy throughout the process and has a good enough root system, it should develop into another viable plant.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
    sand_tiger86's Avatar
    sand_tiger86 is offline Senior Member
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    Bethany, your plants are FINE! It's completely normal for the flower stalks (called spikes) to dry up once their flowering period is over. Yes, you can get new flowers off of the nodes that branch out (just like you did) but they usually don't last as long and you're lucky to even get that! So good going The leaves and roots on top of the spikes are called keikis. These are actually baby plants the mother plant produced, and will look exactly like the main plant one day when they reach flowering size. You can cut them off and pot them as separate plants once the roots are about 3 or so inches long. Sometimes Phals. throw out keikis as a sign of distress (usually awful roots that are rotted and barely any viable ones left) as a means for survival...but by that point the leaves would typically look wrinkled, withered and/or yellow and falling off. I see none of those signs on your very healthy looking plants. It looks like you're doing a great job to me!

  4. #4
    jai_star's Avatar
    jai_star is offline Senior Member
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    Very nice healthy plants , it's giving out babies! Pot them up when they are mature enough.

  5. #5
    sand_tiger86's Avatar
    sand_tiger86 is offline Senior Member
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    If you want my two cents about misting, I would simply say don't. It does next to nothing for your plants but provide about 5 minutes of extra humidity while it's still wet. After it dries the humidity is gone. Misting as a means of recreating a tropical climate (I guess this is why so many websites say to mist) is an effort in futility, and you'd honestly risk getting crown rot from water sitting in your leaf axils instead of any beneficial effects the mist could have on the plant. I think misting is absolutely pointless.

  6. #6
    jai_star's Avatar
    jai_star is offline Senior Member
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    I agree i don't mist either don't have time and don't want crown rot so i invested in a humidfier and a good fan

  7. #7
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    Kassie is offline Senior Member
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    Congratulations, you are an orchid grandparent! It looks like your one orchid decided to make baby keikis instead of more flowers. The other one is just following the course of nature. It does not need to keep its old spikes to bloom again, it can make new spikes next fall and winter. You can cut the brown spike near the plant and when the other flowers drop, you can cut that one also to let the plant concentrate on growing the rest of the summer.

    One thing that i have learned about orchid growing is that we all have different methods and habits and conditions. What works well for some people may not work at all for others. Your plants look happy and healthy. That, to me, is the proof that you are doing things right in your growing conditions. there is nothing wrong with misting-- some of my friends think it is very helpful. As long as you don't let water sit in the top where the leaves come together (crown) or keep the bark too wet, it should not cause problems to continue misting if you like. The keikis will like getting a little moisture of their own.

    I have the same opinion about turning--do it if it makes you happy! It will keep your plants from leaning over to one side toward the light. The only time turning can cause a problem is when new flower buds are developing--they can sometimes twist in different directions and upside down. But the blooms that grew under your care don't seem to have that problem.

    Phals like a warm humid summer for growing. In the fall, you can help signal them to start blooming by keeping them 10 to 15 degrees cooler at night than during the day.

    Congratulations on your orchid growing success! You started with 2 and now have 5 or 6 orchids (I can't tell exactly how many keikis there are). Not many of us can say we had such good results with our first orchids. ;-)

    There are several helpful videos here and we are always happy to answer questions.

  8. #8
    solus is offline Junior Member
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    Thank you to everyone for your quick responses. I will stop misting; I simply followed the instructions on the card that came with the plant because I honestly don't know better. I study art conservation; my knowledge of plants is limited to how to extract pigments and dyes from them, which of course I don't want to do with plants I keep for enjoyment


    Nagurski- I use tap water, but the water quality here is insanely good. This town is situated a few miles past the south end of a beautiful mountain range that happen to be volcanoes that have been dormant for thousands of years. As such there is a lot of natural filtration and the basalt rock the water flows over to reach us has very little calcium, but is rich in good minerals. Even the farmers here use the water direct as it creates rich soil. Again, I dont know much about orchids, but I never thought it was a bad idea to use the water the farmers use as their livelihood depends on that water being ok for plants. Is this an incorrect assumption?

    Kelly- Thanks for the reassurance There actually is one yellow leaf on the plant with the keikis, but it is the absolute bottom leaf is actually yellow and shriveled. I figured it is because that leaf is blocked by all of the other big healthy ones so it gets no light. Should I remove that leaf or just leave it be?

    Trish- Thanks for the advice!! I was wondering what I should be doing with that dried up spike. How close to the plant should I trim it? As for the turning, the plant with the dried out spike is leaning so much that its roots are coming up on one side, which is why I began turning them. At first I just let them be, and the ficus as well (which was a disaster, half was huge and bushy the other half almost died, so lesson learned lol), but as the window they are in is facing west they also get too much sunlight on any one part of the plant if I dont turn them. The Germans build their houses like kilns, 2 ft thick sandstone walls, even the heat radiating from the walls after an afternoon with the sun beating on them is enough to make plants (and humans) unhappy. They are great in winter because the heat is held in the walls once they get warmed up, but sadly physics also works in the summer... The temp doesnt seem to be a problem, we do have very warm, humid summers, and in fall it is much cooler here at night, so they should be ok with that. I was just surprised they lived through this last winter, it was harsh and some days we had a high of -15. They seemed to be ok and bloomed anyhow, but I suppose this is a good time to ask if I should be doing something for them in winter. I have to wrap the ficus in plastic and place it near a warm inner wall to stop it from dying. The bamboo couldn't care less lol. I cant wait to have 6 orchids around, now that I seem to have outgrown my plant killer days I love the color and light they add to the room. When I have more space I can see my plant collection growing....

    To all- Thanks for explaining the keikis. Now that I know what they are I found a bunch of wonderful threads explaining exactly what to do with them so I should be ok on that front.

  9. #9
    Teena's Avatar
    Teena is offline Senior Member
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    Bethany - Welcome - in nature these orchids usually tilt to the side so that water doe not collect in the crown of the plant which causes crown rot and will eventually kill the phal. so your plant that is leaning so much is just doing what is natural. As for the yellowing bottom leaf, just leave on there, it will eventually turn brown and dry and fall off, no need to try and remove it yourself, let nature take it's course, another 10 days to 2 weeks. You will probably find that there are new roots down there. As for the dried up flower spike, cut it as close to the plant as possible using a clean knife or scissors. I put all my scissors through the dishwasher and only use them one time when cutting a spike off an orchid before washing them again.

    By the way, my ficus had a lot of leaf drop in the winter but recovered every summer and then grew so tall I had to find a new home for it since it out grew my space. I turn my heat down in the winter to 52F and it gets quite cold at night and I've yet to lose a plant and I don't baby a one of them. - martha

  10. #10
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    Cjcorner is offline Senior Member
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    Looks like you have gotten a ton of good information so far. I see you are worried about the water, but if local farmers use it you should be okay. I use stinky "spring" water and so far my plants are fine. Good luck with your keikei's. There should be an article or two about potting your baby plants when they get large enough.

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