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How often to water?

This is a discussion on How often to water? within the New Growers: Ask the Senior Members forums, part of the New Growers category; Every other day is WAY too often for a Phal . When I pot mine, ...

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  1. #11
    Carolla's Avatar
    Carolla is offline Senior Member
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    Every other day is WAY too often for a Phal. When I pot mine, I use coarse bark, they like air on their roots and add about 30% sphagnum moss to hold some water, knowing that I soak them and let them sit for a week to ten days. New bark doesn't take up water so well, did you soak it thoroughly before potting your orchid? If not, then do soak it, but let it sit for several days. I have a couple that I re-potted recently and the bark is coarser then what I was using and pretty dry. I water them more often than the others. I used to get most of my plants on the same schedule by adding sphagnum moss to the ones that dried out too soon. Now I kinda gave up on that and just tour them all every couple of days and check on them and give them pep talks (and water if needed!). It takes more time, but its more fun too and I have the time to enjoy it.

    If you are underwatering (or the roots are too wet and damaged, you have to make the call), the leaves will get a bit wrinkly. If you know its been dry, then you up the watering schedule, if not, then you can always take it out of the pot and check the roots, or remove some of the bark on top and be sure they are ok. Most of my Phals are in ceramic/glazed pots with lots of holes in them. I don't see the roots inside, but when they are happy they crawl out of the holes and get all over.

  2. #12
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    I think it's important to understand that anyone responding is likely doing so based upon their own experience in their own conditions - so it may-, or may not apply to you and your conditions. I will use Carolla's response as an example:

    In sphagnum moss, or a densely-packed medium, I would agree with her 100% if growing in a typical home environment with moderate temperatures and humidity. If that same plant was growing in semi-hydroponics, watering every day - while totally unnecessary - would actually be good for the plant.

    The key is making sure the plant has a pretty constant supply of moisture, but also with plenty of air flow to the roots. Your choice of potting medium components, the pot, and your watering preferences all can be used to find the right combination for you. You might want to read this article about choosing media, and its companion article on pots.

  3. #13
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    Thanks Carolla and Raybark. I thought my orchid was pretty happy since I had roots trying to come out of every hole possible but I had to repot because of the bugs and because of that, had to break a lot of the roots because it was impossible to keep them in tact.....even though I tried cutting the pot with a scissors. I did not soak the bark or the orchid before repotting.....I did run water over the roots so that the medium would fall off. The medium seems to dry up so quickly on the top but I really don't know what's going on in the center. The center did not have many roots. I would hate to repot it again after being traumatized (although I handled it as gently as I could in the process). I'm going to try to water it less than the "every other day" and go back to spritzing it with water (not the center of the leaves) to give it a little moisture because it is a bit dry in the apt. If I had to do it again, I would have included some moss to hold some moisture. I think my orchid has a lot of air since the medium is very loose and chunky. I guess I'm going to have to play it by ear? Thanks all so much for your input!

  4. #14
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    Yes, Ray is right, I may have forgotten to say that my response is for my growing conditions (which are fairly normal for most houseplants, if a bit dry). I try to always say that, as what works for me might not work for someone else. All those orchids that come in sphagnum moss from the greenhouses do fine there... Many of those go to supermarkets where they are soaked horribly and sit in water and are lucky to survive to be repotted, or come into people's homes and are over watered (for their medium) and die. If yours is in unsoaked, chunky bark in your home and was doing fine before, then go easy, play it by ear and it should be fine. I usually do some damage to the roots repotting, can't be helped.

    I learned a sad lesson with my favorite Phal - I had it for 37 years and repotted it into what was supposed to be Phal potting mix and it promptly died. Turns out the mix was really too fine for a Phal and cut off the air to the roots and my favorite old plant didn't tolerate it, even with careful watering. Next time you repot, I suggest (given that your orchid has been doing pretty well as is) you add some sphagnum moss and soak the bark before using. That helps it to absorb moisture better when you water.

    I've put a few of mine in S/H (semi hydro) but not the Phals. My Oncidiums and Cattleyas generally really like it, though a couple are a bit sulky still. Still playing it by ear and experimenting, I expect to do so my whole orchid career.

  5. #15
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    Carol-Thats the way to go..

  6. #16
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    Thank you Carolla.....and every one for your input. I guess I have to go through the learning curve to learn the basic things. I appreciate everyone's help. I'm sure my phal will do fine as I've had great advice from you all since I first received it 20 months ago. Happy new year everyone!!!

  7. #17
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    The spongy bark is probably coconut husk. It holds a lot of water and takes a long time to decay.

  8. #18
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    Watering is one of the most difficult things for those starting with orchids. Although it may sound stupid, the short answer is, "when they need it". You can take plants that are essentially identical and one person can rot it while another will grow it very well. In addition to the amount of water you use, light, humidity, air movement,potting media, and pot size and type are equally important. So let's tackle this... Assuming you have adequate light an orchid that does not need a pronounced dry rest likes a cycle of moist to dry. I think it is very important to find a potting mix that suits you and your watering style. Water the plant well and try to observe the weight of the plant. Every day lift it, observe the potting mix, and even feel inside the pot for moisture. I've heard some who smell the potting mix to determine how wet it is. Water the plant the day AFTER it feels like moisture is leaving the potting mix. New potting media that is bark based is actually water repellent and as the bard becomes "seasoned" it will start to become more absorbent. Bark mix that is 2 years old usually has deteriorated to the point that it lets little air circulate to the roots and stays moist for a long time. This is why charcoal, perlite, and other things are added to bark. They keep the mix open. Over time you can experiment to find what works best for you. If your growing area has low humidity you may want to add moss or even grow some plants only in moss. If you have high humidity you will want to do things to make your mix more free draining. Have fun and pay attention to your plants. They have ways of telling you what they want and if you make them happy, they will make you happy!

  9. #19
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    Thank you! Good advice. My orchid seems to be doing alright after my re-potting. I think I will try watering twice a week and see how that goes. I noticed that the aerial root likes being spritzed with water so I'll do that occasionally and the leaves as well. That's what I did when I first got the plant....and it was doing really well.

  10. #20
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    Hi Everyone, I accidentally bumped into the wooden stick to support the plant and knocked it over slightly. A lot of the medium fell out and now the orchid is not set right in the pot. it actually was falling out. I've decided to start over again and soak my medium and repot it. Can anyone tell me how long you have to soak bark? My medium is pre-mixed so I'm assuming I should take out the charcoal and stones from the mix before soaking. Please advice.....thanks!

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