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New and in need of help with phal

This is a discussion on New and in need of help with phal within the New Growers: Ask the Senior Members forums, part of the New Growers category; Hi everyone--I'm new to the forum --and to orchids! This has probably been addressed before, ...

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  1. #1
    JJ1031 is offline Junior Member
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    Question New and in need of help with phal

    Hi everyone--I'm new to the forum--and to orchids! This has probably been addressed before, but I just have to ask a question about what potting mix is best.

    My parents bought a phal for me this weekend at a nursery. When I received it, I was immediately frightened by the potting mix in which it was planted. I thought at first that it was potting soil. I took a look, and it looks to be some type of mixture---bark, a questionable potting substance (looks like soil, but--doesn't feel like potting soil, at least--so I'm guessing peat moss?), and some small white "stuff" (perlite, perhaps?). The roots are in good shape, the leaves look healthy, and it still has one bloom. I'm guessing it is being grown in "mud"?

    I called the nursery to make sure, and the person who answered said to use a light potting soil mix and include some bark, as orchids don't like it really wet. This goes against everything I've read---but then again, I know nothing about "light potting soil mix."

    So, my question is this---do you think this nursery has my orchid in a light potting soil? And if so, what do I do? The orchid appears to be in good shape. I wouldn't think that an orchid could survive in potting soil for long at all. Do you think I should repot? And if so, how do I prevent shocking the orchid?

    Thanks for your help! I don't want to do anything to lose my new orchid.

  2. #2
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    I don't know of any one on our forum who grows their phals in potting soil of any king. most use either sphaphnum moss, bark or a mix. I use a mix of small bark, perlite (that white stuff) a little crushed charcol. This mix requires more frequent watering than using straight sphag, but it does avoid overwatering. You can also use a bark mix and add some chopped sphag to it to up the moisture retention.

    While your plant looks good now, you should watch it carefully to make sure that it doesn't stay too wet with that soil in the pot. Again, most of us repot our plants when we buy them just to make sure they are okay and that they will fit in with our watering schedule.

    good luck with your first orchid!

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    JJ1031 is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks for your reply! I am seriously considering repotting, as I am afraid the roots could rot if it stays in what it's in now. Will repotting made the bloom drop faster?

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    There is a chance that the blooms will fall faster, but you never know. I've repotted blooming phals that barely seemed to notice the change. Sometimes a bloom or two will fold and fall, but the rest will be OK. It's a calculated risk based on how much danger you think the plant itself might be in.

    If it's in a soil-like mix, it will probably wash away from the roots without much disruption, and the process will be fairly gentle.

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    It's a peat-based mix (like what you guessed earlier, the perlite is there to help getting more air in the root), phal loves it, but you have to watch for the watering, this kind of mix is for a "lazy-waterer" like me, wait until they're ALMOST (and I said almost!) bone-dry, and then water and apply week fertilizer. Your orchid is gonna look impressive in that stuff (because every one think it's soil!)
    Check out this essay. (not a professional one. Nice work though)
    http://www.msu.edu/user/harveyb/mud.htm

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    JJ1031 is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks! I have been reading about peat-based mixes---there seem to be so many combinations. It seems that people do have success with them, as long as they don't overwater. Question---how long will it take for the mix to get almost dry? I'm guessing more than a week? I haven't watered it yet--I want to wait until the mix was a little more dry. When I do repot, and if I decide to stay with the peat-based mix---what type of peat-based mix should I use? Do you ususally buy something pre-mixed, or do you mix your own? What type of combination do I look for? Bark, perlite, peat moss, charcoal?

    Thanks for your help!

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    ok, my mix usually have styrofoam peanuts ( I guess you knows what I'm saying right? ) it's a great substance in getting air into the mix, arrange the "peanuts" on the bottom of the mix up to 50% to get some air. Then whatever on top is up to you, maybe a mixture of peat and perlite? I prefer sphagnum because of ease in watering (sphagnum dries more evenly, so it's easy for me to watch if they're dry or not.) charcoal is cool if you have them, maybe mixture of peat, perlite, fine charcoal? why not give it a try.
    For Phal, it's very easy to watch if they have enough water (I'm talking about when to water again): just let it go dry, until the point that you think that water can still be soak in easy. Don't let the sphagnum go to the point that in the next watering, you have a hard time getting the moss wet. Always watch the leaves to see if it's plump.
    Anyway, after watering, the sphagnum is still very wet for about 3 days, and then starts to dry up, usually in one week. If yours is way longer than that, I think you need to have more air circulating.
    Any questions?

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    JJ1031 is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks for your reply! Your answers have been so helpful. Will switching from a peat mix to a packing peanuts (yep, know what you mean. and I should make sure they are not the biodegradable ones, right?) and sphagnum moss shock the plant? It seems to be doing okay so far--and from what I can tell, the roots look to be healthy. The peat mix is still damp---but I'm not sure when it was last watered. If I did opt to repot in the sphagnum moss, would you add in a few pieces of bark? I guess all of this depends on personal preference and watering habits? I wish there was a way to experiment without risking the life of my first orchid.

  9. #9
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    don't worry too much, usually, Phal is very easy to thrive and very common, and like I said, they loves moisture along with air - plant them in moss and give them AIR!
    Any transplant will shock the plant but they'll recover quickly if you did it gently not to break any root. Dont worry too much, the media is easily washed out from the root; bark is ok but I think charcoal is good enough, remember to flush frequently (like everytime you water).
    However, if your pot is too big (larger than 5-6") then sphagnum / peat doesn't seem to be a good choice; at this point, bark will hit in. I have never experiment with bark but I believe it's harder to repot bark-growing orchid than sphagnum-growing orchid. Up to what you like.
    If you have a place with a lot of moisture, I think it's best to grow them in tree fern mount, they loves them!!!!!! I've tried it when I live in some tropical country where te humidity is always around 70% or more.

  10. #10
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    LOL! I find it muc easier to repot bark mix orchids than sphag orchids - so you see it is a matter of choice and finding out what works for you. Don't stress so much over the decision. Pick one, follow the directions and watch the plant for the next few weeks. It will let you know in plenty of time if it is happy or not so you can try another method.

    The best way to treat them is not to over care for them. They are very hardy plants, and really quite forgiving.

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