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Root Health, New Potting Technique

This is a discussion on Root Health, New Potting Technique within the Orchid Ailments / The Compost Pile forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; I feel as though I am bombarding you all with questions, but here goes another ...

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  1. #1
    douglas is offline Member
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    Question Root Health, New Potting Technique

    I feel as though I am bombarding you all with questions, but here goes another one. This one is a bit complicated.
    I have been experimenting with a potting technique I thought of, using transparent glass floral stones in a wire basket. My intention is to create an environment for the roots more like their natural habitat- light exposure for the roots, open air flow, and the ability to become wet and then dry within one or two days- just like in the wild. The first pic I have attached here is of the potted plant so you can see what I am describing. I had to water much more often this way since the glass retains no moisture, but also my apartment is at 70% humidity.
    Here is the problem: My roots are not doing well. One of my Phals potted this way finally lost its blossoms after 6 months, so I cut the spike today and pulled the roots out of the glass to inspect them. The last three pics I attached here are of the roots before clean up, and after clean up, as well as a close up fo the dead clippings. I am baffled because I don't understand how the roots could have rotted in this potting system and I don't know for sure that rotting is even the problem. The problem roots look more like they are dry and withered rather than rotten, but I watered every other day. Can anyone tell from these photos really what the problem is?
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    I would venture to say that the weight of the glass balls was enough to damage the roots, leading eventually to root death. Try a lighter mix next time. jmho.

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    Lizgeo is offline Senior Member
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    I agree with Mary. Also glass doesn't retain any moist, that's why your roots look dry.

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    Maybe I should try to find a plastic version instead? My intention is to use something transparent so the roots can photosynthesize.

    As for the moisture factor, perhaps the roots are too dry in the glass, but keep in mind that in the wild, these roots don't need to be wrapped in damp moss 24-7. They are just out in the open air. Could all this damage happen just during 1 or 2 busy weeks when I don't find the time to keep the humidifiers full with water, or don't get around to watering the plants every other day?

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    Why do you want all the roots to be able to get light and photosynthesize? The leaves look vibrant, so root photosynthesis to support the plant isn't NECESARY, although it certainly doesn't hurt! What about using a cone of styrofoam in the wire baskets center with the roots spread around it and the glass marbles carefully filling in around the edges?

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    When I first started, I tried alot of "new" stuff. I killed tons of phals... It's always tempting to try stuff like marbles, but it's better to just go with what is proven. It'll save you alot of time and orchids.

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    Quote Originally Posted by douglas View Post
    As for the moisture factor, perhaps the roots are too dry in the glass, but keep in mind that in the wild, these roots don't need to be wrapped in damp moss 24-7. They are just out in the open air.
    In wild, their roots are not just flying in the open air, they are mostly attached to tree branches (at least from I have seen). They get some moist from there too.

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    My intention is to use something transparent so the roots can photosynthesize.
    If you feel that is important, then try a clear plastic pot and use a more conventional medium. Not all of the roots, even in situ photosynthesize. In a clear plastic pot, you can also keep an eye on root health and development as well as letting some of the roots photosynthesize.

    My thoughts are that the glass used as a medium doesn't hold enough moisture. Phals in situ don't necessarily have a short, complete drying cycle like you seem to be saying. They do best with constant and consistent moisture-not too wet, not too dry.

    Susan

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    This is great feedback. I like the idea of using styrofoam in the center, thanks for that! And I'm going to try filling in around the outside with a plastic (acrylic) version of the stones or marbles, which will be less weighty on the roots.

    Perhaps I will eventually have to revert back to the old system if I don't experience greater success, but it not exactly a failure yet either. Its a work in progress. Several orchid growers have made the comparison that many roots die off while a Phal is re-aclimating from a pot to mount. Theory being that the old previously potted roots were not used to light or air flow. So you wait for new roots to form in the new environment.
    It's not that I am overly concerned about the photosynthesis with the roots. Nor that I want the roots to dry out completely after watering. I don't care if I have to water the roots every single day. But my apartment is going to be at 70% humidity even if I have no Phals in my home. I need it that way for myself. In that environment, I have experienced more past failure with the traditional potting technique because even if I did not water for 3 weeks at a time, I still experienced root rot. And it was a struggle to get fertilizer to my plants when I was not able to apply water. So far I have not killed any plants since the 6 months I began potting with glass. I am encouraged to continue, albeit with alterations. I'll let you all know how it works out later on. Wish me luck!

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    Douglas:

    Why not just resort to s/h in a clear or transparent container and using clay pellets? By this means there would be light, moisture and a view of what's happening with the roots. Also, on the days you are too busy, the plant would still have access to water.

    I think we are going to have to restrict you to the number of phals you are allowed to experiment with per month, .

    Good luck.

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