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Trouble in Vanda-Ville: the dreaded root rot!! Advice?

This is a discussion on Trouble in Vanda-Ville: the dreaded root rot!! Advice? within the Orchid Ailments / The Compost Pile forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; Hi! I'm hoping someone can help me with my pesky orchid issue. I recently posted ...

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  1. #1
    OrchidAddict's Avatar
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    Question Trouble in Vanda-Ville: the dreaded root rot!! Advice?

    Hi! I'm hoping someone can help me with my pesky orchid issue.

    I recently posted a question about my Aranda...I thought it was sprouting a spike, but it turned out to be a root (ok, no problem...I'll take a healthy root any day). A member commented that the plant looked like it needed more moisture. Since the plant is currently getting TONS of sun and is in a clay pot with only LECA pellets, I was advised to mist it every morning, use a humidifier, and water it daily instead of every two to three days as I had been doing.

    Here's the original pic of the Aranda in question: (you can see the baby purple root at the bottom of the plant and the beginnings of the crinkly leaves. This is before I started adding more moisture.)
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    WELLLLLL.... after a few days of increased moisture, my Aranda is looking worse: WAY more crinkly. So, I pulled the plant out of its pellets to inspect the roots, and to my surprise, I found that moisture had been collecting at the bottom of the clay pot, amongst the LECA pellets, and fuzzy MOLD had been growing all over the pellets! Most of the Aranda's roots had become rotten, shriveled, and black, and they were sticking to the moldy pellets. ACK!!!

    I guess that's why my plant is crinkly...it's thirsty, but not for the reasons I'd originally thought.

    In good news, in addition to the baby root you can see above, the plant has sprouted two new plump, super-healthy roots from the base, so it's clearly a spunky little plant who wants to live. I think if I can remedy the problem, the worst that will happen is that I might lose a couple of leaves. So now I'm running around like a nutcase, with "MUST SAVE THE PLANT!" going around and around in my head...trying to find some way to keep moisture from accumulating at the bottom of the pot.

    Since I don't really have an area where I can mount it in a basket and let the roots hang freely, I'd like to try and replicate the "hanging basket" conditions as closely as possible with a pot.

    I went out today and bought some ceramic orchid pots with holes cut into the sides for aeration. Then I bought wire mesh to drape like a makeshift "basket" on the inside of the pots, both to keep the LECA pellets from falling out of the holes and to make a "false bottom" to allow for air flow under the pellets.

    So here's the question...do I make the bottom of this "mesh basket" about halfway down in the pot so that the roots can grow through the mesh and collect in the open air at the bottom? Or do I line the entire pot with the mesh--all the way to the bottom--and fill the top half of the pot with LECA pellets and the bottom with glass beads or marbles, which won't hold any moisture but will give the roots something to anchor to?

    Or are both of these crappy ideas?

    For the record, the plant gets about 4 hours of direct morning sun in an eastern window, then it gets a break, and then it gets full afternoon sun for several hours in a western window. It's getting plenty of light, so that's not the issue...I just need to allow those roots to breathe! (Oh, and I don't really want to do the glass vase method I've heard of because I think the glass would amplify the sun's rays and the roots would get too hot with the direct sun beating on them for hours).

    I might be making this whole thing overly complicated, but I really, really want to see this plant bloom someday. I wish I could do the basket mounting, but living in Pennsylvania, I just don't see how that would work inside the house during the wintertime, and I hesitate to hang it outside in the summer because we tend to have a lot of problems with leaf-eating bugs when it gets warm.

    I would love your thoughts on all of this! For some reason, potting media tends to stay wet here a LONG time. Heck...if LECA pellets in a clay pot will grow mold in the middle of summer in full sun, I've got to be really, really careful!

    Vanda enthusiasts, please weigh in here...I need all the help I can get!

    Thanks! -Jenn

  2. #2
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    For what's it's worth. Here in the Malaysia, home of the Aranda's, I grow them in 6-8 inch clay pots without any medium, or a few big charcoal chunks so that the roots are not smothered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by catttan View Post
    For what's it's worth. Here in the Malaysia, home of the Aranda's, I grow them in 6-8 inch clay pots without any medium, or a few big charcoal chunks so that the roots are not smothered.
    Well, now THAT'S encouraging news! Perhaps I'm making this over-complicated. Do you water your Arandas daily? And when you water, do you soak the clay pots for a few minutes or just run water through them until the roots turn green?

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    If you are going to water your aranda and mist it daily and your humidity is at least 50% then you don't really need to have your plant in a medium. If you want to keep using the clay pellets then you will probably have to wait a few days in between before watering again. Every other day to every third day sounds about right and if there is some roots outside the pot then you could/should mist them daily. Just my 2 cents
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    Quote Originally Posted by OrchidAddict View Post
    Well, now THAT'S encouraging news! Perhaps I'm making this over-complicated. Do you water your Arandas daily? And when you water, do you soak the clay pots for a few minutes or just run water through them until the roots turn green?
    I don't think my watering regime would suit your conditions - we have 90-100 % humidity all the time, with temps in the mid 90s . I water all my orchids twice a day and fertilise weakly weekly.Raver's suggestions sound better for your growing conditions.

  6. #6
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    For growing any orchid, or any plant for that matter, it would be necessary to have DRAINAGE holes and good drainage. Normally developed roots (not the ones developed in SH) cannot sit in water, then they are bound to rot. I do not know how much you are spraying but spraying is just meant to get the surface of the leaves wet, not so much that it drips down the plant and accumulates in the pot. Spraying should be like a having a shower and then drying up not like like standing in 2ft of water continuously

  7. #7
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    i have 2 ascocendas that i had in a clay pot with no medium, except a few strands of sphagnum moss. they were doing ok. someone told me to try adding leca pellets. i did. they did not like it, they did the same thing, got wrinkly and i pulled them out and i found the roots rotting. i've trimmed them back, and put them in a bark/pearlite/fern fiber mix with some pellets. they are doing better. this mix is very open, and it is very dry here, so they are recovering. otherwise i have had luck with this mix with vandas and other orchids. i only use mix because it is so dry. and quite frankly, they were happy with nothing and frequent misting... i no longer trust those pellets by themselves. at least not for vanda types. with my mix i water twice a week, and mist almost every day, but not a lot. and not the leaves really, just the roots/top of the medium. you could also try reducing the light a bit while the plant recovers.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halloamey View Post
    For growing any orchid, or any plant for that matter, it would be necessary to have DRAINAGE holes and good drainage. Normally developed roots (not the ones developed in SH) cannot sit in water, then they are bound to rot. I do not know how much you are spraying but spraying is just meant to get the surface of the leaves wet, not so much that it drips down the plant and accumulates in the pot. Spraying should be like a having a shower and then drying up not like like standing in 2ft of water continuously
    Thanks for clarifying, Halloamey! This vanda issue is a real puzzler.

    I have over 20 orchids, and I always make sure that all of my orchid pots have nice big drainage holes at the bottom, and when I water the plants, I give them a good soak in the sink, then wait until all water has stopped dripping out of the bottom of the pot before replacing them in their normal spots. This has always worked like magic with my paphs, phals, and dendrobiums (I water all of these every few days, when the bark is nearly dry...sometimes they'll go a week or more between waterings if it has been a rainy/damp week).

    When I started misting my vandaceous orchids, I really only sprayed enough to wet the leaves and the very tops of the LECA pellets...definitely not enough to have water dripping down through the pellets. I'm not sure how the roots have managed to be sitting in water at the bottoms of these pots...I always wait until they are obviously done draining before replacing them in their normal locations. And I always water first thing in the morning. They get at least 6 hours of direct sun after watering, so I thought I'd be in the clear for sure.

    All my other orchids seem to do fine with this arrangement... I have several warm-growing dendrobiums that I keep right along side the vandaceous orchids, and they're thriving like crazy. The only difference is that the dendrobes are in coarse bark, and the vandas are in LECA pellets. For whatever reason, water does not seem to sit in the bottom of the bark like it does in the pellets. But all my orchids are basically in the same kind of pot...generic clay or ceramic with a big drainage hole in the bottom (none on the sides).

    So...I'm hoping that the added aeration holes all over the sides of these new pots will be the "magic touch" needed to give my aranda and other vandaceous orchids the air flow they need. I don't think I'll have the humidity available year-round to use no media at all, so I think I'm going to try using mesh, filling the top with LECAs, then I'll leave at least 2" under the mesh open for air circulation.

    Anyway, the pots I bought to remedy the situation this time are the kind with big holes all around the sides of them, but...oddly enough...no holes in the bottom (weird)! I'm going to drill drainage holes in the bottom with a ceramic drill before I put the orchids in.

    It looks like it's going to take some trial and error on my part to get this right (mostly error so far...hopefully I can improve upon that! LOL). I am intrigued by the idea of not using any media at all and just securing them in the pots with mesh, but it gets VERY dry here in the winters, and I think the roots would suffer...hence why I wanted to use the pellets in the first place so that they'd at least have some humidity helping them out. But now a lot of folks seem to be saying that LECAs don't really give good results with vandaceous orchids. *sigh*

    So...my next step will be to mount these orchids in their new "super-aeration" pots with mesh, mounting them high enough in the pot for the roots to grow down through the mesh into the open air below. The LECAs on the top of my current pots always dry out super-fast, and hopefully the LECAs on the bottom of these "pseudo-baskets" will also dry out quickly because of the air coming up from underneath. I'll post a pic of the setup when I get the plant situated.

    I appreciate everyone's advice here! Let's all cross our fingers for these little guys!
    Thanks so much!
    -Jenn

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by coeruleo View Post
    i have 2 ascocendas that i had in a clay pot with no medium, except a few strands of sphagnum moss. they were doing ok. someone told me to try adding leca pellets. i did. they did not like it, they did the same thing, got wrinkly and i pulled them out and i found the roots rotting. i've trimmed them back, and put them in a bark/pearlite/fern fiber mix with some pellets. they are doing better. this mix is very open, and it is very dry here, so they are recovering. otherwise i have had luck with this mix with vandas and other orchids. i only use mix because it is so dry. and quite frankly, they were happy with nothing and frequent misting... i no longer trust those pellets by themselves. at least not for vanda types. with my mix i water twice a week, and mist almost every day, but not a lot. and not the leaves really, just the roots/top of the medium. you could also try reducing the light a bit while the plant recovers.
    Ahhhh....good to know. Thank you for sharing your troubles with the pellets...I thought I was the only one! I had originally gotten the idea of using the LECAs from someone in the forum who was growing Vandas on a windowsill in New York in LECAs only. Similar climate as Pennsylvania, so I thought I'd give it a go. Really, everything seemed to be going along okay until I started watering them more frequently due to the mega amounts of sun they're currently getting here in the summer. Then the crinkles appeared, and the advice to water more, and, well...here I am in crinkle-and-rot-ville. Fortunately I think I caught the problem before it got too bad. I am definitely going to keep your special "mix" in mind, and I will decrease the amount of sunlight to allow the plant to recover.

    My next step is to mount my vandaceous types in pots with holes all through the sides to increase aeration. I'm going to create a false bottom by using mesh, and hopefully it will allow for enough air flow to dry the pellets from the bottom as well as the top. I'll post a pic when I've got it set up! But I'm definitely beginning to think those LECAs aren't all they're cracked up to be...LOL!

    Thanks for all your help! You folks are fantastic. When I told my husband my plans, his advice was to just throw away the plants and get something easier to take care of. Yeah...um, I don't think so! Heheee!! I'll keep you all posted!

    Thanks, Jenn

  10. #10
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    While vanda types like lots of moisture they also like air movement around their roots. I think that might be where the problem lies. Being able to dry out is crucial. You might try mounting it in a small wooden basket?

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