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orchid leaves dying starting from stem

This is a discussion on orchid leaves dying starting from stem within the Orchid Ailments / The Compost Pile forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; Because they're generally not well cared for, I don't usually like to get grocery store ...

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  1. #1
    ang709's Avatar
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    Default orchid leaves dying starting from stem

    Because they're generally not well cared for, I don't usually like to get grocery store orchids. Recently, however, I purchased one after being won over by the tiny, adorable flowers and branching spike. Later that week, unhappy that the moss still seemed as wet as when I bought it, I cut the spike (mostly faded anyway) and repotted into bark. It had a couple OK roots, but not a great mass.

    Since repotting, it's already dropped 3 leaves from the bottom. I was expecting some leaves to drop, but now two more are turning yellow, and one is not exactly on the bottom. What worries me the most is that I'm used to leaves turning yellow first at the tip and then moving closer to the stem. However, all of these leaves have first turned yellow at the stem. What causes this type of yellowing/dying, and is there anything to be done to stop it?
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    Oh no... this happened to a grocery store mini-phal I bought a couple of months ago. I always get them out of their yucky moss as soon as I get them home, and then I put them in clean bark, and they usually adjust with no problems. I have rescued more orchids than I can count by doing this and just being patient. But then, randomly, my mini just starting turning yellow from the inside of the leaves outward, which no orchid has ever done before for me.

    It died.

    I was really, REALLY disappointed because I absolutely loved this tiny little orchid. Usually I'm not so attached to grocery-store clearance-aisle rescues, but this one I had paid full price for because it was just such a gorgeous shade of orange and had such tiny flowers.

    Anyway, I did everything I could think of to save the orchid, and it died anyway... the leaves turned yellow from the bottom up, and from inside outward, until finally all of them had fallen off, the crown shriveled, and and the orchid was clearly dead.

    I wasn't able to get any real explanation for what had happened. Tucker suggested that perhaps the orchid had gone into shock because I may have forgotten to warm the water I used to water it, and orchids can go into shock if watered with really cold water. I thought I had remembered to warm up the water before watering, but I could have accidentally forgotten once if I was in a hurry.

    At any rate, this doesn't look good. I really hope someone can give you some answers, because it might also explain what happened to mine.

    I'm wondering if it could be a "grocery store 'mini'" issue, since you said that yours had tiny flowers, and mine was a mini that didn't do well. I've also had other "minis" that I've bought or received as gifts from grocery stores in the past, and none of them have done all that well, now that I think about it. They seem to be weaker plants than their full-size counterparts.

    Perhaps it has something to do with the breeding they do of the minis?

    I hope someone chimes in who can help you rescue your plant!

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    Many of the leaves look green, but I just noticed something on their surfaces.

    Do you spray these plants, and do you use tap water to do so?

    It looks to me like there is a great deal of calcium carbonate deposits on the undersides of the leaves in the bottom photo. It looks like the cumulative effect of water getting on the leaves and evaporating, which leaves tiny areas of CaCO3 on those spots. The small spots then become much larger areas of calcium films over time and with repeated waterings.

    For large areas on which basically a salt is deposited, it can block the transpiration/respiration of the leaves and kill them.

    Maybe you're not spraying them, but maybe in the watering process is splashing up onto the under-sides of the leaves.

    I would try to rinse the leaves off with distilled water or something, and maybe look into using some "softer" water for future watering and such if possible.

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    Yes, there are definitely mineral deposits on the leaves. That is from the way it was watered before I made the purchase. I thought it looked ugly on the leaves, but I didn't think of it choking the leaves--I will see about cleaning them off.

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    Thank you OrchidAddict and Nagurski for you info. Very welcome as usual!

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    I am still trying to decide what type of orchid that is and if it is even an orchid. Was there a tag? Looks almost like a Clivia

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron-NY View Post
    I am still trying to decide what type of orchid that is and if it is even an orchid. Was there a tag? Looks almost like a Clivia
    I do agree that the habit appears to be a bit odd... that could be because some of the bottom leaves have dropped off already... and if it was originally grown in a bag, that would explain why the leaves are all pointing upward the way they are. I've bought a bunch of bag babies that had leaves all smooshed together in an upward formation, until time went by and gravity did its work.

    I also think, in the second photo, I can see the snipped bottom of the bloom spike just to the right of the stalk. Don't Clivias' bloom spikes come from the center of the plant?

    I do think this is an orchid... (although I could, of course, be wrong... it's been known to happen )

    Angie, how's it doing? Do you have an updated photo? Mine went bad REALLY fast... it was dead within a week of the first leaf starting to turn yellow... so if yours is still hanging in there, perhaps it will recover.

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    The tag was very generic "Orchid--don't overwater", something like that, and, yes, there was a plastic bag around it. I usually don't buy NOID's, but this one was so cute. Unfortuately, I didn't take a picture of the blooms, either, because I have this weird thing where I like to wait for photos until I'm the one that bloomed it! I thought is was some type of phal hybrid. They were super tiny flowers, white with a touch of pink in the middle and a little yellow on the edge. To my recollection, petals and sepals were not as round as most hybrid Phals I've seen, though. I looked up Clivias; those flowers are very different from this. Also, do they have orchid-like roots?

    Enclosed is a photo from today. Not a huge difference since yesterday. The same two yellowing leaves. I hope it hangs in there. Maybe this shot gives a better overall look at the plant. I cleaned the leaves!
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    It could be a phally, although the first photo shows roots which are too thick for that tag. More like an aerides or something, and these thick rooted things do not like compost - period.Very good drainage is called for - they are the original "air plants".
    As to Calcium on the leaves, don't worry about it ; I lived for some 10 years in the English Cotswolds, where the underlying rock is limestone ( oolitic limestone , actually) and the pH of the water was about 8 ; for various reasons I had to use tap water for a lot of operations - humidity etc, although I did treat it in a Reverse Osmosis plant for the water used for actual watering into the pots. But the spraying left limescale on the leaves, and on some of the big paphs, with leaves 2 feet long , I used to clean them up before shows, and by careful flexing I could separate a piece of scale the size of the leaf from the upper surface - lift it off in one go. And my plants won awatds. It does not actually block the plant stomata, I guess.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dorsetman View Post
    It could be a phally, although the first photo shows roots which are too thick for that tag.
    I've seen a lot of HUGE roots lately on phals... I believe it has to do with the fact that they are breeding more 4N plants in with the hybrids now... at least that's what's been showing up in stores here in the US. I have a mini-phal that looks just like this currently (except without the yellowing leaves).

    Angie, if your leaves aren't turning yellow super-fast, you may have a chance here. I think this might just be shock... the little guys seem to take repotting a bit rougher than their bigger counterparts. Also, your leaf yellowing is taking a different pattern than mine did... mine went BRIGHT yellow, right from the base of the stalk outward. It was like a glowing, neon yellow. I knew it was WAAAAAAY bad. But yours look like they're yellowing more gradually.

    The leaves at the top look healthy, so that's good. I think the next few days will tell you a lot about how this plant is going to do. Let the plant's yellowing leaves just dry up until they're pretty much dropping off on their own... don't try and wiggle them off or anything. I would leave the plant just as it is in that mix so that you don't traumatize it any more. Keep it out of bright sun for now... it needs to use its energy for recuperating.

    And resist the urge to underwater it... the little ones dry out really quickly; much more faster than the big ones... and with your shriveling leaves, you may need to give the bark a good drenching every 2-3 days if it's drying out quickly until it gets established... then it can go longer. I know the mantra with phals is "Don't overwater!!" But I've found that, especially with the little ones, they need more water initially when they go from moss to bark because they're not used to being in an environment where they're not sitting in soggy wet stuff. They need ever-present moisture until the roots adapt. Once the roots adapt, they can dry out much more between waterings without having problems.

    As for the shape of the flowers... these little minis are often bred with a lot of equestris in them, which gives a significantly different flower look than the larger, rounder types. It's a different flower shape, which sort of adds to its charm, I think.

    As for your "I don't take pictures until I bloom them..." well, I can understand that... I sort of do the same thing! LOL I want to be able to take credit for whatever gorgeousness I post. There was a time when I actually looked FORWARD to the blooms dropping off so that I could rebloom them and see what they'd look like when bloomed under MY conditions. (I've sort of discarded that idea as ridiculous since then... why not enjoy the blooms for as long as they're there?)

    I guess we orchid people can get a little silly sometimes....

    Anyway, I think your mini may just be okay if you give it enough water and keep it out of bright sun for a little while. I think it might just need a little time to sort itself out. Keep us posted!!

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