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Any hope for this Phal orchid?

This is a discussion on Any hope for this Phal orchid? within the Orchid Ailments / The Compost Pile forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; I have had this Phal for several years but didn't know how to take care ...

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  1. #1
    Maxy24 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Any hope for this Phal orchid?

    I have had this Phal for several years but didn't know how to take care of it. It was a gift when I was young and I never repotted it out of it's sphagnum and original pot, just watered now and again. It never rebloomed, just put out leaves every once in a while and grew some air roots. Then it's leaves started looking bad (wrinkling) and I started looking into what might be wrong which is when I stumbled onto forums like this and proper orchid care. That was during the fall and things have all gone south from there. I trimmed off the dead roots (lots) and put it in bark but it continued to lose leaves (wrinkled, then went yellow and died). Eventually, on the advice of another forum, I cut off all of it's lower roots, leaving the air roots to act as its new root system. Things continued to go badly and now it has two leaves, both still wrinkled. One leaf is a little one that had started to emerge back last fall but then just stopped growing. The other leaf is starting to yellow very slightly. There has been no obvious growth and both leaves are still wrinkled.

    So I guess my questions are, is this thing even alive anymore? It's not doing anything to tell me it's alive other than not being brown.

    If it is alive, is there any chance it can be saved? I'm not asking if it's WORTH it, obviously I could go buy another Phal (in fact I have), but I want to try and save it, if it's possible, I think it would be awesome if I could get it to come back from this.

    For the last week or so I've switched it into coconut coir/perlite mix, hoping the extra moisture might stimulate roots, but I'm afraid of rotting it. So now I just have the roots laying on top of the mix instead of being buried in it.

    Here are some photos to help you decide

    This was it at the start of this whole ordeal


    and this is the poor thing now



    Here are the roots:





    More in the next post...

  2. #2
    Amy61 is offline Member
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    The roots look healthy but the dark coloured crown worries me...

    I've read that wrinkled leaves are a sign of dehydration and often happens when there is root rot; since the roots aren't healthy to absorb water for the plant.
    I've also read (and it's worked for me) to treat a plant with a fungicide when there's root rot. There are instructions on the label for dilution, and the books I've read advise to soak the plant and/or treat the wounds (cut root ends) with the fungicide.
    I'm sorry I can't be more help but I'm sure you'll get many more responses from people who know a lot more than I do!!
    Good luck!

  3. #3
    Maxy24 is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks for your advice Amy. I can't tell if any of the current roots are starting to rot, but fungicide would probably be a good idea. I was hoping changing to the coir medium would get rid of the wrinkling, but so far it's not working. I think it needs to grow new roots!

    Here are the rest of the photos:
    is this root starting to rot?



    I got rid of the black nub in the photo since it was rotted and pulled out easily. I have the most hope for the two roots at the top of the photo since they sort of look like they have white tips.


    While I was taking these pictures I noticed those two little bumps above the roots, are those the start of new roots or am I being too hopeful?


  4. #4
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    Carolla is online now Senior Member
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    I am sure it could be saved, but I don't like your last potting mix, looks very compact. Phals need good air on the roots. I'm not the expert, but I lost one to a potting mix that compacted on it, so I won't go THAT route again. I'm sure you'll get good advice as to what to do here, but I'd guess its better off not in a pot than in something that looks so fine (unless the photo is misleading, of course).

  5. #5
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    catttan is offline Senior Member
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    It can be saved but I think your potting medium is too fine, Coarse bark like in the first picture would be more suitable.

  6. #6
    Maxy24 is offline Junior Member
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    Thank you for the replies, it's comforting to know it can probably be saved. I wouldn't call the coir/perlite mix compact, it's very light and dries out in about 4-5 days, but it is fine so I wouldn't call it airy either. But the Phal has been in bark since the end of last August (I went and looked at the post on the other forum, and I had repotted it in August) and it has not done anything positive during that time. I think it needs more moisture while it has sad little roots, so that's why I took it out of the bark and put it in that mix. Like I said I just have it laying on top like in the photo because I'm trying to avoid rot and I'd like to be able to keep an eye on the roots until I see new growth/signs of life. Would I be better off with no medium and just spraying the roots? If so, how often would I spray?

    Just to prevent any confusion I wanted to say that my posts are still be moderated because I'm new so it takes a little bit for them to show up, I posted right after Amy with the rest of the pics.

  7. #7
    Desdinova is offline Senior Member
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    Shriveled leaves mean dehydration, but dehydration can come from overwatering as well as underwatering. Darkness of the leaves means that the plant is getting good light (secondary pigmentation is common in phals with pink or lavender flowers) What to watch out for is sudden loss of color or patches of necrosis, which could indicate sunburn. Your plant looks very healthy, so go ahead and submerge the roots in the potting mix. Water lightly until it gets established. Try to keep the potting mixture just damp if you can. For plants like this, I use a misting bottle to water with. It works for me.

    Dust the roots with cinnamon to prevent fungus, and stake it, to prevent it from moving around until it establishes itself. So far, it looks just fine. I think you're doing well.

  8. #8
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    Although the fine mix dries in 4-5 days, it won't dry as evenly and it won't let the air next to the roots as well as a coarser mix. It's really dry here and I've potted my Phals in coarse bark with bits of sphagnum moss mixed in to hold some moisture and humidity. It works well for me. I water about once every 10 days and our relative humidity is about 20%. Mine have done very well with benign neglect. Going to a "coarse" bark that had fines in it, caused the medium to pack down and ruin my roots, now I'm really aware of that possibility.

    I got a Phal in from a friend for severe underwatering, all the leaves were crinkled and sad, but it did have some decent roots. I repotted it and started watering it. It eventually lost all the leaves it came in with (most right away, but the last couple over months as new leaves grew in), but the one that was started when it came in is still on it. It's been two years, it's a nice strong plant and I hope to see it bloom next spring. I'd expect the one you have should continue to grow that new leaf and start some roots to go with it after a bit. I'm planning on trying semi-hydroponic with some of them (using the clay balls only and a system developed for that), I'm pretty excited about that system, been doing some internet research.

  9. #9
    Amy61 is offline Member
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    All of these responses are very good advice! Julie, thanks for mentioning cinnamon as I have forgotten that it is a well-known natural fungicide!
    Maxi- to try to answer some of your earlier questions, rotted roots are black, thin, soft, and often watery. Yes, I think that one root you were referring to has some rot on it; so you can treat it with cinnamon or the fungicide of your choice. Yes I think those are 2 new growths at the crown base- but they'd better just be roots and not a flower spike! (believe me- some orchids get really desperate to flower!!)
    The best thing I think your phal has going for it now are the healthy roots. Bark is my #1 choice for phal medium, and you're already doing that as well. I wouldn't be too concerned about the wrinkled leaves at this time; again, because of all your healthy roots. Again I agree with Julie about staking the plant until it gets its roots established.
    Lastly, you mentioned you've had the phal in the same potting medium for several years, but it has been in bark for (give or take) only a year. Your phal didn't become sick overnight, and it won't fully recover that fast, either. Also, if it has been a year and it hasn't died under your care, congratulations! Orchid growing: you're doing it right!
    Just keep doing what you're doing, ask if you need help, and be patient as your phal recovers.
    Good luck!!

  10. #10
    Maxy24 is offline Junior Member
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    Default

    Very good points, you have convinced me to go back to the bark. I hope they are roots! If it's a stem I should cut it right? I guess I just need some patience, it's not my greatest strength.

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