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Help with a Phalaenopsis that has almost no roots left. :(

This is a discussion on Help with a Phalaenopsis that has almost no roots left. :( within the Orchid Ailments / The Compost Pile forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; Hello, everyone~ My name is Andrea and I've just joined this forum . I'm from ...

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  1. #1
    AJCV's Avatar
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    Unhappy Help with a Phalaenopsis that has almost no roots left. :(

    Hello, everyone~

    My name is Andrea and I've just joined this forum. I'm from Chile and I'm the owner of a Phalaenopsis orchid, which is my first orchid ever and was given to me as a birthday present in May 2013.

    I come to you for some advice, because my dear plant is sick.

    As I said, it arrived at my hands in May 2013. It came with 4 or 5 blooming flowers and another one about to open, that ended up getting stunted, I guess from the change of environment.

    My plant has been quite healthy and I was happy to see that it was progressing well. Those first flowers died, but it produced 5 or 6 new ones, started to produce a new flower spike and was producing a new leaf for the first time.

    In the months since I got it, I was very careful with the amount of water I gave it and I only watered it 3 times, since the medium in which was planted seemed to hold water quite well and I always waited until it was completely dry before watering.

    However, last week, I went to check on its condition and noticed that the roots coming right out of the plant's base were all "empty" and felt squishy. I had read that those were bad symptoms of rotting roots, so I took my orchid out of the pot in which it came and found this:

    Name:  Roots01.jpg
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    So, after I panicked, I cleaned it up the best I could, removing all the squishy/empty roots I could find, all the ones that had dark spots and all. It was left like this:

    Name:  Roots02.jpg
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    Although, after I took this pic, I removed that little "double" root, because a part of it was quite squishy too.

    This is how my plant looked after cleaning it up and putting it in a little glass with transparent glass beads on it, as the tutorial I was following suggested:

    Name:  WholePlant01.jpg
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    However, only a couple of days after this, the leaves started to get all wrinkled (which I had read was a sign of dehydration) and I got worried and started looking for ways to help my poor plant, while it tries to produce new roots.

    My first doubt is should I cut the flower spike that was already blooming? Like I mentioned, my plant has two spikes: the big one with flowers and a little one that was just being born. The tutorial I followed to clean it up said that you should keep the spike since it helps the plant draw nutrients from there while it has little/no roots. But I have no idea if this is true or not. I've read other tutorials and people either have very unhealthy orchids that have no flowers (so they cut the spike right away, cause it's dry/dead anyways) or they say you should cut it because it only stresses the plant since it thinks it must continue to flower, when it should focus its energy on producing new roots. I don't know. Like I said, this is my first orchid ever and I have no idea how they work. My first instinct was to leave all as it was, except the obviously rotten roots, so as to stress the plant as little as possible, since pruning plants or cutting their parts is usually something they don't like right away. But this is an extreme case and I don't know if, maybe, I'm making a mistake by keeping the big flower spike when it's struggling to survive with like 2 roots left. What should I do?

    I found that many people try to save their orchids with the "sphag and bag" method, specially when they have little/no roots. So, I tried to make something like that for my orchid, even though I don't have any sphag.

    I used a clear glass vase, put the transparent glass beads at the bottom, attached a stick to the orchid and put it inside a clear plastic bag, with water in the bottom of the vase and two other pots with water around it (I always kept a vase with water next to the orchid, since someone said it was good to keep a bit more humidity around it because my apartment is not very humid). It's next to a window, where my orchid usually lived, since there's no direct sun there 'cause it's looking to the north. The bag is not air-tight, only pressed against the floor lightly, and I plan to open it once per day to allow a little bit more of air flow inside, because I've read some people get moss or fungi or other stuff growing inside their bags.

    This is how my plant looks now, inside the bag:

    Name:  Bagged01.jpg
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    I've noticed that, since I cut all the roots, the little new leaf that was being born in the center of the plant has grown a little, but I didn't see any new roots appearing just yet, although I'm not completely worried yet, since it's only been a couple of days since I discovered this (I discovered it last Thursday) and it's been inside the bag only for one day.

    Do you guys think this is the right course of action? Is there something else I should do? Should I cut the big flower spike or leave it?

    Someone told me I should get some vitamin B1 to put in the water and try to submerge the roots in that, to stimulate root growth, and I'm trying to find some, but it's not easily available in my country, so I haven't got any yet. Is there any other natural thing I could use to stimulate new roots?

    Like I've already said way too many times, this is my first orchid ever. I have no idea what I'm doing and this is the first time in my life a plant has gotten so bad and so many rotten roots and all! So, I'd really welcome some advice, at least to know I'm not doing everything completely wrong. I don't want my poor plant to die! I wish I noticed this earlier, but I didn't and, now, I wanna do all I can to try and help it survive. It was a present and my first orchid ever~!

    Thank you very much, in advance, for your time and help and sorry for the nuisance! And, also, sorry if this is posted in the wrong section. I didn't know where else to put it!

    Thanks!

    Looking forward to hearing from you~

  2. #2
    ksriramkumar is offline Senior Member
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    Hi Andrea,

    A couple of things could be helpful
    1) You should apply a fungicide. Possibly soaking the plant for 10-15 minutes would be helpful.
    2) You could buy liquid seaweed extract and seaweed extract or KLN would help in simulating root growth. read the instructions carefully on the container and use accordingly.
    3) glass beads is not that useful medium. you should possibly get sphagnum moss and allow the plant to grow roots in spag for few months before you could transplant to a bark or LECA. I have read about chilean sphagnum moss hope it is easier to get there

    I am sure others will add

  3. #3
    AJCV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ksriramkumar View Post
    Hi Andrea,

    A couple of things could be helpful
    1) You should apply a fungicide. Possibly soaking the plant for 10-15 minutes would be helpful.
    2) You could buy liquid seaweed extract and seaweed extract or KLN would help in simulating root growth. read the instructions carefully on the container and use accordingly.
    3) glass beads is not that useful medium. you should possibly get sphagnum moss and allow the plant to grow roots in spag for few months before you could transplant to a bark or LECA. I have read about chilean sphagnum moss hope it is easier to get there

    I am sure others will add
    Thank you very much for taking the time to read and reply!

    I thought about fungicides, but I don't know which one I should use and couldn't find any that said "meant for orchids" or anything. I'm gonna look again in the store and I've read that some people use cinnamon, but I'm not sure if it's as a fungicide or for what, lol. I don't have any either way, so I'd have to buy, if that's useful. Any particular product or active thingie that I should try to find? I know brands and names differ a lot from one country to the other, but still.

    Now that the plant is inside the bag, it's "floating" over the glass beads and not touching them. The tutorial I watched, when I discovered the disaster, said they were a good option 'cause they'd help the plant receive light to what little roots it had left and they wouldn't accumulate too much humidity so they wouldn't help whatever was left to get rotten too. But, now, they are not in contact with the roots, so I hope that's OK. I don't dare putting it inside another pot with something in it because I don't want what little it has left to rot too!

    I bought the only LECA I found available around here, which are very little (they almost look like perlite, but are brown). I was looking for the big "balls" that I see in tutorials and pics, but couldn't find a single one of those available to purchase in the stores I can visit. I'll keep looking, but, so far, nothing.

    As for the moss, that's a nice paradox right there. Indeed, that moss is supposed to be produced here and collected from the southern parts of my country. Yet, I've yet to find a single store that has any available for sale! xD Of course, I don't claim to know every store in my city and I definitely don't know many gardening-related stores that would deal with such specialized items (no orchid-specific store that I know of or anything like that). But, when I searched for the moss online, I found stores from the USA and from Spain and other countries, where they all said that the thing comes originally from Chile but none of them ship it to here! -_- So, it's collected from here and probably all of the moss is sold to other countries, they sell it there but here, where the effing thing is produced, it's impossible to find. *sigh* At least, in a city that's not the capital and by someone who has little or no knowledge of specialized stores.

    I'm definitely gonna keep looking, and I'm also gonna look for the seaweed extract you mention. Hopefully, something will pop up eventually. :S

    Thank you for your suggestions and reply! m(_ _)m

  4. #4
    78Terp's Avatar
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    I am new to orchids too so I am going to throw out a name and others can chime in if I give bad info.

    A fungicide I hear is good on orchids is called Physan 20.

  5. #5
    ksriramkumar is offline Senior Member
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    Hi,

    There is no fungicide specifically for orchids you could use regular plant fungicides. systematic fungicide would be better. Cinnamon is a good fungicide but should not be used on roots as it would stun the roots and would take a long time for the roots to grow.

  6. #6
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    To add to the mix, Phals don't like cold wet roots, LECA is not usually the best medium for them. Coarse bark that you soak for hours first is a good choice. If it is very warm there, LECA might be fine though, I guess it works for some people with Phals just great. I wouldn't use the small perlite sized stuff though, you need good air circulation around those roots. If your humidity is high, just coarse bark would be great. I don't know where you'd shop for it in your country though! If you have good humidity, you might not want to enclose your plant in plastic, I have terrible luck with it personally and its as dry as can be here. My plants just get mold in no time. I know others that have little to no problem doing that though, I don't know why I can't.

    I've seen people recommend a very mild bleach solution to soak the roots, or even the plant in, but I don't know enough to tell you what to use and how much to dilute it.

    The first picture of your roots shows them to be very wet. For myself the first thing I do is just dry the whole thing up out of its pot and then see what I can do with it. On the plus side, several members here have saved Phals with similar problems and no roots. I'm hoping they will speak up and give you more help than I can in your situation. With the top healthy, I think you have a good chance to keep the plant alive until it roots up. You can apply rooting hormone to the base of the plant to help with that too.

  7. #7
    AJCV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 78Terp View Post
    I am new to orchids too so I am going to throw out a name and others can chime in if I give bad info.

    A fungicide I hear is good on orchids is called Physan 20.
    Thank you very much for the suggestion. I'll look it up to see if I can find it. THANKS!


    Quote Originally Posted by ksriramkumar View Post
    Hi,

    There is no fungicide specifically for orchids you could use regular plant fungicides. systematic fungicide would be better. Cinnamon is a good fungicide but should not be used on roots as it would stun the roots and would take a long time for the roots to grow.
    Ohh, good to know, thank you! I have a powder that's supposed to be fungicide (I needed it for another one of my plants) and it can be dissolved in water. Maybe I could use that. Thanks for the explanation!


    Quote Originally Posted by Carolla View Post
    To add to the mix, Phals don't like cold wet roots, LECA is not usually the best medium for them. Coarse bark that you soak for hours first is a good choice. If it is very warm there, LECA might be fine though, I guess it works for some people with Phals just great. I wouldn't use the small perlite sized stuff though, you need good air circulation around those roots. If your humidity is high, just coarse bark would be great. I don't know where you'd shop for it in your country though! If you have good humidity, you might not want to enclose your plant in plastic, I have terrible luck with it personally and its as dry as can be here. My plants just get mold in no time. I know others that have little to no problem doing that though, I don't know why I can't.

    I've seen people recommend a very mild bleach solution to soak the roots, or even the plant in, but I don't know enough to tell you what to use and how much to dilute it.

    The first picture of your roots shows them to be very wet. For myself the first thing I do is just dry the whole thing up out of its pot and then see what I can do with it. On the plus side, several members here have saved Phals with similar problems and no roots. I'm hoping they will speak up and give you more help than I can in your situation. With the top healthy, I think you have a good chance to keep the plant alive until it roots up. You can apply rooting hormone to the base of the plant to help with that too.
    Aww, so the small medium isn't very good? That sucks, I just bought 4 lts. of it, LOL! It's the only one I've found, though, so I guess I'll have to keep looking. I found pine bark, though, that's quite rough and big. Maybe that'll work. For now, I'm keeping it floating over the water, though, without any medium at all, because I didn't want to risk rooting what little it has left in the way of roots. :P

    Here, it's not very humid or very hot, even during the summer. I put the plant in the bag, among other things, because it's hard to get humidity up in this apartment and I can't very well make the whole living room humid because my mom has asthma and humidity is bad for her. So I thought that putting it in an independent "environment" where the humidity could go up a little without me intruding or having to open the window to ventilate. xD Now, according to a thingie I have inside it, it says there's 99% of humidity, 19°C and the rest of the house is fresh, for my mom's sake.

    In the first pic, the roots looked very wet because they were quite wet inside the dreadful moss in which they were and I had just submerged the whole thing in water to wash it and see what was rotting and what was moss sticking to the roots! ^^U I left it dry before I did anything else and only when I started to see that the leaves were getting wrinkled and droopy, I thought of this bag thing, to try and keep the plant in a moist environment, since it seemed to be thirsty. But I didn't submerge it in water again or anything, lest I should encourage more root rotting or something! :S

    Thank you very much for your reply and suggestions. I'll keep looking for whatever I can find around here and, if my plant manages to survive, I guess I'll see how I do with the pine bark I got, since the LECA thingie seems to be too small. :S Unless I find some big one or something, hehehe.

    Thanks and let's see what else people say and how my plant does!

  8. #8
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    Hello everybody, again~

    A little "update" and some doubts, regarding my orchid.

    Two days ago, I took it out of the bag, inspected the roots and base of the plant, applied some diluted fungicide after making it drink some water and reattached it better to the stick that keeps it "floating" over the bowl with water inside the bag. I didn't find any fungi or more rotting, but I didn't find anything that would look like a new root or new growth in the few roots left. I did notice that one of the buds in the big flower stick seemed bigger, as if it's still growing.

    The plant's been two full days inside the bag and I can see some moisture in the inside walls of the back. One of the bottom leaves is definitely yellowing and all the others look dehydrated (wrinkly). The bud that seemed "bigger" the other day, has opened and is producing a new flower! @_@ While two of the already blooming flowers are drying out.

    I bought some root stimulant thingie that, even though is not based on sea weed, it's supposed to be natural, and I was thinking if I should apply it right away or wait a few days, since I only applied the fungicide a couple of days ago and I don't want to overwhelm the plant with too many foreign agents and taking it out of the bag every time moisture reaches a high level.

    Also, I would really like some advice regarding the flower spike. I assumed it was better not to stress out the plant even more by chopping the spike off when I cut all the dead roots, but if the plant is still opening new flowers and, at the same time, it doesn't seem to be producing new roots, maybe I really should remove it so the plant would focus on roots and leaves? But I don't know! I've found a lot of contradicting information and would really welcome some guidance on this. Should I chop the big flower spike off or should I keep it? Right now, I'm keeping it not because I want to preserve the flowers or its beauty, but merely because I though it was less stress to cut one less thing off the plant when I was already hurting her a lot by cutting all the bad roots, but if keeping the spike is gonna make it continue to flower until its death... @_@

    Please, let me know what you think and what should I do with the big flower spike! Thank you, beforehand!

    Looking forward to hearing from you~

  9. #9
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    You do have a tiny bit of live roots there, so you have some hope. I would actually take the flowers off, as the plant is using its resources on the flowers, when maybe it should be working on roots for the future. If you are going to sacrifice the flowers, cut the whole stem off. Next, pot the plant in your favorite medium, but after the first time watering, hold off on watering. It is good to keep the bag on the plant, as it will keep the humidity high. Your next step is to wait. It might take a long time. I have a poor little Phal that has been sitting there with 0 roots on it for the best part of a year. The leaves are mostly wrinkled, but there is still a portion that is nice and plump, and it has never lost the green. One of these days I am sure that it will start growing a root, once that happens, then I'm going to be happy. Your situation is somewhat more hopeful than mine, as you do have a small amount of live roots.

  10. #10
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    Thank you very much for your advise! I guess I am gonna cut the spike off, to try and give the plant a hint that she should be focusing on roots for now.

    When you say that I should cut the whole spike, do you mean that I should cut it right at the base, where it starts? I was wondering where to cut it, if I should cut it, 'cause I don't want to mess it up even more. ^^

    As for potting it, do you think I should do that instead of keeping it "floating" over water and inside the bag? The tutorial I was following said that it was better to keep it off any medium for the time being, to prevent the little roots that are left from rotting too, but I have no idea what's best.

    Thank you for taking the time to read and reply and for the replies you may give me on the specific questions asked now.

    Let's hope both of our Phals end up surviving!

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