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When to throw in the towel...

This is a discussion on When to throw in the towel... within the Orchid Ailments / The Compost Pile forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; There always seems to be numerous posts at various orchid forums from new growers who ...

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  1. #1
    catfan is offline Senior Member
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    Default When to throw in the towel...

    There always seems to be numerous posts at various orchid forums from new growers who are seeking advice on how to salvage plants that are clearly in dire condition, and will take a very long time to recover, if at all. My advice...make some effort to remedy the situation, but don't be afraid to throw in the towel and trash the plant.

    One thing experienced orchid growers have in common...we've all killed our share of plants. We're usually trying to raise non-native plants under artificial conditions, and even if we provide the best possible environment, orchids can be very slow growing, tempremental, and difficult to bloom.

    So what should we do?

    1. Learn which orchids will grow well under the conditions you can provide, and stay away from ones that won't. This involves a bit of learning on the growers part, and knowledge of the orchids natural habitat and growers advice in your area is a big plus.

    2. Learn from your mistakes. I believe %99.9 of orchid deaths are caused by cultural problems...we're not giving them what they need, and/or too much of what they don't. Learn the basics...air movement, good light, correct temperatures, the right growing medium, humidity, dry periods, etc. Examine your plants and try to figure out what you could correct to make them grow better. In my experience, insect pests rarely occur on very healthy plants, and when my plants do get bugs, I look for some cultural deficiency.

    3. If all else fails, don't be afraid to toss out a plant...life is short, and though orchids can be expensive, its generaly not worth all the time, energy, and emotional pain and suffering to try to nurse a near dead plant back to blooming quality. Sick plants will attract insects and disease, and will increase the chances of these spreading to healthier plants. Toss the plant, and move on.

    I hope I don't cause a furor here..not my intention. I just hate to see new orchid growers worry about trying to revive plants that should go in the trash. Try to remedy what you're doing wrong...but It's OK to Let Them Go...

  2. #2
    Diane's Avatar
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    I agree. If someone wants to learn, that's good, but don't anguish over the poor thing too long. Being infamous for threatening plants with the compost bag, I've learned to let go of most plants. Obviously I would try to save a special or expensive plant. But Catfan is right about sickly plants, they do attract pests and infect others. Balance learning with enjoyment.

  3. #3
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    smartie2000 is offline Senior Member
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    No furor here It's more important to figure out what went wrong than to save the plant, especially if it is an affordable and replacable one. It may take years for it to bloom again, might as well get a good mericlone and try again. Some people do want to save their sickly plants, since they may be more valuable to their eyes than our eyes, for various reasons. And some people make great saves on these plants.
    Guess what, I checked my hopeless paph armeniacum and now there are two spots where new growth is gonna happen. This was a plant I was gonna give up on due to its poor looking health, untill Mahon stepped in This one is worth saving although it was cheap, silly me thought it was gonna die. I was ready to dump it

  4. #4
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    The only thing I'd add is that very young seedlings can have higher than normal mortality rates. These are typically plants coming out of flask or compots.

    In part it's because a percentage of any flask will contain genetically weaker plants. I think by the time the plant matures in a nursery, the weaklings have already died off. With flasks and compots, you'll have a few that just don't make it, even if the culture is spot on.

    The other risk is the damping off process, where newly flasked plants have to adjust to life outside the flask. That can be a big change, and is very stressful for the little tykes. This is probably where you find the highest mortality rates.

    I know newbies don't generally play with compots and flasks, but many of our members here are trying it out, as I am. Just know where the dangers lie, and figure you'll lose more than you do with mature plants.

    McJulie

  5. #5
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    .....it sickens me when people spend a load of money on phrag kovachii flasks only to have them brown. They need to advertise them as cool growing flasks, since they brown in warm weather and many don't know, they just look at that holy grail of phrags and want it...people in australia and paradise are buying kovachii flasks and they are dying. They should have done some research before buying them.
    Slightly off topic but I'm still deciding if I will buy two kovachii compot/pot ready seedlings at $75 (5-7.5cm) each. They can stand up to 25oC as seedlings but it can get much hotter in July and I have no air conditioning. They will be my most expensive orchid! Julie says seedling out of flask have a high mortality rate...hmmm should I go for the more expensive $120 (10-15cm) established seedlings or cancel the order and watch other peoples seedlings die... hehe prices are lowest in the world so tempting

  6. #6
    Ron-NY is offline rothaholic
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    Quote Originally Posted by smartie2000 View Post
    .....it sickens me when people spend a load of money on phrag kovachii flasks only to have them brown. They need to advertise them as cool growing flasks, since they brown in warm weather and many don't know, they just look at that holy grail of phrags and want it...people in australia and paradise are buying kovachii flasks and they are dying. They should have done some research before buying them.
    Slightly off topic but I'm still deciding if I will buy two kovachii compot/pot ready seedlings at $75 (5-7.5cm) each. They can stand up to 25oC as seedlings but it can get much hotter in July and I have no air conditioning. They will be my most expensive orchid! Julie says seedling out of flask have a high mortality rate...hmmm should I go for the more expensive $120 (10-15cm) established seedlings or cancel the order and watch other peoples seedlings die... hehe prices are lowest in the world so tempting
    Personally, I think some people have been having problems with kovachii flasks not because of the ambient heat but because they have given them too much light. Sun striking a closed flask can raise temps amazingly fast.

    There were kovachii flasks sitting in the greenhouse all summer and at times temps would go as high as 90 degrees. I didn't see any of them brown up. When I was in Peru in late October. I visited Alfredo Manrique's lab and saw quite a few flasks there and had the opportunity to see his five, mature kovachii plants.

  7. #7
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    They're a new species and with the cultural uncertainties, I'd go for better established plants. I also heard from one importer, that another had very high brown-rates among his flasks. PM me and I'll try and dig up the exact quote.

    Julie

  8. #8
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    Good post, catfan. Item number 1 is the most imporant for the new orchid grower. Unfortunately most newbies (me!) go for the cute puppy before we find out what kind of pet they will be.
    As a new orchid enthusiast (got my first last April) I've kept my collection small (less than 35) to try to learn how to be a better orchid mom, and learn to work through the idiosyncrasies of each. Not NEARLY as much fun as acquiring to your heart's delight! I haven't thrown any out yet, but have struggled with a few. However, as we go down the orchid road we see the benefit of culling: Life's too short! You can't save the world. Like you said, toss the plant and move on.
    Good thread!

    Tami

  9. #9
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    A Canadian professional flasker who taught Alfredo Manrique how to flask kovachii's and was involved with them since the beginning, actually came to my city to do a lecture on phrag kovachii culture. I was unable to attend because the public busing isn't good in the evening and I went to a movie with my mom. If my mom ever found out I paid $75 for a seedling I would be in big trouble, so no way could I go to the lecture with her. I guess it's best to email him about my concerns. My inbox is full of his undeleted emails!

    I found a quote from one of his emails:

    "Most people who have purchased Pk flasks from other vendors had trouble keeping seedlings from turning yellow in the flasks. The ended up de-flasking them too early, in order to save them from death.

    I have found that, even with the excellent Pk seedlings I received from Alfredo, if you keep the flasks too warm, room temperature, the leaves turn off green and eventually yellow.

    What probably happens is that warm temperatures allow certain toxins to build up in the in-vitro medium, which the Pk seedlings can not cope with. Most other in-vitro seedlings, of other species, of other genera, do not have this "yellowing of leaves" problem .

    As soon as I learned this, I installed Air Conditioning in a special room for my Pk flasks only. I keep the room temperature at 20C day and night. Pk seedlings in flask grow faster and stay a lovely green, as you can see from the pictures in the price list.
    Knowing that most customers would not air condition a room for one or a few Pk seedlings, I decided to NOT SELL THEM IN FLASK.

    However, once Pk seedlings are out of flask, in compots, they can tolerate temepratures up to 30C and remain perfectly healthy and green. I have had them all summer, our extremely warm summer, exposed daily to 30C and at times to 33 C, without any ill effect, no yellow leaves. They do grow slower in the warmer than in the cooler temperatures."

    So....they survive higher temps out of flask and I believe the parents 'Laura' x 'Anna' were choosen for vigor in cultivation. They come out of flask at 3-4 cm so he's growing them for a little before selling them
    Last edited by smartie2000; January 24th, 2007 at 07:59 PM. Reason: I removed the professional flasker's name...

  10. #10
    Piper's Avatar
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    There are two main PK importers in the US one of them told me the other suffered something like 75% browning on his flasks, because the seedlings weren't old enough and well enough established. This is hearsay, so I don't want to post names. But I'll answer any interested PM's.

    McJulie

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