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This is a discussion on Sick Pseudobulb? within the Orchid Ailments / The Compost Pile forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; Thanks I'm a little unsure about digging it up to check the roots... what should ...
Thanks I'm a little unsure about digging it up to check the roots... what should healthy roots look like, and what should I do if the roots don't look that way?
Okk, I'm going to assume you have an oncidium of some kind there (seems likely). Roots for an oncidium are thin and spaghetti-like. Healthy roots should be white-ish and firm. Anything that looks looks brown and soggy is dead. If the outside comes off and you are left with a string, it is very dead (the root).
Definitely unpot if you don't know whats going on in there and check out the roots. Cut off anything that is dead - you can sterilize your blade by holding it in a lighter or candle flame for a bit. Try to remove everything that is dead, since leaving dead stuff will only help make living stuff die faster. You can use cinnamon to help dry out/sterilize any cuts you have to make on living material.
Don't cut off old pseudobulbs if they are green and not rotted. Even leafless ones can help grow new roots.
Then you should re-pot it in completely fresh material. And very importantly, if the roots are bad, it's is from overwatering and it is really hard to resist the urge to water, but trust me this will only make it worse.
In my case I had literally no roots and opted for the clay pellets route once I had a bit of a growth started. They don't rot. To help the new roots along I mist them once a day, but that is only ok to do because I have the clay pellets, otherwise it would only rot faster due to the misting.
I have some pics in this other thread: