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s/h beginners

This is a discussion on s/h beginners within the Semi Hydro / Lights / Greenhouses / Accessories forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; dear all, i saw the pictures of s/h cultivation here and have decided to try ...

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  1. #1
    hohcs is offline Member
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    Default s/h beginners

    dear all,

    i saw the pictures of s/h cultivation here and have decided to try it. i have just repotted 2 phals yesterday. there is something i am not too sure about. i am not sure how to determine if the wicking action is working. i do not see water level climb up the sides of the pot. is that normal? i thought i notice a film of water on the side of the pots in all the pictures of s/h cultivation. i use prima agra as recommended by first ray orchids.

    also, how often should i water after first repotting?

    i hope my plants do not dry out because i do not see water rising in the medium. i do see water vapour fogging up part of the pot though.

    thanks. i look forward to any advice.

    chung shih

  2. #2
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    Welcome to the forum .
    If your using PrimeAgra then the wicking action will be fine.In any s/h setup there is a gradient of wetness as you go up the pot I.E. wetter @ the bottom & gradually getter drier as you go up the pot.
    If where the plant is situated it gets lots of air movement & light the top of the medium can dry out , this isn,t a problem but i spray the medium (not the plant) for a couple of weeks to help new plants establish.
    I would hold off the fert for a couple of weeks & refill the res when it gets 1/2 full.
    The Phals i,ve put in s/h establish very quickly & grow very vey well.

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    Hi Hohcs, welcome to the forum.

    About more than a month ago, I have also tried s/h for the first time. The plant is a maudiae type of paph. I also had the same problem as you are experiencing now, the leaves even became a little limp because the plant had only one very short half of a root. I solved the problem by putting the plant inside the what I call "humidity shelf". Its just a simple plastic shelf covered with clear plastic sheet with holes on it for air circulation. The limpy leaves had perked up, the clay pellets stayed evenly wet, and now the plant has sprouted new root, just one, but one is the beginning of more. Good luck with yours.

  4. #4
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    yes, the primeagra is probably the best-wicking material. and it does tend to stay in the pot when you water--always a plus. I've only potted a handful of phals into s/h, but they all seem to do very well. I find that if you want to reduce the wicking for certain plants, you can add a percentage of something inert like charcoal.

  5. #5
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    Welcome hohcs--you made it in!

    One other thing about the medium: the finer the grade you use, the more surface area each piece will keep in contact with another piece, and the more water will be wicked up to the top. There comes a point when capillary action can't overcome gravity, so don't use containers that are too tall, or the tops will stay consistently dry unless you keep watering them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lja
    Welcome hohcs--you made it in!

    There comes a point when capillary action can't overcome gravity, so don't use containers that are too tall, or the tops will stay consistently dry unless you keep watering them.
    How tall is too tall, Louis? The container I used for my first try is an empty plastic bottle 2.5" by 5.5". And yes the top stays dry if I take it out the "tent". Here's a pic.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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    hello everyone,

    thanks for your enthusiastic replies. thanks lja (sorry i do not know all your names) for showing me in here.

    the stones look dry today and i water it again from the top. i do not know how dry is too dry for the orchids. this lack of experience in judging wettness for the plant is what prompt me to switch to s/h. the dry top is fine, right? so long as the roots are low enough below the surface. i heard a friend said dryness will prompt the roots to grow to seek water. make sense?

    i can't wait to see the first new s/h roots. i heard the old roots will die off, so what do you do with them? dig them out? or they will rot inside?

    the pots i have chosen are deep like 5.5. inches because my orchids have long roots. i tried to coil them around but then the primeagra cannot get between them and it forms pockets of empty spaces. so for one pot, i actually have to cut off most of the roots. they are all broken anyway. that is the condition of my plants in standard mix. all the roots grow long and then break into segments though the root filaments are still there, the fleshy part usually become black or brown at points and then gets brittle or soft and break easily. not sure what this condition is. i hope they do not develop this way in s/h. not sure if they lack some nutrients like dry brittle skin or nails in human or the mix is too soggy. anyway, for one plant, i trimmed off all that roots which is a large part leaving only one new dark green root supporting 6 leaves, although there are 3 small arial roots. but i notice one lower leave is already turning yellow and drying up. bad sign? but that leave is broken at the tip and i think it is very old by now so maybe it is natural dying?

    ok, so much for now. thanks for your comments. hope to hear more.

    will inform this forum right away when the first new root is spotted.

    chung shih

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    In my experiences with Phals in s/h some of the roots do die off & some don,t.
    If the plants are in high humidity then new root growth will take about a month or so.If the roots reach almost down to the res than the size of the pot is correct.Potting roots actually in the res normally means they,ll rot quickly.Roots that actually grow into the res will be fine.Some people water plants every day when they,re establishing themselves & i have done this with a Paph with no rot problems , just make sure there is a good air flow on the plant to dry off any that splashes on the plant.
    You can unpot the plant after a few months & remove the dead ones.Regular flushing of the pot will wash a lot of the debris out of the pot & i have had no problems with plants that haven,t been repotted.
    Once the roots reach the res then the plant seems to go into a root growing overdrive & my Phals have filled their containers with roots in less than 6 months.
    You may lose a leaf or two if you,ve trimmed the roots .

  9. #9
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    Capillary action can be called the official term for "climbing fluid." Capillary tubes are extremely narrow (about 1/16 of an inch and narrower) tubes that, when placed in water for instance, will induce the water inside the tube to rise to a level higher than the water outside the tube. It's the same principle that makes water "climb" a paper towel if you dip one corner of the towel into a puddle. Water sticks to itself, so when it starts climbing, it pulls more water along behind it.

    How far up the water will climb is dependent, among other things, on the narrowness of the space it's climbing versus the force of gravity trying to pull it down. Materials we call "absorbent" have very narrow spaces, and will "wick" water very easily. If the space into which the water is climbing is already wet, because of its stickiness, water will climb into that space even more easily and faster.

    Trees hundreds of feet tall rely on capillary action to get water from their roots into their topmost leaves. So Tanya, how far up the water will go in your container totally depends on how many narrow spaces your media gives it to climb. The finer and more porous the media--the more each piece contacts another piece by a bunch of narrow spaces--the more water will climb up. Large, nonporous media like marbles won't provide many narrow spaces between each marble, so the water will hardly climb up at all.

    The trick to good S/H culture is finding the right balance between air circulation and water retention. Let's face it, you can set an orchid potted in sphagnum inside a tray of water, and that's S/H culture too. The sphagnum is very porous; each piece contacts the other by a bunch of narrow spaces, and it will continue to wick water from the tray right to the top of the pot, especially if the sphagnum is already wet. But that won't provide enough gas exchange to the roots, and they'll rot.

    At the other extreme, you can pot your orchid in marbles, set the pot in a tray of water, and the roots won't get enough moisture: they, and the plant, will eventually dry out if you don't keep watering from the top. The marbles won't wick up moisture from the reservoir tray.

    Chung, I have a feeling your plant's roots look the way they do because the mix stayed too soggy and the roots started to rot. The repotting should definitely help, but, like uncasteeb said, you're going to lose a few leaves before things go back to normal again and new roots start to grow.

  10. #10
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    hi all,

    i still am worried about the stones being too dry. i have decided to water them everyday now just to be sure. not sure why the stones all feel and look dry. does wicking requires air movement? i bet if i leave it like this without watering, i won't even see algae growth. what signs should i look for to know if the s/h system is working? or do i have to wait to see if the plants die? urgh! so worrying. i don't even know how long it takes a plant to die without water.

    am i just worrying too much?

    chung shih

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