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Orchids/Drooping and dying orchid leaves

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Leaves
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QUESTION: Hi,

I recently bought my first orchid back in late December. After a few weeks, the bottom-most leaf quickly yellowed, shriveled up and died in a matter of days. I didn't think much of it since it happened so quickly. Then in late January, another bottom leaf began to droop. After a while it too yellowed and shriveled and is now hanging on the side of the pot. Now the two leaves directly above it are starting to droop and nothing I do seems to be fixing it. They flowers are fine and the roots seem okay. They are a nice green color when wet, but they do grey when dried. I have my phal placed in direct indirect sunlight next to a window and away from drafts. I water it weekly by running it under water with a few drops of Bonide fertilizer for about a minute, letting excess water drop out, and then letting it dry completely before watering again. What could I be doing wrong? Could it be the humidity? I am in a cold area but my apartment remains at about 70 degrees.

Thanks,

Alex

ANSWER: Alex,often in buying orchids, the potting mix has degraded causing root rot.  This looks to be the case with your plant. The surface roots often look fine but the roots well down in the pot may be mushy and/or stringy. Leaf yellowing and dropping can result from this root rot.  You need to repot the plant in fresh fir bark potting mix.  Be sure to thoroughly wet the new potting mix and  allow excess moisture in the fresh potting mix to drain off before use.  Trim off any rotted roots before repotting. After repotting, do not water for a week or two until the potting mix is nearly dry.  Be sure the pot you use drains well and do not set the pot in water. Check the night temperature by the pot at night.  The temp of the plant should not be below 65 degrees. They like humidity but they don.t like being wet for extended periods. More orchid plants die from being too wet than die from being too dry.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for the prompt response! I've heard that repotting an orchid can be tricky, and that it could cause damage to the plant. Any tips for repotting so that I can avoid any potential problems? Also, do I need a new pot as well or just new mix?

Thanks again,

Alex

Answer
Here are my recommendations for repotting phalaenopsis orchids.

First:  purchase a plastic pot with at least 5 drainage holes for each plant; be sure the pot diameter is about 1/2 inch - 1 inch larger that the one the plant is currently in.

Second:  purchase a hobby bag of orchid potting mix (must say it's for orchids);

Third:  remove plant from its pot, discard old potting mix and rinse off the roots;

Fourth:  remove any roots that are mushy or stringy;

Fifth:   sift out the finer particles and dust from the potting mix;

Sixth:   soak that portion of the orchid potting mix you plan to use for at least an hour  because the fir bark particles in the new potting mix, when dry, tend to repel water.
seventh:  Place the remaining root mass into an empty pot.  To miminize root damage rotate the pot as you lower the roots into the pot.  Be sure to keep the crown of the plant ie where the leaves originate) even with or slightly above the potting mix.

Do not water for at least a week.  Grow plant in east facing window if you have one.  

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Wayne King

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Any question about orchid culture. I have thirty+ yrs of growing experience,president 2x of our local Orchid Growers Guild,held a position in most all other offices associated with the Guild at one time or another. Head of Orchid judging team for local club meetings and some shows. Member of two Orchid Socities and local Rep.for Mid America Orchid Congress for several yrs.I have in my collection about 800 Orchid plants of all types.

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