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Orchids/Orchid with burned looking roots, slow growth, no flowering


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QUESTION: I have a phaleonopsis orchid that I've had for about 5 years. It hasn't bloomed in about 2 or 3 yrs. It used to look a lot better than it does now, though; but it has seemed a little under the weather, especially for the past yr or so. Not sure why. I water it about every 10 days with distilled water. Every other time I water, I use a 12-6-13 fertilizer that was given to me to use by a local orchid grower at the local orchid show about a yr and a half ago. I mist it every other day. I use Super Thrive occasionally especially when repotting. It got sunburned once a few yrs back when I put it outside to get some rain, so I haven't done that again. I almost didn't think it was going to survive the sunburn. It really hasn't been quite the same since. We've always had trouble keeping a healthy root system. It has had a couple accidents of falling out of the pot over the years. The last one was a yr ago. It was fully repotted at that time. Roots looked good at that time. My daughter's cats lived with us over the summer this yr so the orchid spent most of the summer in an upstairs bedroom (to keep it safe from the cats) where light was not optimal and there was a window AC unit that was run all the time. It was in an east window. It now spends its days in an east window downstairs on a windowsill and its nights in a darkened room with a fan (just circulating the air, not blowing directly on it) that I try to keep as cool as possible since it's fall now. As you can see from the attached 3 pictures, the orchid's roots look very dry, almost burned. They've looked that way for awhile. I broke an air root once about 6 mos ago, so trimmed it and used cinnamon on it, and I thought perhaps that caused the root to dry out, but it has gotten worse since then. I'm reading about fertilizer burn today and wondering if that could be the problem, although I have used the fertilizer in accordance with the grower's instructions. Do you have any idea what the problem could be and what to do for this orchid?

ANSWER: From the pictures, your plant looks healthy and your care sounds right.  I would go easy on the distilleed water and mix it with a little tap water as distilled water alone contaains no minerals required for growth.  Some minerals are obtained from the fertilizer so that is fine.   I would be careul with the fan as the moving air can dry out the potting mix-- although I see no sign of this. Chris, I'm not sure what region of the country you are in but optimal temperature is 60-85 degreesF for phalaenopsis.

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QUESTION: Thank you so much for your prompt reply! OK I will switch to using tap water. Our city water comes from artesian wells, so it's very hard. I thought it might be hard on my plants, but I guess it would probably be helpful. We live in northeast Ohio. We keep our house at about 72 around the clock, but as I said, at night I've been putting the orchid in a dark room, that hopefully is a little cooler, now that it's fall. So then you don't think the air roots look problematic? Apparently you must feel the fertilizer I've been using is OK. I'm wondering if you think a bloom booster might help.

Chris, a bloom bbooster might help, but, use only a quarter teaspoon per gallon of water.  I have found that when I keep these plants in the dark for any period of time, they produce new vegetative growth in the form of keikis.  If you have trouble with flowering, you might try eliminating the special dark exposure and increasing the amount of light the plant receives during the day.  Light is required for the cytokinens to flourish and produce flowers.  Leaf color should ideally be a light green.  A dark green leaf may look nice but shows the plant is not receiving enough light for flowering.


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Wayne King


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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