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Phragmipedium besseae flavum help please

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BrucherT

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I got this as a little seedling 2.5 years ago. It grew well for me in bark until about this time last year, when it went down HARD, suddenly, pretty much like this. Lost all leaves. I repotted robust, good roots into LECA and the new growth came quickly and strongly. Last week, a day after watering, I noticed one brown leaf tip. I moved the plant to a lower light, ostensibly cooler spot. Temps in Chicago have been high 80s. Yesterday, overnight, I saw this scary mess. I water with K-Lite, I’m faithful, the plant has never dried out. I flushed the pot overnight with RO and am now hoping the evaporative cooling of two nested clay pots filled with sphagnum will help. But is this heat damage? It hasn’t actually been as hot as it could be. Two other besseae and two besseae hybrids are doing better than ever; I put a Red Wings outside and it’s so happy in what’s almost full sun. Did I somehow build up salts? The roots look so good in there. Thank you for your assessments.
 

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KateL

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Hi,
I’ve been waiting for someone more knowledgeable than me to comment, but I’ll tell you what I think. I think you have a roots problem. At the risk of criticism from true believers - my phrags (and bulbophyllums), particularly the less hardy ones (like besseae) really don’t like those clay balls and I have discontinued using them. They seem to be ok for a while, then root crash. Just me . . .
Here’s what I would do - not a recommendation, but what I personally would do if that were my plant: 1. I would bare root the plant. 2. I would take a sterile snippers and cut off all hollow or too-soft roots, and clip behind the brown-out on the leaves. 3. I would leave unpotted for 3 to 5 days, misting once or twice a day with RO. 4. Then I would repot, fairly tightly, with 100% New Zealand sphagnum. 5. If it lives, I would repot again at the first sign the sphagnum is breaking down.
Whether you try this or not, I wish you the best of luck. Kate
 

BrucherT

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Hi,
I’ve been waiting for someone more knowledgeable than me to comment, but I’ll tell you what I think. I think you have a roots problem. At the risk of criticism from true believers - my phrags (and bulbophyllums), particularly the less hardy ones (like besseae) really don’t like those clay balls and I have discontinued using them. They seem to be ok for a while, then root crash. Just me . . .
Here’s what I would do - not a recommendation, but what I personally would do if that were my plant: 1. I would bare root the plant. 2. I would take a sterile snippers and cut off all hollow or too-soft roots, and clip behind the brown-out on the leaves. 3. I would leave unpotted for 3 to 5 days, misting once or twice a day with RO. 4. Then I would repot, fairly tightly, with 100% New Zealand sphagnum. 5. If it lives, I would repot again at the first sign the sphagnum is breaking down.
Whether you try this or not, I wish you the best of luck. Kate
Thank you, I’m taking your helpful words under advisement! I don’t know because the plant sort of did the same thing a year ago, in bark, and the roots were great at that time. I don’t grow anything in sphagnum except Neofinetia...I have to change it every 6 months...
 

MaxC

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I was looking back at your older post from a year ago. I cannot help but to this a similar issue of heat and build up of solids. Have you tested your pH? Have you taken a look at the roots yet? Assuming all plants are in LECA, were they all potted up at the same time? I would definitely go to no fertilizers as Kate recommended and just pure R/O water.
 

NYEric

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Probably salt build up in the leca. Don't cut brown/dead leaves, pull them off. If you pot in pure sphagnum, you better be on top of your watering. if you can't keep your temps cooler than 80F, at least lower the lighting while it's hot.
 

setaylien

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I got this as a little seedling 2.5 years ago. It grew well for me in bark until about this time last year, when it went down HARD, suddenly, pretty much like this. Lost all leaves. I repotted robust, good roots into LECA and the new growth came quickly and strongly. Last week, a day after watering, I noticed one brown leaf tip. I moved the plant to a lower light, ostensibly cooler spot. Temps in Chicago have been high 80s. Yesterday, overnight, I saw this scary mess. I water with K-Lite, I’m faithful, the plant has never dried out. I flushed the pot overnight with RO and am now hoping the evaporative cooling of two nested clay pots filled with sphagnum will help. But is this heat damage? It hasn’t actually been as hot as it could be. Two other besseae and two besseae hybrids are doing better than ever; I put a Red Wings outside and it’s so happy in what’s almost full sun. Did I somehow build up salts? The roots look so good in there. Thank you for your assessments.
Your problem is definitely heat-related. Besseae itself is an I-C species that needs a daytime maximum of no more than 75 F and much cooler nights in order to grow and flower well. Besseae forma flavum is a straight C grower from higher elevations than regular besseae: it takes a daytime maximum of 70 F. I attempted to grow forma flavum intermediate years ago but my summer temperatures sometimes reached 82 F: FAR TOO WARM for this plant. No matter what I tried this form of besseae went slowly down hill until I finally lost it. It will not survive if you do not have an evaporative cooler that will keep daytime temperatures under 70 F.
What typically happens with forma flavum when daytime temperatures are over 70 F is that patches on the leaves turn transparent. Later on these patches turn brown. The plant will either not grow at all or with great difficulty. Raising the humidity and putting it in the path of a small fan did not help.
My information on daytime temperature maximums comes not from me, but a senior grower at Ecuagenera who knows the natural habitats of these plants well. The best you can do is to either install a proper evaporatve cooler or give it away to someone who already has one.
 

BrucherT

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Thank you everybody. So, I should repot? If so, back into LECA or now into bark? Or just keep trying to cool it down as-is? I’m sick about this damage. I don’t personally use air conditioning in my home but I could get a small evaporative cooler. I have moved it to lower light and sit it into a nested evaporative cooling pot thing. The pot it’s in feels noticeably cooler.
 

BrucherT

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I was looking back at your older post from a year ago. I cannot help but to this a similar issue of heat and build up of solids. Have you tested your pH? Have you taken a look at the roots yet? Assuming all plants are in LECA, were they all potted up at the same time? I would definitely go to no fertilizers as Kate recommended and just pure R/O water.
Only this plant was potted in LECA, after it went down hard last year. It immediately bounced back and this new growth has been triple the size of the original and has grown rapidly. This damage happened overnight. I think the consensus is that my temps got too high and if 80 is the cutoff, that stands well to reason because my apartment is near to ambient outside temps of 88 to 92 last week. Live and learn. I’m going to try hard to cool it, I have a hard decision to make about repotting, or not, and into what.
 

richgarrison

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Only this plant was potted in LECA, after it went down hard last year. It immediately bounced back and this new growth has been triple the size of the original and has grown rapidly. This damage happened overnight. I think the consensus is that my temps got too high and if 80 is the cutoff, that stands well to reason because my apartment is near to ambient outside temps of 88 to 92 last week. Live and learn. I’m going to try hard to cool it, I have a hard decision to make about repotting, or not, and into what.
Since you've said 'RO' a few times in your replies, i'm assuming you mix your K-lite in RO as your base water. Have you measured the conductivity of the fertilizer solution you apply on your plants recently? The reason i ask is that I've noticed an increased sensitivity to salts as the temps increase... to where a predicted temp range of 85 F or above causes me to reduce my water to 200 micro siemens (ro + tap water only) for the days before and during that spike. More than 400 microsiemens typically causes some brown leaf tips, and more than 600 can be really bad. and that is on phrags less sensitive than besseae.

Be careful about watering your plants with pure RO (measures on the order 5 microsiemens or less). Many folks (Kate - not sure if this applies to you, it's just something i've found by asking lots of questions of others ;-) ) that recommend using RO are actually adding tap water so that the pure RO doesn't aggressively leach nutrients from the plant (mixture measures 100-200 microsiemens).
 

southernbelle

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Only this plant was potted in LECA, after it went down hard last year. It immediately bounced back and this new growth has been triple the size of the original and has grown rapidly. This damage happened overnight. I think the consensus is that my temps got too high and if 80 is the cutoff, that stands well to reason because my apartment is near to ambient outside temps of 88 to 92 last week. Live and learn. I’m going to try hard to cool it, I have a hard decision to make about repotting, or not, and into what.
Why do t you try Grodan Rock wool mini cubes mix with perlite and charcoal? Jerry Fischer told me not to use moss for phrags as it’s too acidic. They really rehab well in rockwool in my experience. Since I’ve moved my besseae and besseae flavum up to a/c with good light I’m getting growth and they look happy instead of my 80+ temps in my light room.
 

KateL

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At the risk of slings and arrows . . . and with genuine humility, as I am not an expert by any means, I will (just once) try to explain my recommendation.
First, it hits over 80 degrees daily almost all year round here in Honolulu and I don’t have A/C in my house or even fans in my growing areas.
I switched to 100% RO water at the end of August last year. I hand water, almost daily for phrags, with water that runs about 4-10 tds. I try to fertilize once a week, with the help of my CFO (chief fertilizing officer) hubby, but we are both still working and that is aspirational. So, I toss a small number of time-release fertilizer nuggets and a sprinkle of dolomite into my pots when I repot and hope for the best. The positive difference since RO is astonishing - for me. There is a good article about water posted about 30 days ago at orchids.org by Roy Tokunaga, who is the most studious orchid grower I know.
Amost all of my phrags. in less than 4-in pots (think hundreds) are in pure NZ sphagnum moss. All of my phrags are in clay pots. I have grown many larger ones in sphagnum, and they have done ok, but I am moving most of the bigger ones to a different media (skipping explanation).
Yet, I currently have at least 3 young besseae flavums in spike (I can post pics in a few days) and have also bloomed the red form ok, although I have lost more than a few (all my besseaes were grown from flask).
I have definitely seen the heat stress, but when a plant crashes like Brucher’s, I have observed that the roots are generally suboptimal. So, I suggested checking the roots. If (and only if) they look bad, sphagnum is amazing for getting good roots going (think S.A. flasklings with no roots at all). Below I have a neglected (and over-exposed) seedling I repotted out of its 2.25 in pot last night (deflasked late 9/18, put in the 2.25 in 12/18).
Sphagnum also has mildly antiseptic properties and a plant like Brucher’s seems vulnerable to me. Plus, if kept moist, particularly in a clay pot, I believe the sphagnum helps keep the plant cool. I’ve tried the LECA, with bad results, usually after about a year. I am experimenting with the Grodan cubes, but do not have enough experience yet to comment, except that they seem to be keeping my little kovachiis alive (on par with or better than the sphagnum; time will tell).
While I would normally agree with Eric about pulling off (rather than trimming) the browning leaves, I suggested cutting because most of Brucher’s leaves looked affected and the plant needs at least some of its solar panels to work.
Finally, I suggested laying out bare root for a few day, with “clean” misting, in a cool shady spot for sure, to try to get a growth cycle going again.
Ok, if you read this far, my sincere apologies. Each one of you have great ideas, which is partly why I enjoy this site (plus your beautiful plants and photography of course). My best (perhaps only) advice is to but lots of orchids, to ease the pain . . . Best, Kate
P.S. to Brucher - when you said you were taking the matter under advisement, I laughed and checked my work email.
 

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abax

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I agree with Tom's dictum "that what works for you works for you".
The problem is finding what does work for you and that takes time
and observation and some failures.
 

MaxC

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@KateL are you saying we should all move to Hawaii? Because the excellent article by Roy Tokunaga says we should, "move to Aiea Heights near Mel Waki." I'm in!
 

southernbelle

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Southernbelle, what is the size of these cubes that you are referring to?
Grow-Cubes


Grow-Cubes are small 1/4” cubes of stone wool (stone wool). There are several advantages:
  • Grow-Cubes stack on top of each other leaving air space in between them this promotes root growth.
  • Each cube has four surfaces from which excess water can drain. This way, even if you water a lot, the Grow-Cubes will not get water logged.
  • You have less algae growth on the top than with the smooth surface Gro-Blocks™.
  • The Grow-Cubes are the driest of our products with properties of a 50/50 mix. (50% water/50% air)
  • Very easy to mix with any other potting mix.
  • Special advantages are achieved by mixing Grow-Cubes in with clay pellets. The Grow-Cubes will help spread the water in the container as well has keeping a water buffer in between the watering.
  • Lightweight; approx. 1/10 of the weight of a bag of potting soil.
  • See Grow-Cube growing guide right for easy instructions.
Specification Chart:
Grow-CubesVolumeWeight
Big Bag (2 cubic ft.)Fills approx. 23 standard one-gallon nursery pots*5 lbs
Medium bag (1 cubic ft.)Fills approx. 10-11 standard one-gallon nursery pots*3 lbs
*Note: A one gal. nursery pot does not hold a full US-gallon.
 

KateL

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@KateL are you saying we should all move to Hawaii? Because the excellent article by Roy Tokunaga says we should, "move to Aiea Heights near Mel Waki." I'm in!
The house next door is for sale, Max. Come on down; the kids will love it. ;-)
 

Hien

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The house next door is for sale, Max. Come on down; the kids will love it. ;-)
house next door's asking price 10 millions or more :)?
I don't think real estate in Hawaii is affordable to even "some what rich" peoples
 

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