Watering woes

Discussion in 'Beginner Zone' started by merc, Jan 25, 2019.

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  1. Jan 25, 2019 #1

    merc

    merc

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    I went out and bought some run of the mill 'orchid mix' @ Home Depot and even added some perlite to help with aeration and drainage. I read up a bunch and tried to keep my slippers moist (not soggy) as recommended in countless web posts/articles, but unfortunately had to learn my 'you get what you pay for' lesson the hard way.

    My paph's medium was smelly and rotten:
    [​IMG]

    My paph's roots are toast:
    [​IMG]

    I've since switched all my orchids over to Orchiata (classic). Not only does it look better in those fancy clear pots, but drains super fast and is super light in weight. However, I am now struggling keeping my orchids hydrated. Maybe it's just the dry winter air? They're too bloody expensive for a trial and error period and I don't want to allow my roots to rot out ever ever again. I am wondering if someone could tell me what's TOO DRY and what's TOO WET? I'm a visual person so hoping someone could comment on the pics below or post pics of their own that illustrates happy plants vs soggy rotten hot mess.

    This is a phrag in a 4" pot. I was told to keep phrags wet-ish. The sphag top dress is moist as well as the medium along the sides of the pot. Is this ok for the phrag or should the pot be sitting in water?
    [​IMG]

    This is a paph in a 4" pot. The sphag top dress is almost completely dry and it looks like the medium is or is almost completely dry along the sides of the pot. I watered day before yesterday. Do I need to keep my paph pot looking like my phrag pot above or can I get away with watering x1 week? Orchiata (classic) is new to me and I am unsure how dry it gets or how wet it remains in the middle where the roots are.
    [​IMG]

    Your input is greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Jan 25, 2019 #2

    Ray

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    Orchiata is hard to initially wet, but once you have, it's pretty good at holding it.

    Since the plant is already potted up, take the sphagnum off, and hold it under the spigot or hose to water it VERY well. Wait 30 minutes and repeat.

    In the future, pour very hot water over it before use, and wait until it cools.

    As far as stimulating roots: KelpMax
     
  3. Jan 26, 2019 #3

    abax

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    Go to Wal-Mart in the small kitchen stuff aisle and buy a package of bamboo
    skewers and put one in each pot down deep. When you want to check the
    moisture of the medium, just pull the skewer out and feel just how wet or
    dry it is. Also Paphs. don't want to be as moist as Phrags. and I'm not a
    sit in water advocate for Paphs. especially. How's your air movement and
    humidity?
     
  4. Jan 26, 2019 #4

    merc

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    Thank you both!

    I took all my plants and watered really thoroughly, repeatedly this time. There does appear to be a difference in the Orchiata's water retention after repeated drench and drain. Before, I was only watering just enough where the water would trickle out of the bottom of the pot (using my little 1.5L pressure pump sprayer to water) out of fear of rotting out the roots again.

    I am def going to try that bamboo skewer trick! The orchids are on a shelf in the bathroom so they're experiencing small periods of lots of humidity, more than if placed any where else in our house. I would say there's a good amount of air movement since there's air vent and exhaust fan going off at various intervals during the day. I can see my fern leaves billowing ever so slightly every now and then.
     
  5. Feb 18, 2019 #5

    merc

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    hey quick update! that wood stick trick is bloody brilliant!

    my paph pots look completely dry on initial inspection:
    [​IMG]

    but if you check the wood stick (i decided to go with coffee stirrers instead of skewers) the pot has a good deal of moisture along the bottom 1/3rd of the pot so not totally completely dried out but for sure needs a good watering:
    [​IMG]
     
  6. Mar 12, 2019 #6

    NYEric

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    Plants don't usually grow on one media. Next time, maybe a mx would be even better.
     
  7. Mar 14, 2019 #7

    abax

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    I'm glad the wood stick helps. Sometimes the simple solution to
    uncertainty is the best one...cheap too.
     
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  8. Mar 15, 2019 #8

    masaccio

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    To me, the plants look over-potted. You could probably go down a pot size. I don't see any drainage in the bottom either, which provides a airier space at the place in the pot that tends to be the wettest. In the picture where you're holding the pot, the photo clearly shows that there are two moisture zones in the pot. Dry changes to moist about halfway down, an impression that is confirmed by your coffee stirrer. If you pot in a smaller container (no larger than is needed to accommodate existing roots on the snug side), the tendency of "zones" is diminished. I also agree that a mix would be better - mixes are designed to allow more air throughout the medium, instantly available directly after watering. And sorry, but if you're averse to trial and error, then you might be in the wrong hobby. I think we all have to go through this. I've heard it noted by experienced growers that a person's expertise in orchid culture is positively correlated to the number of plants that they have killed.
     
  9. Mar 15, 2019 #9

    xiphius

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    Great advice given here already. Just as a quick additional tip - the perlite you buy at Home Depot (and most other similar places) already has fertilizer added to it. If you were fertilizing on top of that, it is possible that you burned the roots initially. Be careful about that point if you use perlite in your mixes in the future. If you can't find any that doesn't already have fertilizer, then hold off on giving any fertilizer for a few months to give the stuff already there time to flush out. At least in the areas I have been, it can be hard to find unadulterated perlite in small(er) quantities.
     
  10. Mar 15, 2019 #10

    Ray

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    Really? I have never seen perlite with fertilizer added... I'll have to take another look.
     
  11. Mar 15, 2019 #11

    Tony

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    Miracle gro perlite has a negligible amount of fertilizer added to it.
     

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  12. Mar 17, 2019 #12

    xiphius

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    Yeah, I wasn't actually sure about the amount since I don't actually have a bag right now and I don't really use the MG perlite for orchids (too small imo). Thanks for posting that. I have had some issues with things like carnivorous plants after using MG perlite (before I realized it had fertilizer), so I was attributing those to the added fertilizer. Just something to consider if you didn't realize, since I did not initially. Especially with plants that may be super sensitive.

    Better an abundance of caution than avoidable regrets...
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2019
  13. Mar 20, 2019 #13

    Martin2020

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    Paph is burnt when you water it daily.
    Too much water it will burn the "house" down.
    Starting by the leaves look pale and unhealthy.
    The leaves are my mirror into the gut of the media.
    And I'm also cheap too when mixing a media.
    I collect dry leaves and branches.
    They don't collect much humidity and also not too dry either.
    You can fertilize paphs by spraying upper surface of roots.
    NPK fertilizer is never sprayed onto leaves.
    But the organic fertilizer can be sprayed on leaves.
    When paph leaves look moist and healthy like your skin, it's doing fine.
    Flush the media with rain water once a week or maybe once in 1.5 week.
    You can spray clean water on leaves just to make fairly wet and moisturized daily each time you see it quite dry.
    But never flush much water into media daily like you water a paddy field. :D
     
  14. Mar 20, 2019 #14

    Ray

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    Martin, I'm going to totally disagree with your watering comments.

    Before I moved and reverted from greenhouse to windowsill growing, I flooded the hell out of all of my plants every other day in summers - sometimes daily if the weather called for it - and they never grew better.

    1) The potting medium must match the watering technique and level, so in my case, had to be nearly "instantly" draining.
    2) I applied 25 ppm N fertilizer at every watering - a tiny bit applied whenever it "rained", just like in nature.

    Water is the driving force for growth in plants. The more watering you do - making sure the rest of your cultural parameters are correct for doing so - the better your plants will grow and bloom.

    If your potting medium becomes a "rice paddy" when you water, you're using the wrong medium!
     
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  15. Mar 20, 2019 #15

    richgarrison

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  16. Mar 20, 2019 #16

    xiphius

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    Do you take any steps to sterilize? Seems like this would be a good way to invite pathogens and critters to attack your plants!
     
  17. Mar 21, 2019 #17

    Martin2020

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    First, I spray medium dose of anti fungi.
    Let sit for a while.
    Then flush it with rain water.
    I can now plant it with this media.

     
  18. Jun 13, 2019 #18

    justagirlart

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    I have found that Miracle Grow products are not orchid friendly. Even the fertilizer for orchids has urea. Better Gro are much better if you don't mix your own. Soak orchiata before you use it. That's what I have learned. And if you get better from orchids dying I must be a genius by now. Ha!
     
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  19. Jun 14, 2019 #19

    southernbelle

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    I have almost killed a Phrag Jason Fischer and a Paph philippenense from overwatering in an Orchiatta Classic mix with 10% charcoal, 10% Growstone and 10% cut about 4” long strand sphag. The roots on both looked very similar to your first pic. I was told you could not overwater a Phrag so went away for 4 days and left it sitting in ½” of water so it wouldn’t dry out. It was not happy when I returned. The Paph was sold to me in straight Power Orchiatta in 4” aircone and I was told to water it once a week. By the time it finished blooming, (in my kitchen not in my growroom) it had lost a lot of roots.
    I downsized the pots on both and now have the Phrag in a 3” rockwool 60%/charcoal 20% and Growstone 20% mix (per Jerry Fischer). The darn thing does not want to dry out!! So I decided to wait it out, as I knew wet would not do it. I am watering it every 14 days!! And it’s showing swelling nodes of new roots.
    The Paph is in 3” aircone with classic/power 70%, charcoal, Growstone cut moss mix and is watered every 7-9 days when the mix looks pretty dry 2/3 way down. (A little dryer looking than your last pic). It is also showing new growth and roots.
    Jerry told me to water the Phrag when the mix was dry about 1 inch down. The rockwool stays moist but not wet at the top so I let it go a bit more than that.
    Hadley Cash says match your Orchiatta mix to pot size for Paphs and water when dry one inch down. I only use classic for 2 or 3 in pots. I let them get a little dryer. I find Orchiatta that is wet to plant (but I’ve never used hot water, great idea) takes about 6-8 weeks to start holding water normally so I put a sticker on newly potted stuff and watch more closely. Having said that, the smaller the Orchiatta, the quicker it holds water. I run about 55% humidity and 82 degrees day/ 70 night right now. For some reason I’ve not figured out, things are slow to dry for me. I am removing the sphag from all my mixes. Ive also started potting tighter and slightly larger bark for the most part, as I never kill anything from underwater. Just as an aside: I bought two phrags that came in classic in 6” pots. After they finished blooming I repotted in clear 6” with the rockwool mix. To my surprise, the roots that came out of the classic looked great (watering every 5 days), and they are happy in the rockwool mix watering every 9 days. So go figure.. If anything Ive done makes sense to you, you are better than I am. Re Orchiatta: if you really want to know how wet it is In the center, take new mix in each size pot, weigh the pot dry, then water it thoroughly twice and weigh it again. Weigh it each day until it’s lost 50% water, then water again. That will tell you what happens in your conditions. You will need to continue the experiment for 6-8 weeks til the Orchiatta holds water normally but it would take the guesswork out for your conditions. Classic holds water as new mix longer than power and power longer than power +. Sorry for so much info, but to me this is the hardest part of growing orchids, because it’s different for each persons conditions. Also, Orchids Ltd sells moisture/light/humidity/and temp meter for $60 that’s designed specifically to work in moss or bark with a switch for each. I find it helpful when I think something is “approaching dryness” by sight, to check the pot closer to the center. Almost always, I wait a day or so especially in 5 or 6”pots. Hope this helps.
     

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