What's new
TerraForums Venus Flytrap, Nepenthes, Drosera and more talk

Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

Did I kill it?

We had a bit of a freak heat wave in NYC, and my orchid dropped all its flowers.  I have a P.Atienyuki x P.Taisuco Kaaladian, white, although that is foreign language to me.  One of the branches that the flowers grow off of has turned brown and began to fold like an accordion.  I did notice though there is a new shoot beginning to grow from the base of that branch.  I trimmed back what was dead, but it still seems to be shriveling.  Is there a way for me to save the shoot?  The other branch seems green and healthy, although all the flowers are gone.  Next problem… one of the leaves feels very leather like, and the outer edge has turned a yellowish brown.  What do I do?  I water my plant 2 times a week, once with orchid food.  Any suggestions?
First off, I don't think you killed your Phal.  On the other hand, the sudden heat probably did kill the flowers and the yellowing spike.  The still-green spike may re-grow a bud or two but that depends on a lot of factors, including heredity.  You'll have to wait and see.  If the second spike also turns yellow, remove it.  The new growth you see at the base of the spike could be a new spike but is most likely a root.

As far as the leathery leaf is concerned, the leaf is dying.  If the leaf is one of the lowest (oldest) on the plant, then I wouldn't worry about it - it's the way the Phal grows. If the leaf is one of the center (youngest) leaves, you may have a dehydration problem.

As far as watering and dehydration, I'm a little concerned about your watering regimen.  Phals, like many orchids, need to dry out between waterings.  If they don't, the roots die and the plant becomes dehydrated.  Most commercially sold Phals that I've seen are planted in a peat-based medium.  Peat dries out very slowly.  If your plant is in peat, then watering twice a week may not allow enough drying time.  If your plant is in an airy mixture (like bark), the same warnings apply, but watering twice a week is probably fine.

You said that you fertilize every other watering.  That may be too much, especially if you're using the fertilizer at full strength.  Over-fertilization can burn the roots and cause tip burn on the leaves. Generally, orchids need very little fertilizer.  I usually use fertilizer at half the "recommended" strength, every third watering.

Good luck.  Give us progress reports.
Thank you Merlin. The leaf problem... it is from the base, meaning an older leaf. I only have 2 older leaves, no new ones yet. Should I trim it back and pack with cinnamon? (I have read that, but don't understand the reasoning) My phal (thank for letting me know what it is) is planted in a mixture of bark and peat. So, I should allow the plant to dry out between waterings, and feed it only every third watering?
If the whole leaf is leathery and starting to yellow, the leaf is dying. Trim it if you want to but, basically, it’s going to dry up and fall off. I’ve recommended cinnamon before for a leaf that’s diseased. (Cinnamon is a good natural fungicide.) Your leaf is dehydrated but not necessarily diseased.

Anyway, I think I know what’s happened to your plant. First off, I’m guessing that you bought it in flower. If you did, it was probably stressed when it was moved to the vendor’s table (did you get it at the Greater NY Orchid Show?), and stressed again when you brought it home. The heat wave delivered more stress and the flowers finally aborted. This may be the sum total of what’s wrong with your plant – in other words, the problem was in the past and the Phal will recover on it’s own. As I've said, the leathery leaf may be part of the stress or simply part of the normal life cycle.

Okay, now to get speculative: I'll repeat that I’m pretty sure you’ve overwatered it. It would have to be uncomfortably dry in your home for a peat medium to dry out sufficiently between bi-weekly waterings – unless the plant is in an unlined clay pot and, even then, it would be iffy. Again, unless the fertilizer was very dilute, the Phal’s probably been over-fertilized. So (I’m still guessing, remember), I think that you’ve lost roots (or are about to).

What I would recommend for now is removing both spikes – you don’t want a stressed plant to use up its energy reserves flowering. Cut back on the watering. Be sure the medium is almost dry before you water – and not just at the surface. A plant kept on the dry side is encouraged to grow more roots. Stop fertilizing – also to encourage root growth (I know that sounds backwards). Ideally, the plant should be re-potted into a bark-based mixture as it will be much easier to maintain – if you want to try it, send me a PM and we’ll discuss it offline.

For the record, I think you stand an excellent chance of putting your Phal back to rights. And BTW, everybody overwaters orchids. It’s traditional.
I realized this morning that my phal is growing a new leaf. This is a good sign, isn't it?
oh yeah, and if I remove the spikes, how do I do that? Just cut them off? anywhere?
Cut the spikes close to the base of the plant - maybe 1/4" to 1/2" or so.  Use a sterile blade, or one cleaned with alcohol.

A new leaf is definitely a very good sign - it contradicts a lot of the problems I thought you might have had.   At this point, I'd say that the Phal is recovering on its own and that the flower drop was an isolated event.   So be careful to let medium almost dry out between waterings, cut back on the fertilizations to maybe every third time and look forward to new spikes in half a year or so.

I think it'll be just fine.

edit: check you PM

(Edited by Merlin at 6
3 am on May 19, 2002)