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!

Orchid question

Went by Lowe's the other day, bought a yellow Cattleya orchid half off ($6) turns out it was originally in a thin slotted pot that had crumbled, and that was shoehorned into a four inch pot, which broke all the roots, but I did not know as that whole mess was enclosed in a white mesh bag, and closed up with a rubber band. Basically all roots are gone, I trimmed them all back pretty much to the base of the pseudobulbs. The tops however look dandy, though the pseudobulbs are shrunken. Think they might resprout and regrow, or should I demand my $ back and point out their nefarious ways?
The Pseudo bulbs will fill up with watering and time but if you cut on ALL the roots I'm not sure where you'll wind up.

AFAIK you should not trim orchid roots as they will not grow back from those particular roots so they should be trimmed off all the way up to the base of the plant. All new roots will have to grow. As for returning it they probably won't take it back after you chopped on it but i suppose it never hurts to try.
If the pseudobulbs are shrunken and it is now rootless I would try to get my money back, it would be a long road to recovery (read as years of TLC) if in fact it did recover.

One shouldn't cut all of the dead looking roots off. Even though they look dead, unless they are brown & crispy, they are most likely still viable. Spray them with water - if they turn grey or greenish they are still alive. The outer vellumen can be cracked and they are still alive . Here is a link to article on orchid roots (http://www.canadianorchidcongress.ca/Ingrid/roots.html).

If it's Lowes just stuff all the mess back in the original pot as best you can. Take it back and don't mention what you found wrong - tell them you want a refund no explanation necessary. They wouldn't understand what you were talking about anyway.
Last edited:
I think it will recover. Just put it in a moist media, keep it humid and warm but not wet! I would suggest Hydroton in S/H or live sphag might even be better. New roots will grow on new growths produced at the base of the youngest pseudobulb.

Just a fun fact, old-time growers used to recommend cutting off all the roots of Cattleyas prior to repotting. That's not commonly practiced anymore but was fairly successful when the method was used.
Fifteen years ago I moved, and I gave away most of a fairly considerable orchid collection, including some large Cattleyas. One of my favorites was a huge clump of SLC. Jewelbox 'Dark Waters', a beautiful deep red from the 1960s. I did, however, take with me a single pseudobulb; a back bulb that had broken off the parent plant. It has no roots whatsoever, and I set my expectations on "very low". I put that lone rootless pseudobulb in a ziplock bag with a handful of barely damp sphagnum and hung the bag on the wall in a bright (no direct sun) place and commenced to ignore it.....

......for a full year.

One day I opened the bag because I noted that it wasn't dead yet (surprisingly). Not only had it not croaked, it had started a few 1/2" roots and a dormant node had begun swelling! Fast forward fourteen years: that plant is now in a ten inch pot, spilling over the sides, with probably close to 70 pseudobulbs. Last February it produced 18 bloom spikes with nearly seventy blooms.

So, depending in how much you want to invest into nursing what sounds like a pretty badly damaged Cattleya, you can probably recover it and make a decent plant out of it. It all depends how much energy/time you want to dedicate to the cause. For me, my Jewel Box had sentimental value and was worth the effort. A six dollar garden center discount orchid may not be worth the effort though. You make your own choice. For six bucks, you can afford to throw it out and call it a lesson learned, ya know?

This is SLC. Jewel Box last year. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the whole plant in bloom; there were many more blooms than what you see here:
Paul, if you ever divide that puppy, let me know, eh? Lost mine many years back and the only sources I have found seem to all have virused tc. 'Darkwaters' is one of those great old hybrids that aren't seen much anymore.

Pearl, the method that Whimgrinder mentioned is referred to by orchid hobbyists as the "sphag n bag" method. As he said,
"rootless pseudobulb in a ziplock bag (make sure the bag is inflated/ith lots of air in it when you seal it) with a handful of barely damp sphagnum and hung the bag on the wall in a bright (no direct sun) place ". To this I will add:
place in a warm location
do NOT fertilize
Also when I do use "sphag n bag" I do open the bag up once every week or two just to check the moss is still barely damp (if not a light, quick misting will do) and to freshen the air in the bag.
*If the plant is too big for a ziplock, a regular clear heavy plastic bag will do fine -- just seal it tightly with a twist tie or rubberband.
Spag and Bag - good idea. I might try that. The roots of the plant had all dried out, were brown and shriveled to the base of the bulbs and though the part where the roots attach to the pseudobulbs was brown and dry as well, I did not want to cut into the bulbs themselves. Looks like I cut one live root, all others dead. The way it was packed made it look like the roots were ok. Its not really the six bucks, just the disappointment of thinking I was getting a deal. And maybe a bloomer in spring. Here's a few pics:
the original pot:

roots two pots original media:



Beautiful Jewel box, Paul. Thanks for all the input, right now it is getting a good soak till I figure out what to do. Should have said most roots dead.:)
Well, it's not in terrible condition so I think you can recover it if you want to make the effort. Go for it!
  • #10
i agree, that doesn't look too bad, it should start pushing out roots in a few months
  • #11
Based on your pics, PD, your plant has a least a couple viable eyes/nodes. May take a while but definitely salvageable. I would remove the soft, papery sheaths (like the one by your thumb nail in the last pic). They should slide/peel right off in their present condition. Doing so may expose a couple other dormant nodes. With catts, exposing such nodes to light can act as a stimulous for them to being growing.
  • #12
Cool. I have already prepared a gallon ziplock with some lfs, soaked it for a couple of hours, wrung it out best as I could and put the plant it. Will remove the sheaths and monitor. Some of my orchids are sulking in the garage waiting for warmer weather, though a couple of Oncidiums could not seem to be happier. Another, Sharry Baby is slowly dropping leaves as they turn yellow.