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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

Orchid Emergency

A friend of mine received this lovely orchid display for Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, in the months since then, it’s been a little neglected. (No judgement! I know how it is. We’ve all been there.)

Orchids retain water in their thick leaves. See how these are pruned up? That’s a sure sign of a thirsty plant.

First thing I did was remove the top layer of “moss.” (I put “moss” in quotes because it turned out to be dyed green. Cheaters!) Inside you can see that each orchid was in its own pot, surrounded by bark.

Then I pulled out all the stakes, removed dead leaves, and cut off the old flower stems. You can cut off Phalaenopsis stems as soon as the last flower has dropped. Sometimes this results in the plant putting out another spike.

Now we begin the lifesaving procedures. The Sphagnum moss potting media was bone dry, and it can be hard to rehydrate. So I filled a dish with filtered water and a bit of orchid fertilizer, and set the pots in it to soak for an hour. Normally I’d never leave an orchid in water that long, but this was an emergency.

After that, I examined them closely. Two of the five orchids were, alas, dead (no leaves, no healthy roots, RIP). I set the three remaining orchids in a mesh pot to air out, in bright indirect light.

The next step is to repot them, but they’re in such a fragile state right now, I decided to let them rebound for a couple weeks before trying. I don’t think they could take the shock right now.

Will it work? I’ll let you know.

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3 Responses

It will make it. But I would take one extra precaution. Separate the orchids into their own mesh pots or similar containers. I have lost a recovering orchid lot just by grouping them together. Though they all looked disease free, blackened-leaf rot started setting in one and quickly spread before visible clues showed. I tossed the entire lot in the end and vowed to never group them again.

Posted by SD on 16 September 2011 @ 10am

Maybe some Superthrive would help? I LOVE that stuff! It can really help a plant never get to that stage. And can really turn around a situation! Good luck :)

Posted by camille on 16 September 2011 @ 11am

They probably used “moss” because the expectations for a majority of these Mother’s Day gifts are for the gift receivers to not take care of the orchids.

I’m a fan of Superthrive too, that stuff can really help a plant bounce back from near death.

Posted by McKii on 27 September 2011 @ 7am


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.